Friday, November 16, 2018

Trading Places: Rock's Latest Tour Gimmick Is Member-Swapping!

Stevie: (to Neil's shoes) Who the fuck are you?
Christine: (whispering) Just ignore her.
With rock music pretty much retired to the nostalgia circuit, where the oldies moldies make the rounds of the cruise ships, casinos, and rib fests of this once-majestic land, many a rock fan has grown unimpressed by hearing the same old hits played by the same old bands with fewer and fewer original members.

I always had a laugh whenever I saw the latest Lovin' Spoonful or Jefferson Airplane line-up and  hear stuff like "Yeah, his son is playing keyboards for them now" or "His daughter sings the Grace Slick parts." Such offspring would simply wait their turn in Wilson-Phillips or Nelson.

Hell, The Who are down to two, Foreigner has just as many former members of Dokken as original members, and, last we checked, Pink Floyd's laser show has been touring without them since Roger Waters left the band.

You know rock has jumped the shark when you live long enough to see Cheap Trick tour with not one, but two sons of original members. My favorite band has become the nostalgia cliche.

At least when Jimmy Marinos left the Romantics, they had the good sense to replace him with Clem Burke...eventually. If they'd done that FIRST, they might not have lost their deal , but better late than never. It was kind of a bummer that this combo was wasted on audiences of the rib fest and race track variety, but, fuck, we love ribs as much as anybody.

In a recent episode of "Jonesy's Jukebox" featuring Billy Idol and Tony James of Generation X, the idea of touring with Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook was mentioned and everyone, including Jonesy himself (Steve Jones from the Pistols) was up for it.

On October 30th, this very line-up hit an L.A. stage.

Such member-swapping would allow for some truly unusual pairings and also help bring back bands we thought we might never see again, such as the Smithereens, whose singer Pat DiNizio passed away last December, or Big Country, whose late singer Stuart Adamson was admirably replaced by Alarm singer Mike Peters for three years. For the final year of that pairing, the band's original bassist Tony Butler was replaced by Simple Minds bass player Derek Forbes, making Big Country a veritable "supergroup'.

While that star-studded line-up has since splintered, the Smithereens recently tested the waters with Marshall Crenshaw this past summer and, due to the positive response, will be expanding their touring schedule through 2019.

Imagine if, say, Aerosmith got into the act of member-swapping while Steven Tyler was off doing his solo thing. Touring and perhaps even recording with another singer of considerable stature could be the most fun those poor rich schmucks have had on tour since before Tyler discovered smack.

Why stop there?

If Axl Rose can sing for AC/DC, what's to stop Brian Johnson from touring with Guns n Roses? Sure, he can't sing the material. but, hey, neither could Axl.

Of course, not all pairings set the heart atwitter.

The recent addition of Mike Campbell from the Heartbreakers and Neil Finn from Crowded House to the line-up of Fleetwood Mac in the wake of Lindsey Buckingham's firing certainly grabbed our attention at first for its absolute randomness as an entire nation gasp in unison, "Neil Finn?!"

From the moment he joined his brother's band (Split Enz), this writer has loved everything Finn has done, up to and including the Pajama Club, but his addition to "The Mac" was a wild card pick that, sadly, does not work.

It does, however, send everyone who paid $200 for a ticket (and $40 for parking!) a very clear message that it takes more than two pop legends to replace Lindsey Buckingham poorly.

Admittedly, I admire the fucking balls it took to even consider Finn in the first place. The music business needs to act on more crazy ideas just like that, but after the third rehearsal, those same balls should have been used to admit to all involved that it just wasn't working.

Thing is, I think Neil knows it, too. You can see it in his eyes as he imagines what he'd be thinking if he was paying to see this show.

That's okay, though, because a little birdy in the concert tour biz told us earlier this year that a Stevie Nicks/Heartbreakers tour was already being planned for late 2019/summer 2020 (though Heartbreakers' piano man Ben Tench vehemently denied it on Twitter when The Shit dropped said "rumor" the same week that Buckingham got the ax).

I still trust my source and am waiting to nail Tench with his own tweet when such a tour is announced.

Come April 2019, when this Mac debacle ends, Mike Campbell will be more amped than anyone to get the ol' band back together.

And when they do, it had better include Stan Lynch.

What Heartbreakers fan wouldn't whip out the platinum card to see that tour?

And who's to say it has to stop there?

After all, those lovable Eagles have continued on without Glenn Frey despite Don Henley's claims that they were done. Once your accountant leaves you a couple anxious messages about having to "move some shit around", suddenly you realize that the show must go on.

So, once we're past the "sacrilege", which we are, why not hire someone with some name recognition to sing Glenn's parts and put some more asses in those stadium seats before the band gets downgraded to theatre act?

Bob Seger, maybe?

A few years ago, such a pairing would have been too much of a shock to our collective system, but now, we're all game for a little mixing and matching. Who knows, we might even start buying music again: "Dude, I just bought the new album by INXS with Bog Geldof. It fucking RAWWWKS!!

Those of us on the fringes of pop music in the '80s would get to see a lot of our other heroes get another chance at some cabbage while we pay top dollar for VIP access and selfies. Why deny that to the Ants who want to tour without Adam or those members of the Smiths who want to know what its like to not play with Morrissey?

Just think: Oasis with no Gallaghers, just Bonehead, Guigsy, and some guys from Stone Roses, Jesus & Mary Chain, and the Verve putting their own spin on those well-worn hits.

Let Noel and Liam bicker. This'd be a fookin' hoot, plus some guys who could probably use the money would finally get paid.

As with most other things, Sparks were way ahead of us by teaming up with Franz Ferdinand and making the truly inspired FFS album that seems to have given each band's career a much-needed kick in the pants. So why didn't we think of this sooner?

In hindsight, when Joe Strummer decided to kick Mick out of the Clash, his mistake was not putting together an all-star cast instead of a bunch of punk poseurs from Central Casting. Imagine Brian James (ex-Damned) and Nicky Turner leaving Lords Of The New Church to join this new Clash line-up.

They'd have only been able to keep it together for one album, but what an album it might have been.

The news of such a pairing would have knocked numerous demographics of kids (the punks, the goths, and those of us who dabbled in both, but subscribed to neither) on our asses because, like them, we were getting kinda bored and needed something out of left field.

The record store clerks of this great nation would have been abuzz at such news. "Cool, let's do a Clash display and try to unload some of that overstock." With enough MTV coverage, they would have made enough news in a week to ensure every show sold out well in advance, as opposed to what really happened.


(lone cricket chirping)

The great thing about the music business being in the shitter is that pretty much everyone needs the money and is now up for anything. Once tour promoters realized that people would pay to see Paul Rodgers fronting Queen, all bets were off.

So what all-star pairing would you like to see?

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