Remember a few years ago when the band Queen tried to make a comeback tour with the guy from Free singing "We Are the Champions" instead of Freddie Mercury? Yeah, me neither, and a quick look in my wallet tells me I actually went to one of those concerts. Why couldn't they just disappear quietly, like the Doors after Jim Morrison died, or so many other great bands that chose a dignified end and a return to normal life over one last desperate attempt to cash in on their once great name? Probably because those bands you're thinking of didn't do it either -- they just failed so miserably that no one knows they even tried. For example ...
#4. The Doors (Without Jim Morrison)
Jim Morrison died on July 3, 1971, and as far as 99 percent of the record-buying public is concerned, the other three members of the Doors might as well have dropped dead on that day, too. It's a little-known fact that they didn't, and that in October of the same year they released this:
"We've grieved for three months, so now it's time to release the album we recorded while grieving."
The best thing you can say about that album is that it isn't shy about the fact that Jim Morrison isn't on it: It's called Other Voices, they left a white space on the cover where Jim's giant face would normally overshadow the other ones, and all songs are credited to "Sure as Fuck Not Jim Morrison" (probably; I lost my official CD release because it doesn't exist). Now, a lot of people will tell you that Jim Morrison was the Doors, but I disagree -- Ray Manzarek's funky keyboards, Robby Krieger's bluesy guitar, and John Densmore's hypnotic drums were all big reasons why the band made it big. An even bigger reason, however, was this:
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None of the other members (ahem) could rock a pair of leather trousers like Jim did, so the whole enterprise was doomed from the beginning. It also didn't help that Krieger seemed determined to invite unflattering comparisons by singing in a low Morrison-esque voice on the track "Ship With Sails," only to shatter the illusion 10 seconds later when he tries to take a higher tone and reminds you that he's actually a guitarist. There are moments of brilliance, like Manzarek going nuts on the keyboards on "Tightrope Ride," but the band just didn't get the same results without Morrison passed out in a pool of his own vomit in a corner of the studio. (Plus, Morrison was an incredibly talented songwriter, vocalist, and showman, so I guess that made a difference, too.)
Somehow, Other Voices led to a second post-Morrison album called Full Circle the next year, which included one hit, the racist-delic "No Me Moleste Mosquito":
And by "hit," I mean it peaked at 85 on the pop charts. After that, the Surviving Doors realized the band clearly wasn't working out without Morrison and the dignified thing would be to call it quits ... so they literally grabbed a bunch of Jim's poems and put music to them, then used stock footage of him in the video clip:
Oh yeah, that's more like it.
#3. The Spiders from Mars (Without Ziggy Stardust)
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The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie is objectively one of the greatest albums ever recorded, and if you don't think so you are objectively one of the worst people ever born. It's so good that Bowie could have continued milking his androgynous alien-rocker persona for the rest of his career (Ziggy Stardust could have been the feisty female judge on American Idol or something), but instead he got bored after one more album and started doing something else. His backing band, however, wasn't so eager to move on.
He didn't spend six months cultivating those sweet sideburns for nothing.
You see, when Bowie announced at the end of a concert that he was breaking up the Spiders from Mars, the other band members were understandably miffed. Nobody had told them the band was over, and for a while Bowie's bassist and drummer (as in the two band members you're least likely to notice, and I mean that in every sense) kept playing under that name. Without Bowie's participation, blessing, slightest bit of input, or possibly knowledge. Bowie was kind of busy waging a mystic war with Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin at the time, anyway.
Even the Spiders' fantastic guitarist Mick "Permanent Orgasm Face" Ronson deserted them, since he'd gone on to record two undeservedly obscure solo albums. The album that the bassist and drummer recorded (simply titled The Spiders from Mars) is obscure, too, but with good reason.
This is the equivalent of doing a spinoff sitcom called And a Half Men.
There are only two songs from this record on YouTube, and I don't mean there are two songs with several videos each; I mean literally only two people in the world thought there was something on this album worth sharing. I'll remind you now that even the Yoko Ono tracks from John Lennon's albums have been uploaded to YouTube multiple times. Both songs are Bowie-ish glam rock numbers, which is especially sad when you consider that they came out in 1976, by which point the world had already discovered disco and punk. Bowie himself had gone through three separate music styles by then.
Are you ready for the saddest epilogue ever? After this album failed, Bowie's former bandmates ended up playing in a Bowie cover band in the late '90s, covering the same songs they recorded in the first place. Hopefully the bowl of nachos the club owner paid them with at least had cheese in it.