Several rock bands are attempting to put their bands back together, even after the departure of key bandmembers. The New York Times teased this article with a subtitle: “Do fans still care who the lead vocalist is? Do they even notice?”
The results are different depending on the band and the depth of their commitment to the music, rather than to the economic viability of the enterprise. The Dead has attempted to continue after the death of Jerry Garcia and the quality of their summer tours was quite high. Joan Osborne was the first person with the band that could actually sing and the other musicians respected the history of the Dead without being held hostage to it. However, disagreements between some of the survivors kept them off the road this year.
One of my favorite bands of all time was Little Feat. After losing main songwriter, guitarist and singer Lowell George, the band went on hiatus for several years. Little Feat did come back and is a very good rock/boogie band. However, it is no longer the kind of band that led Bonnie Raitt to say ” I miss Little Feat more than I miss being seven years old.” The oddly off-kilter (and generally sweet) worldview died with Lowell George. No one recites fragments of lyrics from Let It Roll and the other post-Lowell albums. No melodies like Dixie Chicken become mini-anthems, able to unite fans at the first chord. The band is well-meaning, but not the same.
What is most upsetting about the article, is the mention of bands that now clearly seem to have been in it only for the money. Is there anything more infuriating for a KISS fan than to read this comment:
“Doc McGhee, who represents the rockers KISS, has another twist on the idea altogether: he has been toying with the idea of recruiting an entire band to replace the original KISS and don the band’s famous makeup. ‘KISS is more like Doritos or Pepsi, as far as a brand name is concerned,” he said. “They’re more characters than the individual person. I think they have a legitimate chance to carry the franchise.’ ”
Yes, rock ‘n’ roll can be silly, immature and ephemeral. Sometimes that’s the sole point about rock. Those characteristics can still be fondly remembered (see the Ramones) or they can be cheapened when we see that the whole point was just a marketing tool.