Video of the Week: The Rolling Stones–Aging Since 1962

10 Albums That Almost Killed Careers

career kill

(Reprinted from Ultimate Classic Rock)

by Matthew Wilkening

Rock musicians, much like professional athletes and romantic partners, are constantly in danger of being asked, “But what have you done for me lately?” Even the biggest bands and solo stars can find themselves suddenly out of favor and plummeting down the charts if their latest album doesn’t live up to either their own legacies or fan expectations.

From Van Halen‘s ill-fated attempt to prove lightning can strike not just twice, but with three different lead singers, Kiss‘s mind-boggling attempt at creating a critic-pleasing concept album, the mighty Rolling Stones wandering too far from their strengths and many more, Ultimate Classic Rock and Diffuser.fm take a look at the 10 albums that almost killed the careers of some of rock’s biggest stars.

As you’ll see, luckily in nearly every case the “offending” artists were able to regroup, learn from their mistakes, re-connect with the magic that made us fall in love with them in the first place and resurrect their careers. Now let’s see exactly how and where they went wrong in the first place…

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Van Halen: ‘III’

As far as selecting lead singers goes, the third time was definitely NOT the charm for Van Halen.

After racing straight to the top of the rock mountain with original frontman David Lee Roth, and miraculously managing to stay there for another decade after he was replaced by Sammy Hagar, Van Halen chose Extreme singer Gary Cherone as the group’s third vocalist. Their first (and only) album together, 1998′s ‘III,’ was a shapeless mess that was panned by critics and avoided by fans. It would be 14 years before the group returned — with Roth on the mic — with the triumphant ‘A Different Kind of Truth.’

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Kiss: ‘Music from the Elder’

After watching their reign atop the late-’70s arena rock scene disappear in a puff of disco smoke, Kiss knew they had to do something big and bold to get back in the game. Unfortunately, 1981′s ‘Music from the Elder’ was an even bigger misstep.

Producer Bob Ezrin, fresh off the success of Pink Floyd‘s ambitious concept album ‘The Wall,’ decided that the facepainted marvels, whose lyrical depth typically topped out with tracks like ‘Love Gun’ and ‘Christine Sixteen,’ should tackle an album-length suite of songs about a young medieval warrior’s epic quest to save the world… or something. The end product, while admirably daring, is one of the most universally panned and mocked records in rock history. To their credit, they righted their creative ship the next year.

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Rolling Stones: ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’

OK, here’s where we stretch the boundaries of this list’s title right up to the breaking point. After all, it’s not likely that any one album could kill the Rolling Stones‘ career, even one as odd, out of character and poorly received as 1967′s ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request.’

But it definitely sent them back to the drawing board. Clearly influenced by the psychedelic music of the era — and some would say, overly focused on keeping up with the Beatles‘ ‘Sgt. Pepper‘ — the Stones delivered an ambitious but ultimately unfocused effort that made them look like followers instead of leaders — at least, until they kicked off perhaps rock’s most impressive four-album run ever with ‘Beggars Banquet’ the next year.

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Neil Young: ‘Trans’

If ever a rocker has valued chasing the constantly changing sounds in his head over making commercially safe career choices, it’s Neil Young.

Young, who followed up his warm, lush commercial breakthrough LP ‘Harvest’ with the abrasively dark ‘Tonight’s the Night,’ dabbles in genres like rockabilly, country and R&B as quickly as others change shirts. Even by those standards, 1982′s ‘Trans’ stands out as his most risky move; a synth-heavy semi-concept album featuring heavily processed vocals that confused many fans. Together with 1983′s ‘Everybody’s Rockin’,’ ‘Trans’ led Geffen Records to sue Young for making “unrepresentative” albums. He won, and has continued marching to his own drum regardless of the chart results to this day.

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Bob Dylan: ‘Under the Red Sky’

Much like Neil Young, the creatively restless Bob Dylan has often — and seemingly willfully — tried to shake his fans loose from time to time.

Whether he was embracing electric guitars on 1965′s ‘Bringing it All Back Home,’ country and Americana on 1967′s ‘John Wesley Harding,’ or Christianity on 1979′s ‘Slow Train Coming,’ there have been plenty of times where Dylan risked alienating his listeners. But 1990′s ‘Under the Red Sky,’ filled with nursery-rhyme level lyrics and overly slick production, was the point where many wondered if the former visionary had simply lost the trail — or worse, given up. Luckily, the singer launched another (still going) winning streak with 1997′s ‘Time Out of Mind.’

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Smashing Pumpkins: ‘Machina/The Machines of God’

According to Billy Corgan, there are numerous reasons that Smashing Pumpkins‘ 2000 would-be swan song sold fewer copies than ‘Adore,’ the divisive electronic-tinged album that came two years earlier. First, it’s a concept album whose storyline went way over people’s heads. And then there was the timing. The band was in the midst of breaking up, and the alt-rock scene was then ruled by the loud and dumb likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit.

“So the combination of those elements was a career-killer,” Corgan said in a 2006 interview. “‘Adore didn’t alienate the audience, they were just sort of like, ‘Oh, it’s not the record I want.’ [‘Machina’] alienated people.”

Corgan waited seven years to revive the Pumpkins and issue a proper follow-up, ‘Zeitgeist.’ The album divided critics, but it reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Last year’s ‘Oceana’ seemed to fare better, at least critically, and many hailed the disc as Corgan’s finest since the early ’90s.

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Weezer: ‘Pinkerton’

After the success of Weezer‘s debut, 1994′s so-called ‘Blue Album,’ Geffen execs no doubt wanted more nerdy power-pop nuggets like ‘Buddy Holly’ and ‘The Sweater Song.’ Instead, mastermind Rivers Cuomo gave them a brutally honest, emotionally fraught song cycle based on the opera ‘Madame Butterfly.’ The tunes were catchy, but Cuomo’s sexual hangups and struggles with fame weren’t exactly the stuff of Top 40 singalongs. Critics balked, the disc peaked at No. 19 and Weezer went on hiatus.

When Weezer returned in 2001, it was with another self-titled effort, this one all about pop hooks. The ‘Green Album’ kicked off an unlikely second act that continues to this day. Interestingly, Weezer’s comeback was largely due to ‘Pinkerton,’ which had grown in stature throughout the ’90s. Whether better than ‘Blue,’ it trumps anything Cuomo has released since, though the middling likes of the ‘Red Album’ and ‘Raditude’ have done little to hurt the band’s standing.

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R.E.M.: ‘Around the Sun’

R.E.M.‘s unlucky 13th album missed the U.S. Top 10 and failed to yield a hit single. For the first time since the mid-’80s, the Athens alt-rock heroes found themselves outside of the mainstream, only this time, it wasn’t because they were a cutting-edge cult act awaiting a commercial break. As guitarist Peter Buck admitted, they were tired old superstars who’d lost the plot.

“[‘Around the Sun’] just wasn’t really listenable, because it sounds like what it is, a bunch of people that are so bored with the material that they can’t stand it anymore,” Buck said in 2008, the same year the band dropped ‘Accelerate,’ the first of two back-to-basics albums that reaffirmed R.E.M.’s relevance and ended their career on a relative high note. History was always going to look kindly on the group, but ‘Around the Sun’ would have been a dim end to the story.

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U2: ‘Pop’

In the late ’90s, no flop was really going to kill U2‘s career, but ‘Pop’ was cause for concern. Following ‘Zooropa’ (1993) and ‘Achtung Baby’ (1991), the album capped a trilogy that saw these venerable stadium gods reinvent themselves as electro-rock experimentalists. The songs are built around loops, samples and the like, and while the band had made successful use of such techniques, ‘Pop’ suggested that Bono and the boys had run out of ideas and reached the end of a particular phase of their career. The public more or less agreed, and ‘Pop’ became U2′s lowest-selling disc since 1981′s ‘October.’

Having perhaps learned their lesson, U2 returned three years later with the more guitar-centric ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind.’ The album spawned four smash singles and won seven Grammys, and to date, it’s sold more than 12 million copies.

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The Clash: ‘Sandinista!’

No record better encapsulates the Clash‘s story than ‘Sandinista!’ Brilliant, infuriating, bursting with ambition yet bogged down with bad ideas, this 36-track triple LP perplexed fans and angered execs at CBS, who were strong-armed by the band into selling it for the price of a single album.

‘Sandinista!’ may have been a bargain, but it hardly flew off shelves. At a time when Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon might have become punk’s Fab Four, they went ‘White Album’ times 10, experimenting with soul, hip-hop, funk, disco, dub and even gospel, virtually ensuring there’d be no hits.

The Clash were already starting to splinter, and sessions for the follow-up, ‘Combat Rock’ (1982), proved extremely contentious. Remarkably, that album proved the band’s commercial breakthrough, and thanks to the singles ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ and ‘Rock the Casbah,’ the “Only Band That Matters” found itself on the pop charts, if only briefly.

Real Life Spinal Tap: Bands Reveal Their Most Tap-Like Moments

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(Article reprinted from Guitar World. Orginally printed July 2005)

Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Gibbons, Angus Young and more share their most insane rock-and-roll stories ever!

OZZY OSBOURNE

After watching the “Stonehenge” scene in Spinal Tap, with the midgets, and seeing Alice Cooper incorporate a hanging act into his show, I thought, Why not fake the execution of a midget onstage? The one midget actor who could free himself for an eight-month tour turned out to be an alcoholic. He showed up late; he was drunk… It got to me after a while. So one night when he wanted to get on the tour bus, I threw him into the luggage compartment. Somebody grabbed me and said, “What you’re doing is not only illegal but inhumane!” I lost it. I yelled: “He’s my fuckin’ midget and I’ll fuckin’ do what I want with him!” There was a silence, and then a small voice emerged from the luggage compartment: “He’s right: I’m his midget and he can do what he wants with me.”

Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi was a consummate practical joker, though not a very subtle one. One time, he shat in the dip sauce at some record company event. It was interesting standing there and watching the executives indulge.

In my wild years, my wife Sharon used to accompany me on tour to prevent me from committing adultery. Some nights, she waited up for me in our hotel room. One time, I was so drunk I’d forgotten all about her presence, and when a lovely Japanese girl chatted me up, I thought: Fuck me! Sex with a gorgeous Eastern girl is one of my big fantasies, so I’m not letting this one go! When we got into the hotel room, Sharon wasted no time: she decked the Japanese girl with one right hook. In the morning, I woke up alone in the bed, a bunch of Alcoholics Anonymous brochures beside me.

BILLY GIBBONS of ZZ Top

Somehow I got it in my head that it would be a good idea to get a huge stage set and “take Texas to the people.” We had a stage in the shape of the state of Texas, and a number of rattlesnakes, vultures and even a couple of buffalo onstage. It was authentic! It was disastrous. At first, everything went well: the rattlers behaved, the birds seemed to stand the noise and the buffalo grazed quietly—until one night one buffalo decided he’d had enough. He rammed two glass cages containing the snakes. Suddenly we had a dozen rattlers crawling around onstage. Our drummer suggested we play “something quiet, to soothe them”—a stupid idea, ’cause most snakes are deaf. We didn’t even attempt it. We just fled and left the roadies to minimize the damage.

ANGUS YOUNG of AC/DC

Many years ago, when Bon [Scott] was our singer, our manager had “a brilliant idea” to hire actors who would impersonate police officers and “arrest” us onstage. Unfortunately, this was carried out at a gig in Sydney [Australia], in front of hardcore AC/DC fans that started rioting as soon as “the police” came onstage. Minutes later, the real police force came in to control the riots. Unfortunately, we couldn’t distinguish the real cops from the fake ones. Bon thought he was hitting the fake cops, but he was messing with the real ones. One of the cops gave orders to his “colleagues,” who were, in reality, the actors! I just stood there laughing my head off, which the real cops didn’t appreciate. In short: total chaos ensued.

PETE TOWNSHEND of the Who

Our first drummer, Keith Moon, God rest his soul, was Spinal Tap incarnate. Most people know the story of how he drove his Rolls-Royce into a swimming pool. But on another occasion, Keith drove his car through the glass doors of a hotel and all the way up to the reception desk, got out and asked for the key to his room, all without blinking an eyelid. One time, on a plane, he poured the contents of a soup can into a paper bag, pretended to be sick in the bag and then to drink his own “vomit.” All of this in first class. The businessmen didn’t know what hit ’em.

RON WOOD of the Rolling Stones

I have fond memories of the night Mick Jagger and I went to see Marvin Gaye sing in New York. After the gig, we went to Marvin’s hotel suite, and Mick tried to impress him with his knowledge of soul music and the like. At least, that’s what Mick thought he was doing. After about an hour of this, our host said, “That’s great, but why don’t you tell that to Marvin? He’ll be here shortly.” Mick had been talking to Marvin’s brother, who wore the same kind of knitted wool cap Marvin wore.

Another fine moment was in the early Eighties. We were doing drugs in the dressing room when suddenly the tour manager stuck his head around the door and said, “The police are here!” Holy shit! We all panicked and threw our drugs in the toilet. And then Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland walked in.

TOMMY LEE of Mötley Crüe

Mötley Crüe got kicked out of several hotels for rowdy behavior. We usually deserved it, but there was one time I thought we were unjustifiably thrown out of a place. To get back at them, I put a turd on a room-service tray and placed it in a ventilator shaft, then turned the heat up. I imagine it took them a while before they’d discovered the source of that lingering smell.

KEITH RICHARDS of the Rolling Stones

When I recorded Talk Is Cheap [Richards’ 1988 solo debut], we shot a video in Los Angeles. The script called for a couple of tramps with dogs. The director felt a tramp should have a dog that was not only ugly or dirty but also weird or, at the very least, disfigured. His assistant suggested a lame dog. They called up some agency and the word came back: “We can get you a lame dog by noon. Which leg would you want missing?” These people were prepared to maim a dog for the sake of a fuckin’ video. I tell you, man, L.A. is one sick town.

 

spinal tap

Most-Used Words in Rolling Stones’ Songs

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Just one question: How can “Satisfaction” top so many lists as the greatest Rock ‘n Roll song of all time, but be only the Rolling Stones’ third-best song according to Paste?

Rolling Stones 1964 Newsreel

(Source: Open Culture)

Just four days ago, the Rolling Stones celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their first concert, which happened on July 12, 1962 at London’s Marquee club. Articles have quoted lead singer Mick Jagger as describing the crowd that evening as the kind of audience they’d expected as a band: “college students having a night out,” an “art-school kind of crowd” who “weren’t particularly demonstrative, but they appreciated and enjoyed the set.” But the Stones’ demographic would soon both shift and expand dramatically: “A few months later we were playing in front of 11 year olds who were screaming at us.” You can witness this very phenomenon in the 1964 newsreel above; perhaps all of the kids lined up outside the theater aren’t quite that young, but we’re definitely not looking at a collegiate crowd. Still, what this full house (“in fact,” the narrator says, “it could have been filled ten times over”) lacks in maturity, they make up for in raw enthusiasm.

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