The Rolling Stones are in the midst of another world tour.
As hard as it is to believe, the Stones are still bringing their hits to sold out stadiums across the globe. Iconic front man Mick Jagger just turned 78 years old. The death-defying Keith Richards will be 78 by the time the tour is over. The Rolling Stones released their first album way back in 1964 and before you start in with the old jokes, no, I didn’t have the 8-track.
Charlie Watts is the drummer for the Rolling Stones and has been ever since they released their very first record. In fact, Watts is the only Stone, alongside Jagger and Richards, to have appeared on every studio album. However, thanks to a recent medical procedure, Watts will not be on this tour. It is the first time he has missed a tour since the band’s inception.
Southern rock band ZZ Top is also on tour. The power trio recently lost their bassist Dusty Hill. He was 72 years old. While ZZ Top was already touring, they knew Hill was of poor health and traveled with another bass player. The show must go on.
By no means am I judging bands that continue to share their artwork with their adoring fan base. I’ve seen Chicago in recent years and very few of the band we saw perform that night were founding members. The same goes with Kool and the Gang, who I’ve seen twice in recent years and highly recommend. While Robert “Kool” Bell still thumped the bass to the roar of a dancing crowd, few of the members freaking the funk that night were with the band when they first started making music back in 1967.
Bands break up and members leave. Fleetwood Mac no longer tours with Lindsey Buckingham. Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and David Gilmour barely speak to one another. Not long ago, I saw Foreigner in concert without lead singer Lou Gramm. It simply wasn’t the same.
So, my question to you is, which band members are so integral to their core that you would no longer pay the exorbitant amount for concert tickets to see them? Charlie Watts is hardly the most recognizable Stone but his backbeat is essential to the band’s success. Would Watts bowing out dissuade you from spending two hundred dollars or more on a ticket? Would the passing of Dusty Hill, founding bass player for ZZ Top, make you want to see them any less in concert, or even at all?
Rush drummer Neil Peart passed away in 2020. The Beastie Boys MCA passed away in 2012. Surviving members of both those bands made it perfectly clear that those two men were so important to their music they never so much as entertained touring with a replacement. When Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in a car accident, the band auditioned different drummers to take his place but felt his presence was too important to the band’s identity. They would not tour again until Allen learned how to play one-handed. Queen recently toured without rock and roll’s greatest voice, substituting the late Freddie Mercury for Adam Lambert. And after the passing of INXS’s Michael Hutchence, the band thought it wise to host a reality TV show in search of the band’s new lead singer. The band released an album with the winner of said contest. I didn’t buy it.
Once again, I am not judging musicians that continue to share their art form after the passing of an iconic member. I understand this varies band by band, musician by musician, but how important are certain members to the persistence of a band’s image? Is it still Queen per se that you’re seeing in concert or is it the unfortunately asterisked Queen with Adam Lambert*? If Keith Richards bowed out, would there still be a Stones tour and if there was, would you go? If Jagger bowed out, it’s highly unlikely the Stones could find that swagger in an alternate lead, although stranger things have happened.
Journey found a new front man in the most peculiar of ways. When the band and its former lead singer Steve Perry parted ways, Journey found a replacement online who not only looked the part but sounded it. With big shoes to fill, Arnel Pineda eventually warmed up to Journey fans with his Perry-like high pitched vocals, eighties mullet, cut-off t-shirts and skinny jeans. Problem solved, even for the most ardent Journey purists.
“This has been a bit of a blow to all of us, to say the least, and we’re all wishing for Charlie to have a speedy recovery” Tweeted Keith Richards, or whoever is tech-savvy enough to control Richard’s social media presence. There’s no denying that Watts will be missed behind that kit, especially since he’s been snapping that snare with the two remaining members up front for over fifty years.
Perhaps this is rock and roll adjusting to the times, proving at all costs that it will live long past the artists who once performed it.
If you do decide to pay good money to see the Stones this tour or ZZ Top even, I won’t blame you. I may go myself. It will still be the Stones and ZZ Top we’ll be seeing. It just won’t be the same.