Great bands break up all the time. In my younger days, I longed for all of the original members of a band to patch things up, play nice, and to tour. Now in my advanced age, I long for the days of the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, where you remember the great music, but not the old members cashing in paychecks so they don’t have to go to work as night managers at their local McDonalds.
A complete 180 in thinking, there’s something to be said for not selling your soul to The Man. This list is exclusive to bands with mostly living original members, and not bands like the Platters, who tour with no original members, or glorified solo projects, like Guns N’ Roses, who have one maniac and a constantly rotating supporting cast. This is specifically the Top 10 Reasons That It’s Better to Burn Out Than To Fade Away. (Alternately, the Top 10 Reasons I Learned to Hate My Own Favorite Bands.)
10. The Sex Pistols
Everyone knows the Sex Pistols story: punk
9. The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys were one of the most popular bands of the early 60’s, with over 2 dozen top 40 hits. The band was comprised of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and family friend Al Jardine. Brian Wilson had well-documented mental issues throughout the 70’s and 80’s, as the band continued to tour under different incarnations. As brothers Dennis and Carl Wilson passed away, the Beach Boys meandered on. Then in 2011, it was announced that all living original members would tour for the 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys. If you actually listen to the words of the Beach Boys songs, imagine the irony of a bunch of 70-year-olds singing them.
The original Genesis started in the late 60’s with Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, Chris Stewart, Anthony Philips, and Peter Gabriel. They were experimental music pioneers. As with most musical pioneers, though, success was not immediately forthcoming. Phil Collins joined 3 years after the formation of the band, and moved from the drum kit to the lead singer position when Peter Gabriel left for a solo career in 1975. Between 1976 and 1996, the Banks/Rutherford/Collins version of Genesis sold over 100 million albums. In 2007, the successful version of Genesis re-united for the “Turn It On Again” tour, which was memorable for Phil Collins occasionally forgetting the lyrics to some of his own songs.
7. Jane’s Addiction
This one hurts me the most to write. Jane’s Addiction released two of the most electric rock albums ever in 1988’s Nothing’s Shocking, and 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual. The band broke up spectacularly in 1991. They re-united in 1997, minus Eric Avery, then broke up. Then re-united in 2001 and released the pedestrian Strays album, then broke up. Now re-united for a fourth time, with 3 of 4 original members, they trotted out The Great Escape Artist in 2011. I am now convinced that the band only reconciles long enough to steal money from their fans to fund side projects.
6. New York Dolls
Before there was punk, there was the New York Dolls. Cited as an influence by punks, glam rockers, and new wavers alike, they defied category. They were but a footnote in rock history when they broke up in 1977. In 2004, the three remaining living Dolls (two had passed away) announced they were re-uniting, despite the fact that no one was clamoring for a reunion. After being re-united 22 days, Arthur Kane passed away, leaving two original Dolls. David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain then went on to release more studio albums in their second incarnation of the Dolls than the first. While not embarrassing themselves, they are no longer groundbreakers.
Arguably one of the most popular rock bands of the early 00’s, Blink’s catchy pop-punk moved over 25 million albums, at a time when the CD format was beginning to die. In 2005, Tom DeLonge left the band, effectively breaking them up. DeLonge went on to form Angels & Airwaves, as Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus went on to form +44. In 2008, Travis Barker nearly died in a plane crash, which was the catalyst for all three original members getting back together in 2009. Problem is, the newly released Neighborhoods didn’t sound like a Blink album; the chemistry was long gone.
Formed in 1970, it’s amazing that this band has all of its original members still alive, let alone that they’re still together. With that being said, Joe Perry left the band in the late 70’s, then came back. Brad Whitford left the band in the 80’s, then came back. The whole band went into rehab in the late 80’s, then came back more popular than ever. With Steven Tyler joining the American Idol cast in 2010, you would think that would kill the band, but they march on, currently working on new material. Commendable, except for the fact that they haven’t had a good original song since 1993. That’s nearly 20 years of mediocrity (at best).
When it comes to thrash metal, everything begins and ends with the “Big Four”: Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax. In 2010, all four bands got together for a dream tour for headbangers everywhere. Believe it or not, Metallica and Slayer have had fairly stable lineups over the years. Megadeth is basically Dave Mustaine’s rotating band of alcoholics. But Anthrax? Anthrax should have drifted coldly into the dark night. Problem #1, their leader is the rhythm guitarist, Scott Ian. He constantly substituted in lead singers, lead guitarists, and bass players along the way. Usually it’s the rhythm guitarists that are substituted in and out along the way. Then in 2010, Ian reformed the classic version of the band from their Among the Living days with 4 of 5 members from 1987. It was fine that they played the classics, but the re-formed lineup then released 2011’s Worship Music, one of the worst albums in the history of metal. That’s quite the feat, especially considering that the band Helloween exists.
2. Van Halen
In the interest of full disclosure, this list was inspired in response to the list Top 10 Bands to Survive the Loss of Band Members. I enjoyed the read, the story was well-written, and researched, with one glaring exception, the circus that revolves around the Van Halen brothers. Van Halen was perhaps the best American Rock band in the 80’s and 90’s. David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, and Micheal Anthony are all in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but Van Halen has clearly NOT rocked since, arguably, 1991’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.
Many Van Halen fans will tell you the band did not truly survive the departure of Diamond Dave in 1985. Well, Dave is finally back in the fold after a 20-year soap opera. He and 3 Van Halens (Eddie, Alex, and Wolfgang) then released 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth. You would think that, in the 28 years between Dave’s last album with the band, 1984, and the new album, they would actually come up with some good music, but what you get is re-worked versions of old songs and ordinary rock.
One of the great rock bands of the 70’s and 80’s, the death of flamboyant frontman Freddie Mercury in 1991 brought Queen to a screeching halt. Mercury is the reason why the word “irreplaceable” is found in the dictionary. Bassist John Deacon stuck around for some tribute concerts after Mercury’s death, then quit music altogether in 1997. For some reason, Brian May and John Taylor reformed Queen in 2004 under the moniker Queen + Paul Rodgers. Okay, I guess, but then the band recruited Adam Lambert for some live concerts in 2011.
Queen promptly announced that they would be recording a new album in 2012 with… Freddie Mercury. Though dead for over 20 years, the band will be culling material from old vocal demos, and some material from unfinished Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson duets. Despite the fact I haven’t heard any of these “new” songs, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the worst idea ever.
Written By Fred Hunt, Author Of American Suicide