Most bands have one person, maybe two, that are their brand identity. Whether it’s fans, or the press, or other musicians, there’s usually someone at the forefront of the group that people point to as THE most important person in the band (whether they are, or not).
The majority of bands just fade away or quit when the face of the band leaves, but not everyone. Here’s a list of bands that somehow carried on when their perceived leaders flew the coop (either for other artistic opportunities, or they passed away).
I’m not including bands that got together for cash-grab reunions, though I am making an exception for Journey since they seem to be the most serious about their second or third life, and could be more famous for their doppelganger than their hit lineup now, anyway.
10,000 Maniacs – Natalie Merchant was the voice and visual focal point, and John Lombardo was the leader of the band, writing all of the music. Losing Lombardo in 1986 didn’t hurt anything, really, but Merchant left in 1993 after telling the band that she would go solo in 1991. Lombardo came back with new performing partner, Mary Ramsey, to take her place. Lombardo and Ramsey left in 2000, but both came back eventually and the Maniacs have continued non-stop ever since.
AC/DC – When rockstars get old, they tend to crumble either physically or mentally. So now we’re left with an AC/DC with Angus Young, the bald guy, Axl, and someone else. It’s not the first time Angus kept going, though. Bon Scott took over as lead singer in 1974 and he was the sound and face of the band when they started. Highway to Hell brought them to the precipice of mega-startdom, then Scott died. Brian Johnson stepped in and Back in Black was the result. They coasted ever since, even as drummers came and went and the songs became parodies of themselves.
Aerosmith – The Toxic Twins, Joe Perry and Steven Tyler, are Aerosmith to many fans, even though the other three guys are just as important to the sound and style. But in mid-1979, after a show in Cleveland, and even before Night in the Ruts was completed, Joe Perry left the group after backstage ‘incidents’. Perry formed his own project (The Joe Perry Project) and the band limped along making one dismal record before cleaning up and reuniting. Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay never had a chance.
Allman Brothers – Fans all over the world mourned Duane Allman when he died in 1971, and musicians everywhere were probably hit the hardest with the news. Still, the band pressed on, releasing Eat a Peach in his memory. Duane’s guitar mastery elevated the band above the typical blues-rock band. Berry Oakley, the bass player, then died in much the same way as Duane Allman did. They kept going and finally stopped for a while in 1982 after the returns were too diminished. Then, nostalgia became big and they came back and are seemingly unstoppable no matter what maladies happen to them.
Asia – This band, put together by managers and agents (that’s not a joke, either) had a smash album right out of the gate. John Wetton, Steve Howe, and Carl Palmer were all well-known by their former bands (Wetton had stints in King Crimson, Family, Uriah Heep, Roxy Music, Wishbone Ash, and UFO – quite the assortment!). Their second album kind of stiffed, and before their huge Tokyo concert broadcast live on MTV, they fired Wetton, who was the voice of the band, and replaced him with Greg Lake. Wetton came back soon after, but before their third album Howe blew the scene. That didn’t stop ’em. They’re still a going concern, with old and new members in and out of the lineup and even with Wetton’s death in 2017 (he had been back for 10 years), they kept going and there’s even a competing version of the band with NO original members. There’s money to be made with proggy nostalgia.
Barenaked Ladies – Steven Page was the prolific writer behind the group’s initial success, even though Ed Robertson wrote and sang “One Week”. Page wrote most all of their original songs until he left (or was fired) in 2009. Since he left, they’ve released five albums and seemingly are going strong, albeit with more of a cult following than anything.
Bauhaus – It’s bending the rules a little bit, but when Bauhaus splintered Daniel Ash already had a side project in Tones on Tail. Kevin Haskins joined that project, then when that ended those two found David J. and formed Love and Rockets, which was Bauhaus without Peter Murphy for all intents and purposes.
The Beach Boys – Brian Wilson was the Beach Boys creative genius, as everyone knows. From the Smile debacle up until 1972, he still was somewhat involved in everything, in co-production or songwriting. The Carl and the Passions project had very limited involvement from him, but had more of a hand in Holland. He produced their two “comeback” albums in 1976 and 1977 and wrote a lot of the dismal M.I.U. record, but after that he’s been pretty much absent from their recordings and tours until their latest comeback album a few years back. Mike Love’s proven that he’s not Brian in more ways than one.
Big Brother and the Holding Company – Janis Joplin wasn’t an original member, but when she joined in late 1966 she was the focal point, no questions asked. After “Piece of My Heart” blew the hell up, she went solo (as expected), but the band licked their wounds and reformed with two other singers in for two more albums that no one cared about.
Black Sabbath – Ozzy Osbourne was the voice and personality of the band, and he had already bugged out once in late 1977, and after a struggle of a year in 1978, they fired Ozzy as he was basically in a constant haze of alcohol (not that the rest of the band were sober by any means). They hit the jackpot when they hired Ronnie James Dio to replace Ozzy and that revitalized the band until Dio fled in 1982. After that the band kept plugging along with various singers and drummers, and even changing out bassists, calling themselves Black Sabbath due to management preferences, and grinding themselves to greater and greater irrelevance. Then in 1997, Ozzy and the band reunited and made piles of reunion cash until the group decided to get Dio back and call themselves Heaven & Hell.
Blood, Sweat & Tears – Al Kooper’s wet dream of a jazz-rock band kicked him out after one album when he refused to hire another vocalist (that’ll show ’em). They hired David Clatyon-Thomas, whose distinct voice powered the group to multiple hits between 1968 and 1971. They were regarded as squares and pawns for ‘the man’ (a story too long to recount here) and Clayton-Thomas left in 1972. They kept going though, and aside from a few breaks are STILL going on with Bo Bice (yes, that guy) as the lead singer. By my count, 167 musicians have played in BST either as members or fill-ins, though no original member has played in the band since 1977.
Canned Heat – Another band that has kept going and going on sheer will and ‘what the hell else are we going to do with our lives’ thinking. While it was a collective, Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson sang their two best known songs (“On the Road Again” and “Going Up the Country”). He died at age 27 (that age again) in 1970, but the banned plugged on, releasing an album the year after and keeping the blues fire going.
Chicago – At first, they were a radical band linked to the Chicago disturbances, and then, a consistent hit-making machine that sprinkled in some political commentary with their middle-of-the-road rocking. They were getting mellower by the minute, but still had Terry Kath as a guitarist and free-thinker. When he accidentally killed himself, the band looked finished, but regrouped and became a shadow of themselves in the 80’s, spewing out pablum for the masses to swill. The most recognizable voice then was Peter Cetera, bassist, heartthrob, and purveyor of goop. He left in 1985 because he wanted to do solo albums, and the band said fine, and kept going. Cash is king and milking your old songs produces it.
The Clash – Joe Strummer was the heart and soul and driving force for the Clash, but Mick Jones sang two of their most recognizable songs (“Train in Vain”, “Should I Stay or Should I Go”). He was kicked out for being late all the time (allegedly) and so Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite. Strummer and Paul Simonon kept the Clash going, yet the last album that the Clash released was so putrid I won’t even mention the name here.
The Commodores – Their first big hit was an instrumental, but soon enough Lionel Richie’s voice and ballads took over (mostly) from the funk (“Brick House” notwithstanding). It was inevitable that Richie would go solo, especially after “Endless Love” sold a gazillion records. So he left in 1982, but the Commodores hired another lead singer, then another, hit it big with “Nightshift”, and then experienced a gradual decline and fall.
Crazy Horse – Evolving from the Rockets to Neil Young’s backing band, Danny Whitten’s songs and guitar playing gave them an edge and songs. When Whitten was unable to work (and later died), Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot kept going. Young kept using the duo, and finally Frank Sampedro joined to permanently replace Whitten. But they lost any truly original voice when Whitten went too far on the smack.
The Doobie Brothers – Originally a biker band, then a more polished rock band with several FM radio staples, the Doobies ran into trouble when original leader Tom Johnston struggled with health problems. He left in 1975 when he couldn’t tour any longer, and the band recruited Michael McDonald. While Johnston’s songs were and are still classic rock staples, the Doobies with McDonald evolved into a smooth singles machine that alienated several band members until the band quit in 1982. Five years later, they reunited for a one off in 1987, then that sweet nostalgia cash kept them going.
The Doors – “You’re kidding, right?” Nope, I’m not kidding. By the time L.A. Woman was released, Jim Morrison was living in France. The band had already started to record some tracks, and wound up recording two albums and touring until 1973, including concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Palladium. Those two records are streaming now, if you are brave.
The Drifters – Clyde McPhatter was signed by Ahmet Ertegun and assembled the Drifters. For just a short 13 months, the Drifters recorded some classic R&B for Atlantic. McPhatter, who had been drafted, sold his share in the group to a manager, George Treadwell. The Drifters kept going, and Treadwell hired an entirely new vocal group in 1958 and recorded a second batch of hits, featuring Ben E. King. Treadwell paid the vocalists jack squat, so King left and Treadwell found others and the hits continued until 1964, and the band kept going and going and there’s a Drifters group STILL touring.
Fabulous Thunderbirds – For years, the two main men were singer and harp player Kim Wilson and guitarist Jimmie Vaughan, brother of Stevie Ray. For years, they trod the blues circuits, opened for several bands, and released four good yet unloved albums. Then, thanks to placement in a Michael Keaton film (Gung Ho), their fifth album struck it rich with “Tough Enough”. They remained somewhat relevant on soundtracks and album charts until Jimmie decided to pair up with his brother in 1989. They replaced Jimmie with two guitarists, including Duke Robillard, for another good yet unloved album. Wilson still tours as the T-Birds, but the cache that Vaughan brought seemed to be the element that is now missing.
Fairport Convention – Aside form a six-year gap when they were disbanded (1979-85), Simon Nicol has been the only constant member of the group from its beginning in 1967, with Dave Pegg joining in 1969. The band has released 28 studio albums, a great number of live records, and still holds an annual “convention”, a three day festival that draws 20,000 people a year. However, the two most memorable band members haven’t been in the band for over 20 years. Richard Thompson left in 1971 to go solo and then record with his wife Linda, and Sandy Denny, the breakout ‘star’ of the band in 1969, formed her own group in 1970, but came back in 1974 before leaving again in 1976 and passing away in 1978 after a fall. There have been 24 distinct Fairport Convention lineups, but they’ve been officially stable since 1998.
Faith No More – “We Care a Lot” gained the San Francisco group some buzz in 1987, but singer Chuck Mosley’s behavior was erratic and violent, so he was fired (or rather the band started rehearsing without him) and Mike Patton was recruited to sing, and MTV Gold ($$) was struck. While they lost guitarist Jim Martin in 1993, it mattered not to fans. Faith No More changed frontmen and focal points with great success – which is unusual as you can see, or, read.
Fleetwood Mac – Peter Green (1970), Jeremy Spencer (1971), Peter Green (again, briefly) (1971), Danny Kirwan (1972), Bob Welch (1974), Lindsey Buckingham (1987), Stevie Nicks (1993), Christine McVie (1998) – not even counting Billy Burnette, Rick Vito, Bekka Bramlett, Dave Mason, Dave Walker and Bob Weston, or Buckingham’s latest ouster. What a tangled web they’ve weaved. Yes, the Time record had Fleetwood, McVie, Mcvie, Bramlett, Mason and Burnette as the band members. You’ve never heard of it? Funny how that works.
Genesis – The cover of Live epitomizes early Genesis. Four sitting band members with heads down playing, and singer Peter Gabriel dressed as Magog from “Supper’s Ready” (which isn’t on the record, go figure). They predicted doom when Gabriel left for a solo career, but Phil Collins was an able replacement (he also sounded enough like Gabriel to sing the older songs) and they continued progging along (though in shorter six minute chunks, and not whole album sides). While guitarist Steve Hackett’s departure also got the UK press to declare Genesis dead and buried, they proved everyone wrong and became an 80’s pop-prog juggernaut. (They saved the proggy stuff for deep cuts.) Yet, when Collins left in 1996 to become Mr. Soundtrack, Peter Banks and Mike Rutherford decided to press onward and recorded an album that was quickly forgotten. Unlike the Doors, though, they decided not to sing on this record.
The Guess Who – Chad Allan formed the primordial ooze of the Guess Who in 1958, with bassist Jim Kale. By 1962, the core of the band was there, and “Shakin’ All Over” became a big smash in 1965. Allan left soon after to go to college, and the band (named after Allan) had to change names, of course. Burton Cummings moved from keyboards to be the lead singer. With Cummings’ voice and Randy Bachman’s guitar, the Guess Who became stars in 1969 and 1970, with Bachman’s guitar work being the highlight. By mid-May in 1970, Bachman left the group while “American Woman” was still high on the charts. Cummings and the rest soldiered on, recruiting two guitarists and then kept replacing them until 1976 when they finally stopped. In 1979, Kale started it up again, and owns the name now though the bassist on their last tour was Rudy Szaro, formerly of Quiet Riot and Whitesnake. The more you know.
The Impressions – At first, this vocal group was led by Jerry Butler, and he was top billed, though Curtis Mayfield had a lot to do with the sound as well. When Butler left soon after their big hit, Mayfield became the lead singer and main songwriter. The group began to sing about social and economic issues and the need for pride in the Black community. When Mayfield himself left in 1970 to start his solo career, the Impressions kept going, and Mayfield kept writing and producing the group until 1976, and they struggled along until 1981.
INXS – From 1977 through 1997, INXS has one lineup. But in late November 1997, Michael Hutchence was found dead. Hutchence was THE focal point – everyone else in the band was rather anonymous. But the group decided to keep going, and brought on several vocalists, including Australian legend Jimmy Barnes, Terence Trent D’Arby, and Air Supply crooner Russell Hitchcock, for various gigs. They settled on former teen idol Jon Stevens to be a permanent replacement that wasn’t so permanent, since Stevens left in 2004. That’s when INXS became the talk of music with their reality show and winner J.D. Fortune was their singer, but he was fired, kinda, then rehired, sorta, then Ciaran Gribbin sang in their final shows.
Iron Maiden – Metal heads know that this is really Steve Harris’ band, and while the lineup has remained mostly stable since they started recording, Harris calls the shots for the most part. Yet, Iron Maiden wouldn’t be Iron Maiden without the tremendous vocals of Bruce Dickinson. Dickinson replaced Paul DiAnno after two records, and with him in two they became a worldwide smash. Then in 1993, the unthinkable happened, as Dickinson left, to be replaced by Blaze Bayley. Two albums later, Dickinson was back, thankfully. Sorry Blaze.
J. Geils Band – From 1968, when they formed, through all of their peaks and valleys of their career, the group stayed remarkably constant. Peter Wolf was the front man, of course, and the public face. He was a wild man on stage and in life, marrying Faye Dunaway in 1974 and generally keeping crowds in stitches with his banter in concert. But when the band hit #1 with the Freeze Frame album and “Centerfold” single, he flew the coop in 1983. Yet, the band soldiered on for one album with keyboardist Seth Justman as the lead singer. That one isn’t streaming, for some reason. (Later, after they reunited, they kicked out J. Geils from his own named band).
The James Gang – This Cleveland group struck it big when Joe Walsh knocked on Glen Fox’s door in 1968 and asked to join the band. By 1969, they had recorded a well-regarded debut album. By 1971, Walsh and the James Gang were big on the circuit and had two gold records. Walsh, the main voice and the melodic center of the group (his keyboard playing was as evocative as his guitar), left and then went solo a year later. The band soldiered on, using Domenic Troiano and then Tommy Bolin as guitarists, and actually naming an album Bang, with a lady sandwiched between the entire leering band. Bolin left in 1974 and they STILL kept going with whozy-whats on guitar until 1976. Just give up, guys.
Jefferson Airplane / Starship – Once upon a time, this was Marty Balin’s band and Signe Anderson was the female counterpoint to Balin, while Paul Kantner helped in songwriting and vocals. Then they asked Grace Slick to replace Anderson (who quit to raise a family) and Slick’s voice and songs became the Airplane for many people. By 1970, Balin was out, and the group squeezed out two albums. After some lame solo projects, they trotted out a name of a ‘band’ used for a Paul Kantner project and became the Jefferson Starship. Balin came back and they became a middle-of-the-road 70’s rock band until Grace Slick drunkenly insulted Germans on stage after there was a riot the night before. Slick was kicked out, Balin left, and Mickey Thomas (formerly with Elvin Bishop) joined and they struck it big again with an arena-rock sound. Slick came back soon after (bygones and hit singles and all), and she and Thomas were the voice of the band. When Kantner left in 1985, the settlement left them as Starship. Slick left again in 1988 as the real Airplane reunited, and Thomas has led some version of Starship ever since. Milk it, Mickey!
Journey – Reunions aren’t really the focus here (otherwise this would be a gazillion entries), but I’ll make an exception for this. Steve Perry joined the floundering fusion-ish band in 1978 and transformed them into an arena-rock stalwart. When original singer / keyboardist Gregg Rolie left in 1980, the band recruited Jonathan Cain who, along with Perry, led their charge into ballad-dom. By the late 80’s they were on ‘hiatus’, but came back with an album in 1995. Then Perry had a hip replacement, and didn’t want to tour. The band recruited Steve Augeri, and recorded and toured regularly. Augeri had vocal issues and had to be replaced in 2007. Arnel Pineda was found via You Tube. While they haven’t released new music since 2011, Pineda’s story (way too incredible and lengthy for this, even if this paragraph is getting big) has given this old band great cache.
Joy Division / New Order – As Joy Division, Ian Curtis was the focal point while the inventive bass work of Peter Hook and the solid drumming of Keith Morris were the mainstays of the band instrumentally. As you know, Curtis’ story was tragic, and would have caused other bands to quit. Yet, this band decided to carry on and changed their name (per an agreement made before Curtis died). Bernard Sumner, the guitarist, took over on vocals, and Gillian Gilbert (Morris’ girlfriend and later wife) joined as the stoic keyboard player.
Judas Priest – Sure, they changed drummers quite a bit, but from their recorded debut through 1991, the core four remained the same, and flamboyant and fierce singer Rob Halford was the star. No one shrieked like Halford. But due to tensions, he left to found the almost forgotten band Fight and the even more forgotten band Halford. Enter the tribute band singer Ripper Owens, who did the best job he could in stepping in for Rob. In 2003, though, Halford decided to reunite with the group, which continues to this day releasing new music and touring, even with both stalwart guitarist KK Downing leaving the band and Glenn Tipton stepping aside due to Parkinson’s.
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Not because of their reunion, which shouldn’t really have gone on this long, but after the plane crash and their long recovery Gary Rossington and Allen Collins formed the Rossington Collins band with former Skynyrd mates Billy Powell and Leon Wilkerson. They lasted two albums before Collins’ wife died unexpectedly and Collins was too distraught to keep playing.
Marillion – Monsters of the UK prog scene, with a relatively small yet loyal fanbase, Marillion gained fame with MTV hits “Kayleigh” and “Lavender”. Formed by Steve Rothery, the band gained Fish (real name Derek Williams Dick) as singer and lyricist soon after, and Fish’s lyrical portraits coupled with the proggy, arty stylings of Rothery and crew gained them lots of fans who clamored for the mid-70’s prog epics. The band worked endlessly on the road, and Fish was tired after their fourth album and tour. He found that their manager was making bank on their backs, and confronted the band with a ‘him or me’ ultimatum. They chose to go with the manager, and replaced Fish with Steve Hogarth. The sound evolved from full-on prog to a more pop-oriented prog hybrid and since Hogarth came on board, the band has remained the same.
The Miracles – Smokey Robinson and crew were the backbone of Motown. Not only did they compile a great number of hit singles, but everyone in the vocal group wrote and produced, and Robinson was a mastermind behind many of Motown’s greatest successes. The sextet (sometimes a quintet) stayed together as a recording and touring group until 1972, when Smokey decided it was time for a solo career. His wife also left the group officially then. Smokey helped Billy Griffin, his replacement, get on board, and the revamped Miracles were constant R&B chart hit makers until they left for Columbia records in 1976 after hitting #1 with “Love Machine”.
Molly Hatchet – They were kind of a faceless Southern Rock band that had one of the more distinctive vocalists in that genre, Danny Joe Brown. They used three guitars, as was the style at the time, but Brown’s unique growl set them apart and was used to great success on their mega-hit “Flirtin’ with Disaster”. Brown was beset by diabetes and issues with his pancreas, so he left the band soon the year after. He formed his own band, while his former band recorded two albums with Jimmy Farrar. Brown came back, giving the band back its signature vocal sound. Albums were recorded, band members came and went, and Molly Hatchet kept going. When Brown left after a stroke in 1995, no one from the original recording lineup was in the group, and the name was owned by Bobby Ingram, who joined in 1987. Of the sextet that recorded the first two albums, five are deceased!
The Monkees – After the disaster that was the movie Head (actually pretty zany and dark, but not for teeny-boppers at all) Peter Tork left. He wasn’t much of a musical contributor to the band’s records. The Monkees were still recording even after their TV show was cancelled. In 1969, Mike Nesmith quit to focus on his country-rock effort The First National Band. That left Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones, and by gosh they trotted out a record in 1970 as a duo before packing it in.
Motley Crue – By 1988, everyone in this band had been in rehab or quit drugs on their own, and the Crue released Dr. Feelgood, a total monster of an album. During rehearsals for their next album, which was overdue, lead singer Vince Neil either quit or was fired. To keep going, the Crue went with a dude named John Corabi and squeezed out a record in 1994. No one liked it, no one went to see them, and by 1997 Neil was back in the group. They gamely soldiered on for a while, and then finally gave up in the early 2000’s, only to reunite for the cash money dollars.
Pink Floyd – At first, Syd Barrett was the songwriter and creative genius behind the group, and he was the focal point of the press and fans, for good reason. When his behavior became erratic, the band drafted in Dave Gilmour, and after Barrett left bassist Roger Waters became the creative force, gaining more and more power and control over time. The 1983 album, The Final Cut became, in his mind, the swan song for the band thanks to the torturous recording process and infighting between Gilmour and Waters. But when Gilmour’s solo album and tour didn’t work out, he and Mason recruited exiled keyboard player Rick Wright and Pink Floyd was reborn.
REO Speedwagon – Their first lead singer was left in a cornfield, and the band recruited Kevin Cronin. He lasted one album, and left during sessions for their third, which included their signature song “Ridin’ the Storm Out”. Mike Murphy finished the album and re-did all of Cronin’s existing vocals, and stayed with the group for two additional albums. For many, his voice was the voice that introduced them to REO. He left (or was replaced) and Cronin rejoined the band and at first shared vocals with Gary Richrath, who was the main songwriter of the band. Cronin took over lead vocals fully within a couple of years, and the stage was set for their pop chart domination for the early 80’s before Cronin’s tendency to wimpify everything drove Richrath out of the band for good.
The Small Faces – They had great success as a psychedelic tinged pop band in the UK, and recorded a fascinating concept album Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake. Steve Marriott wanted to rock harder, though, than the band had been allowed to on stage so he left to form Humble Pie. Soon after Marriott left, the other three joined up with Ron Wood and Rod Stewart, who had just left the employ of Jeff Beck. A slight name change (against record company wishes) to the Faces kept the band rolling on.
Squeeze – Techincally, TECHNICALLY, they were a reunion band in 1985 (but really, the Difford and Tillbrook album was Squeeze in every name but…). But in early 1999, Chris Difford said he was leaving the band, and Glenn Tillbrook carried on for a year doing shows. I can’t imagine Squeeze without Difford’s growl under Tillbrook’s angelic tenor. The audiences must have been confused as well.
Stone Temple Pilots – Unlike Alice in Chains, who never recorded another album with Layne Staley after they went on a break for his drug issues, STP did get back with Scott Weiland after Weiland supposedly cleaned up. But in 1997, while Weiland was still using, the rest of the group recruited Dave Coutts for an album as the group Talk Show. Later, the reconstituted STP put out an album in 2010, then fired Weiland for good in 2013. They just released an album with Jeff Gutt as lead singer after having Chester Bennington on vocals for a while.
The Supremes – It’s almost unimaginable to hear a Supremes record without Diana Ross singing lead, but it happened. While they didn’t soar to the heights that they did with Ross on board, they did have four Top 20 hits in 1970 and 1971.
Talking Heads – This is a stretch, since they officially broke up in 1991, but in 1996 Tina Weymouth, Jerry Harrison, and Chris Franz recorded an album as The Heads. No Talking, Just Head used a lot of guest vocalist, but is basically a footnote of ephemera now.
The Temptations – Originally Eddie Kendricks sang lead on most of the tracks, but David Ruffin voiced “My Girl” and as time went on Ruffin got most of the lead tracks. When he departed for a solo career, producer Norman Whitfield re-cast the group in a ‘psychedelic soul’ direction with Kendricks getting some leads, but not all of them. Kendricks also went solo, and various other Temptations sang lead or they shared the lead vocals (like on “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”). But the lead voice of David Ruffin is what fans remember from their biggest hits
UFO – After three years of being a meandering prog band, Michael Schenker was recruited away from the Scorpions at age 18 to join the group. Schenker soon became the focal point of the group, which had some moderate success here in the US and was well known in Europe. Tension reared its head between Schenker and vocalist Phil Mogg, and Schenker left during a US tour in 1978. The band kept going with some success but less critical cache with Michael Chapman on guitar.
Ultravox – The name was the same, but that was it. After a stint as a teen glam band called Tiger Lily, John Foxx blended the glam with the punk energy and renamed the band Ultravox! They mixed punk, synths, and glam and weren’t that successful (and not that great). Foxx left the band and everyone thought they were done. But violinist Billy Currie met Midge Ure while recording for Visage. Ure was in Slik and Rich Kids and was deputized for a while to tour with Thin Lizzy (!). Ultravox (now with no !) moved more into the synth sound they had dabbled in, and used Ure’s guitar as an accent. They became the cool face of the New Romantic movement, and wildly successful in the UK.
Uriah Heep – The band always had people running in and out of the lineup, but the main trio was guitarist Mick Box, keyboard player Ken Hensley, and vocalist David Byron. Byron was a vocalist that had the pipes but turned off many because of his pretentious style (showing off his operatic pipes just because). He also was a raging alcoholic. Uriah Heep wasn’t a band without substance abuse issues, but Byron’s drinking made it impossible to work with him. They sacked him, and lost a unique yet polarizing voice. Heep trudged onward, never having broken up, but only Mick Box is there to keep the name alive.
Van Halen – Sure, it’s named after Eddie (and Alex, I guess) and the whole thing is based around Eddie’s guitar, but by gosh David Lee Roth was the star. He had the swagger, the “charasma”, that put the band on the map. He was a star, and a perfect star for the MTV age. During the tour for the 1984 record, tensions between Roth and Eddie was just too much and Roth and the band split apart. Then after asking Patty Smyth and Daryl Hall to sing for them, Van Halen asked Sammy Hagar to join. Hagar agreed, and the “Van Hagar with Sammy Headache” era commenced. (That’s what my man Mark called it). The band continued to be juggernauts, even surviving the Grunge era nicely. In 1996, Hagar and Van Halen had a serious argument about tracks for a soundtrack, and Hagar split. Roth joined up again, went to the MTV awards, and old tensions immediately reared up again (along with conflicting accounts, of course). The group landed on ex-Extreme singer Gary Cherone to sing for the Van Halen III record, and that album and tour stiffed and ended Van Halen except for the inevitable reunions.
The Velvet Underground – At first, the attraction for the Andy Warhol set was the presence of the ice queen Nico as ‘chanteuse’, though she only sang three songs on their debut album. It was apparent that Lou Reed and John Cale were the creative focal points of the band. Cale was let go of the band by Reed when Reed wanted the band to rein in it’s avant-garde elements, under advice of management, of which Cale was a leading proponent. Doug Yule joined and the band did move to a more pop-oriented sound, albeit with lyrics that weren’t normal Top 40 material. On Loaded, Reed and Yule did the lions share of playing and arranging the songs. But Reed felt abandoned by their management, so he left before the album was released. Yet that wasn’t the end of the group, as Steve Sensick, the manager, had dates to fill and an album to promote. They kept going. But by early 1972, the group was done and buried, until Sesnick got an album deal in Europe and convinced Yule to record a record under that name with hired guns. Sesnick seems to be the one that turned shinola into shit, here.
The Who – Pete Townshend wrote the songs and smashed guitars. Roger Daltrey sang the songs and was the face. But Keith Moon, he held the key to the Who with his manic energy and personality. He was the epitome of the rock-and-roll lifestyle. He also had a deadly addiction to alcohol. By 1978, he was in bad shape and died of an overdose of anti-alcoholism pills in September of that year. Townshend convinced the band to keep going and touring, and hired likeable Kenney Jones to fill the drum slot for two more albums and tours.
The Yardbirds – The UK blues scene of the early 60’s had a die-hard group of fanatics that focused on guitarists, and Eric Clapton of the Yardbirds was their main man. The Yardbirds were blues purists at first, but reached for the pop stardom when they recorded “For Your Love”. Clapton wanted to play the blues, so he left and joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Jeff Beck was suggested by session guitarist Jimmy Page to join the Yardbirds, and with Beck the Yardbirds had their most fertile commercial period and recorded some excellent tracks and albums (such as “Over Under Sideways Down”) despite many wags saying the band was over without Clapton. Beck then decided to leave to form his own group, and suggested Page join up. They played together for a while (“Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” had both of them on guitar), and Page took over for good. By then, the band was in decline, and after a desultory year in 1967 Page emerged as the last one standing with manager Peter Grant when the band blew apart in mid-1968. To fulfill dates, Page and Grant recruited new bandmates, and Led Zeppelin was born, taking the name after a final Scandinavian tour as the Yardbirds.
Yes – Most of the revolving door of Yes’ early years were crucial to the bands sound (adding Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman), but when punk rock took hold the proggy bands were criticized as being bloated and pretentious. They were growing apart musically as well, and lead singer Jon Anderson left the band (Wakeman left for the second time as well). So, why not add an entire group to Yes? Chris Squire asked the Buggles to join Yes, and they said, sure, why not. So Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes recorded Drama and toured as members of Yes in 1980. Video killed the prog rock band? Well, they did officially break up in 1981, but ‘reunited’ in 1983 when management convinced the band Cinema, formed by Trevor Rabin (which Anderson had joined and also contained Chris Squire and Alan White) to change its name to Yes. From there, well, there’s been Yes, Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe, Howe Squire and White of Yes, and Yes featuring Anderson Rabin and Wakeman. Even the death of Chris Squire can’t keep Yes down now. $$ for proggy nostalgia.