Sometimes I think the world of rock needs a band arbitrator. Someone to settle inner band disputes while representing only the interests of the fans. Sometimes I think that should be me. And then I think it should be a very high paying job with little pressure. Kind of like how sports leagues have commissioners. Yes. A Rock N Roll Commissioner. Commissioner Bakko. Has a nice ring to it. I first came up with the concept when Aerosmith threatened to get a different singer when Steven Tyler decided he needed to focus more on his “brand” than his band. I hate that by the way. “Brand”. It is impossible talk about one’s brand without sounding like a total dickhole. We’ll save that for another time maybe.
It sounds ridiculous. Replace Steven Tyler in Aerosmith? Without Tyler it’s not Aerosmith. While there is some logic that he brings a uniqueness the “brand” we know as Aerosmith, I think we’d be remise if we didn’t at least acknowledge that we “feel” that way because of an emotional attachment to the band and the music. But what if it was us. What if what we loved was taken away from us because one person wanted to do something else? Would you still feel the same? Can't replace Tyler? Most people would say the same about Joe Perry. Yet Aerosmith did just that in the late 70’s for a couple of records. As for the other three stiffs in the band, would anyone even notice?
But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. Let’s start by talking about why and how bands get to this point.
First thing to understand is this. When it comes to why this happens it’s almost never interesting. From our first voyage onto a playground as a child we are faced with the reality that there are people who don’t like us and people we don’t like. There are people we thought we liked only to find out we don’t. Sometimes we end up liking those people again and most times that happens we end up not liking them for the same reasons we didn’t the first time. And when looked at objectively, there is rarely one side that is clearly right and one that’s wrong. Shades of gray. Being rich and famous doesn’t make you more affable. Just because Motley Crue just sold 10 million copies of Dr. Feelgood doesn’t mean Tommy Lee liked Vince Neil. Not liking people is what people do.
The point is some of these bands have fans. And those fans have rights. Or at least they should. Like not having to keep track of multiple groups of musicians all calling themselves the same thing. I’m not the brightest lighter held in the air during I Remember You, but I know that when I see Sebastian Bach he’s gonna play some Skid Row. I don’t need it called Skid Row featuring Sebastian Bach. Give the members of Skid Row credit for not fighting over the name. But too many others have failed to follow their lead. Too many others have failed to learn from the mistakes of bands like Ratt, LA Guns, and more recently Queensryche and Great White. This isn’t reserved to leftovers from the 80’s. John Kay got in trouble for using the name Steppenwolf. John Fogerty and Credence Clearwater Revival's fued is probably the most famous example bitter disputes regarding the use of a name and music. The bottom line is while the parties involved all have their points, it’s the fans who pay. So in an effort to see cooler heads prevail and give a voice to those who make the lives of these pampered dick shitters possible, I pronounce myself the first Rock N Roll Commissioner and as such I offer my unsolicited expert advice in the form of a ruling. Lets start with some absolutes.
#1. If you were not a member of the band in question, you don’t count. I don’t care about some bogus contract you tricked an artist into singing. Fans provide the income and no one is a fan of a bands manager or accountant. You simply don't matter.
#2. If you were in the band at the beginning, but not when the band had its greatest impact, you also don't count. Sorry Ron McGovney and whoever was Deep Purple’s first singer.
#3. If after said split (And my ruling) you plan on recording or touring under the name then you need a minimum of TWO members of the bands most beloved lineup and at least one of those two cannot be a drummer or bass player.
#4. Once a band splits and say for example the singer leaves and the band keeps the name with a new singer, let the guy no longer in the band perform the songs from his time in the band. Remember his fans are your fans too. Don’t be a dick. And if you have this somehow written up in a contract then just admit you are a dick and re-write the contract. Remember all those times you said in interviews that without the fans your nothing? Prove it.
#5. All rulings are final. No suing or crap like that. Save that for arguments about publishing and royalties. That stuff I can guarantee the fans don’t care about.
Queensryche. Oooh. Starting off with a tough one. The singer was fired because the rest of band didn’t like him much. But that doesn’t take away the fact that his voice is a key component to their sound or the role he’s played in song writing over the decades. Is it really fair to take the name from someone so integral to establishing the Queensryche brand? (Sorry) And rather than fire him outright they fired his wife and his daughter in law without talking to him. Which for some reason pissed him off causing him to spit on the drummer during a concert. On the other hand he did spit on the drummer during a concert. Kind of asking to get fired when you do that.
MY RULING: Either work it out and learn how to be nice and work together or pack it in and start over with something new. The fans don’t want a new singer after 30 years and they definitely don’t want the artistically neutered band Geoff Tate has been calling Queensryche. Also, you must send a written apology to anyone who bought either one of the shitty CD’s you rushed out in an effort to make your version of Queensryche the “real” one. If you can’t work together then sue each other all you want over royalties from the back catalog and t-shirt/merch sales and such. But no recording. No touring. This also goes for you Great White.
KISS. After 5 years of the original lineup Ace and Peter were replaced by two guys who dress as Ace and Peter. This one is easy.
MY RULING: You are done. Initially I thought “Maybe if they gave the new guys their own makeup or if they just continued without makeup that’d be ok” but they have disrespected their fans for too long with this dog and pony show they currently call KISS. To allow them to continue would be criminal. When you consider they reunited with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. Put the makeup back on. Released a record in which they fraudulently insisted was a group effort. Then did a farewell tour. Only to come back a year later without Ace or Peter but instead two guys dressed as Ace and Peter. Then tried to convince the fans it was no different by using clever sleight of hand techniques like saying it was never Ace and Peter. It was always Space Man and Cat Man. All before spewing two horrible collections of original music upon us under the moniker of KISS. The sheer number of violations leaves only one option. Can’t let you keep going. No more records and no more tours. Gene and Paul. I’m pretty sure you already have the rights to all your merch and back catalog locked up so your horrible children will have to find a way to live off that.
Aerosmith. Well they did the right thing by kissing and making up but in the event this comes to issue again let’s make it official.
MY RULING: Unless someone dies, Aerosmith will only be the 5 guys it is now. It’s not the same as when they replaced Joe Perry in the 70’s. It’s been 40 years. The last Aerosmith song anyone will ever want to hear was written well over 20 years ago. If you can’t work together and make ass tons of money then stop. As for you Steven and Joe. Get over yourselves. Show the other guys some respect and quit messing with them.
Stone Temple Pilots. Can’t keep their singer Weiland sober long enough to complete a tour or proper record. The rest of the band have done two side projects where they used a different singer under a different name. Those projects had minimal success. So they tried working with Weiland again and of course it was a train wreck. Which brings us to now. The rest of the band said Fuck it and got Chester from Linkin Park to sing for them and are recording and touring again.
MY RULING: They can continue on as STP. It seems to me that the only reason they are looking for a new singer is because Weiland is a wasted schmuck. Why should they pay the price? They have tried multiple times to make it work. And he had similar issues with Velvet Revolver. So he doesn’t really get the benefit of the doubt here. Plus the band is putting it front and center that they have Chester from LP singing for them. Nobody’s getting duped. And this is clearly going to be his “B” project. If his band don’t mind, why should anyone else.
Van Halen. In 1984 David Lee Roth left and ever since fans have been clamoring for a reunion. They have been teased with false starts that never got going before they finally got it together... without Michael Anthony. This is directed entirely at Eddie Van Halen.
MY RULING: How DARE you make us all wait so long for the reunion only to slip in your son as a replacement for Michael Anthony. You had almost three decades to get this right and this is what you give us? You teased us with rumors and a couple songs on a soundtrack only to be offered Gary Cherone. Who do you think you are? Dave Mustaine? Your emotionally weak desire to only play with family is both comical and sad. You have one option. You must do at least one full tour with the original line up allowing anyone who bought tickets to the shows Wolfie played on, to attend for free. And during your guitar solo you must include an apology to the fans for treating them so bad. After that, do what you want. Go back to recording sountracks to porno's for all I care but you owe us one tour of the full lineup.