6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians

Even if you love their music, often musicians are doing what they're doing only because they realized at some point in the past that making any money was going to require them to radically shift gears.
6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians

It's great to think of our favorite entertainers as people born with unique visions, destined from childhood to share them with the world. Dr. Dre was always a gangsta, damn it, and you can't bear to think of him as, say, a glam rapper in sequins who reinvented himself because it was profitable.

Yet, more often than not, that's the way it goes. Even if you love their music, often the musicians are doing what they're doing only because they realized at some point in the past that making any money was going to require them to radically shift gears. For instance ...

Lady Gaga Was a Normal-Looking Brunette Named Stefani Germanotta

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians

The Artist You Know:

If you're so far removed from society that basic pop culture knowledge like "Who is Lady Gaga?" lies outside your information wheelhouse, then probably the best we can do for you is "She's that singer with the crazy costumes who once wore a dress made of meat."

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians
"I would cry, but my eyes are already lubricated with bacon juice."

Because while her music might be popular (to the tune of 23 million albums sold in four years), her "bag lady from space" sense of style attracts the most attention. Someone with that much flair and personality was born to be on stage. She even said so in that song she stole from Madonna. She is pure packaging, all ridiculous sets and crazy hats and bullshit. Hell, the record label probably just found some out-of-work model somewhere and glued a bunch of shit to her, right?

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians
Glue fumes would explain a lot.

But if you think Lady Gaga looks crazy now, wait until you see what kind of getup she paraded around in before she was famous.

The Artist You Don't Know:

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians

Holy shit, that's Lady Gaga on that album cover! And she looks ... completely normal? Well, technically speaking, it's Stefani Germanotta, frontwoman for the aptly named Stefani Germanotta Band. Before she was showing up on red carpets in a gigantic egg, Lady Gaga was just a girl in a bar band. Yep, you read that correct. Lady Gaga was in a band, with real instruments and everything.

We understand that that flies in the face of what listeners think of as the Lady Gaga creative process, which most believe works something like this:

Step 1 -- Check email for new backing tracks from producers in Sweden

Step 2 -- Grab lyrics from songwriting software (keyword optimized to attract gay males and insecure tweens) to plug into Auto-tune machine

Step 3 -- Assemble the first 10 items within arm's reach into an outfit for the day

Step 4 -- Count money


Step 5 -- Claim you were born this way while your hairdresser puts in a 16-hour day.

Even though Red and Blue, the EP that the video posted earlier appeared on, was recorded just a few short years ago, any trace of the Stefani Germanotta who just sang over a piano was mostly gone by the time Lady Gaga's first album was released.

Depending on who you ask, the radical shift in style was the result of either a legitimate expression of creativity from a talented young artist (according to her camp), a marketing meeting (according to the New York Post) or an illicit tryst between Madonna and Ziggy Stardust 26 years ago that's finally paying dividends (according to us, just now).

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians
Iggy Pop watched.

Beastie Boys Were a Hardcore Punk Band

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians

The Band You Know:

The Beastie Boys are the biggest selling rap group since SoundScan started tracking album sales. That was in 1991, when Will Smith was just a rapper with a television show and the Beasties' legendary album Licensed to Ill was over five years old. That means most of that album's sales aren't even factored into the equation. That's quite an accomplishment.

Seeing as how the song "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)" seemed to put the Beastie Boys on the map overnight, and that they appeared to be like 15 years old, most people assume that Licensed to Ill is the band's first album.

But it's not. The Beastie Boys' first release came out long before they signed to Def Jam records and, in fact, long before they started rapping.

The Band You Don't Know:

The Beastie Boys were one of the first hardcore punk bands. Ever. They started out as a quartet in 1979, a full seven years before they captured the hearts and minds of suburban kids who discovered a form of music they knew their parents would absolutely hate. They actually formed before seminal hardcore acts like Minor Threat, Bad Religion, Husker Du and too many others to list. They even put out an EP of hardcore songs in 1982 called Polly Wog Stew.

So what prompted this completely unprecedented at the time shift in musical direction? It was a prank phone call.

The band recorded a four-track EP called Cooky Puss. The title track was built around a prank phone call Adam Horovitz made to a local ice cream shop. Somehow, this not only caught the attention of Def Jam Records co-founder Rick Rubin, but it also led him to believe that the Beastie Boys should totally start rapping.

Rubin is also God's half brother.

And that's the story of how the world started down a slippery slope that eventually ended at Limp Bizkit.

Sugar Ray Used to Be a Metal Band

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians

The Band You Know:

These days, Mark McGrath is probably more well-known for his work as a host on the entertainment tabloid show Extra than for his work as the frontman of '90s pop-rock band Sugar Ray. But during their heyday (which lasted approximately 18 months), Sugar Ray was huge. Their brief flirtation with mattering earned them two multi-platinum albums, a gold album and three Top 10 hits.

And it didn't go to their heads at all, sadly.

Their ridiculously catchy brand of pop-rock endeared Sugar Ray to legions of fans who never once questioned why such a feel-good band would have a member named "DJ Homicide" in their ranks.

The Band You Don't Know:

Sugar Ray used to fucking rock. Mind you, we don't mean "rock" in a good way, necessarily:

This video even features a clip of a mosh pit. At a Sugar Ray show. That's news that's as shocking as it is disappointing, given our tendency to use "when a mosh pit breaks out at a Sugar Ray show" as a slightly more modern twist on the classic "when pigs fly" phrase.

Even more interesting is how Sugar Ray's radical shift in style came about. The band was indulging in a little inter-band bickering during the recording of their 1997 album Floored when Mark McGrath stormed out of the studio, leaving the band with a whole bunch of nothing to do. Out of sheer boredom, they started riffing over a drum loop and, a few minutes later, had tossed together "Fly," the song that would eventually make them famous.

Of course, seeing as how they were still holding onto their dreams of being metal, "Fly" stuck out like a sore thumb as the only pop-rock tune on an album full of aggressive rock songs, leaving fans who purchased the album (people still did that back then) wondering why that dreamy guy from that band with the pool in their video was screaming at them.

Sugar Ray would address this concern by cashing in and doing absolutely nothing hardcore for the remainder of their time as a band.

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians
Five seconds later Christina was wearing a nun's habit.

Vampire Weekend Used to Be a Rap Group


The Band You Know:

Vampire Weekend is one of those bands that people like to hold up as an example of why an entire segment of the American population sucks. In this case, let someone rant about trust fund hipsters for more than 30 seconds, and you will hear this band's name. You can attribute that to lead singer Ezra Koenig and company's conscious decision to appear in public looking like this ...

Us lek r JOParr GODIV trney
The sweater is the lead singer.

They also have a member whose name is basically Batman, and they named one of their albums Contra, inspired by the classic NES game that popularized the most famous cheat code in gaming history. So how bad can they really be?

Hint: The code will not make slightly puzzled women appear at your door.

Besides, if you think you hate them now, just wait until you see what kind of band they were before they set Paul Simon's music to a Tommy Hilfiger ad and found success.

The Band You Don't Know:

Vampire Weekend began as what could have developed into one of the worst rap groups of all time. They were called L'Homme Run and they made absurd songs like this one.

It's a song about ordering pizza. It's called "Pizza Party." The band members were enrolled in an Ivy League school when they recorded it.

Shockingly, the project stalled because people just flat out refused to believe that the entire thing wasn't one big joke. Koenig bemoaned this fact in an interview, saying, "It was hard for me to take seriously because no one else would take it seriously."

That's probably because they took "promotional" photos that looked like this:

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians
If the Taliban shopped at J. Crew.

It's easy to see why, to this day, people still don't believe that L'Homme Run was an entirely ironic act. But the band has evidence on their side. In 2010, Vampire Weekend had a hit with a swinging tune called "Giving Up the Gun," a song they promoted with a slick video that awesomely featured the Wu-Tang Clan's RZA as a tennis umpire.

But fans with lower standards who have been following the band since their "rap" days will recognize that single as nothing more than a reworking of a song by L'Homme Run called "Giving Up Da Gun."

You can tell that's the rap version because they substituted "the" with "da." That's how you do it in the streets. Other than that, the songs are damn near identical. If Vampire Weekend cared enough about this holdover from the L'Homme Run days to rework it and release it as a single, how much of a joke could that shitty rap group have really been?

Kenny Rogers Was a Hippie

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians

The Artist You Know:

Kenny Rogers is kind of a walking punchline these days on account of his "plastic surgery gone horribly awry" good looks, but don't let the fact that his face is pulled way too tightly against the surface of his skull discount the man's legacy. Kenny Rogers is nothing short of a stone cold country legend. If you respect him for no other reason, you at least must respect "The Gambler."

Keep his music close to your heart, because it will soon be all we have left of this long-standing country music icon. We're not speaking of his inevitable mortality, mind you, but rather the fact that there is only one Kenny Rogers Roasters left in the nation ...

But it's bizarrely popular in East Asia.

Kenny Rogers' accomplishments in the fields of country music and healthier fast food options have left such an impact on people that nobody even remembers that Kenny Rogers was on a path that went nowhere near Nashville when his career started.

The Artist You Don't Know:

Kenny Rogers was a dirty hippie. Before he made cowgirl panties drop for a living, K-Rog was the lead singer of a psychedelic band called the First Edition. Here's a screenshot of a First Edition television performance that features Kenny Rogers sitting on a gigantic psychedelic silhouette of a cock and balls.

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians
Like the man said, you gotta know when to hold 'em.

Clearly, the First Edition was a pretty groovy bunch. That screenshot is taken from a performance of a song called "Just Dropped In." It begins with a backward guitar loop and was used in a dream sequence in the movie The Big Lebowski.

And when Kenny Rogers isn't sitting on that tie-dyed schlong, he and the rest of the band are rocking out on a gigantic bed, because acid is the shit.

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians

So what led Kenny Rogers to make the switch from Born on the Fourth of July to "God Bless the USA"? It was pretty simple. Guitarist Mike Settle wrote a country-ish tune called "But You Know I Love You" that turned out to be a hit for the band. They immediately made the switch to all country all the time, leaving Kenny Rogers with a massive country fan base at his disposal with which to pursue a solo career. And that's too bad, because going back to his roots and releasing his version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band upon going it alone is a twist in the Kenny Rogers saga that we're sad we never got to see.

Parliament Funkadelic Was a Doo-Wop Group

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians

The Band You Know:

If you've somehow made it this far in your life without hearing Parliament Funkadelic, this video should tell you everything you need to know.

If our analysis of the technology depicted here is accurate ...

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians

... this scene depicts the exact moment when the funk returned to the earth. That's what kind of band Parliament Funkadelic was. There was a guy in the band whose costume was nothing but an adult sized diaper, and he was the one who looked the most normal in the bunch.

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians
"Hey, we got some giant novelty glasses from the dollar store, who wants--" "Ooh, me!"

What a pack of weirdos, right? Can you imagine what they must have looked like back when they were younger and even more prone to questionable fashion decisions?

The Band You Don't Know:

Whoa, guys! Dial it back a bit. Bow ties are the devil's necklaces.

Whoa, looks like somebody gave up the funk! Or more accurately, someone had not yet found the funk. Or the funk hadn't, like, descended from the skies or whatever. You get the gist. Anyway, what you're looking at is Parliament Funkadelic back when they were just a doo-wop group called the Parliaments. Back then, they were less about the funk and more about your right to live life on the straight and narrow.

That song is called "Poor Willie," and it tells the story of the band playing the "I told you so" role when some guy named Willie's hard living ways lead to a bad outcome. Man, that's just not funky at all. That's more like funk's less fun but more responsible cousin who won't stop telling funk that they can't party forever and need to just grow up already.

There isn't even a hint of the band that would eventually emerge, and it stayed that way for around a decade, until George Clinton realized that doo-wop was on its way out and the band needed to switch their sound. They adopted a funk persona and started adding musicians at a rate that would overwhelm even the likes of Earth, Wind and Fire or MC Hammer's traveling band of leeches from the early '90s.

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians
"Collins, grab a tramp and throw some glitter on him. We need more tie-dye."

In no time at all, they were making songs like "Maggot Brain" and influencing scores of rappers for decades to come, most notably Flavor Flav, who adopted not only George Clinton's outlandish fashion sense, but also his mastery of the art of the arrest for crack cocaine possession.

6 Mind-Blowing Early Music Careers of Famous Musicians
The face of a man who has never touched a drug in his life.

But damn if those maniacs don't come from a couple of great bands.

You can follow Daniel on Twitter, if you're into that sort of thing.

For more people whose former selves you may not recognize, check out 5 Celebrity Careers Launched by Ethnic Makeovers and 5 Artistic Geniuses Who Only Became Great After Selling Out.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The Surprisingly Dark Origin Story of Chuck E. Cheese.

And stop by LinkSTORM to discover what Brockway looked like before he grew the beard.

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