When Great Bands Jump The Shark: Kiss, Devo, U2, And Anyone Who Records A "Rock Opera"!


Determining the exact moment that Devo jumped the shark is difficult at best because, let's face it, there are a multitude of examples to back up your argument.

For fairweather fans, that moment took place when the band released a follow-up single to the Top 20 smash "Whip It" that wasn't "Whip It, Part 2".  Instead, they chose "Gates Of Steel", which failed to even dent the pop singles charts.

For diehard fans of the band, like myself, the moment the band began dabbling in music for movie soundtracks like "Heavy Metal" and "Doctor Detroit" is when the jumping of the shark truly occurred.
"Working In The Coalmine", which first appeared on the Heavy Metal soundtrack in July 1981, was an unusually by-the-numbers cover of Lee Dorsey's 1966 Top 10 hit that used synthesizers to recreate the man-made sounds of the original, to lesser effect.  Devo's version missed the Top 40, but would be the band's last charting single.

Diehard fans of the band believing that the band would rebound properly with their next studio album, were quickly proven wrong by the schtick-heavy Oh No It's Devo, complete with cover art featuring a pic of the band with potatoes for bodies and annoyingly boisterous tunes like "Time Out For Fun" and "Peek-A-Boo" that took "nerdy" to a whole new level.

If that wasn't bad enough already, the band would contribute the half-baked theme song to the doomed Dan Aykroyd star vehicle "Doctor Detroit" in 1983.  Their other contribution to the soundtrack was the tune "Luv-Luv" which is as forgettable as the title implies.

Tom Petty

Sure, Petty is a national treasure, but even national treasures can jump the shark.  For Petty, that moment was when they included the band's live version of "Shout!" (from "Animal House") on their live album Pack Up The Plantation.  Not only was the song played out years before their version was released, but it was almost as if Petty had given the band the following directions:

"If we play it at Vegas coke-nose speed and, Benmont, if you can make your organ sound like something you might hear at a minor league baseball game, we might just have something we can put on the album to make folks forget all about 'Refugee'."

Considering the band had been playing the song long before "Animal House" turned it into the frat boy national anthem, one need only listen to the 1977 live version to see how far the band had strayed from their original greatness and vitality by 1985.


While it could also be argued that the group's brief dalliance with disco, "I Was Made For Loving You", was the moment when rock's biggest band jumped the shark, I would go so far as to say the shark wasn't truly jumped until the band decided to create a soundtrack for a film that did not actually exist.
Four words: Music from "The Elder"


Hey, if you can logically chart the British prog pioneer's artistic progression from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and Selling England By The Pound to "I Can't Dance", you are a better man than I.  Not only was this the point when the trio of Mike Rutherford, ZTony Banks and Phil Collins jumped the shark, it was the moment at which it became possible to determine the difference between a Geneis tune and a solo Phil Collins track.

As for the song's video, the only thing keeping it from becoming a ZZ Top "Eliminator"-era video would be the band's unwillingness to grow their beards out.


It's heartbreaking when a beloved band feels that they have to go against their own grain to remain musically relevant, but when they do so AND exit the studio believing that they've given the world their own Sgt. Pepper, well, sharks better be ducking because here comes Bono on a motorcycle.

Which album could we possibly be talking about, you ask?  Rattle And Hum, maybe?  While that album has gotten a lot of slack since its release in 1987, the fact of the matter is that the band's cinematic endeavor was a huge commercial hit at the time, spawning mega-hits like "Angel Of Harlem" and "Desire".

By comparison, Zooropa spawned no memorable hits because, truth be told, there were none to be found. The misguided follow-up to Achtung Baby could have just as easily been called "Bells And Whistles" or "Smoke And Mirrors" for all the studio trickery the band employed to try disguising the fact that they'd bitten off more than they could chew by booking a world tour to promote an album they hadn't even begun yet.

Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship

While Genesis's transformation from bearded prog gods to beardless ZZ Top wanna-be's was inexplicably hard to watch for longtime fans of the band, one can only imagine what it must have been like watching one of the most joyfully subversive bands of the entire hippie movement turn into the musical equivalent of Crockett & Tubbs in an unguarded moment.

Where were those murderous rifle-toting drug smugglers when we needed them most as Grace Slick and Mickey Thomas rolled up the sleeves on their pastel suit jackets with the over-sized shoulder pads and got to work building the perfect vehicle with which to jump an entire pool of rabid man-eating sharks?
Sure, the song was all over the radio and went to #1 on the U.S. pop singles chart, but, ahem, so did Milli Vanilli.

Any band that records a "Rock Opera"

Sorry, fans of The Who, Green Day, and My Chemical Romance, putting the words" rock" and "opera" in the same sentence, much less right next to each other, is as ridiculous a concept as the idea of jumping a pool of sharks on a motorcycle.

After all, there is nothing more insufferable than a band that begins to take themselves so seriously that they see themselves as storytellers on a grand, cinematic scale.  Let's face it, everything you need to know about the "deaf, dumb and blind boy" can be found in the song "Pinball Wizard", but the Who still felt it necessary to drag the story out over four album sides.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

1 comment:

  1. You should be sorry! You obviously only enjoy music in 3 to 5 minute snippets. That is your right, but the only reason I can think of why you would feel it necessary to disparage and call a related body of musical work "insufferable" is that you don't have a big enough attention span or you don't care to put a little time and effort into enjoying this art form called MUSIC. I happen to consider music one of the most important contributions to society, so EXCUSE THEM for being "SERIOUS" about it. Other than the use of the word "desciples" in the song Pinball Wizard, how could you possibly get the huge religious rise and fall of the prophet references in TOMMY?
    Check out a band called Nickelback.