Inevitably many bands will change their lineup over the years. Personal differences, musicians going solo, or sadly others who pass away are just some of the reasons for this. But it does vary widely on if and how the band will continue afterward.
Whether that’s a success or not is pretty variable too, there have been some shockers. Iron Maiden without Bruce Dickinson - no thanks! Or take Fleetwood Mac seeming more like a tribute band when trying to recreate their most successful line up by using stand ins.
Thankfully there are plenty of examples where it’s worked smoothly. In some instances, it’s been huge bands losing big names from their line up. Sure the original band members have been missed emotionally and often musically too. In some cases the bands don’t produce much in the way of new music but instead focus on playing live to much acclaim. Here are three rock giants as examples where replacements for original members have worked very smoothly and successfully.
Is there a bigger legendary band member change?
At first, having seen Queen live with Freddie Mercury at his best, I didn't have much enthusiasm to see Brian May and Roger Taylor do their thing without him. John Deacon had retired and the gap without Mercury seemed huge and challenging to fill. After Paul Rodgers stood in for Mercury, Adam Lambert followed as the new frontman. He's not Freddie by any means and he made no bones about that when talking to Today: Entertainment in Australia via Somethingelsereviews.com.
"“Some critics might say, it’s not the same and he’s not Freddie. Those are very true things. It isn’t the same; I’m not Freddie. I’m aware of that, but I think these two amazing musicians still want to get on stage and entertain people. I think that they have that right. And these songs need to be brought to life on stage by the originators.”"- Adam Lambert
Based on rave reviews and personal recommendations I went to see Queen and Lambert at the O2 in London and as a live concert, it was brilliant. I was worried I wouldn't enjoy it, but Lambert proved a very appropriate singer to lead Taylor and May as frontman. Sure it wasn’t the same without Mercury, but I wasn't at all disappointed or shortchanged. The Queen concerts with Lambert have been amazingly popular worldwide and they are currently on their Rhapsody tour in the US, again receiving spectacular reviews.
Who are you?
The Who had four original members who were pretty well known by name by more than just their fans. Sadly they lost Keith Moon and much later Jon Entwistle too. That leaves Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend remaining. The Who led by that pair have remained busy and active completing a whole series of gigs this year reprising their greatest hits and more.
They haven’t recruited huge name replacements to draw in the fans. Instead they now have Zak Starkey, son of Ringo on drums and Simon Townsend, brother of Pete, as very experienced and talented musicians. They can't entirely replace the madness and frenzy of Moon on drums nor what Entwistle and his musical training brought to the band. But Starkey and Simon Townsend are playing the role of much more than stand in’s.
I saw The Who live in August and wondered if it was to be a night with half a band of aging rockers doing their best. Well, it was only 50% of the original lineup and they had to take a brief technical break to reset Townshend's hearing aid, so there is perhaps some factual truth. But they were astonishingly good live and have had brilliant reviews all summer long.
Rocking and rolling back into the charts
As a variation to Queen and The Who, but up there in terms of legendary rockers, there are The Rolling Stones. They’ve been very much a hugely successful gigging live band around the world for many years without releasing new music. Their core three of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood have though now released a new album which is a roaring success. They may have more new music to follow that too.
Let's remember though that Wood isn't an original member and replaced Mick Taylor in the mid 1970’s. Woods wasn't made an official band member until 1993 when Bill Wyman left. They’ve also lost Charlie Watts and Brian Jones along the way. They may have made changes but The Rolling Stones have managed to keep rocking on very successfully to public and critical acclaim.
Despite the lack of new music from two of those examples, the three groups do show it’s very much a case of carry on playing. They of course do so to a very high and successful standard. The replacements they have introduced have been very successful by most measures.