Top 10 Reasons That It’s Better to Burn Out Than to Fade Away


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

band breaks in the late 70’s, torches America, breaks up in explosive fashion in 1978.  The very definition of punk.  Sadly the story doesn’t end there.  In 1996, all four original members (including Sid Vicious’s predecessor on bass) re-united for the Filthy Lucre Tour, where they mocked themselves for their own cash grab.  Fine.  But then they got back again in 2002…and 2003…and 2007…and 2008…and are now slated for a 2012 reunion to re-release Never Mind the Bullocks. The very antithesis of punk.

9.  The Beach Boys

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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.

8.  Genesis

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

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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

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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.

5.  Blink-182

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.

4.  Aerosmith

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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).

3.  Anthrax

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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

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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.

1.  Queen

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

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  1. Jason Thompson on

    If Worship Music by Anthrax is one of the worst albums in the history of heavy metal, then why is it carrying a 4.7 (out of 5) star rating on

  2. Peter Boucher on

    Anthrax seems to be the center of attention on this list. Let me tell you about my Anthrax Experience. I had tickets for a triple bill concert. Anthrax opened, W.A.S.P. was hte second act and headlining was Black Sabbath which just Tommy Iommi as the only original band. I actually wanted to see W.A.S.P. and then leave. I get to the venue and looked everywhere to purchase a W.A.S.P. T-Shirt. I got to the last table and asked “Aren’t there any W.A.S.P. T-Shirts available. The guy behind the counter said that their flight was cancelled and could not show up to perform. GREAT !!! and other four letter expletives from my mouth. Black Sabbath sucked as Glenn Hughes, the lead singer had come down with bronchitis and his voice cracked several times and they just stood there playing their instruments. When Anthrax opened, they did song after song without a break. Were on only 35 minutes and when they finished there wasn’t any YAY’s or BOOOOOOOOOOOO’s. It was like what on earth did we just see. I just never got into them. I do know that Scott Ian is married to Meatloaf’s daughter, but that’s it.

  3. Sorry I have been unable to reply sooner, I apologize. In response to the Anthrax comments, I used to be such a huge Anthrax fan, my list should have been Top 10 Reasons Anthrax lost their way. I’ve seen Anthrax in concert multiple times, used to belong to their fan club, and own so much Anthrax Merchandise, it’s embarrassing. (I own the Sound of White Noise Headband) But to address the comments, go back and listen to Among the Living and Spreading the Disease. Digest the thrash, then listen to Worship Music. You wouldn’t even know it was the same band. If you want good thrash, bands like Toxic Holocaust and Municipal Waste are making the good thrash albums that Anthrax SHOULD be making. (And don’t get me started on 2003’s album We’ve Come for you All with John Bush. That album was so bad I cried.)

  4. In fact the phrase it’s better to burn out than fade away was used by the villain The Kurgan in the movie Highlander which had yup,you guessed it,Queen doing most of the songs

  5. Peter Boucher on

    Well, here’s a list for you of bands still performing with only 1 or 2 original members left and should call it quits or the members are reaching Social Security age : Journey, Styx, Kansas, REO Speedwagon, Asia, Ted Nugent (his political views scare me to death !!), Nightranger. I’m sure their are many more out their. It wouldn’t surprise me if April Wine was still at it !!

  6. Regarding anthrax releasing the worst metal album of all time???!!!! Seriously what ass did you have your head in upon listening to worship music? In an age of screamo metal bullshit – anthrax finally showed metal fans how a metal album should sound. Yeah I guess I like anthrax a bit too… Does it show?

  7. Thin Lizzy also deserve an honourable mention. They originally split in ’83 and lead singer/main songwriter Phil Lynott died in ’86.
    There is a band that tours under the name Thin Lizzy that feature founding member Brian Downey and a few other guys who were members at various points during the ’70s and ’80s. Thankfully they operate as a tribute act, despite the name, and have not attempted to release any new material under the name.

  8. As a matter of interest Zeppelin did briefly reform a few times since breaking up in 1980, most recently in 2007 to play a few shows in London. Thankfully it was not a full-time reunion. Robert Plant had no interest in it. However remaining members John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, and Jason Bonham (replacing his late father) were in talks to relaunch Zeppelin with Steven Tyler on vocals. Thankfully this never came to fruition.

    On the subject of The Beatles – they very nearly did the same. Remember the Anthology multimedia project in 2005? The Beatles released two ‘new’ singles (actually just elaborations and overdubs on John Lennon demos from the 70s, though Paul did contribute a middle eight to one of them)
    They had also planned to reform form some gigs featuring John’s son Julian as his replacement. Thankfully this never happened either.

  9. So spot on with Jane’s Addiction. They are my favorite band of that era, two albums that are unbelievable, but you can tell Eric Avery is their driving force because they never put out anything close after he left.

  10. Brother John on

    If “Calling All Stations” featuring Ray Wilson as the voice were the final and most recent thing Genesis had released, then they’d belong on this list. However, given that the best-known lineup decided to reform and tour, and that none of the band had ever actually burned out but either left to do other things or simply decided to stop, no way.

    They could record a new record next month and would be as good as anything the band has ever done. Though yes, I’ll admit, I’d be happier if Steve and Pete were a part of it.

  11. I’m sorry, but Worship Music the worst album in the history of Metal? WHAT. THE. F***. No. Maybe in worst album in the history of crappy Anthrax pop-punk-rock, but that album is easily the best Metal album they’ve released in a LONG time. One of the best of ’11, IMO.
    Obviously, whoever wrote that article isn’t an Anthrax fan…

    • true… this albbum is one of the best metal album of the year . most of the respectfull critics praise it.
      how is it that a band that still kicks a*** for over 20yrs placed so high on your list. and thrash metal is not only the big 4
      do your homework son

      • Do your homework indeed. Constantly substituting in singers guitarists and bass players? If one only counts members who have performed on released studio albums then it’s 2 singers (Belladonna and Bush) all of Matt Fallon’s vocals were replaced by Joey’s, 2 guitars (Spitz and Caggiano) Paul Crook was credited as a guest musician for the 2 albums he worked on, and 1 bass (Bello) since Joey Vera never worked on an album. As for Worship Music being “one of the worst albums in the history of metal” just because you don’t like something doesn’t make your opinion the benchmark for historical record. Worship Music jams by the by. Also anyone under the age of 50 who claims to have liked Genesis before the Phil Collins era is a liar and a poser.

    • Peter Boucher on

      @ Zach Gilette. You could not have hit the head on the nail then anyone better with your post. Their is only one original band member left (Bassist Chris Squire who owns the right to the name of the group. I was a 1970’s British Progressive Rock Music geek and I always used to comment then these three bands. YES, GENESIS, EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER and threw in some KING CRIMSON into the mix. But the problem is with these groups is that they sold out to the mass of bubble-gum chewing, Pepsi drinking teenagers. After the YES entitled “DRAMA” (1980). I lost interest to them and let it be known that they are the group that I have seen more times then any other group that I ever saw live (7 times). The keyboard player is now Rick Wakeman’s son, Oliver, They have a singer that was chosen from a YES tribute band. Alan White is still with them but he was not the original drummer. Bill Bruford holds that distinction. Jon Anderson the other original band member has had health problems. If a teenager were to be standing next to me right now, I would make him / her listen to ‘The Gates Of Delirium” (all 24 minutes long) or maybe the song “Close To The Edge” Anyway, Kudos and very good choice on your part

  12. FactCheckFTW on

    @Aerosmith, you say they haven’t have a good original song since 1993, but yet you have a video for Jaded. Jaded was written by Steven Tyler, hit #7 on the billboard chart & was a 2001 release.

    • I can explain that. The writers submit the articles, then the editors will find the images or videos to match. Sometimes there is a disconnect, like here.

  13. There was also a few attempts at the Doors without Jim Morrison. At least Ringo and Paul McCartney have never dared called anything else the Beatles.

  14. You forgot to mention, although this may have been written months back, who Queen is currently touring with…Adam Lambert… of American Idol. Who only really outdoes Freddy Mercury in terms of gayness. And as if Paul Rogers wasn’t already a poor casting choice.

    No Freddy= No Queen. Call it something else: how about, the ‘Brian May Superspectacular.’

    • Amen to that, I love Queen and Freddie made that band. And great list, by the way!

      • “Who only really outdoes Freddy Mercury in terms of gayness.”

        Great line!

        To use a sports phrase, Adam Lambert can’t even carry Freddy Mercury’s jock-strap.

        I would also argue that The Who and The Rolling Stones belong on this list.

        • Clearly you have not listened to the new concerts. Paul Rodgers was a great rock vocalist and did amazing things, not Freddie Mercury but he wasn’t trying to be. And although I am not a fan of the way Adam Lambert became famous, he still has an amazing voice and Brian and Roger can do what they like and I believe it to be wonderful. There are others that I think could maybe do better, like Kerry Ellis, but I like the band and their new sound, and Freddie would be absolutly ASHAMED of you calling other people gay, considering he himself was bi-sexual.

          A true Queen Fan.

        • Who said being gay was a bad thing? I guess you made an assumption there and revealed something about yourself.

          Lambert still can’t hold Mercury’s jock.

        • Brother John on

          Well, you did, actually. All “?” (first post) said was that Lambert projects that personality (stereotype, actually, but they’re grounded in observable reality) more than even Mercury did.

          No one said it was a bad thing until you.

        • Peter Boucher on

          Much to your dismay, but Freddie Mercury was BI-SEXUAL. It was the last 10 years of his life when his homosexuality took over him. Back in the early to mid-70’s he had a live in companion named Mary Austin. They split up very amicably. Mary met her now husband and when she had her first child with her husband, Mary asked if Freddie would be the baby’s Godfather. Freddie’s AIDS was diagnosed just prior to when Queen performed at the Live-Aid concert on July 13, 1985.

        • For some reason there is no “reply” button on “Brother John’s” post, so I’ll reply here. I did NOT say being gay was a bad thing. I’ve read and re-read the entire string of posts and still do not see where I did. “Freddie” was the one who made an assumption that when “?” said that Lambert out-gayed Mercury that that was a bad thing.