Friday, 20 November 2009

Nerws, Views and Music Issue 48 (Top Five): Weirdest Things To Do When Somebody Leaves Your Band

OK, we’ll stop now, thisa rhyming thing’s getting out of hand, so here’s this week’s top five: the weirdest things to do when somebody leaves your band!

5) Replace the group member whose left with another one who left the year before and who leaves again just weeks later (The Byrds 1967): Yep, when David Crosby was kicked out of the Byrds for a variety of reasons in late 1967 who do you think they got to replace him? Gene Clark, the tambourinist and chief songwriter who left in 1966 after coming up with the lyrics to ‘8 Miles High’. How did the band think that would work? If Crosby couldn’t keep up with the ‘in team’ of McGuinn and Hillman then there’s no way Gene could the second time round – this is, after all, the same band who’d come up with the sniping ‘Psychodrama City’, a legendary 1967 outtake poking fun at their former mainstay with the lines ‘I don’t know why he got on at all if he really didn’t want to fly!’ And so, after just a few weeks back with his old group and before any live shows or ‘proper’ recordings had taken place, Gene was out. Again.

4) Record all of the songs the group member has been trying so hard to place on an album – months after firing him (Jefferson Airplane, 1967): Very few collectors of the cult group Moby Grape remember that guitarist Skip Spence had actually been the drummer in the first line up of the Jefferson Airplane (a multi-instrumentalist, Skip became the drummer because band leader Marty Balin thought he ‘looked like one’, a weird musical decision in itself!) Even fewer know that the band recorded two of Skip’s songs, although only the teeth-grindingly awful ‘My Best Friend’ ever made it to record in their life-span (on 1967’s ‘Surrealistic Pillow’ – the originally unreleased ‘JPP McStep B Blues’ is its superior in every way and one of the best Jefferson outtakes). Both recordings were made with Skip’s successor Spencer Dryden on drums, by the way, and neither song was taken with Skip to Moby Grape when he left. Truly weird.

3) Replace a band member with a horse! (The Byrds, 1968): Sometime after the Gene Clark thing failed the band decided to rub David Crosby’s nose in it further by replacing Crosby’s face with...a horse! (For those who don’t know it, the cover of 1968’s Notorious Byrd Brothers – the album that is filled up with a good third of Crosby co-writes and features his playing on about half the album – features drummer Michael Clarke holding the reigns of a horse who is peeping out of the 4th window of a house where Crosby’s face should be). The band giggled that the horse would be a suitable replacement as he was just as talented and made less fuss or something to the same words – Crosby was furious. It’s a wonder he didn’t name his next group ‘Crosby, Stills, Nash and Mcguinn/Hillman The Horse’.

2) Record a single entitled ‘Brian is Back’ – when your main member is doing his best to quite the group (Beach Boys 1976). I’m so glad I don’t have a cousin like Mike Love. The mid-70s incarnation of Brian Wilson was at his lowest ebb – his group hadn’t released an album for 3 years, he had little money coming in hardly met with the band at all except for taking drugs with younger brother Dennis and spent approximately 99% of his time in bed, with the duvet over his eyes. So what does Brian’s cousin Mike do next? He gets a new record deal by promising that Brian will be more active in the band’s music-making from now on – and records a thankfully unreleased single ‘Brian Is Back’ to celebrate the moment (on which Brian is too ill to appear and which features the terrible tag line ‘but in my heart he’s always been around’). Ah, family love.

1) Replace your two talented keyboardists with two cocktail waitresses who have no prior experience of the music business whatsoever (Human League, circa 1980). The all-new all-singing all-dancing Human League are quite a different kettle of fish to the original serious, electronic, all-out pioneers that the original trio line-up were. But when Ian Craig Marsh and Martin Ware fell out with Phil Oakey and decided to set up Heaven 17, the singer saw it as a great opportunity to re-brand his group. Recognising that the ‘old’ League audience were overwhelmingly male, and wanting to make them more ‘mainstream’, he decided to bring in a female singer – upping the number to two when he realised how rotten it would be for a single female member travelling in a road bus with five males. So the lines in ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ about a cocktail waitress are true – that’s where he found his latest members working.  

So that’s it for another week (but we’ll be back soon – don’t sit there and weep!) See ya Readers!

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