Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A Change’ll Do You Good

A sad but inevitable (inescapable?  inexorable?) truth in music is that the line ups of our favourite bands keep changing.  Gibson’s 10 Bands That Changed Singers ... and Won deals with this reality, and reminds us that change is not always a bad thing.

Here’s the list:  Deep Purple, Van Halen, AC/DC, Faith No More, Judas Priest, Journey, Iron Maiden, Fleetwood Mac, Genesis, Pink Floyd.

Winning seems to mean, “enjoyed increased commercial success,” so that ducks the question of whether the band actually got better.  For a lot of these transitions, it’s debatable whether the band improved, especially in the eyes of their existing fans.

David Lee Roth for Sammy Hagar?  Not sure.  Bon Scott for Brian Johnson?  I think so, but many wouldn’t.  Syd Barrett for David Gilmour?  Well, for me, Floyd’s music was finally approachable with Waters and Gilmour at the helm, and maybe that illustrates the problem with “winning.”  Commercial success means, well, “more commercial” (ya I know we’re talking about Pink Floyd but everything is relative).

Take Genesis.  By the time Collins is through with them, a (some would say) pretentious prog rock band becomes a pop act.  Makes you wonder how much of the original fan base was still around to celebrate the victory.

Or take Fleetwood Mac.  Trying to reconcile the dichotomy between the Peter Green and the Buckingham/Nicks eras, the article suggests that FM is “arguably not a band, but a brand.”   Maybe, but don’t brands have a core sound/image/look/feel/quality/certain-something that is supposed to endure and is therefore protected?  I would suggest that Fleetwood Mac is not a brand, but simply a name that got re-used.

The most interesting case for me is that of Deep Purple.  No question that Ian Gillan was an improvement over Rod Evans, and their popularity certainly jumped with the change.  But there was something very cool about those early albums.  I felt at the time, and I guess I still feel now, that they made the switch to try and sound more like Led Zeppelin.  They succeeded, and it was great and all, but they also lost some Deep Purpleness in the process.  They might have become highway stars, but the bird had flown.

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