Jan 202011

Ill timed.

I believe we did a thread once on the worst-timed departures, by reasons other than death, for musicians right before their newly former band broke big (eg, Pete Best‘s departure from The Beatles). The question in today’s poll regarding whether Chris Stamey deserves a Rock Wedgie (perhaps for leaving The dB’s when he did, perhaps for other acts, such as abuse of the 128-string guitar or his anal series of contributions to Tape-Op) as well as recent news reports of a new album by The Jayhawks with Mark Olson finally back in the fold got me thinking about the converse: the worst-timed departures of key band members in the eyes of the band members left behind.

For instance, how bad must the timing of Olson’s departure, hot on the heels of Tomorrow the Green Grass, have been for Gary Louris and the rest of that band? It must have been terrible, terrible timing, as far as they were concerned, at least in terms of them milking all the commercial and critical glory that was just beginning to flow into their collective challice!

What other key band member departures (not including those who left this mortal coil) suddenly left their mates high and dry?


  34 Responses to “Worst-Timed Departures for Remaining Band Members”

  1. that guy from Sublime

  2. Didn’t he die? Departures by death don’t count.

  3. alexmagic

    As they often do, my thoughts turn to the Other Guys in Stone Temple Pilots. They had a top ten album but had to cancel their tour when Weiland went AWOL for substance abuse problems and then went off on his own.

    I also can’t imagine much more of a sinking feeling one might have experienced in rock than being one of those guys in No Doubt who had just put out a strong-selling “first half of our career!” best ofs that featured a Top 10 new single that won them a Grammy…only to turn on the TV one day and find out your meal ticket lead singer has decided she’s going solo.

  4. Good ones, but doesn’t Stefani do occasional charity gigs with No Doubt?

    How is it that the guitarist with the good hair in STP didn’t catch on as a member of a subpar group involving Chris Cornell and Tommy Stinson?

  5. misterioso

    Are the charity gigs *with* No Doubt or *for* No Doubt?

  6. You know I’m safe in taking the Wilson Choice for that answer.

  7. How would townspeople rate the departure of David Lee Roth from VH, in terms of timing?

  8. No Doubt have not broken up. Just taking a very long time between records

    Small Faces? They were in a good place when steve mariott left

    I am a huge jayhawks fan and liked the louris led material very much as well. I really never expected a full-fledged reunion tour and new cd

    Big star. Though the success was not really there chris bell left them right when they could have had a breakthrough

  9. I think DLR already took them far enough along to put a couple of generations through college and/or rehab. EVH had already established his own power base. I mean, short of sticking Gary Cherone in the lead singer role it was going to be hard to totally let down EVH’s shred contingent.

  10. Small Faces ended up doing much better when they added Rod and Ron, so I don’t think they’re in the same boat.

    I know a lot of Jayhawks fans still liked the Louris-led band, but their commercial prospects took a nosedive without the two guys harmonizing they way they did.

    I can’t say whether Big Star was poised for any more of a breakthrough had Bell continued. I do know that I would probably have liked the second album a lot more with his Quality Control.

  11. misterioso

    I’ll bet the Belmonts were none too pleased when Dion took a powder. If that counts for anything.

  12. misterioso

    However, Weller’s so long, good luck, and goodbye to Foxton and Buckler has to take the cake.

  13. I’m a huge Phil Keaggy fan. For those who don’t know, PK is highly regarded in Christian music and certain guitar circles. Most people have no idea who the man is. He’s often credited as one of the early founders of “Jesus Music” and what became contemporary Christian music.

    He’s an amazing guitarist and a pretty humble dude.

    He was in a band in the late 60/early 70s called Glass Harp. It was a power tri who recorded for Decca and were really gaining gaining some ground in certain rock cricles. Phil’s mother died and he turned to Jesus, essentially abandoning a career in the rock mainstream.

    I can’t but think had Phil stayed with Glass Harp, they would have garnered a larger following and he’d be placed on any “top guitarist” poll along with Clapton, Hendrix, EVH, et al.


  14. Rowing to America

    How about the leader singer in Santana back when they blew up in the 60s? Didn’t he quit the band just as they were taking off in a major way to go and start a restaurant with his father? I seem to remember something like that.

  15. machinery

    Always thought Billy Zoom left after their tour de force. Shoulda stayed a bit longer.

  16. Yeah, it’s got to hurt like hell when the leader of a trio quits, but it’s not like he left them at the brink of success. They’d already become princes of the UK music scene and done as much as they could do in the US.

  17. Interesting. I’d heard of this guy and knew he had some kind of Christian tie-in, but I didn’t know this story. I’m now curious to check out his music.

  18. cherguevara

    The original drummer for Maroon 5 had to quit due to an injury. I’m not too up on this band but I think the story was that they made an album as “Kara’s Flowers” and got dropped. Changed the name to Maroon 5, cut another album and it went huge. Then the drummer got hurt. Not ill timed in that he got a taste of success, but still he had to leave the band just when they got on the gravy train. That’s got to suck for him.

  19. Rowing to America

    The recently departed John Rutsey, original drummer of Rush, quit the band after their debut album and only two weeks before their first U.S. tour, though he’d been with the band for several years during its start-up grind. I’ve heard different stories about why he left: one version being the old artistic differences thing, the other being health issues. Apparently he stayed cordial with guitarist Alex Lifeson for many years after the split.

    Of course, it’s possible to think of this as an ill-timed departure, but it’s hard to say whether Rush could have gone on to have the success and longevity that it has enjoyed since the early 70s without replacement drummer Neil Peart. His drumming is legendary, in a class of its own, whatever one may think of the clinical mechanistic precision that defines it. His lyrics, on the other hand, are a double-edged sword. They awaken in me the kind of backhanded respect that T.S. Eliot expressed for Edgar Allan Poe when he said: “That Poe had a powerful intellect is undeniable: but it seems to me the intellect of a highly gifted person before puberty.” Still, whether you love them, hate them, or fight to stifle an embarrassed grin at them, those lyrics are a big part of Rush’s rise to success in the 70s and 80s, an expression of the zeitgeist that enabled them to build a fanatically loyal fan base out of dungeon masters, Tolkein enthusiasts and future Renaissance festival regulars.

    Rutsey was a very able rock drummer, but not the great talent on his instrument that Geddy Lee undeniably is on the bass, or anywhere near as accomplished as Lifeson on his guitar. You can’t even speak of him (sigh) in the same breath as Peart, who was undoubtedly a better musical fit for the other instrumental talents in the group. In the end I guess I’m inclined to think that had Rutsey stayed with them Rush might well have become just another obscure two-album Toronto band from the mid-70s.

  20. Well the reason I got into him was because of he is a very close Paul McCartney sound-a-like. He even looks a little like Macca.

    There’s a persisting urban legend about him concerning his greatness at guitar playing. You can even look it up on Snopes. Phil makes no claims to such. Like I said, he’s a humble guy.

    The thing is, he is a Christian and alot of his lyrical music is from that standpoint, but Phil doesn’t bang you over the head with it like alot of evangelicals. Most of his stuff is intrumental.

    I can’t really give you a good place to begin. He does have a “general market” record that came out in in about 1994 called Blue. It even features a ripping cover of “Baby Blue” by Badfinger. It’s a pretty rockin’ record and has the best share of shredding guitar and his Maccaeasque vocals. His music can range from hard rock to new agey-type stuff and it’s even hit-or-miss for me. The Glass Harp Decca stuff has been reissued and those albums are decent to me. Avoid most of his 70s and 80s solo output. He went indie in the late 90s and pretty much just does whatever. He’s pretty unfiltered, but his playing can be as brilliant as anything and I’d put his guitar skills up against anybody.

    Good luck and if you need any help wading through is waters, just ask me. I do have most of it…


  21. 2000 Man

    They were from Youngstown, so Glass Harp is still a big seller at record shows and stuff around here. The other guy from that era that can just tear it up on guitar is the original guitar player for The James Gang, Glenn Schwartz. He got religion, too. He doesn’t bash you over the head with it, but I disliked the vibe at his show years ago because of it. I wanted to drink beer and rock (it was in a bar), and I was one of the very few that went anywhere near the bar. I suppose that’s his fans more than him, but when Keaggy came around awhile later, I skipped it because I figured it would be the same kind of thing. They both still get played around here (on college stations, mostly) and both of them are the caliber of any of the great guitar players of Rock. I mean the really great ones, like Trower or Clapton or Beck. It’s weird that they both went the directions they did. They both probably could have become huge, but I guess they found what they really wanted to do and did it.

  22. 2000 Man

    Yes, it’s a shame to think of what might have been!

  23. Rowing to America

    I can sympathize to some degree with the impulse to bash Rush. Not fully, but somewhat. The band has courted that kind of reaction pretty much since it started releasing albums. If you don’t like prog rock period, then you could probably never get into Rush under any circumstances. And I can respect that, even if I don’t share a knee-jerk aversion to the prog genre. If that’s where you stand, you probably won’t be interested in the rest of this post.

    But there’s plenty of good reasons to be disappointed in Rush’s development as a band even if you’re seriously into golden-era prog rock. After the album Signals (or was it Grace Under Pressure?) I just started tuning out as they attempted, in all the wrong ways, to connect with a younger audience drawn to 80s synth pop.

    But if you can get past the adolescent narrative element in those epic songs of their earliest albums (from, say, Fly By Night in ’75 up through Permanent Waves in ’80), there’s a lot of fantastic rock in their first 10 studio albums. I do realize, though, that for some people that’s a very big IF.

    The epic song format was pretty abandoned when they came out with Moving Pictures in ’81 (their best, and best selling, all-around album), and with it went a lot of (but not ALL of) Peart’s quasi-philosophical / mythopoeic lyric excesses. But then from the mid-80s onward they just took the music and their productions in some very regrettable directions that lost me as a member of a one-time captive audience. I suppose this, or something similar, was the fate of a lot of prog rock bands at that time, or the ones that were still together.

    I hear that they have gone back to their hard rock roots in their latest couple albums, but I haven’t been curious enough to sample them. “La Villa Strangiato” from the Hemispheres album remains one of my favorite instrumentals of the late 70s. Also, having recently gone back to listen to 2112 for the first time in a decade I can say I was still delighted by many of the instrumental flourishes on the A-side title track. I did my best to ignore the epic plot and lyrics when possible, inspired as they are by a bunch of Ayn Rand nonsense.

  24. jeangray

    Even though he was never considered a member of the group, Eno was jus’ as responsible for the Talking Heads sound as anyone. I’ve always thought that they took a huge nose-dive creatively after he stopped producing them. Ironically, they had their biggest chart success after he was out of the picture.

    In some fog in my brain, I remember some interview where Byrne claimed to feel like Eno’s puppet & that’s why they parted ways. Anybody know if’n there’s any truth to this?

  25. jeangray

    No comment.

  26. I wish I could reconstruct the stories of their dissolution for you, jeangray. It’s all a fog to me, too. That sounds familiar, and I’ve also heard that the other Heads were really sick of being shut out of the creative process the more Eno collaborated with Byrne. The Classic Albums series needs to do something on Remain in Light.

  27. Rowing to America

    OK. Fair enough. I suppose I have that coming.

    I’ll have to try and exercise more editorial discretion on future posts.

  28. Love ’em or leave ’em, the knowledge and passion with which you can write about Rush impresses me. Years ago I remember hearing their first album, from their more Zeppelin-style period. It wasn’t bad. I lived through their bigtime stuff and laughed through most of it, although I give them credit for being memorable. Even you, Rowing, as an old fan, display a remarkable arsenal of tempered compliments. That’s cool, because I don’t know if there’s a Townsperson who doesn’t stick up for a few favorite, old bands with a mixed bag of reservations! (In August, if you weren’t here at that time, I had an interesting experience with a bus-full of Rush fans. I’ll see if I can dig out the link later tonight.)

  29. Rowing to America

    Yeah, that would be cool to check out, Mr. Moderator. Pass it on!

    You’re living up to your name!

  30. Here you go: https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/index.php/flight-not-included/

    The thread is actually asking folks if they’ve ever hopped a plane to see a show, but I tell my brief experience with the super-friendly Rush fans.

  31. Rowing to America

    Thanks, Mod. It was an interesting thread. In light of one of the salient themes (here and there), you should run a “Guilty Pleasures” thread, unless you’ve already done that (I am new here).

  32. jeangray

    I first heard the Keaggy/Hendrix myth from a co-worker when I worked at a record store in the ’90’s. As I doubted the veracity of my co-worker’s claims, he became damn near apopolectic, and then stated that Hendrix was a big Dick Dale fan as well. I tried to argue that I had read several interviews wherein Hendrix had stated his distaste for Surf Music, but he wasn’t having it.

    Makes me wonder how this rumour got started. It has variable participants. I’ve heard that claim mentioned in reference to Charlie Christian, Terry Kath, Billy Gibbons, Buddy Guy & Robert Fripp. How many greater guitarists than Hendrix are there??

    I think Hendrix may have jus’ been f*ing with journelists and/or just got tired of answering the question of who’s the greatest guitarist of all-time.

  33. I’ve yet to hear anyone within a century of Hendrix’s playing.

  34. jeangray

    You know I think that Rush has it’s time & place, it’s just that for me that time & place was jr.High & High School. When I meet middle-aged Rush fans their passion for Rush is palpable. But these folks have also proclaimed Rush to be the be all & end all of Rawk musik as we humans know it! They aren’t even open to the idea that Rush might have some short- comings. Nor have they ever even listened to what I consider the top-tier of Prog-Rawk: Roxy Music, Eno, Gong, Zappa, Beefheart, Robert Wyatt, early-Genesis, etc., etc. I find myself a-thinking come on guys, you’re pushing 50, broaden your horizons already. I’m probably fighting a losing battle, and will admit that Geddy Lee is a Bass Guru, and “Permanet Waves” is their masterpiece. But can we at least agree that no matter how good of a player Neil Peart may be, his drums still sound like shit?

    And this post is not meant to disparage any Townsmen. This has soley been my own personal experience dealing w/relatives, band-mates & co-workers. I live in the PNW, and there seems to be a HUGE contingent of Rush fans in this here area. Must be our proximity to the Great White North.

    You do have to give them props, for having every album that they have ever released go platinum. That’s what you call a fan-base!

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