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Bands just brands? Not so… June 17, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.


We’ve kind of discussed this before, but the Guardian had a piece on how rock fans are loyal to ‘brands’ not bands, arguing that:

This weekend, two of the biggest names in hard rock return to London: Guns N’ Roses play two nights at the London Stadium, while Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow headline the Stone Free festival at the O2 Arena. But, while fans are excited about the shows, there is a sense that this bonanza of riffs will be less like watching bands perform and more like engaging with well established rock brands. Rainbow, for example, will feature none of the many members who were in the band during the group’s first turn around the block in the 70s and 80s. Guns N’ Roses’ shows, billed as a reunion of the band who reinvigorated metal 30 years ago, are no such thing. It’s no longer Axl Rose plus hired hands; it’s Axl Rose plus Slash plus Duff McKagan plus hired hands. In particular, there’s no Izzy Stradlin, viewed by many fans as just as important as Rose and Slash to the dynamic of the original lineup.


In fairness the writer says they’re not complaining, but they do note:

If the songs are played well, if the performances are dynamic, if the crowd are behind the group, it can be one original member plus five people recruited from Britain’s Got Talent and still be terrific. That’s a lesson I learned last summer, when after writing here that AC/DC should call it a day following the enforced departures of Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson, I saw the band with Axl Rose fronting them – and thought they were spectacular. Perhaps even better than they had been with Johnson.


There are plenty of other examples of bands who’ve rotated members with alacrity: Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy. Even Def Leppard, who were adamant they couldn’t carry on without Rick Allen after the drummer lost an arm, have spent the past 30 years with different guitarists.

But that was always the case. Gillan arrived in V 0.2 of Purple. Then there was Coverdale who went on to Whitesnake in V 0.3. Gillan played in Sabbath too (always liked that album, Born Again, not great but entertaining). And then Motorhead briefly had whatsisname from Lizzy on guitars (love that album – Another Perfect Day).

The current iteration of AC/DC is an odd one. I think it’s not so much a brand, as a hybrid. A sort of merger of two very distinct other groups – even though Rose, who wouldn’t be one of my favourite vocalists, does do a remarkably good take on both eras of AC/DC.

But more generally, and in reference to the other groups named above, I don’t think that’s, as the writer, says a subsuming of band to brand. It is that the identity of the group is so strong that it can weather changes. So perhaps in the following the writer has something…

Why, though, are hard rock and metal fans so willing to embrace the brand over its human components? I suspect it is tied in to the intense tribal loyalty and sense of us-against-them that heavy rock engenders. That’s the loyalty that still leads people, 40 or so years after the habit first became commonplace, to sew band patches all over their denim.

Still, it’s not unique to metal. I like all the versions of the Velvet Underground – but Loaded is an album that I listen to much more than the ones John Cale was involved in.

And I think that a group with no link to the past is going to be in trouble. If there’s no one from the original line up that’s it. It has no relationship to the original. That’s the point at which I’d imagine most fans would part company with them. Nor am I convinced that a group could tour with one original member and musicians plucked from ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ or whatever. Metal fans in particular are a bit picky about these things preferring groups with members culled from other groups with a known track record.

New Order has had a fluctuating line up for years now, albeit with three of the original four, though a different three, in it throughout since the 2000s. Same group. This may be making a virtue of necessity. I’m never going to see the Psychedelic Furs original line up, never was after 1980 or so.


1. carouselclub2017 - June 17, 2017

Good post and good points. Overall I had the good fortune to see The Rolling Stones & a later Bee Gees concert in Cork’s Savoy Cinema. The Stones first show very poorly attended but the band asked the small audience to come to the front rows. On older bands with members either passed away or retired I would not be too fussed. Modern technology offers options the Stones or Bee Gees never thought possible. So in many ways the sound systems are top class as indeed are many tribute bands & singers. At my age there are few bands or singers I long too see & that brings me to John Lennon’s Playboy interview. His angle on studio recordings being best still hold water & he more or less dismissed live gigs. The death of Lennon ended any hope of a Beatles reunion & their actual time as a band was brief. Brian Jones’ death left a void in the Stones that was of course followed by Bill Wyman’s departure. Main thing is to enjoy the gigs & not expect miracles. Of the icons of the last century only Blondie & Madonna if on stage locally would stir me out of my armchair. There are very few at gigs such as Glasto 2017 whom I would bother going within hearing range of alas!


WorldbyStorm - June 17, 2017

If I can return the compliment and say I agree pretty much with all you say. I hadn’t heard the Lennon quote but I think it is right, live for me – bar some forms (trad, electronics, possibly metal) has always been of less interest and I’ve precious few live albums. Were the Bee Gees good? And what period of their career was it?
On your last point I really dislike festivals. Always felt claustrophobic at the,m like I was trapped there and can’t get away.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - June 17, 2017

Btw I never saw Purple but got to seeing sabbath this year after over thirty five years of being a fan. I would love to see DP, only Gillan and Glover are there from the original line up but so what? Still releasing strong albums.


carouselclub2017 - June 25, 2017

My apologies for being slow in getting back but the Bee Gees were at their peak & at full strength. Plus an orchestra of 40 i think? The Lennon Playboy interview was not long before his death & the Stones played Cork in 1965. Full line up with Brian Jones & in Bill Wyman’s “Stone Alone” the scenery over Cork is mentioned. Bee Gees a few years later & Robin Gibb stood out in the huge confines of a superb Savoy Cinema venue. I too dislike live albums & the cult of the huge outdoor festival. As I write Barry Gibb is on the BBC but I always rated Robin above Barry or Maurice. Their drummer performed in that Cork gig & I think he is still alive. In an Irish context the downplaying of the showbands is a massive error & many stars of rock got their start in showbands. Rory Gallagher played with The Impact & Fontana showbands but the likes of gurus like Philip King ignore that fact. In Cork The Freshmen were huge & Billy Browne was a great songwriter. Someone like Brendan O’ Brien should have been a huge international solo star but was badly managed also Declan Ryan. Peter Adler & The Action were a wonderful outfit but have been written out of Irish music history. Also Bluesville & The Creatures.


WorldbyStorm - June 25, 2017

100% agree re show bands. The Real McCoy, some of the Freshmen stuff, and so on were actually pretty good.

The Bee Gees, indeed. Interesting how their earlier sound was so different.

Just on that I see Tony Bennett had to cancel out due to a virus from playing Dublin. He’s 90 but reading reviews he’s top form this last few years. That’s impressive.

Liked by 1 person

2. sonofstan - June 17, 2017

“And I think that a group with no link to the past is going to be in trouble. If there’s no one from the original line up that’s it.”

I dunno – lots of orchestras seem to manage it.
Dr. Feelgood are playing in our place next weekend – no OG members and haven’t had for years


WorldbyStorm - June 17, 2017

And jazz too, but Feelgood I hope is the exception that proves the rule in rock (granted there are a number of third ranking groups from the us in particular who do manage to get by with the name alone).


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