Sometimes great bands break up. It's sad, but it happens. Usually, though, the loss of a great band just means that the same people you love as a team will be making music alone now. That really shouldn't be a problem, right? If you're a great musician in a great band, it stands to reason that you'll carry on the tradition and make great solo albums.
In a perfect world, that's exactly what should happen. It doesn't, though. More often than not, when the creative force behind a band branches out on his own, the end result leaves you longing for the days when he had a few extra people around to share the work.
Here are four great singers who should never have gone solo.
#4. David Lee Roth
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When David Lee Roth left Van Halen in 1985, it would have been understandable if people didn't have the highest of expectations. After all, singing, lyric writing, and choreographing the karate kicks and other assorted rock moves were the only things on Diamond Dave's to-do list during his run as the band's frontman. There were signs that solo Dave was going to be unusually bad times before he even left, though.
Why is he wearing a scarf if it's so hot?
That's Crazy from the Heat, an objectively terrible EP released not long before DLR split. It consists mostly of covers, including a painful take on the Beach Boys' "California Girls" that made David Lee Roth an even bigger star than he already was, but only because it had a neat video. Everybody hates the song, and now you can, too:
His first proper solo album, Eat 'Em and Smile, was more in line with what fans had come to expect in that it was mostly rock music featuring an incredibly talented lead guitarist. Unfortunately, that lead guitarist was Steve Vai, who's basically Eddie Van Halen minus the substance abuse problems and personality. So it wasn't quite the same, and the difference is enough that if you remember any David Lee Roth solo song that isn't "Just Like Paradise" or some lounge music bullshit like this ...
... congratulations on being a huge Van Halen fan. The rest of us still don't give a shit. Van Halen was a bit like the ingredients in a McDonald's cheeseburger. As a group, they're delicious. Individually, they're practically worthless. And David Lee Roth was the dehydrated onions on that terrible cheeseburger, a unique ingredient that might look ridiculous but somehow brings forth the best flavors from the rest of the ensemble.
That was a pretty great comparison. Anyway, the crimes of David Lee Roth's solo career are rendered even more heinous because of what it cleared the way for. That, of course, being the "Van Hagar" years, in which poodle-haired tequila salesman Sammy Hagar led Van Halen through the recording of what amounted to a decade-long Pepsi commercial.
#3. Paul Westerberg
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The Replacements is one of those bands that you either know or confuse with a Keanu Reeves movie about football, there's not much middle ground. If you fall into the latter group, I dunno, try to know more stuff next time I decide to write an article like this. Everyone else, keep reading.
Oh, hey, there aren't a lot of you left. I probably could've just run this entry by each of you face to face and spent as much time as I will writing it. Anyway, the Replacements were always kind of like two different bands. One was loud and fast and made songs like this:
The other cranked out some of the prettiest melodies a band with a penchant for letting their stage shows devolve into a series of drunken Tom Petty covers could ever hope to, like this:
On their earlier records, the ratio skewed heavily in favor of loud and fast, but with each ensuing album, the less-raucous moments became more and more frequent. And then, something tragic happened -- the Replacements signed a deal with a major record label.
Oh! And founding member and lead guitarist Bob Stinson died. It's unclear which of those events was the true catalyst, but something about the Replacements changed. I put that in italics because I don't know how to express the true gravity of the situation any other way, short of using "chiller" font. But man, they really changed. Hopefully you listened to at least one of those videos posted earlier in this entry. If not, here's another one for comparison purposes, thanks again for not participating:
Those who are playing along will note how absolutely not rocking that song is, but for some reason, seemingly overnight, that's just how the Replacements sounded. Like a band that really wanted to be on the radio. The album that song comes from is called Don't Tell a Soul, and here's how awful it is: I bought the CD used, only to discover that the inside of the CD cover was signed by bassist Tommy Stinson, and even that didn't stop me from selling it back a few weeks later. It's not even "accidental souvenir" good, whatever the fuck that means.
The next album, All Shook Down, was even worse, even though Rolling Stone famously lavished it with mountains of undeserved praise. But who reads Rolling Stone anyway, am I right? Hopefully nobody looking for an honest opinion of the Replacements' final album.
That wasn't much of a joke, huh?
Now, since he was the main songwriter, it stands to reason that Paul Westerberg should have made the jump from being in a band to being a solo artist without too much hassle. So why in the hell was that not the case? Granted, his stuff on the Singles soundtrack is fantastic if that's the kind of thing you're into. But the proper solo album that followed, 14 Songs, was as boringly songed as it was boringly titled. Basically, it sounds exactly like that last terrible Replacements album. So guess who was the problem there?
It took a long time for Paul Westerberg to finally hit a bit of a groove as a solo artist, and we're talking like a decade or so. And even then, he had to do it under the goofy name of Grandpaboy or some shit. You might as well just get a day job if you're going to humiliate yourself like that.