Tonawanda News

June 30, 2013

MUSIC NOTES: In rock & roll, and life, it's all about the timing

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Ray Davies of the Kinks uttered the famous line “Rock bands will come, rock bands will go, but rock and roll will live forever!” Davies words appear on the Kinks’ great live album, “One for the Road.”

I had occasion to contemplate those words recently when I was conducting a phone interview with a member of a famous rock band that went through tons of lineup changes. The musician asked me, “Are you in a band?” I replied I was, to which he said, “Then you understand.”

The dynamics of a band has a huge impact on the music. As I cover more concerts and am charged with writing previews, the first question many people want to ask is, “Are there any original members left in the group?” More often than not, few bands stay intact more than 10 years.

My personal experiences in bands has been anything but copacetic. One guy I played with was an excellent musician, but he had a major drug problem to the extent that he sold his company’s van on lunch one day to purchase drugs. Inasmuch as I thought it was a terrible thing to do, imagine the horror his wife and three kids went through.

There was another group I was in that was run by a megalomaniac that would make Axl Rose look downright humble by comparison. At the end of each gig I would get a percentage grade, and a lengthy critique of how I horrified his “musician friends” even though my “drunken friends” all danced and had a great time.

In reality, my bands never made it beyond the corner bar, and in spite of some people’s delusions of grandeur, the breakup or split of our bands had no major financial implications.

To me, nothing would be worse than splitting with a band before they hit the big time. Poor Pete Best has been able to capitalize on his status as a Beatle drummer to some degree, but imagine how frustrating it must have been for him to watch his former band turn into international superstars.

Mark Evans of AC/DC falls in the same category. He was unceremoniously booted from the band not long before “Highway to Hell” and “Back in Black” made the band superstars. Evans did appear on enough of the band’s albums that were popular to make some decent money (when “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” was released in the United States after “Back in Black,” it became the band’s second-highest selling album) but was not inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the rest of the group.

Jeff Jones and John Rutsey were not so fortunate. Bass player and lead vocalist Jones was replaced in his band before they recorded their first album, and John Rutsey, a drummer in the same Canadian band, split with the same group due to musical differences after they recorded their first album. Of course it’s hard to imagine Rush succeeding without Jones and Rutsey’s replacements, Neil Peart and Geddy Lee.

Finally, there is the story of John Curulewski, original guitarist for Styx, who was replaced by Tommy Shaw. When I asked former Styx member Dennis DeYoung (during a 2010 interview) why Curulewski left Styx, DeYoung replied, “He didn’t want to tour. He left before it all happened and it must have been difficult for him to live with.”

Thom Jennings writes a weekly column on the music scene for Sunday Lifestyles. Email him at thomjennings@rochester.rr.com