When a band first gets together, when it first forms, one of the most important decisions they have to make is what to call themselves. Whether it’s the The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Take That, One Direction or Peter, Sue and Marc, all must have thought long and hard about the name (well maybe not the latter...that probably didn't take too long). Exciting times when a band first forms but what happens when the honeymoon period is over? What occurs when someone leaves the band due to either musical differences, quitting, religion or dying? What’s in a name? What defines a band? Who does a group have to include to make it ok that they still use that same name?
When I book tickets to see an artist these days I make sure to do a quick search of Wikipedia. Is the group that is playing near you vaguely similar to the band that was originally formed? Admittedly this is especially important for me as most of the artists I see these days have been around since at least the early 80’s. On top of that I’m a bit of a rocker at heart and the rock scene has had its fair share of comings and goings. That dreaded phrase ‘the current line up’ can send shivers down my spine.
There are some groups have become bigger and stronger after a change in personnel. The most obvious is AC/DC. Thirty five years after Brian Johnson belted out Hells Bells they are still packing stadiums worldwide. They are pretty much the exception that proves the rule though. The Stones without Jagger, Aerosmith without Tyler, Oasis without a Gallagher…wouldn't work.
The last time I saw Skid Row there was no Sebastian Bach. Now there isn't even a Johnny Solinger. When I went to the celebrations for the Quireboys 30th anniversary last year there was only lead singer Spike that had been in the group in 1984. As much as I love the Geordie lads their ‘former members’ section on Wikipedia is getting longer and longer. Quite Spinal Tapish especially where the drummers and bass players are concerned. Despite that though they have a long way to go to match the entry for Whitesnake (entry…a 'Whitesnake like', double entendre there). The listing for the David Coverdale past band members section really is a site to behold...
Where Coverdale alone is effectively Whitesnake and every other band member has changed many times, INXS couldn’t survive even with five out of six original members. The fact that they lost singer Michael Hutchence, a larger than life singer, meant that, although they tried to fill the gap, it wasn't to be. If it had been the drummer or keyboard player then the bets are they would still be going. So what does a group name mean? Why can some groups change line ups many times while others can't...?
Bon Jovi and Van Halen may have the surnames and so it is probably fair enough that they still use the name for the band even with all the changes over the years. Bon Jovi are wrongly seen by many as a person and not a group anyway. The fact that they have a song which includes the line ‘Gettin' down with Big and Rich and Richie, and Jon’ is great and all but when Jon sang it after Richie had left....bit weird. Van Halen are now back with Diamond Dave, Sammy isn’t happy and Gary is back with Extreme. I get confused.
Queen and Adam Lambert? Queen and Paul Rodgers? Hey at least they changed the name to reflect the line up. Using the Queen name is pushing it a bit but they are one of the few that have acknowledged a change in personnel. Not that anyone would expect Freddie to be on stage if they still just called themselves Queen...at least I presume they wouldn't.
Arguments and personal differences are the main cause of band changes. Death comes high up the list as well of course. Lynyrd Skynyrd are still playing with only Gary Rossington on guitar as an original member. Is that really ok? Maybe it doesn't matter? KISS had the best idea. Different people wearing the same make up. No one would ever know...
When the lawyers get involved in band disputes then the shit really does hit the fan. I would try and explain the Queensryche situation at this point but I haven’t got the space and to be honest I'm not sure I care. Definitely worth looking up though. When the Doors sang with Ian Astbury as lead singer they initially called themselves The Doors of the 21st Century but a few lawyers later and they had to change to D21C and then Riders on the Storm.The lawyers will never lose out...
Some groups get over differences and members re-join after leaving on bad terms. Motley Crue with Vince, without Vince, with Tommy, without Tommy. All friends again though…for now. Iron Maiden? Bruce came, he went and he came back again. The bloke that advertised hair restoration products had a turn for a while. Now he’s back with his original band (Wolfsbane) and completely bald. Such is life.
You know what? You may love U2. You may hate them. They are certainly a band that brings out strong feelings in people...I mean how dare they give an album away for free. Bastards. With U2 though there is one thing you know and that is if you go and see them live it will be the same four musicians. They have never changed and never will. As I said...bastards.