Friday, 6 November 2009

The Death of the Line Up Change

I love the story of Rock and Roll as much as I like Rock and Roll itself.

I love the story of Rock and Roll more than I like Rock and Roll itself.

Once, back in my glory days, I was flown to Stockholm for a promotional day. The ‘indie’ press officer wasn’t available so I got the ‘metal’ press officer. We talked about Bruce Dickinson all day. I didn’t care, I’ll talk about any of this shit for as long as you like.

The story of Rock and Roll is being spoilt however. The ending is being changed, the best bits taken out.

We have already lost the ‘break up’ to the endless hordes of reforming bands. Our music biographies are getting unwanted codas and messy epilogues.

Not only that, important chapters are being removed, namely the ‘pivotal line up change’, Brian being replaced by Mick and then Ronnie, Pete getting ditched for Ringo. Do you prefer the Bon Scott or the Brian Johnson era AC/DC? That type of thing.

I miss the excitement of bands getting new members. As I teenager I loved the Dammed. They had a line up change every week. I had a notebook to keep track of who was on bass. The band had an ongoing narrative that demanded loyalty.

Ian McLagan (of the Small Faces) once told me my favourite line up change story; “Mick Fleetwood told me to come over and meet his new singer and guitarist. Now look, Lyndsey is a girl’s name and Stevie is a boy’s name. How was I supposed to know?”

So why don’t bands replace missing members any more? I know that the Rolling Stones have had a bass player since Bill Wyman went off metal detecting. I can even tell you his name. His name is Daryl Jones and he has played with the Stones for 16 years.

But the Rolling Stones I see in photos and videos don’t appear to have a bass player. Like a half formed group of teenagers in their parent’s garage.

Similarly when it comes to publicity shots, REM seem to exist without a drummer. They obviously need a drummer and have one all the time at shows and recording sessions. His name is John or Brian or something.

Bon Jovi currently have an absurd personnel. They are ostensibly a ‘rock’ band with just keyboard, guitar and drums.

Something is being taken from us; the unveiling of the new member, the new sound, the new look, the myth of the band as a gang, an ongoing adventure. They’ve ruined our Rock Family Trees. Do we enter these new members in pencil or brackets?

Worst of all these mutant half bands reveal an unpleasant truth, that the world of music is financial, legal and contractual, that it would cost someone too much money to have the new guy standing in behind Gem and Andy on the back of Heathen Chemistry.

I think the band that appears in the photos should be made to do a concert without their waged accomplices, just once in while, to prove they’re a band. What would the 2003 three piece Blur sound like? I want to pretend these characters just get together and play sometimes for the love of it. As though they were in ‘Fame’.

It’s just more corporate ugliness. Stick the session drummer in the photo. Pretend you are friends who like music.

We used to like those stories.


  1. I agree. Which is why I made a big fuss about making sure that the lineup changes in The Gresham Flyers were done properly and the new people made proper band members - it'll add to our legacy, whatever that ends up being. The lineup change is also a reason why Fleetwood Mac are one of my favourite bands; the only constant is the rhythm section, and they went through enough frontmen that they managed three stylistically different eras (then two eras that were pale imitations of the previous lineups). As it stands, my favourite FM output is from the one that nobody cares about, between the Peter Green era and the Lindsey Buckingham era when Bob Welch was the singer/ guitar player. They made five albums that no-one seems to know. Fancy that.

  2. Then Metallica are the exception - but at the same time the best example of how financial things can become

    in youtube:
    Robert + Trujillo + Bass + Auditions + Metallica

  3. The spam above me notwithstanding, this is a genius post.