If a band changes its members, when does it cease to be the band it started as and continue in name only?
When David Lee Roth left Van Halen in 1985, the band continued under a new guise with Sammy Hagar as the lead singer. After the Van Halen/Hagar relationship soured in the mid-1990s, things got weird.
The band brought Roth back into the fold in 1996 to record some new tunes for a greatest hits album. Following an appearance at MTV’s Video Music Awards, a war of words was waged between the Van Halen brothers and Roth, and the reunion ended.
Gary Cherone, the lead singer for Extreme, was recruited and the band released one (pretty awful) album in 1998 and toured the world. By the end of 1999, Cherone had left the band.
In 2003, Van Halen tried to reignite its late 80s flame by once again touring with Hagar and releasing some new material on a second greatest hits album. By the time the tour ended, the relationship between Hagar and the Van Halen brothers had again soured and Hagar went back to his solo career.
The band reunited with Roth in 2007 (and without original bassist Michael Anthony), released yet another greatest hits album and toured extensively. Following the tour, the band recorded a new album, which was released in 2012, and is scheduled to tour again next year.
Whew. Did you get all that?
The Van Halen example is one of the most exhaustive examples of a band going through numerous lineup changes, though keeping the core of the band (mostly) unchanged. For some bands, the changeover is almost seamless, but for others it’s a career killer.
What got me thinking about this topic is the fact that The Smashing Pumpkins have released a new album and are touring. However, I don’t consider them to be the same Smashing Pumpkins I used to listen to.
With lead singer Billy Corgan being the only original member in this new version of the band, it seems like kind of a lie. And though this isn’t anything new when it comes to bands, it still bugs me. Here are a few other examples:
— Guns N’ Roses disappeared from the rock scene in 1994 after becoming one of the most popular rock bands of the late 80s/early 90s. When the band reappeared with a new album in 2008, lead singer Axl Rose was the only original member in the group.
— Pink Floyd’s vocalist/bassist Roger Waters left the band in 1985, following successes of “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall.” The three remaining members continued under the Pink Floyd name and released two successful albums. The band reunited with Waters in 2005 for a set during the Live 8 concert in London.
— It seemed as though Queen had learned that lead singer Freddie Mercury is irreplaceable, and to record or tour with anybody else in his place would be a mistake. Apparently not, since they recruited former Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers in 2004 and toured for a few years.
— Creedence Clearwater Revival broke up in 1972, and John Fogerty embarked on a solo career. In 1995, the two remaining members formed Creedence Clearwater Revisited and composed “cover versions” of their original songs.
— The Doors were dormant for years, until they performed on VH1’s Storytellers in 2000 with numerous guest vocalists. In 2002, two of the original members were forced to re-name themselves The Doors of the 21st Century when they recruited ex-Cult singer Ian Astbury for a tour.
I won’t get into bands that haven’t released new material in many years but still tour every summer, like REO Speedwagon, Kansas, Steve Miller Band, or Journey. There’s no telling how many lineup changes those bands have gone through since their heyday. It’s doubtful that anyone really notices.
There’s also the band Kiss, who is on a whole other level when it comes to lineup changes. They have probably had more members come and go than any other band in the history of the world.
Bands like Led Zeppelin had the right idea to just hang it up, as they did after drummer John Bonham died in 1980. Except for a somewhat embarrassing set at 1985’s Live Aid concert with Phil Collins filling in on drums, the band has not recorded or toured.