Bands and the Name Game
When a band loses a member or members, who keeps the name? Whats fair? Does it always come down to legalities? Is continuing to use a band name false advertising? The situation is sticky. I have some thoughts...
So we have a classic rock band in town tonight for a show. A sold out show I should mention. This is a band thats a standard on classic rock radio. At any given day between classic rock, "oldies" and all these new mix hit format radio stations, you might hear this band every few hours from station to station. They have that many memorable, hit rock songs.
For some years now, the band has been reduced to ONE original member, mind you THE most original member. The starter of it all and main songwriter. The creator of the name as well. Yet tonight he will play with a line up of talented fellas from other defunkt bands acting as "the" band. They will stand under the back drop and have their faces on the t-shirts and can tell groupies I'm the singer/drummer/bassist from "the" band.
BUT... are they "the" band?
Of course friggin not. They're a current line up being paid as hired guns. Amazing, talented guns, sure. They are not "the" band though. People going to see "the" band are not seeing "the" band. They are seeing a group of musicians who are legally allowed to be called "the band" due to the guitarist owning the name. Seems fair sure, to the guitarist. This however is false advertising isn't it. It is not "the" band all the commercials and advertisements say.
Now those who know, know. Plenty of pure fans will say, "It's just him? I'm not interested in going then". But also, people who just love songs and don't give a crap will go and dance and drink up and party down and you know what.. thats Ok. They can do that! I think they're being lied to and given false presentation, but they can totally go and have a blast, sure!
Alot of these bands duke it out in court over the rights to band names. Its their branding! It's what they've been known for all these years. Its their identity! So sure, they're gonna put on gloves and duke it out in court. I totally understand. Who wins though? (i'm talking about any fictional band now) The guy who still plays in "the" band with 4 new guys no ones knows who weren't on those old records or in those videos? He gets the name so he can go out and make money cause he was in the garage when they accidently thought of the name? Or perhaps the guy who came into the picture a couple minutes later on and made the band what it was and actually gave life to the name. The guy who helped them become who the world would know them to be. He doesn't have the right to use the name?
Its a touchy thing. Simple solutions? I wouldn't say simple, but theres something that seems to work. People seem to already be on this wave and it seems to be the most fair to ALL parties and allows the name to be used.
Lets use the recent headache that is Queensryche as an example...
The band had a blow out for whatever reasons that split them from Geoff Tate, the orignal and only singer for the classic Seattle metal band. Tours were coming and people wanted to fight for their identity to be able to do business out on the road and on the record shelves. Geoff wanted the name, so did Michael Wilton and Scott Rockenfield who techincally started the band.
Geoff ended up losing the super heated battle. He performs now as "Queensrÿche Starring Geoff Tate the Original Voice". Seems a bit long winded, but headed in the right direction.
My suggestion might be this..
Queensryche (featuring Michael Wilton and Scott Rockenfield)
Queensryche (featuring Geoff Tate)
Both deserve the band name due to history and success achieved with the name. Plus this way you know when you go to see Geoff Tate, you're not getting anyone else from Queensryche but Tate. Its being honest to fans. With the other version you know you get Mike on guitar and Scott on drums (and Eddie on bass), but you're not getting Geoff singing.
Lets face it though, TRUE FANS should know whos in a band. Theres websites and stuff out there people use to find info. Then theres the lazy, half assed fans who just like greatest hits collections. Still, half assed as they are, they deserve to be explained to whos still on the ship. Don't you agree? If you see the version with Mike and Scott, you should be alerted that you're not gonna hear the singer. Thats fair. Todd LaTorre, who replaced Geoff is a great singer and I'm sure does a bang up job, but hes not THE guy. People deserve to know that. Its fair to alert them to that. Hey, alot of people want to hear the voice! Steve Perry, Dennis DeYoung, David Lee Roth, whoever. To many, the singer is the the sound and is the band. They deserve to know that info.
Some exceptions work though. Although he was one of the key people in the Ramones, when Dee Dee left the band they still seemed to funcation fair when CJ took over on bass. With Johnny and Joey still in leather, it seemed fair to still call it The Ramones.
Brad was such the center piece/focal point of Sublime, but Bud and Eric deserved to move on with all the Sublime cover business being done around the country and the band being big as ever. "Sublime with Rome" was a classy way to continue. We know Brad is gone, but this way pointed that out and didn't act like it was business as usual.
I remember years ago my folks went to see "The Platters", a classic vocal band from the 50's, who are a favorite of mine as well. My mom was so excited. She still loved those songs and voices so much. Well, they went and had a good time and I'm happy for that. Yet all along I felt they were lied to about who "The Platters" was that night. It wasn't The Platters. It was like one original member with newer people and someone's grandson from the group. I felt bad they thought they were hearing music from this classic group. It wasn't them! Many of them were even dead. This was a make do, fake version using the name to, lets call it like it is people... MAKE MONEY.
For musicians (and mostly their BS managers or agents) to fake who they are to trick people into seeing them I think is absolutely bogus. You totally should be able to still do business no question, but do it the right way. Be fair to people. Don't be tricky!! Not properly informing the public about the group's line up is being selfish and greedy. If I want a Coke, I want a Coke. Not a version without the coloring, less sugar and different carbination. Thats not Coke. Don't put it in the regular bottle and tell me its a Coke!
The Beach Boys without a Wilson brother is NOT the Beach Boys.
The Dead Kennedys trying to tour without Jello Biafra...
..is not The Dead Kennedys!
There's so many more for debate; The Pixies, Three Days Grace, Styx, Big Star, The Replacements, Sepultura, etc. Talk with music friends! Fire up the debate! What do you think?
I think though the Oasis fellas send a strong message with how they did things. Oasis as everyone knows, besides being the biggest band in the UK in the 90's was also a friggin nightmare all day. Drama non-stop between the Gallagher brothers. Tabloids, MTV, interviews, touring... they were always at odds weren't they?
And then when it came time to do something new what did they do? Did they go to court and duke it out for years like everyone would expect? Laim versus Noel. Who was Oasis? Who deserves the name of one of the great English bands of all time?
They shcoked the world I'd say by starting two different bands with two different names. Liam and most of the Oasis guys started up Beady Eye...
and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds did their thing.
Oasis left the name and started fresh. OASIS left their name! Almost like they did what they could as Oasis. Anything going forward wouldn't be Oasis. No fights, no battles over this massive name. They took their own names and brought their sound and writing under a new umbrella. Seems the most immature band in the world at the time schooled everyone. You should have faith in you now and in the future as you did in the past when everything was wine and roses.
I understand the connection and bond, but damn people hold onto these names with their life even if its not true to what the name represents. Its all they have! It's their seat at the party! But when you bring that name to people expecting something else like what has been tied to that name for many years, who are you pleasing then? Just yourself.
Making music isn't just for yourself. If it was, everyone would stay in the garage. When you share it with the world, then you create an indentity that people follow and support. It's no longer just yours is it? You don't whip it all around when you want and make them drink a Coke with less coloring, sugar and carbonation just cause you're hard up and need to make some money on the road. Do whats right. Go right ahead and tell em its sure as hell Coke, but let em know whats in that particular Coca-Cola. Let them decide if they want to taste it in a new way or not. Thats THEIR choice, not yours.