#481: Hang It Up

AXL DC

GETTING MORE TALE #481: Hang It Up

Rock fans are a fickle bunch, aren’t we?  We will openly praise our rock heroes, placing them upon mighty pedestals.  We will proclaim that our love for said bands trumps anyone else’s; we are truer fans than the average wannabe.  Then at the drop of a hat, when our bands take an action we don’t approve of, we suddenly become the authority on what that band actually should have done.  We’re the experts after all, right?

Most commonly, we are quick to judge when a band has passed its prime.  We have all done it.  “They need to hang it up and call it a day, go out with some dignity,” we proclaim, pretending that we actually have a clue of what goes on in their creative or financial headspaces.

Why do we think we know what’s best?  Certainly, we are opinionated on what we like and what we don’t.  Let’s say a certain band “jumps the shark” a little bit, to use the TV vernacular.  For example, Aerosmith.  A lot of fans, this one included, feel that Aerosmith’s best days are long behind them.  As fans, we don’t want to see the band continue to sink further into a crapslide of mediocrity.  Mediocrity, that is, defined by us.

Certainly, Aerosmith have no problems selling out arenas even after several patchy discs and gigs.  Go and see them live and you will meet fans who have seen them dozens of times in their lives.  They have a blast doing so, and they don’t care if Tyler can’t jump around like he used to.   What makes one group of fans (the ones that cry “hang it up!”) right, but the others who will gladly go see them live again tomorrow, wrong?

Nothing.  It’s all personal taste.  You may fall on one side of fence with Aerosmith, but another side with the Stones, or the Who.  Look, I love Kiss.  I always have.  I loved when they were great, and I loved when they were shit.  Now that the original members are down to just Gene and Paul, and Paul’s struggling with his voice, do I think they should hang it up?  Absolutely not.  I still look forward to whatever Paul, Gene, Eric and Tommy have cooking next.   But I don’t necessarily feel that way about Aerosmith, or even AC/DC.

I saw Gordon Lightfoot perform about 10 years ago.  His voice is reduced to a quiet whisper now.  Years take their toll, but Gordon and his band still played a set of unforgettable music.  Was it a harsh reminder of the years gone by?  Sure, but I can say I’ve seen Gordon Lightfoot now, an experience I wouldn’t trade in for a cash refund, no way.

To compare an artist to their younger selves is almost universally unfair.  I can’t run the 100 meter dash like I used to.  Ian Gillan can’t hit the high screams like 1969 either.  That’s OK.  Ageing is a part of life.  It is also a part of music, even rock and roll.  Rock music used to be about celebrating youth, but today it is a far more diverse field than it was in the golden years.

On the other hand, take a group like AC/DC.  For all intents and purposes, they were still going very strong with the classic five members until very recently.  Then Malcolm got sick – irreversibly so.  Phil Rudd had his problems and was let go.  Now Brian Johnson is gone and Axl Rose is in.  At what point does a band become a parody of itself?  More importantly, who gets to decide that?  I’d prefer if AC/DC were able to continue with Brian; I don’t want to adjust to an AC/DC with yet another new singer.  But I don’t get a say, do I?

But we do get to vote on this, in one way:  the capitalist way.  We vote democratically with our dollars.  People who don’t want to see Axl Rose fronting AC/DC are offered full refunds, and by taking the refund, a fan can voice his or her displeasure.  If the tour continues beyond these dates, we will still be able to vote with our wallets.  There is no deception here.  Surely anyone in the market for AC/DC tickets knows what’s going on now.

Speaking personally, I would go see Axl/DC.  Who knows how long this aggregation will last?  It’s a possible chance to see history in the making.   Even if they suck absolutely (doubtful), I would still be able to say “I saw that.  I was there.”  So, given the chance, even if I don’t like the idea of Axl fronting AC/DC, I would still use my money to vote “yay”.  Even just out of curiosity, it would be worth it.

The single instance that I feel is universally appropriate for a band to retire is the sad day they find themselves without any original members.  Take Quiet Riot for example.  Nobody currently in the band played on the first two Quiet Riot albums.  Two of the members who did are now dead, and there is no connection at all to the earliest recordings of the group.  In cases such as this, what separates a band from a mere tribute?  Call it what it is, in my view.

Who do you think should hang it up?  And if they do, how long before the reunion tour?  Time will tell!

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52 comments

  1. This post asks a lot of big questions, more than one post’s worth! I’m sure it will generate a lot of answers.

    And since I’m commenting here, I’ll say this:

    I think a band makes choices, all along, in their career. And what they’ve chosen got them here today. On one level, it’s like any of us – do we do this? Or this? What would be best? That’s universal. All of these bands you mention have legions of fans, gained over many years, but there are just as many bands who make wrong choices and don’t get that far. It says a lot that people are even having these discussions.

    Would I see Axl/DC? No. Would I see a re-formed G’n’R? No? Does that mean I think they oughta hang it up? Well, just because I’m not feeling it doesn’t mean other aren’t.

    You mentioned the Stones. People were calling it Steel Wheelchairs back in 1989. I saw them in concert in 1994, thinking ‘better see them before they die.’ That was 22 years ago, and here they are talking about new music.

    Of any of the bands you mentioned, to answer your ending question, I think maybe AC/DC oughta hang it up, or at least become something else. It won’t really be AC/DC anymore, will it. So say thanks for 40+ years of awesome, and go do something else if you want to keep playing. Dragging that around too much longer might become parody. Or maybe Angus doesn’t know how to shut it off, and if he did he’s afraid he’d wither. I dunno. It’s a big money-maker (as if they need it, now), and I’m no expert. At a certain point, legacy becomes an issue.

    People have short memories. As Janet Jackson said, what have you done for me lately? If what’s been done lately is pleasing people, fine. If not, maybe think about options.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. People do have short memories. I suppose they always have. In the 50’s bands used to last about six months before they were passe!

      Sarca mentioned an Angus solo album with guest singers. I’m in agreement with that sounding vastly interesting.

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  2. This one always divides people. Me, I would give AxlDC a chance and then make up my mind. Some singers can pull it off with other singer’s songs, some can’t. I’ve been both impressed and disappointed when singers from one band go to another. For instance, Ian Gillan worked well during his one album stint with Black Sabbath but my expectations with Sammy Hagar in Van Halen were completely dashed when their first album came out. Still, it does seem a bit sad when a band who is totally past it, doesn’t know when to let go.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have my hopes for Axl. I don’t know if you have heard any leaked rehearsal audio. From that it sounds like they are really tight and sounding sharp! Axl fits!

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    1. OOOOH Jimmy. That’s a sore spot with me. I definitely don’t consider Metal Health ground zero. It even had a song on it from their first albums, remade (Slick Black Cadillac) and a song dedicated to their dead ex-founder (Randy Rhoads). To me, you can’t take the first two albums away. They exist. I have copies. But more than that you can hear them online readily now.

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      1. I must check em out, are they like Quiet Riot? Or is it really really different stuff?

        I always looked at this like the Pantera “‘Cowboys’ was our REAL debut” situation.

        Mostly to save money though, if I’m honest.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. No the first two Quiet Riot sound exactly like old school Quiet Riot. The production was low budget, but by the second album they were actually writing pretty good tunes. Randy was starting to turn into a unique stylist, Kevin DuBrow was in peak voice. Really the biggest difference is 70’s vs 80’s production values.

          When I was a kid my buddy Bob had a Randy Rhoads guitar book, most of his well known stuff with Ozzy. But in there was also a song we never heard of called “Glad All Over”. Many years later I finally got a copy of “Glad All Over”, which was actually on the first QR! It’s a Dave Clark Five cover.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Good post. I can’t think I’ve ever seriously said a band should “hang it up” though. They can do what they like. What I need to decide is “do I want to waste my precious time and money on them?” Aerosmith I gave up on a good while back but why should I care if they keep going on? Good luck to em! Actually, I find Axl/DC quite intriguing because, like you say, it’s a moment in history. Who’s to say how it’ll pan out until they’ve been seen and heard?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I believe AXL/DC’s first gig is tonight. And they’ve sounded good in some of the poor quality leaks. Thunderstruck in particular. Also, Axl has been saying all the right things. I’ve been impressed, it’s like he’s made a complete 180!

      We do agree on Aerosmith. I hear Tyler has a Toronto solo date coming. UGH.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Doubtful but you never know. I caved last time. But I didn’t cave on the last two Bon Jovi’s. I would say it’ll depend entirely on what it sounds like, but having said that, it would have to be better than last time. Otherwise, I’ll pass. And Steven Tyler’s solo country music automatically gets a skip. That stuff is atrocious.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I wouldn’t rule out going back to them… but with both those bands it would take some very high recommendations to lure me back. And even then, a big pinch of salt would be required! Too many over-effusive reviews in magazines these days…

          Liked by 1 person

        3. There are still magazines?

          BIG pinch of salt required. I mean look at my original review for the last Aero…I was blinded by the light a bit too much. That’s one reason why I don’t like reviewing new releases too soon.

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        4. Yeah same. I know I could “get more hits” by quickly posting a review but honestly that’s not a process that I’m comfortable with. And I know you get that… It takes a while for me to live with it.

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  4. Agree with you here entirely. I in no way begrudge these older bands (and band members) their desires to continue doing what they enjoy (or what makes them money). Their “now” doesn’t steal from the impact of their “then” at all for me and, truth be told, more often than not I still tend to find a net positive in seeing a show or hearing new output, even when some of the players have changed. Even if the “new” is objectively terrible, I can just ignore it while still basking in the “old.” For me, it’s only sad if they are sad — if it still makes their lives more enjoyable regardless of audience/market numbers, then I say good for them. I do agree that if it waddles like a tribute duck, it should be called a tribute duck… but even tributes can bring the happy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tributes are very popular today. You’ve heard of Sandman, the Metallica tribute band? They are made up of ex-Helix members. And they are pulling huge crowds where full-on original acts usually play. It’s interesting times.

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  5. I think AC/DC should end. Yes!. But, I do think Angus has life left in him. So, what woul I like to see? Maybe he should do a Santana thing where he partners with Rock’s greats and makes a kickass album? Or what the hell: just go on his own. He is AC/DC now really. Everyone knows Angus as a household name. He could easily evolve. I know many people who would line up to see just him wittle away on his SG…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We’ve probably chatted about this before. I agree on the solo Angus idea. It would sell a million copies alone. The first Angus solo album? That’s a huge concept! Throw in guest friends? Mind= blown.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh and to add – the one band I don’t want to retire is Rush, but, I want those dudes on earth for a long time in whatever they do – play music, retire…so if Neil can’t play anymore and wants to raise his family – total respect. IF Geddy and Alex want to go it alone in studio, go for it. Just as long as I continue to see Geddy at the Jays games! Those guys have done good. I am happy. :)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Rush did it the right way saying “maybe we will tour more, maybe we won’t ” they left things open for possible live shows(my gut says there finished) Rush went out the right way! Released there best album in years (Clockwork Angels) toured with a stage show that encompassed the whole career of music and said really nothing but thanks for hanging around for 40yrs to the fans!
      Many a band could learn from this….

      Liked by 3 people

    2. They are the epitome of class in a band’s silver years. And the Jays NEED Geddy! I have a bad feeling about the season. Most of the games I’ve caught have ended badly! Also Cecil = grrrrrrrr.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. He was there the first couple of weeks of the season, and then nothing. But he made an appearance at last night’s game so maybe we will see more of him this weekend.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. In a way, this is the old ‘art versus commerce’ debate, but focussed around time, isn’t it?

    If rock shows are a product, my wish for shadow-bands touring is that there would be a detailed product warning on the ticket booking site (or poster, or the live album cover). Something like this would work for me:

    This band contains 60% original parts
    Singer’s voice now at 40% of heyday
    Guitarist’s speed now running at 0.7
    Seventh drummer since 1978
    Added keyboards

    Then I can make an informed decision. Is that too much to ask?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Man this was a great response. Art vs. commerce, I think that’s part of it. Some of it could also be pride, ego, and delusion.

      And YES I really like the idea of the disclaimer with the breakdown like that. Actually I’ll better that. Let’s hire Geoff Stephen to graph that for the bands.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting, personally I’m not a nostalgic person at all when it comes to ‘classic’ bands I think are past it, I vote with my feet every time and I’d far rather go see someone smaller who wanted ‘it’ more.

    It can be sad sometimes too, the last time I saw Motorhead, I left after 40 minutes.

    There are very few big, old acts out there who I still bother buying either, unless I hear and like something. Fool that I am, I invest too much emotion/devotion in these ancient let-downs to want to hear it tarnished.

    There are a definite few groups out there that show the need for the rock and roll veterinarian to come along and help them along to Valhalla.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Oooft. This post covers a lot of ground, Mike. I’m often critical of bands that keep going or resurface with only a couple of original members. I’m not one for saying “call it a day already” if it’s a case of diminishing returns (like the Boss or Aerosmith or, dare I say it, Pearl Jam), cause they can still perform live (from what I’ve seen) and I reckon they have enough in their catalogue to make the prospect of seeing them live an attractive one.

    It’s a fine line, though. Especially when the essence of the band has changed. I often ask why they keep going and the cynic in me says it’s the cashpennies. The likes of Alice In Chains, Blind Melon, and, more recently, Stone Temple Pilots (and perhaps AC/DC). All of those bands could have tried something else (some did – solo careers and other projects that just didn’t pick up any attention) before deciding to “continue the legacy” or whatever. Jerry Cantrell, Unified Theory, Talk Show / Army Of Anyone didn’t shift the same units or have the same pulling power as the bands they all came from, so … y’know.

    I know some will quote the likes of Deep Purple, AC/DC, and Black Sabbath as examples of continued success both artistically and commercially and that’s fair enough. I can’t really comment cause I know nothing about them (I stop at the first 6 Sabbath albums and only recently got into AC/DC – aside from Back IN Black it’s all Bon Scott for me – and Deep Purple). However, I guess sometimes it’s best to save the case and go see a tribute band. In the end, that’s all these guys are now anyway. Only they’re in a unique position of having a member of the original band (AXL/DC and The 20th Century Doors (who changed their name because John Densmore challenged them)).

    As for the comment about it being a sad day when a band has no original members: Sons of the Pioneers might just be the exception. They’ve been around since 1933. Not surprisingly, they don’t have any original members. But they are awesome. And also a movement. An important piece of country & western culture.

    … also, just on the “at least I can say I saw” point. I’ve thought that about a few folks over the years, but never again. I saw Bob Dylan back in 2005 and that thinking didn’t quite cut it. The gig was dreadful. One of the worst. I regret seeing him and haven’t really bothered with any new Dylan stuff since (always met with the usual “best Bob Dylan album since ______ (insert last great album)”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for reminding me of the 20th Century Doors! You know, the first lineup of that had potential. When they had Ian Astbury and Stewart Copeland. After Stewart left I lost interest completely. It was the combination of those specific ingredients that intrigued me. They later changed the name to Riders of the Storm which would have been a better name in the first place, don’t you think so?

      Sons of the Pioneers and also the Oak Ridge Boys (they date back to the 1940’s) are allowed to continue into perpetuity. Those are…unique situations.

      They have been saying that about every Dylan album since Time Out of Mind, in my recollection.

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      1. I think so, but I dare say Robby and Ray thought the connection to The Doors was easier to make if they just rode in on the name. But yeah, they could have been good if they weren’t just a covers band … they could have made some good music.

        … and yeah, all Dylan albums since Time Out Of Mind have been the best since Time Out of Mind. Only they haven’t been anywhere near as good. But I guess he’s Dylan (and at the risk of courting controversy: he’s not the greatest songwriter / poet ever!).

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  10. We all can’t be ZZ Top. The same lineup since the late 60’s. Just saw them live a month and a half ago (luckily before Dusty Hill fell and broke a shoulder or something) and they were absolutely great. Now their style kinda allows them to be the same now that they were then. Just as cool today as then, and not alot of stress on them to be anything other than that. Alot more moving parts in both Aerosmith and AC/DC. Kiss is another story. I am not quite clear on why LeBrain is ok with Kiss hanging on by a miniscule thread, and not as ok with others. Im sure it’s just the Kiss Army in him speaking.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Yes that’s it exactly Uncle Meat. It’s just the Kiss Army in me, it’s nostalgia and all that stuff. There is really no other good reason to keep hanging on all these years. If they were say Dokken with all the same issues I would have dumped them 15 years ago.

    You know I always seem to forget, ZZ Top has always been the same three guys. They have just always been there. And their last record was still pretty good. I wonder if Billy’s solo album is decent.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great post, Mike. If Aerosmith ever decide to perform incognito in a small venue (a la Blue Oyster Cult as Soft White Underbelly), they should use the name Crapslide Of Mediocrity.

    The only band I can think of that I loved for a long time but should probably have wrapped things up years ago (in the recording studio, at least) is U2. Maybe it’s the fact that they make us wait five years and then release a mediocre album that bugs me, but it’s more likely due to the mediocrity itself from a once monumental band. I continue to hold out hope that they’ll deliver another classic even though I know that’s a longshot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I mentioned this on Aaron’s post on Sunday — I think U2 have been putting too much focus on the process and being innovative and doing things differently. Maybe just sitting down and playing together isn’t interesting to them anymore. I would love to heard what would happen if they eschewed the technology and set a goal to put out an album in 12 months the old way. WOuld they still have the goods? I find their music today choked by technology.

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  13. Same with athletes. Who are we to tell them when to retire and stop doing what they have done their WHOLE lives cause we don’t like it. That said I heard Shoot to Thrill with the new singer and it was frickin HIDEOUS. I would love to see Halford or Udo or drag a handful of guys in each town to sing a few songs each. But they picked poorly IMO.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Many do. I tried but that Shoot to Thrill I heard was a turn off. Interesting to see where they will go in the future. I am still bummed about Malcolm and Phill although Phil brought it on himself. Maybe Brian will get his ears back….

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I read a story recently about some tech company that heard about Brian’s plight and designed custom ear monitors for him that will protect his hearing as well. But it seems to me, AC/DC have made up their minds. I have also read articles that say Angus wants to keep going, and Brian’s not as much into it.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. That would be great if Brian could return. I haven’t heard about him wanting to hang it up. I actually read a note from him how deeply disappointed he was to not be out with “ME MATES” could be lip service. What would Angus do with all that energy if he wasn’t performing every night anyway?

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