SportsChump’s Summer Concert Series, Part V: Bands, Identities, Medical Procedures and the Charlie Watts Hypothetical

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.  

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9 Replies to “SportsChump’s Summer Concert Series, Part V: Bands, Identities, Medical Procedures and the Charlie Watts Hypothetical”

  1. Steve Perry is Journey
    Layne Staley was Alice in Chains
    Ozzy is Black Sabbath
    Don Henley is The Eagles
    (RIP Glenn Fry )
    Angus Young is AC/DC
    (RIP Malcom Young)
    Jagger AND Richards are The Rolling Stones
    Chris Cornell was Soundgarden.
    Gilmore and Waters are Pink Floyd, separately, they are pretty horrible. In the case of Floyd, I think the tension between them fueled some of the best music of the latter half of the 20th Century.

    As for Keith Richards and Ozzy, I thought drugs were bad, mmmkay?

  2. As an old guy who had an extensive 8 track collection , I find it extremely difficult to witness the passing of so many of great musicians.
    I also have no problem with the bands that continue on with a different lineup. Led Zeppelin without John Bonham Steely Dan minus Walter Becker and the Eagles missing Glen Frey is hard on my soul.
    The important thing to remember is the music that they gave us.
    Long live ROCK !

  3. I’ve seen Pineda channel Steve Perry live 2X and I am more than sold; not Steve Perry but Journey fans have definitely had a VERY soft landing. Phillip Bailey searches for his falsetto without radar nowadays but as long as he hits between 1 – 3 notes per song on target, the party still happens; 4x in 7 years for me. My Scorpions moved their Vegas residency back to this year; they’ve been doing it since 1964 or 65. Saw them 5 years ago with Living Color and they were still absolute FYE although Klaus & Rudy wisely did not move one step during the set. Never a Stones fan, so likely would wait for your concert review.

  4. Brian…

    By any chance, did you happen to catch, wait for it, Axl Rose the year he toured as AC/DC’s front man? Not sure how that all went down but rock and roll makes strange bedfellows.

    As we’ve seen throughout history, tension within the band often makes for the best music. One need look no further than the Police (whose drummer and lead singer never really like each other), Van Halen (the brothers versus DLR and ultimately Michael Anthony), the Beatles (towards their fateful end) or Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks singing live on stage and telling her beau Buckingham in no uncertain terms to go his own way.)

    Thank goodness for bitter breakups, huh?

  5. I feel ya’ on all three of those, Deac.

    Not sure Zeppelin really tours all that much. Heck, Page doesn’t even like talking about the band.

    I do know that Bonham’s kid tours with a “Led Zeppelin Experience.” I haven’t seen ’em but I hear they’re fun to watch. I suppose there’s nothing entirely wrong with the kid carrying on the family business although the sounds his poppa made are tough to recreate.

    Although tempted, I’ve never seen Steely Dan live. I know that Fagen still tours under that name, without Becker, but I haven’t yet had the pleasure.

    And the Eagles, man. Never seen ’em. Even without Frey, I’d be tempted just to say I did but as you suggest in your comments and I suggested in the post, it just wouldn’t be the same.

  6. Donny C…

    We’re thinking about seeing EW&F up in St Augustine this coming autumn. They’re playing up at the Amphitheater.

    I saw ’em back at the Bob Carr in the 90s. Now that was a damn show!

  7. Chris,

    I haven’t even seen any videos when he fronted for AC/DC. I saw GnR once, at the Toledo Speedway of all places… Think it was 89. Axl was late, as usual, and I don’t remember what they opened with, it had to be Welcome to the Jungle, and it was horrendous. The best analogy I can come up with is a cat being tortured with a flamethrower, it was that bad…. I think they were 3 songs in when someone lit off a bottle rocket, and that was it. Axl threw a fit and walked off the stage. Show’s over, thanks for coming! I have held a grudge against him ever since, lol…..

    Great examples of artistic differences making great/legendary music. McCartney/Lennon is probably the best example of this. Rob Halford/Judas Priest comes to mind as well.

    I grew up on Steve Perry, he’s actually one of my personal heroes. I would kill to have that voice, that range, that pure talent. Pineda is phenomenal, and I respect his ability. It isn’t the same though. Perry had a presence and a style that was one of a kind, and will never be replaced…

  8. Go see Colin Hay from Men at Work. He’s 68 and still got it. Saw him live in Atlanta last night and he rocked it for this 59 yo.

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