What’s An Original Band, Anyway? Part 2

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We had been talking, last time, about when a band is and is not demonstrably “original.”     One notable (and minor) exception you also might allow is Rush: the original drummer played on one (the first) album, and the current line-up has been together for 40 (!!) years. And at this point, if anyone left, I doubt they would continue. In point of fact, when Neil Peart was suffering through family tragedies, and was unsure if he could continue, the other members were willing to give him all the time and space he needed to grieve. If they were to have to dissolve the band because he would decide he wasn't going to return, they seemed content 
with that. We will revisit this scenario (and those questions posed earlier).


The middle section is the murky part. You have two major segments with some overlap. Bands like Styx, Deep Purple, The Who and the Rolling Stones gradually replaced members over time as needed. Deep Purple makes no secret of it, even to the point of qualifying the rosters as Mark I, Mark II, etc. If you squint, they are essentially the same machine, much like a car that's had engine and body work done. Most would consider that it's still a 1967 Camaro even after the engine and transmission were rebuilt, and the body welded and repainted. To me, however, the Stones are a cover band of themselves. But that's just me.

Another segment comprises outfits in which the leader(s) or main songwriter(s) eventually whittle away until it becomes "their band.” You could include Heart and Steely Dan among others here. Kiss would also be a candidate. And with these three (and doubtless others), you now have the circumstance where the original version of the band might be inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame, and the current line-up is the one that plays their signature tunes. With Heart, one would be hard pressed to decide on a line-up: not including the Wilson sisters, there have been some 35 different players over the years. At this writing, Kiss decided not to perform at their induction.

Perhaps we could, and likely should, consider some extreme cases. On the one end, we offer up The Beach Boys. Early on in their career, their main composer/songwriter Brian Wilson soon decided to stay off the road, write new songs, help record them (with the help of Phil Spector's crack session crew), then send the others back out to play the new tunes. Over 
time, several of the touring musicians were made members of the group. Ultimately, the output of new music became sporadic, as were Brian's on-stage appearances.

Finally, it split into two camps, both sometimes touring with the name (or variations thereof). The last several decades have seen lawsuits for the rights to the name and allegedly owed royalties, and tours that smacked of nostalgia, as nothing but the old hits were performed. Along the way, two of the Wilson brothers passed on.

MB