Sunday, August 06, 2006

Take Me To Your Leader


The Great Rock And Roll Swindle


The Grand Illusion

Here’s a quiz inspired by Courtney’s rant about The Germs going on a reunion tour. Match the following bands with their lead singer:

1. Styx
2. Journey
3. Foreigner
4. CCR
5. Chicago
6. Cars
7. Queen

a. Jason Scheff
b. Kelly Hansen
c. Lawrence Gowan
d. J. D. Fortune
e. Steve Augeri
f. Paul Rodgers
g. Todd Rundgren
h. John Tristao

If you don’t recognize most of these names, it’s because they weren’t with the band in its heyday. They are replacements or sound-alikes picked so that the band can go on tour and exploit the nostalgia act circuit. The excuses for this deceptive trade practices fall into a couple of disingenuous categories.

We can’t help it the guy died. Your lead singer dies, what are you supposed to do? If you’re Dave Grohl, you form a different, arguably better, band. If you are INXS, you go on a cheesy reality show and realize that your band will be the butt of auto-erotic asphyxiation jokes (through no fault of your own) for the rest of your career. When lead singers, or even major band members die, the chapter should close. Even Jimmy Page understands this. Pete Townsend never got the memo, and Roger Daltrey needs the money too much to do the right thing.

The original guy quit/got fired/went completely nuts. These are the bands that make great Behind The Music episodes because there is so much bad blood. Dennis DeYoung is bat guano insane. That doesn’t give Tommy Shaw the right to hire a ringer. These bands also cause the most confusion in the marketplace because they are often in direct competition with the former frontman, sometimes playing the same venues within weeks of each other. Dennis DeYoung tours as DENNIS DEYOUNG: THE MUSIC OF STYX with or without a backing orchestra. Lou Gramm bills himself as “Lead Singer of Foreigner” with nary a “former” in sight. At least these guys are honest about who is on the bill.

We aren’t trying to deceive anybody. This tack is the trickiest. Queen+Paul Rodgers takes the approach that the absence of Freddy Mercury is hidden in the fine print. The New Cars ignore the fact that while Brian Orr is pushing up daisies, Ric Ocasek is too busy trying to kickstart his solo career between banging Paulina Porizkova to be bothered with his former bandmates. Like Queen, the abandoned Cars have gone to name talent to add legitimacy, but I’m not sure what Todd Rundgren brings to the table unless they are adding "Hello, It's Me" to the setlist.

Our new guy is even better than the old guy.Van Halen is the only band to successfully pull off this excuse only to fall on their face on the second try. As someone that saw the David Lee Roth line-up live, I get to be a snob even though Van Hager may have actually made better music. If you are going to switch singers, you better do it early in your career. REO Speedwagon pulled it off, and as far as I know, Kevin Cronin is still with the band and nobody is begging for the return of Terry Luttrell or Mike Murphy. Unfortunately, they often tour with faux-sters Styx and Journey.

It also works in reverse. When the reformed Doobie Brothers tour sans Michael McDonald, they only play their pre-sell-out music. It bugs me to hear that Joe Walsh plays Hotel California and earlier material on his solo tours.

Like any set of rules, there is a lot of gray area. You would need a wall chart to figure out what the "true" line-up of Jefferson Airplane/Starship/Whatever should be in order to even attempt to figure out who is what. Yes is another band available in an infinite set of permutations. And don't even get me started on Pink Floyd.

Any band touring with members that weren't there when they got their picture on the cover of Rolling Stone should be clearly labeled. It's called Truth In Advertising. The two original members of Credence Clearwater Revival tour as Credence Clearwater REMEMBERED, barely fooling anyone. Whenever I get tempted by some show like the current Foreigner/Journey “Not The Singer You Were Expecting” Tour, I have to do some serious Google™ searching to find some obscure trade magazine article explaining that it is not the real thing. No matter how many “original members” are on stage, without the original singer, who was usually a good part of the creative force that made the band noteworthy in the first place, these are just amazingly authentic tribute acts.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: Have you seen any of these Frankenzombie bands, were they any good, and did matter that it wasn’t the original line-up?

Answers (highlight text to see current and former singers)

1. Styx - c. Lawrence Gowan for Dennis DeYoung
2. Journey - e. Steve Augeri for Steve Perry
3. Foreigner - b. Kelly Hansen for Lou Gramm
4. CCR (Revisted) - h. John Tristao for John Fogarty
5. Chicago - a. Jason Scheff for Peter Cetera
6. New Cars - g. Todd Rundgren for Ric Ocasek/Brain Orr
7. Queen - f. Paul Rodgers for Freddy Mercury
8. INXS - d. J.D. Fortune for Michael Hutchence


HRH Courtney, Queen of Everything said...

Amen, yellojkt!

Anonymous said...

Hi from Michele's....
Oh gosh....I am SO out of the loop! Have NO clue who the Germs even ARE, never mind take the quiz. Sorry......

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Of course the real reason these bands keep themselves going is to make money.

Michele sent me here.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha. I saw Jefferson Starship at a state fair in the early 1990's. The only original members were Paul Kantner and Jack Casady - and Papa John Creach was there too. They had a ringer for Grace Slick - who was so good, I thought she *was* an amazingly youthful-looking Gracie! They were opening for the Moody Blues, who were only missing the band member who went crazy early on - they were very, very good. Justin Hayward is the replacement lead singer for them, of course - but it was quite early, so none remembers the original guy (Denny something).


Anonymous said...

This is a really evil trend, especialy when a couple of minor band members tour without the original frontmen and songwriters. I think some version of every band that ever had a hit is out there these days. And it can get pretty ugly. At some point, there were THREE different incarnations of Deep Purple touring at once (along with Whitesnake), and NONE of them had Ritchie Blackmore.

I can't comprehend some of these line-ups. OK, Todd Rundgren can fill in for Ric Ocasek pretty well, but Paul Rodgers replacing Freddy Mercury? Their ranges barely overlap!

I don't think I've ever seen one of these Frankenbands. I saw 3 Dog Night in the late 70s at Magic Mountain, but I couldn't say if that was the original line up or not; I was just a kid and dragged along by my parents. Thinking hard here: Beach Boys, America, the Animals -- all with the original line-ups. I guess the closest I ever came was the Beat Farmers after Buddy Blue left, but if you weren't in San Diego county in the mid-80s, you have no idea what I'm talking about.

BTW, anonymous 12:47: that was Denny Laine with the Moodies and he didn't go crazy. He bounced a round for a couple of years, and then teamed up with a husband-and-wife team, Paul and Linda something, for a new band. What were they called? Wings?

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah. As for the new guy is better thing, there are other bands that pulled it off. IMO, Black Sabbath was miles better under Ronny James Dio. And going way back, consider the Yardbirds. Clapton left and they hired Jeff Beck. He left and they hired Jimmy Page.

(Note to Yardbirds: Keith Relf is long dead, Paul Samwell-Smith hasn't touched an instrument in decades, and your current frontmen weren't even born when the band broke up. If you don't have at least one of your first 3 guitarists, call yourselves something else.)

trusty getto said...

I saw Lynrd Skynrd a couple summers ago. Frankly, they weren't anywhere near as bad as I had thunk they were going to be.

Anonymous said...

demetriosx, it was Mike Pinder who left the Moody Blues because he didn't want to tour. Going crazy is a bit strong, but I thought he suffered a nervous breakdown. They still tour, but with only 3 members (and technically only one who was there from the very beginning).


yellojkt said...

jen-luc, of course it's for the money. My money. Back in the day, I could see these bands AND buy a souvenir softball jersey for twenty bucks. Now they want $60 or more for half the band that's twice as old.

mostlylurking, I think the two dueling Jeffersons right now are Marty Balin and Mickey Thomas. According to Wikipedia, the Grace Slick replacement is Diana Mangano who has been doing it for over a decade.

Ritchie Blackmoor does RenFair stuff with his very hot wife.

DemetriosX, I really liked the Denny Laine line-up of Wings, but then I didn't know Paul had been in another band. The other good addition to a classic band was Ron Wood joining the Stones.

trusty, Lynyrd Skynyrd gets a pass in my book. They've been thorugh enough.

Elizabeth said...

I saw Van Hager when I was in college in Iowa. I loved them, they were great!

Anonymous said...

My very first rock concert ever was Bryan Adams. It was spring of 1992. I was a senior in high school. Yeah, I'm a little embarassed. There was a girl involved, and we made out for a lot of it, if that justifies anything.

Anyway, the opening band was called "The Storm." All through their set I kept thinking, "God, the vocalist sounds pretty familiar, but I know I've never heard 'The Storm' before." Then they got to their last song and it was ... a Journey medley! Yes, the it was Steve Perry's new band. It was pretty hilarious.


Anonymous said...

Josh's reminiscing about his first ever rock concert reminded me that I have seen a Frankenband. Not at my first concert, that was Tom Petty on his Herd Promises tour (with Stevie Nicks, oooh). The opening act was the Fabulous Thunderbirds and I'm still kicking myself for not paying any real attention to them. But that made me think that the only time I ever saw a crowd really pay attention to an opening act (and for that matter line up politely outside the gates shortly before they opened) was at a Jimmy Buffet concert in the late 80s or early 90s. The band in question was Little Feat. They weren't bad, but nobody else really sang like Lowell George.

I knew about Blacmore's Night. I think the duelling Purples were before that, though.

mostlylurking, I see I merged your comments about Justin Hayward replacing Denny Laine and about the Moodys not touring with the full band. "Go Now" was pretty good, but I think they count as another band where the replacement was better than the old guy.

Anonymous said...

Saw Van Halen with Diamond Dave and Sammy and, well, VH with Dave pre-1984 was superior IMO.

Black Sabbath with Ozzy and RJD were two very different animals IMO, and I really liked 'em both, though I will give the edge to Ozzy. Perhaps it's because he's taller.

Here's a goody to remember: Judas Priest. Rob Halford, gadzooks, can that guy wail (still!), and Tim Owens did a good job duplicating that sound, but JP ain't JP without Halford rolling up on the Harley as the band rips into "Hell Bent for Leather."

Here's one that should win me fans: AC/DC has made bjillions of dollars with sorta-sound alBrian Johnson, but I still prefer Bon Scott. Brian Johnson's OK, but not nearly as funny or snarky or with the infectious sense of fun that Bon had. "I'm a drunkard, but I'm a *special* drunkard," I seem to recall him saying in the film "Let there be Rock." Still don't know exactly whose vomit he choked to death on...


Anonymous said...

"sorta-sound alike"


Your Mother said...

I've seen none of them in real life. I do however, remember all of them. Does that make me old?

Anonymous said...

u mugs

Anonymous said...

I saw "Bad Company" at the park in Frederick, Maryland last year. Holy Moly!! Three strung out looking high school kids and a 50 year old guy whose only claim to fame seemed to be that he had an English accent! who were these guys and how come they could call themselves Bad Company? I have no idea.