These bands have lost multiple band members as a result of everything from fatal accidents to overdoses… to egos. Other bands might have folded – never to release another album. However, these 10 bands rocked on:
The order is based on the number of certified albums sold and notoriety of the band with and without the original line-up.
10. Red Hot Chili Peppers
While the Peppers are not as storied as this list’s other rock n roll bands, they have possibly had more lineup changes – all for a lead guitarist and drummer. Founding members, front man Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea, are the only original members in the band, which formed in 1983. John Frusciante was only one of the many guitarists, but the longest lasting; Dave Navarro may be the most famous. Other guitarists include Hillel Slovak, Jack Sherman, DeWayne McKnight, Arik Marshall, Jesse Tobias and Josh Klinghoffer. Chad Smith is the longest serving drummer, and arguably most famous. Other drummers: Jack Irons, Cliff Martinez and DH Peligro.
9. Van Halen
Not quite as many members as RHCP, but certainly a few more bombastic ones. Only three bands on this list have survived front men changes, and this one is probably a fan fave across the U.S. In this case, the front man wasn’t even the problem – it was (and still is) the lead guitarist, Eddie Van Halen creating all the uproar through the years. His personality conflicts with Roth and Hagar caused the breakups through multiple incarnations. Starting back in early 1972 the band began with David Lee Roth as the first singer, followed by Sammy Hagar (1985 -1996), then Gary Cherone, and then back and forth again between Van Hagar and Van Roth until 2011 and the current incarnation of Van Roth.
Bassist Gene Simmons is the marketing machine behind KISS, one of the most successful American rock bands of all time. And while he and lead singer Paul Stanley have kept the Kiss Army enthralled for close to 40 years, they weren’t able to keep guitarists or drummers in the band for any length of time. Initially, Peter Criss was the drummer and Ace Frehley was the guitarist; they were followed by Eric Carr and Eric Singer on the drums, and Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John, Bruce Kulick and finally Tommy Thayer. Criss had issues with drugs and alcohol while Frehley had issues with musical direction; Stanley and Simmons had issues with Vincent; St. John had issues with arthritis; and Kulick left after the original line-up reunion of 2000. Criss and Frehley were once again replaced shortly after that reunion/Farewell tour with Singer and Thayer, respectively.
7. Guns N’ Roses
The band has been hailed as one of the best hard rock groups of all time. They started with a stellar cast in 1986: front man Axl Rose, lead guitarist Slash, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Steven Adler. The band blossomed from a five-piece band decades ago to an eight-piece band (although if you count both Axl and his ego it is a nine-piece band). Now Axl’s the only remaining founding member in a band that is G N’ R in name only. Along with Rose there are two (two! – how does this work?) lead guitarists: Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal and DJ Ashba. Other members: rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus, bassist Tommy Stinson, drummer Frank Ferrer, and keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman. Like Kiss, there are almost too many band members to name and like Van Halen, the main issue has been disputes between band members – mainly Axl vs. the band and somehow, like Eddie, he won!?
These metal thrashheads have gone through a lead guitarist and three bassists. The current lineup is made up of founding members, singer/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, plus lead guitarist Kirk Hammett (since 1982) and bassist Rob Trujillo (since 2003). Since the band’s inception in ‘81, they have used and been abused by Dave Mustaine (founder of Megadeath) who left in ‘83. Add to that bassists Ron McGovney (who was fired in ‘82 due to his lack of originality), Cliff Burton (who was killed in a tour bus accident in ’86) and Jason Newsted (who quit the band in ‘01 due to issues with the direction of the band). Metallica has been through many trials and tribulations but continues to rock, getting bigger with each album.
5. Bon Jovi
One of the best-known hair metal and 80s bands, Bon Jovi has remained pretty consistent over its three decade career and there has only been two changes to the line-up in that entire time. The band currently consists of lead singer Jon Bon Jovi, guitarist Richie Sambora, keyboardist David Bryan, drummer Tico Torres, as well as session bassist Hugh McDonald. McDonald was never officially named as part of the band after Alec John Such left the band in ‘94 after helping to found the band in ‘83. The other line-up change was almost immediate – Dave Sabo, founder of fellow hair metal band Skid Row, was lead guitarist for a very short time in ‘83. One of the few bands on this list with only two band member changes – they are also still one of the most popular bands in hard rock and pop rock history.
This band has had a tumultuous run spanning four decades. Originally formed as a backup band for Linda Ronstadt in 1971, there were just four members: guitarist Glenn Frey, drummer Don Henley, bassist Randy Meisner and guitarist Bernie Leadon. There has never been a true lead singer for the band though they have had at least two lead guitarists – Joe Walsh and Don Felder who both joined the band in ‘74. Leadon left the band in ‘75 due to his disillusionment with the new harder direction the band’s music was taking and he was followed two years later by co-founder Meisner who wanted to be with his family. Stepping in for Meisner was Timothy Schmit, who continues in the current incarnation along with Frey, Henley and Walsh through multiple breakups, reunions and studio albums – all the while selling tons of albums.
3. Rolling Stones
Seen by more people on this Earth than anyone else in history, the Rolling Stones are a rock n roll institution rivaled by none. There are few, if any, other bands from the 60s that can still pack arenas for hundreds of dollars per ticket. Fronted by singer Mick Jagger and lead guitarist Keith Richards, the band has had about a dozen members for only having six members on stage at a time throughout its 50-year history. Guitarist Brian Jones, bassist Dick Taylor, keyboardist Ian Stewart and drummer Tony Chapman rounded out the band when they began in 1962. Within a year, Charlie Watts replaced Chapman and Bill Wyman replaced Taylor until another Jones – Darryl, replaced him in ‘93. As for the other guitarist, Brian was replaced by Mick Taylor in ‘69 who was replaced by Ronnie Wood in ‘75. And Stewart was on again, off again keyboardist, but full time road manager for much of the Stones’ career. He was permanently replaced with touring keyboardist Chuck Leavell in ‘82. Brian Jones left due to drug abuse and subsequent lack of involvement, while Chapman wanted the less wild life to begin with. As for the other members: Dick Taylor returned to art college and later started another band playing his preferred instrument, the guitar, Mick Taylor left the Stones due to personality conflicts and musical conflicts within the band, and Wyman left to pursue other musical interests. Given the vast influence the Stones have had, it is actually surprising to hear that so many of them left simply to pursue other interests!
Australian hard rockers have been known for decades for their excesses including the one that caused the biggest change – the death of a lead singer. Lead guitarist Angus Young and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young comprise the core of the band that has not changed since they formed in 1973. At the time of the first album Bon Scott was the lead singer, after the first singer Chris Evans was fired for being too much of a glam rocker. The band went through about seven bassists before settling on Mark Evans; likewise with the drummer – eight drummers – before Phil Rudd took over. Scott died after a long night of alcoholic debauchery and was replaced by Brian Johnson in ‘80. In ‘83, Rudd’s friendship with Malcolm Young deteriorated to the point of a fight after which Rudd was fired. Simon Wright took over the kit for about seven years – taking his leave to pursue other musical opportunities. Wright was followed by Chris Slade who left amicably after the band decided they want to start working with Rudd again in ‘94. Over the last 40 years, their popularity has waxed and waned but through it all, they continue to rock.
1. Pink Floyd
One of the most influential prog rock bands of all times, Pink Floyd was active for a little over 30 years from 1965-1997. In that time, they sold more verified albums than anyone else on this list and actually had one of the least volatile line-up changes. The band started with singer Syd Barrett, bassist Roger Waters, keyboardist Richard Wright and drummer Nick Mason. David Gilmour joined the band as another guitarist in 1967 and then took over as the lead singer the following year due to Barrett’s heavy use of LSD and increasing depression forced him out of his mind and the band. For the most part, Waters led the band musically through most of their most influential years and left in ’84 due to personality strains in the band. The band soldiered on with just the remaining three members for a few more studio albums. Throughout the multiple line-ups, Pink Floyd has remained a draw for decades- selling millions of albums and selling out venues whenever and wherever they have performed.
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