Worst Replacement Band Members

The only constant is change, and bands change members all the time. It can be different, but just as good (Brian Johnson for Bon Scott; AC/DC); sometimes it’s a wash (Timothy B. Schmidt for Randy Meisner; Eagles); while other times it makes the purists crazy (Mathias Jabs for Uli Roth; Scorpions).

Then there’s the old “there’s nothing wrong with the replacement, we just want our old guy back” situation (Jimmy Crespo for Joe Perry; Aerosmith); the par for the course replacement (anybody not named David Coverdale; Whitesnake); and when it’s so late in the day that it really doesn’t matter (Lawence Gowan for Dennis DeYoung; Styx). But sometimes somebody is so bad (or ill-fitting) of a replacement player that it actually brings everything to a screeching halt.

Who thought B.J. Hunnicutt was a good idea?

Let’s take a look at changes in a different type of entertainment, the television industry; specifically the long-running sitcom, M*A*S*H. Actually, M*A*S*H started life as a novel, was made into a movie and finally a hit TV show. Talk to any of the purists, and they’ll tell you it was the first three seasons are the only ones that matter. Once Henry Blake and Trapper John checked out, the show lost its edginess and got all preachy as its tone mirrored the moral outrage of its stars. There was talk of “character development,” and everybody started getting all politically correct and self-righteous on us. Miles away from the hard drinking, skirt chasing antics of the original characters.

But the worst gaffe was the creation of B.J. Hunnicutt, Trapper John’s replacement. There was nothing edgy or funny about him (not to mention likable); worse, his hair and moustache made him look like a 1970s minor league porn star, not an early-1950s draftee. There is one stretch in the series when B.J. and Hawkeye constantly engage in the worst display of snappy dialog this side of “Gilmour Girls.” But the nadir is a scene where B.J., missing his family, ends the episode sobbing like a six year-old who didn’t pass the audition for the cheerleading squad.

The worst part of all of this was that it was dumped on us suddenly; not gradually, as in Bruce Springsteen’s transformation from everyguy rocker to an unpleasant, bitter little man, scolding anybody who disagrees with him. It’s also important to note that Mike Farrell had two seconds of fame before M*A*S*H (as a waiter in “The Graduate”) and exactly zero seconds of fame after it ended its run. Shows you exactly how much appeal that guy had…

But back to the music! Here are the five of the most ill-fitting replacement replacements (along with one bonus award). In all instances, the new guy was replaced by the very same person HE replaced. Kind of like Trapper John returning to the 4077th and replacing B.J.

Johnny Edwards – Foreigner
He replaced: Lou Gramm

Why he failed: If Foreigner’s history was any indication, Lou Gramm bailing wouldn’t derail the band; there were some personnel changes that lopped a couple of deadwood members off, and in a case of addition by subtraction, the band became more successful than ever. Besides, guitarist Mick Jones helped produce 5150, the album where David Lee Roth was replaced by Sammy Hagar. That looked easy and worked out well – what could possibly go wrong?

Everything, as it turned out. Despite Foreigner being the poster child for “faceless corporate bands,” Gramm was more vital to the sound of the band than insiders thought. And, although Edwards was a capable vocalist, the songwriting and production bordered on dull. very dull. As in Brian Howe-era Bad Company dull. Fortunately, the following year, Jones and Gramm teamed up again, although their second act didn’t produce any memorable material.

Vital Stats:
Albums: One (Unusual Heat, 1991)
Tours: One
Replaced by: Lou Gramm
Embarrassing moment: Edwards is no longer in the music industry – he now punches the clock in a tech industry cube farm.

John Corabi – Motley Crue
He replaced: Vince Neil

Why he failed: Probably more of a case of bad timing than anything else. Vince Neil’s departure came at a strange time. The band had recently released Decade of Decadence, its follow-up to its #1 Dr. Feelgood, as well as signing a huge new contract with Electra. The replacement? Former Scream (who?) frontman John Corabi.

Although a superior vocalist to Neil, nobody could accept Motley’s new, serious material or the new image. The album came out nearly five years after Feelgood, and the music world had changed greatly since then. Needless to say, the album tanked, the tour suffered and record company pressure forced the band to reinstate Neil. Like Foreigner, the reunited band never came anywhere close their former glories. Motley Crue officially disbanded in 2015.

Vital Stats:
Albums: One (Motley Crue, 1994)
Tours: One
Replaced by: Vince Neil
Embarrassing moment: Nikki Sixx called Crue’s one album with Corabi “very unfocused” and that writing for it was “painful.”

Blaze Bayley – Iron Maiden
He replaced: Bruce Dickenson

Why he failed: Along with Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickenson is one of the rare, top-tier metal vocalists. How do you replace him? You don’t. But unlike Priest, who went with a Halford vocal clone, Maiden took another route altogether; they replaced “the air raid siren” with a singer whose tone was closer to Type O Negative territory than anything that resembled the legacy of Maiden’s golden decade.

Remarkably, there were hundreds of tapes from wannabes to the throne; how Bayley got picked is still a mystery. But unlike the other bands here, Bruce Dickenson has no issue with performing a couple of the Bayley-era songs in concert.

Vital Stats:
Albums: Two (The X Factor, 1995 & Virtual XI, 1998)
Tours: Two
Replaced by: Bruce Dickenson
Embarrassing moment: Bayley’s first outing with Maiden was a club tour.

Ray Wilson – Genesis
He replaced: Phil Collins

Phil Collins was a ubiquitous force in the 1980s. Despite not being the most dynamic vocalist, his voice, drums and production work ruled the decade. Between Genesis, solo work, sideman and his production efforts (Eric Clapton, Frida, Phillip Bailey, et al), he’s sold close to 200 million albums. 200 million. So, it’s no wonder, when he gave his two weeks notice with Genesis, it would be damn near impossible to replace him. Really, it would have to be TWO replacement players, as Phil also served as Genesis’ drummer.

Not that the remaining members of Genesis didn’t try. For the same unknown reasons that Maiden picked Blaze, Genesis went with Ray Wilson. His voice didn’t suit the old material (to be fair, he did better with the Peter Gabriel-era songs than the Collins stuff), and just as bad, the two new guys looked liked the grandchildren of the two Genesis geezers.

Vital Stats:
Albums: One (Calling All Stations, 1997)
Tours: One (Europe only)
Replaced by: Phil Collins (a decade later)
Embarrassing moment: A Chicago venue reportedly only sold 34 tickets.

Gary Cherone – Van Halen
He replaced: Either Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth (I forget which came first.)

Unlike Foreigner, Crue, Maiden and Genesis, Van Halen brought in a replacement that was already famous with his previous band, Extreme. (Worked for VH the first time, right?) Noted for 1991’s atrociously wimpy #1, “More Than Words,” Extreme had a B-list rock band career of its own until it imploded following its failed Waiting For The Punchline album and tour in 1995.

Meanwhile, Van Halen was going through its own set of problems; issues with Hagar and a botched reunion with Roth led the band to seek a new vocalist. While there were rumors that heavyweights David Coverdale and Sebastian Bach had auditioned, the gig eventually went to Cherrone.

As all the other scabs mentioned in this blog found out, walking into a band with such a huge legacy (not to mention two iconic vocalists) was a no-win situation. Cherrone is a talented singer; his ability behind the mic was never the issue. It was all about the weak material on Van Halen III and the impossibility of following up two legendary singers.

Vital Stats:
Albums: One (the misleading-titled Van Halen III)
Tours: One
Embarrassing moment: The closing track on the album was sung by Eddie Van Halen.

Bonus! The late-to-the-party addition guy (A.K.A. The Max Klinger award)!

Who is this guy? And why does nobody want to sit next to him?

Tomes have been written about Guns n’ Roses, so there’s no need to repeat any of that here. But, back in the pre-internet days of 1991, there was a huge street-level buzz about the impending GNR albums. When they finally arrived with great fanfare in September of that year, the lineup on the inside artwork was different.

Sure, we all knew about the new drummer (drug use was tolerated, but apparently Steven Adler snorted that line after crossing it), but when the CDs finally arrived, we eagerly pored through the artwork. Then upon opening it and seeing the picture of the band, we all asked the same thing; who exactly was that sixth guy sitting there?

Turns out it was Dizzy Reed – a keyboard player. Keyboard player? GNR needed a sixth member like Hillary Clinton needs any more scandals. Turns out Reed, a player in a comically large number of failed bands in the 1980s, was Axl’s little lackey, the only member of the band that didn’t quit or get fired post-1993. So Reed gets the “Max Klinger award,” a late addition that nobody liked, didn’t do anything to further the cause, just somebody who had to be dealt with because they were there.

Moments That Killed The Career!

It takes a lot to become a successful rock star. Talent, looks, hard work and usually lots of good luck are all good to have. You can have any (or all) those attributes, but that doesn’t guarantee you anything. But if you do happen to make it to the top, you’re only a power chord away from a bad decision – one that can derail everything you’ve worked for. In some cases it’s the matter of a single high-profile appearance gone wrong (Sinead O’Conner, Ashlee Simpson, both on SNL), some it’s a matter of a talking too much (Dixie Chicks) and in other cases it’s a poor decision about a song, image or video.

Today, we have three cautionary tales of classic rockers who made that bad call. All of them paid their dues at the bottom of rock’s pecking order for years before hitting the big time; they all released albums early on that never hit and toured like crazy. They should’ve known better, but once they finally hit the pinnacle of rock stardom, it all came crashing down.

Peter Frampton
“I’m In You”
From the album I’m In You (#2, 1977)
Follow-up studio album: (The prophetically-titled) Where I Should Be (#19, 1979)

After playing professionally for almost a decade (first in The Herd, then in Humble Pie), Frampton went solo in the early 1970s and hit the tour circuit opening for anyone and everyone. Like so many of his road dog contemporaries (KISS, Bob Seger, REO Speedwagon, Foghat, etc.), word on the street was that he was better live than on record. So naturally, a live album was in order.

This picture is small for a good reason…

But Frampton Comes Alive! was no ordinary live album – it set the standard for the “double live album” for the rest of time. It was also ubiquitous – even getting a mention in “Wayne’s World” sixteen years after its release. It sold a gazillion copies during America’s Bicentennial year – bringing Frampton from his usual “special guest” billing to headlining (and filling) stadiums.

But when one hits those rarified heights, there comes that pesky little problem of the follow-up. Frampton found out what those before him had experienced; pressure from management and the label – everybody wants a little more. Tour until you drop. Quickly record a new album, but make it better than the last one. With no time to relax, the period between albums saw Frampton lose his original demos, hire guards to keep overzealous fans away from his recording sessions and tend to his high-maintenance girlfriend, Penny McCall. And finally, he posed shirtless for his Rolling Stone cover shot.

Oops. That picture, along with the “I’m In You” album cover (and wimpy lead single) erased all his past – guitar hero, Humble Pie, all that – and lumped him into Leif Garrett/Shawn Cassidy territory. Then things went really wrong – the car accident, palimony, ill-advised movie roles, the revelation by Sweet Connie Hamzy….

What happened next: Frampton had a terrible streak of bad luck following “I’m In You.” He broke up with his girlfriend, was seriously injured in a car crash in the Bahamas (while trying to locate the aforementioned girlfriend, who was partying with members of the Average White Band), starred in the Robert Stigwood’s film debacle “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” and was sued for palamony. If that wasn’t enough, a cargo plane crash in Brazil (that killed three people) destroyed all his gear, including his prize Les Paul, the one pictured on Frampton Comes Alive! He has successfully toured on the classic rock circuit for the past couple of decades, despite losing his hair.

“Mr. Roboto”
From the album Kilroy Was Here (#3, 1983)
Follow-up studio album: Edge Of The Century (#63, 1990)

Styx was the little band that could. Formed as a South side of Chicago neighborhood combo in the pre-Beatlemania days, the guys kept it going long enough to land a contract with rinky-dink Wooden Nickel Records in the early 1970s. A bunch of not-very-successful albums were recorded; a local DJ started playing “Lady” from Styx II and the hit spread nationwide. Endless gigging ensued; a contract was signed with A&M; guitarist John Curulewski quit and was replaced by Tommy Shaw (a good career move for both Shaw and Styx); finally the band went a little more mainstream and less proggy and started an upward trajectory.

In 1977, all that hard work finally paid off; Styx’s seventh album, The Grand Illusion, was released and sales went through the roof. Multiple millions of units moved. The next couple records went the same route; hit singles, arena tours and a rabid fan base, despite universal scorn from the critics. 1979’s Cornerstone brought the band its only #1 hit, “Babe,” written by keyboardist Dennis DeYoung. But it also brought trouble to Styxland, as guitarist Shaw accused the band of heading into “Barry Manilow territory” with the hit ballad. Tension escalated; DeYoung was canned, but cooler minds prevailed and he was reinstated after a few weeks. But that’s when the trouble really began.

Early 1981’s Paradise Theatre was a concept album, using a derelict theatre as a metaphor (or is that a simile? You would think that somebody with an M.S. in journalism would know the difference here!) for the current state of Jimmy Carter’s America. A huge hit (Styx’s only #1 album), it set the stage for another “concept” album about music being outlawed. Not a new concept, as The Who and Rush have both used that theme previously; only difference is that theirs didn’t include any songs about robots.

Whatever. The single “Mr. Roboto” from 1983’s Kilroy Was Here was cheesy, but far worse, was the tour, film and “acting” by the Styx members to open dates on the Kilroy tour. The goodwill Styx had built up over the past decade went bye-bye and fans ran towards the exits, covering their ears. Sick of the entire thing and strung out on coke, Tommy Shaw was a zombie for the tour and quit the band shortly thereafter. After five platinum (or better) albums, he must’ve really wanted out.

What happened next: Styx issued a tepidly-received live album in 1984 and was put on ice, and then members started releasing solo albums. The band regrouped with Edge Of The Century in 1990, but without Shaw, who was off enjoying success with the supergroup Damn Yankees. Although the band scored a major hit single (“Show Me The Way” #3), the album tanked and the band was dumped by its long-time label, A&M. A 1996 reunion tour with Shaw (but without drummer John Ponozzo, who was suffering from advanced liver failure which eventually killed him) was a success, but the band never scored a hit album afterwards. Today, the carcass of Styx still tours, but with only guitarists Shaw and James Young remaining from the glory days.

Billy Squier
“Rock Me Tonite”
From the album Signs Of Life (#11, 1984)
Follow-up studio album: Enough Is Enough (#61, 1986)

Billy Squier was the first AOR superstar of the early 1980s. Throwing a mix of Zeppelin, Clapton, Rolling Stones and more into his music, his sophomore album, Don’t Say No became an instant classic. Mistakenly labeled by some as an “overnight sensation,” that tag couldn’t be farther from the truth, as he spent over a decade trying to make it in the music business. He played in several bands before releasing two albums with the band Piper, whose biggest claim to fame was opening for KISS in 1977. His solo debut, 1980’s The Tale of the Tape was a minor hit; by the time Don’t Say No hit, Billy Squier was over the age of thirty. Better late than never.

1982’s follow-up Emotions in Motion used the same basic framework; again, another top five, multiplatinum album. More radio airplay, more acclaim. A featured track on the “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” soundtrack. By the time the Emotions tour cycle had ended, Squier was headlining arenas with bands like Def Leppard opening.

By early 1984, Squier had parted ways with producer Mack (of Queen fame) and started a new album with “Mutt” Lange (architect of classic AC/DC and Def Leppard albums and the future Mr. Shania Twain). That collaboration was quickly put on ice due when Mutt learned of an alleged tryst between Squier and the first Mrs. Mutt way back in the 1970s.  (Wasn’t that what the 70s were all about?)

Mutt said “No way, Guillermo!” and pulled out of the project; Jim Steinman, songwriter best known for penning hits for Meat Loaf, Air Supply and Bonnie Tyler was commissioned. The ensuing album, Signs of Life is surprisingly good and diverse, despite its cover art. Actually, he delivered an album that showed “artistic growth.” Even Rolling Stone magazine is impressed; life is good. By now Squier is a big enough artist to warrant a “World Premiere Video” on MTV. Not Bruce Springsteen big, but an A-list rocker nonetheless. The first single, “Rock Me Tonite” is tagged to have its video debut in July 1984.

What happened next is a matter of who you want to believe. Different parties have blamed others for what happened next; either way, the “Rock Me Tonite” video was not the most “manly” video ever released. Yes, videos by Culture Club and Prince were far more androgynous than his, yet it wasn’t cool because Squier was a macho “rocker.” Truth of the matter is, that his dancing was about on the same level as other unfunky white guys like Mick Jagger doing the chicken dance, but the silk sheets, pastel colors and Flashdance shirts didn’t help his case at all. End of the day – despite the song being the highest charting single in his career, it drove away fans and his career never recovered.

What happened next: Despite the video debacle, Squier renegotiated his recording contract in 1985 to one of the richest in the industry. Unfortunately for his record label (Capitol), like many artists who signed huge contracts at the top (Janet Jackson, R.E.M., ZZ Top, Mariah Carey, Motley Crue), Squier’s best days were behind him. None of his subsequent albums (or singles) managed to crack the top 40 and each release was less and less successful. He ended up quitting the industry in 1993, following the release of his non-charting Tell The Truth album. Shows you what happens when you don’t pay attention to Peter Frampton.