10 Bands That Didn’t Quit When They Should Have

By BOB WIRE

Led Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham died 33 years ago this week, the day after drinking a reported 40 shots of vodka and then passing out and choking on his own vomit. In the rock ‘n roll world, this is known as “death from natural causes.”

Within two months the surviving members of Zeppelin called it quits, putting their musical legacy forever under glass. Other bands who realized it was over when a crucial member died: Beastie Boys. Nirvana. The Beat Farmers. Milli Vanilli.

Contrast that with The Who, who soldiered for a couple of albums after the premature death of rock’s greatest drummer, Keith Moon. Shit like “You Better You Bet” and all those fans getting trampled to death in Cincinnati point to the fact that they should have packed it in. Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend’s eerily Statler and Waldorf-like 2011 Super Bowl halftime appearance  pretty much sealed the deal on that. For god’s sake, nobody wants to see a middle aged man wearing a bandana on his head and stumbling around playing electric guitar with his shirt open and his pale gut hanging out. Just ask my neighbors who don’t own curtains.

BobACDC

Yeah, that’s prettyblack.

Lots of other legendary bands tried to carry on after losing a central figure, but most were just watered-down money machines that never came close to their original impact. The only band I can think of that pulled it off was AC/DC. “Back In Black,” their near-flawless comeback after the “natural causes” death of original singer Bon Scott, featured the very un-Bonlike yowling of Brian Johnson, and the Mutt Lange-polished album went on to sell enough units to cover the entire continent of Asia in none-more-black.

But that’s the lone exception, and I’m purposely ignoring Van Halen. That whole Roth-vs-Hagar argument is too close to a Mac vs. PC holy war that will never be resolved. Here, in no particular order, are ten bands that kicked ass for a while and then failed to call it a day when they should have. And one that did.

DiamondDave

Are you wondering what Diamond Dave has been up to since he left VanHalen?

1. The Who. Yes, Kenny Jones is a nice guy and perfectly serviceable drummer. But to try and replace Keith Moon with a mere mortal? That’s like yanking the 700-horsepower V-12 out of your Lamborghini Aventador and replacing it with a toaster. They eventually had a lengthy Farewell Tour, but by then they’d become the band that was forgotten but not gone.

2. INXS. Michael Hutchence was the most compelling, magnetic front man since Mick Jagger, and he was refreshingly free of Mick’s sense of self-regard. INXS owned MTV in the 80s, and their swagger was off the charts. Tragically, Hutchence committed suicide in 1997 during a tour of Australia. Rather than hoist the INXS jersey into the rafters of rock ‘n roll history, the band played on with a series of replacements, eventually deciding that it would be a good idea to have a reality show where a bunch of dipshits competed to become the new lead singer. There’s a special place in Las Vegas for bands who sink that low. It’s called North Las Vegas.

3. The Eagles. Mojo Nixon said it best: Don Henley must die, don’t let him get back together with Glenn Frey. Those two are known for kicking guys out of the band and treating them like shit. Getting Joe Walsh in the band: smart. Kicking Don Felder out of the band: stupid. Look, nobody could follow the career peak of Hotel California, and we don’t hold it against them for trying. They released The Long Run, then they did the right thing and broke up. But lo, some 28 years, four solo careers and a couple of reunion tours later, they dropped the bloated double-disc Long Road Out of Eden, a pretentious bunch of angsty, crabby, midtempo Don Henley socio-political finger-pointers and exactly one great song. I much prefer the music of the mid-70s Eagles that everybody hates.

BobEagles

Wow, I could have spent this money on a new needle for myturntable.

4. REM. These guys dicked around for 14 years after drummer Bill Berry left the group, sliding a bunch of Seattle scenesters in and out of the lineup, recording album after album that took the band in a “new direction.” Do you remember that big hit they had a few years ago? Me neither. They finally gave up in 2011.

5. Aerosmith. Their last good album was Rocks. The original five members are all still alive (amazingly), but when the Toxic Twins got clean and recorded Permanent Vacation with hired gun song writers and a slick producer, Aerosmith became about as relevant and dangerous as the Simpsons version of themselves.

BobAerosmith

Have Joe Perry and Penelope Cruz ever been seen in the same place together? Just putting it outthere.

6. Journey. Steve Perry joined this middling NoCal prog-rock jazz-fusion outfit and took the band to the stratosphere with his sinus-rattling tenor. For ten years in the late 70s and early 80s, Journey sold a jillion records (a jillion-point-five, by some estimates) and also had those excellent Kelley/Mouse album covers. Then health problems hit Perry (a bum hip and Lead Singer Disease). He made a solo album, had a hit, and refused to tour with Journey. Instead of throwing in the towel, Neal Schon and crew are currently touring and recording with a Filipino dude who sounds exactly like Perry. I think they’re called We Used To Be Journey.

7. Guns N’ Roses. Logically and biologically, this band shouldn’t even have survived as long as they did. When your debut album is the generational standard-bearer for an entire genre of rock, there’s nowhere to go but down. Axl, Slash, Duff and Co. managed to follow up Appetite For Destruction with the sprawling double-disc monument to self-indulgence known as Use Your Illusion I & II, but drugs, egos, money, fame, Jack Daniels and the crushing decadence of a two-year tour destroyed the band. In an odd reversal of the usual pattern, the last man standing was the lead singer. Slash was replace by nine other guitarists, and it took “Guns N’ Roses” 15 years to release their next album, Chinese Democracy. Nobody cared. By then Axl and Slash were more like Pamela and Tommy than Mick and Keith.

8. The Cars. Singer and bassist Benjamin Orr died of pancreatic cancer in 2000, but the Cars had already—wisely—disbanded a dozen years earlier. New Wave had come and gone. They were all working on their various solo projects, and the greatest hits CDs were trickling out. Leader Ric Ocasek showed no interest in a reunion. Then, in 2005, two of the original five members toured with Todd Rundgren handling vocals, billing themselves as The New Cars. Todd Rundgren! In the words of Arrested Development’s Gob, “COME ON!”

In fairness to the original Cars, the single from their 2011 reunion album (Orr was—wisely—not replaced) was pretty damn good.

9. Queen. Ultra-flamboyant singer Freddie Mercury, aka the Sexiest Overbite In Rock, succumbed to AIDS-related pneumonia in 1991. A posthumous album release and scattered appearances by the surviving band members followed. Then bassist John Deacon retired, and drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May started playing concerts with various singers, billed as “Queen + (your name here).” That’s messed up. When half the band is gone, especially a singer as unique as Freddy Mercury, it’s not that band anymore. These guys should play all the shows they want with whoever they want, but they should call themselves something else. Like “Abdicated + (your name here).”

10. The Beatles. Okay, the Beatles did it right and broke up while they were still on top. Still, there was some bitterness, as evidenced by the working title of George Harrison’s first post-Beatles solo album: “Thanks a Lot, Yoko.”

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blogarchive.

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Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an openmind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.

 

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