The 4 Most Depressing Unknown Final Chapters of Famous Bands
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 ...
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:
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.
The Spiders from Mars (Without Ziggy Stardust)
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.
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.
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.