Who Cares About Original Members?

Recently Dee Snider came under some criticism for taking a jab (on Twitter, the 21st Century’s favorite platform to discuss inane bullshit) at Douglas Aldrich, ex guitarist of Whitesnake. The reason for Snider’s jab was that Aldrich was credited in some billboard as having been a member Whitesnake, which Snider apparently felt was a terrible thing to do. This because Aldrich was not an original member of the band. Snider felt that Aldrich didn’t really deserve to claim Whitesnake as his former band, since he had played no role in bringing it to its current status of famous yet irrelevant revival band nobody really gives a fuck about (OK, that last part is my addition but, honestly, hair metal was shit back when the members of Whitesnake were young, so imagine how shitty it is when they all look like they’re made of leather).

Snider‘s criticism, which he also leveled against Kiss (for having Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer donning the makeup of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss respectively), are not a unique thing. They echo a very common view among metal fans who look at original lineups as some king of holy trinity (or whatever number applies) that should never be altered. It’s an obsession that often borders on fetishism, and which many times does not seem to follow any rational reasoning.

The case of Kiss (a band I think should just be euthanized) is a good example. People continue to obsess over their original line-up as a sacrosanct object, even though it has long been relegated to the pages of history. The fact that two new members are allowed to use the (I guess divine) make-up of “Catman” and the “Spaceman” has pissed people off for years, and it seems to be like there’s no end in sight.

But who gives a fuck?

As much as the original members of a band might have allowed to catapult them to fame, this says nothing about what the band is capable of now. This is particularly true when it comes to bands like Kiss, Whitesnake, Motley Crue and, yes, Twisted Sister, who although continue to release new albums by  inertia, they have transformed into glorified revival bands (thankfully Twisted Sister stopped their studio efforts with the atrocious A Twisted Christmas). Obsessing over the original members of bands whose writing days are over is like being fixated on the original dog who played Lassie… even though, just like with these bands, replacing the bitches does not at all alter the already decaying quality of the performance.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are certain essential elements to a band that you simply can’t remove. It’s hard to imagine Metallica without James Hetfield, AC/DC without Angus Young or Slayer without Tom Araya; but there are also people who even though didn’t join the band in their origins, managed to leave a mark. For many the idea of Iron Maiden without Bruce DickinsonGorgoroth without Gaahl or Stratovarius without Timo Kotipelto seems impossible. And yet, they are all late additions to an already working machine.

This all comes from the weird entitlement that metal fans (myself included) often develop for the bands they follow. People sent death threats to Anette Olzon when she replaced Tarja Turunen in Nightwish, to Timo Tolkki when Stratovarius went through line-up changes, and to basically any band that, for whatever reason, has made an impact on someone’s life and which decided to go a different way. We feel that we own the band, and that therefore they don’t really have a right to change their sound or their line-up, because, well, they are ours. The fact that this makes absolutely no sense doesn’t change the fact that it does happen a lot.

It’s important to be able to enjoy the work that talented artists put out during their careers. They deserve recognition for what they do. But in the end, it’s important to realize that as much love as we might feel for them and their work, we don’t own them. It’s up to them to decide what they do, just like it’s our right to decide that their new output might just be shit.

I mean, at the end of the day, if you are spending a big part of your waking hours thinking about what 40-something year old guy is painted like a fucking cat, it might be time to re-check your priorities.

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Vassago Gamori
Vassago Gamori

Anyone dismissive of latter day Alice in Chains due to absence of the dead junkie are missing out on some of their best work.

[Without the dead junkie, they are Alice un Chained]