#2. Alice Cooper (Without Alice Cooper)
Most of you probably know the story of how the lead singer of '70s rock band Alice Cooper, originally called Vincent Furnier, legally changed his name to Alice Cooper just to be able to continue releasing albums under that title after splitting with the band. (Lucky for him that he wasn't the singer of Anal Cunt.) Less people know what happened to the other original Alice Cooper members after their founder, leader, main songwriter, and driving force bailed on them, but if you've made it this far into this article, you can probably take a guess -- yep, not only did they keep the band together for a while, but they did so under the name of Cooper's best-selling album to that point, Billion Dollar Babies.
If this was meant as a "fuck you" to their old pal, a better name would have been "Vincent Furnier."
Apparently, the B-Babies (as their fans would call them, if they had any) started recording their new album, Battle Axe, under the hope that Cooper would reconsider his decision and come back to reform the group. After Cooper's first solo outing made a godzillion dollars and propelled him to megastardom, it became clear that this was never gonna happen. So, they released Battle Axe themselves and launched an ambitious tour that would make Cooper's shows look like kindergarten Mother's Day recitals.
Or at least that was the original idea. The problem was that the band had seriously underestimated their dependence on their most talented member -- while Billion Dollar Babies (the album with Cooper) was a layered, atmospheric work that touched on ghastly subjects like necrophilia, sexual harassment, and dentistry, Billion Dollar Babies (the band without Cooper) only seemed capable of producing shitty, generic rock, and the '70s was already well provided on that front.
The album was so bad that, if you tried to play it on a turntable, the needle would literally come flying off the vinyl -- it probably took a while before anyone realized that this wasn't an act of protest on the part of your music equipment but a mastering error with the LP. The record had to be recalled, and by the time the error was fixed, no one gave a shit anymore, if they ever did. The Billion Dollar Babies suspended their tour and broke up after only four live shows, having collected considerably less money than the goal stated in their name.
There, that's a more accurate name. Zing, motherfuckers.
#1. The Velvet Underground (Without Everyone)
Bands replace members all the time (Pearl Jam has had more drummers than songs), but usually you have one or two guys who stick around for pretty much every incarnation, like Axl Rose in Guns N' Roses or Tommy in the Power Rangers. Otherwise, what's the point of even keeping the original name anymore? Money. Money is the point, and that's why, when the manager of the legendary Velvet Underground found himself without a Velvet Underground, he said "Fuck it," released another album anyway, and shamelessly called it Squeeze.
The inside art is all pictures of him laughing heartily.
The Velvet Underground formed in the mid-'60s. By 1971, however, all of the band's founders had left one by one; the closest thing to an original member was Doug Yule, the guy brought in two albums earlier to replace John Cale. Yule was probably getting ready to pack up his stuff and move back with his parents when the band's manager, Steve Sesnick, told him he'd somehow scored a deal for one more record, despite the whole "everyone left" thing. Hilariously, the original drummer, Maureen Tucker, was technically still in the band at this point, but Sesnick sent her home as a cost-cutting measure.
"Hey, Steve, I ran into friends and we'll play on the album for 50."
"Do I look like I'm made of money?!"
As a result of the manager's cartoonish cheapness, Yule ended up playing most of the instruments himself, on top of writing and producing the album. At some point he seems to have forgotten he was supposed to be imitating the Velvet Underground and not that other '60s band with Lennon and McCartney in it, judging by some of the songs:
Squeeze bombed, of course, and has been called "an embarrassment to the VU discography" by the official liner notes of a VU box set (which intentionally left it out). Yule found a better use for his musical talents by becoming a carpenter, until he got another call from Sesnick: "Do you want to go to England as the Velvet Underground?" Yule said sure and jumped on a plane to London with an improvised new band ... but there was no one to meet them there. Sesnick apparently took off with the dozens of dollars he'd made from the last album and left Yule stranded in another country with no money or hotel.
It was at this point that Yule thought, "You know what, it might be time to call it quits." And that's how one of the most influential bands in the 20th century ended.
Still more dignified than the fate of Guns N' Roses.