Login or Register

Sign in with Facebook

Wouldn't it be great if we could reinvent ourselves every few years? Just totally discard our old persona and start fresh with a new look and attitude? Sadly, that's the sort of thing that only famous musicians are allowed to pull off.

But holy crap, do they take advantage of it -- as we've discussed a few times before, if you dig into the past of almost any famous artist, you'll find something radically, hilariously different from what they became famous for. For example ...

5Michael Bolton Was in an '80s Hair Metal Band

Sony BMG Music Entertainment

The Artist You Know:

Michael Bolton has enjoyed a long career of making inoffensive soft-rock ballads for middle-aged white people. He co-wrote chart-topping adult contemporary hits with Cher and Laura Branigan before going on to win a Grammy for doing a karaoke version of a powerful R&B hit from the 1960s, because the best way to make a chart-topping single is to redo a song that already topped the charts 30 years ago.

Sony/Columbia
In his defense, you cannot argue with that logic.

In general, Michael Bolton has become a pop culture punchline for producing music that your grandma complains about because it doesn't rock hard enough.

The Artist You Don't Know:

If you actually clicked that link and listened to Bolton's music, you probably noticed two things:

1. Your soul being violently expelled from your body once the sound of his dull, lifeless saxophone filled the room.

2. Michael Bolton is actually a pretty strong singer.

Bolton's got some real vocal power, way more than his watered-down elevator music requires. So why doesn't he use it to rock the world's face off? The answer is he already tried that, and nobody cared.

Sony BMG Music Entertainment
We can't imagine why.

Bolton tried his hand at hair metal in the mid-'80s, and the end result sounds a lot like Sammy Hagar and Whitesnake in a shouting match over a fender bender in a Chili's parking lot. It's certainly not any worse than the rest of the music in the genre at the time, and he actually made the sort-of bold decision not to go full glam like the majority of the other bands we inexplicably decided to call "metal" in the 1980s.

Bolton's video for his song "Everybody's Crazy" even has a bit of an edge to it, in spite of the stout layer of cheese that he apparently cannot resist, with images of nuclear war and women having bracing freak-outs over venomous snakes. None of that stuff made the cut for his Grammy-winning video six years later.

Youtube
When a mamba loves a woman.

And it's not like this was some brief rebellious phase in Bolton's life -- he actually debuted 10 years before that, back in 1975, singing lead for the band Blackjack under his real name, Michael Bolotin.

Polydor Records
After the "O" was dropped, it went on to a successful career as a studio bassist.

As hard as it is to imagine, Blackjack was an actual rock band with an actual rock sound. They even opened for Ozzy Osbourne, back when that was a badge of hard-rocking counterculture credibility and not an act of charity for old, confused men. Sadly, that gig didn't translate into sales, and the band broke up after just two years. So Bolton tooled around on his own for a while (see: "poofy-haired quasi-rock," above) before writing the easy-listening hit "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," which made him all of the money in the universe and forever determined his career path from that point on.

Columbia Records
Everyone's crazy but you, Michael.

And for another group who followed the same career path ...

4The Goo Goo Dolls Was a Punk Band Called the Sex Maggots

Youtube

The Band You Know:

Since the late '90s, Johnny Rzeznik and his band the Goo Goo Dolls have been crafting bittersweet, edgeless pop-rock ballads about the tragedy of love and relationships, and the grown men who can't stop whining about them all the time. Their biggest hit was the theme song from that movie where Nicolas Cage plays an angel and Meg Ryan gets hit by a bus, which is another way of saying that their music is about as antiseptic as alternative rock can get.

Sesame Workshop
"Appearing with you is totally killing my street cred." -Elmo

The Band You Don't Know:

Rzeznik originally dubbed his band the Sex Maggots, presumably because he and his bandmates looked like they would have no trouble molesting a dead body.

They quickly changed their name to Goo Goo Dolls after an offended promoter refused to book them, because apparently Rzeznik is only capable of choosing names at completely opposite ends of the terribleness spectrum. "Sex Maggots" fit the band perfectly, however, because long before radio-friendly pop songs like "Slide" and "Name" made them famous, the Goo Goo Dolls were loud, obnoxious, filthy, drunken punks who would probably club you to death with a log of petrified shit if you told them they would one day provide the weepy hit single for a melodramatic Nicolas Cage movie:

You may have noticed that the singer sounds a little less refined than the Goo Goo Dolls of Top 40 fame. That's because for the first few years of the band's existence, the Dolls' bassist, Robby Takac, handled incomprehensible yelling duties. His voice -- shrill, harsh, and pissed off at everything -- suited the band perfectly at the time, considering that even when recorded, they sounded only slightly more put-together than the Misfits.

The Siboney Club
Bragging about seeing them in '87 without a visual aid will guarantee that your
kids call you extra-lame. And your co-workers. And your parents. And-

Rzeznik gradually took over singing, and his decidedly more radio-friendly voice inched the band ever closer to the mainstream. Then one day, while randomly fiddling with his guitar's tuning, he stumbled onto the sound that eventually became "Name," the acoustic ballad that was the band's first mainstream hit. That's like if Jimi Hendrix's many experiments with distortion had accidentally turned him into Dashboard Confessional.

via squarezeros.com
Shockingly, middle-class suburban girls didn't swoon while being gently serenaded
with "Don't Beat My Ass (with a Baseball Bat)."

3Bon Scott of AC/DC Sang Bubblegum Pop

Clarion Records

The Artist You Know:

Bon Scott was the much-loved original singer of AC/DC -- to this day, 35 years after his death, fans still refer to the howling cab driver they hired to replace him as "the new guy."

Scott brought a loud, crazy, frantic, and overtly sexual energy to the group, not to mention an 8-year-old's sense of humor. He also played the bagpipes and dared anyone to tell him they weren't awesome, which of course nobody did because they totally were.

Channel Nine
If he had lived, we like to think "rock-and-roll pan flute" was next on his bucket list.

The Artist You Don't Know:

Clarion Records
"My old man's got big balls, too."

That's Bon Scott, the impish, sex-crazed frontman of AC/DC, on the right, wearing a cardigan sweater and an "I'm taking your daughter out for milkshakes after church" haircut. It's a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll, but apparently at least part of that journey takes you right through Bubblegum Pop Land. Scott's band was called the Valentines, and they were precisely as loud and hardcore as that picture suggests. Here they are performing a version of "Build Me Up Buttercup" that is somehow even less threatening than the breezy Foundations original:

In this song, Scott quietly sings backup for the band's other lead singer, the aptly named Vince Lovegrove, and doesn't do much else aside from awkwardly dance with all the enthusiasm of a hostage in a snuff film.

Scott sings lead in the Valentines' "Every Day I Have to Cry," which is a song about how his girlfriend doesn't love him anymore, and the only solution is to cry absolutely all of the time about it:

As it turns out, endless tears, corny dancing, and calling your dad a "groovy old man" were not really what young people wanted to listen to, so the Valentines didn't last long.

Clarion Records
None of these men look proud of what they were doing.

Scott eventually found his raunchy punk-rock spirit with AC/DC, while Lovegrove went on to manage the Divinyls, a band whose one hit, "I Touch Myself," was ironically every bit as explicit as anything Scott ever sang about.

smh.com.au
"And we shall immortalize him with a giant bronzed bulge."

2The Bee Gees Was a Kid Band Doing Acoustic Pop Songs

Leedon Records

The Band You Know:

The falsetto princes of disco known as the Bee Gees are responsible for the only songs from that period of musical history that anyone will actually admit to liking. They are also largely responsible for the career of John Travolta, a fact that is presented here without comment.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Band You Don't Know:

Before they grew their face and chest beards out and donned golden jackets infused with the spirit of jaunty dancing, the Bee Gees (or rather the Bee Gee's, for some tragic reason) played Happy Days-style pop ballads while looking like three teenagers selling candy bars to pay for the senior prom.

Leedon Records
Robin Gibb looks like Martin Short playing Robin Gibb in a Saturday Night Live sketch.

The Brothers Gibb started recording way back in 1958, when they were more or less the baby boomer equivalent of Hanson. They spent the intervening 20 years between Buddy Holly and roller skating dance clubs crooning about girls over folksy acoustic guitar arrangements, Barry singing lead, while his two child-laborer brothers provided the backing chorus.

Leedon Records
Luckily, they were skilled enough to take the lead whenever Barry got too embarrassed to continue.

The music isn't necessarily bad (the three brothers could sing, after all), but it is easily some of the blandest music ever recorded, an observation that is supported by virtually every photograph taken of the Bee Gees during that stage of their career.

Leedon Records
"Part of me wants to rip this suit open and expose my rippling, hairy man chest,
but what are the odds of anyone enjoying that?"

Getting older and hitting reverse puberty is unquestionably the best career decision they ever made.

1Rick James Fronted a 1960s Garage Band With Neil Young (While Hiding from the U.S. Navy)

David Brady Productions

The Artist You Know:

Depending on who you talk to, Rick James was either the legendarily eccentric funk musician responsible for classics like "You and I" and "Superfreak" (the latter being the accidental reason MC Hammer got to have a career) or the subject of an overblown meme that you didn't even realize was a real person.

Universal Music Group
This is an unflinching documentation of reality.

The Artist You Don't Know:

Rick James' first job in the music business came in 1964, singing for a Canadian garage band called the Mynah Birds when he was 15 years old. Back then, he was known as Ricky James Matthews, and he looked like about as much of a troublemaker as your ninth grade class president. Also counted among the Mynah Birds' lineup was a young Neil Young, which sounds stupid when you say it like that. So, yeah. Rick James was in a band with Neil Young.

Tom Morgan
Neil and the other guitarist look like they forgot they hired Rick, and the bass player looks like he's having an exorcism.

The Mynah Birds don't sound a thing like James' future output, either, with jangly guitars and Beatles-esque harmonies on their planned debut single, "It's My Time":

The band was actually on the fast track to success, with a fat Motown contract and a debut album on the horizon, when Rick James got into serious trouble, an activity he would later make into a secondary career. The thing was, everything he told both Motown and his bandmates about himself was a lie. First of all, his name wasn't Ricky James Matthews. It wasn't even Rick James -- his name was James Johnson, and he was an American hiding out in Canada after deserting from the U.S. Navy. The military, famous for not having a sense of humor about anything, threw James in jail for a year, and the Mynah Birds' album was indefinitely shelved ("It's My Time" didn't finally see an official release until 2006, two years after Rick James' death).

David Brady Productions
"Are we SURE the military won't come after a dead guy? 100 percent positive? OK, fine, let's do this."

Obviously, both Rick and Neil Young recovered from the failure of the Mynah Birds to become wildly disparate musical icons, though they continued to share a common love for cocaine throughout the '70s and '80s.

Jay Telfer
The Cinnamon Girl wasn't carrying around cinnamon, is all we're saying.


Hossey is currently writing his mother's favorite fantasy serial and blog. He also tweets from his girlfriend's favorite Twitter account.

Related Reading: There's all sorts of interesting crap going on in celebrity lives before they got famous. If you do some digging, you'll find that George Romero and Mr. Rogers were buddies. And that James Lipton came up with the theme to ThunderCats. Or you'd know that the incredibly awesome Bill Murray once told Chevy Chase off before kicking his ass.

The world never got a Neil Young / Rick James buddy cop comedy, but they had a band together, and you should click the Facebook share button below so the Internet will never forget it.

To turn on reply notifications, click here

359 Comments

Load Comments