Playlist #14: The Replacements

Marc Hall takes a look at the curious lack of a fuss when it comes to drafting in a new band member to keep the show on the road…

Sometime a little bit of self-indulgence is required. I love to see the ‘big’ bands. The type of monolith the whole world knows about. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing any good band no matter who they are, but I do get a kick out of seeing the giants for the first time; like an unwritten musical bucket list consisting of rock dinosaurs from every age.

It’s great to sit back and remember performances from acts throughout musical history. I look forward to boring the Grandkids in the years to come with my tales of watching a 60 year old Mick Jagger shaking his ass, or when David Bowie played the Royal Court, or 100,000 people singing along to Hey Jude with Paul McCartney.

The problem I now face is, there aren’t many of these legends left to see. I missed Johnny Cash by 12 months (he played Glastonbury 94, the year before my first visit), I never made it to a Nirvana gig and we’re talking defying the current laws of physics for the likes of John Lennon. This leaves me getting my kicks watching bands I never thought I would be excited about.

Hence I found myself at the Echo Arena a few weeks back awaiting the Axl Rose ‘Guns n Roses’ sideshow. Despite never being a die hard fan,  I’ve got to admit to enjoying the night. Keeping us waiting until 11pm to come on stage? Great stuff. That’s what you want from a GnR show! The Liverpool Echo’s review gave plenty of folk the opportunity to bitch and complain about the thoughtlessness of Rose.  But come on, admit it, if you were there it did make you feel a bit rock and roll, just for one night like back in the day; even if you did have to be up at 6am for work.

“Admit it, if you were there it did make you feel a bit rock and roll, just for one night like back in the day”

I did have some issue with the gig though.  Had I actually seen GnR? Can I tick them off my bucket list? The band basically consisted of Axl Rose accompanied by his latest incarnation of the band. Apart from one member from the Use Your Illusion days, this band was a who’s who of WHO? They sounded like GnR, some of them even looked like GnR, but could they really be described as GnR? This raises the question of ‘what’ makes a band? The singer? The creative force? The owner of the copywrite?

Of course if you look back at the GnR chronology, you see some former members that I mourn from the ‘classic era’, the obvious being Slash, went on to form Velvet Revolver. They play some GnR songs live, and to this day still sell out arena shows. But, you’d never say you’re watching GnR, despite 3/5 of them being former members.

Supporting that night at the Echo Arena were Thin Lizzy. Another band that were on the list, and another band that I have now technically seen. Can you really claim to have seen a band, when the member most synonymous with them, in this case Phil Lynott, has been dead for 30 years?

It didn’t take much research to reveal that it’s the metal world that seems to be the most open to band member switching shenanigans.  There is a definite trend in the older, mega selling bands, for keeping the b(r)and alive. Perhaps most notably, Black Sabbath spent years rotating their front-man post Ozzy. The same pattern can be seen with Van Halen, Iron Maider, Judas Priest, Deep Purple and Motley Crue. These bands had a varying degree of success post change, with Iron Maiden standing out as a band who moved on to a bigger and better things.

Some have changes forced upon them. When AC/DC’s Bon Scott died in 1980, the band continued with the addition of the flat capped, gravelled voiced Brian Johnston. With his drafting in, a more famous AC/DC sound was born.

In recent years we’ve seen a resurgence of bands more than willing to move on. I sceptically watched Alice in Chains a few years back and was pleasantly surprised with an evolved sound rather than an old style rip. Queen still tour with a guest singer, and The Doors have completed several tours with Ian Astbury from The Cult, and have even crossed an invisible line (too far?) employing the singer of their tribute band. I look forward to the day we see Paul and Ringo join up with the Bootleg Beatles’ John and George for world domination.

This phenomenon isn’t necessarily genre-specific. There is the forthcoming return of the original Sugababes trio – are you excited too?Only they’re not called the Sugababes, as they don’t have rights to the name. Not the only band that have gone through a complete change, the current version of The Misfits contains no original members, while No Doubt went on to gain their biggest success after remaining original member Eric Stefani (Gwen’s brother) left the band in 1995.

One band I’m certain understand it’s okay to leave a legacy alone is Nirvana. You may have seen a few re-issues here and there, and the sight of Kurt Cobain singing along to Bon Jovi in Guitar Hero 5, but a reformed Nirvana with a new singer I just don’t see.  I suppose you can never say never, though.

Hey, I made it through this article without mentioning a Genesis sans Phil Collins.

Posted on 08/06/2012 by thedoublenegative