Musical Purity and Odd Histories

by John Holbo on September 10, 2014

I have two ideas for rock books I’m never going to write: first, a book about band members of famous bands who apparently don’t really love their own band. You’re the drummer for a heavy metal outfit (it pays the bills!) … but you prefer big band.

Second idea: members of cult bands with surprising musical biographies. Two examples I recently stumbled across.

First, I hadn’t realized Topper Headon (the Clash) played for Mirkwood, which, during that period, was opening for acts like Supertramp. There’s more strayed prog in the roots of punk than you might think.

Second, I was surprised to learn that Annie “St. Vincent” Clark’s unique guitar style owes a lot to her uncle, Tuck Andress, of Tuck and Patty. I never would have guessed that one.

This sort of poking about is inherently fun, also a healthy challenge to purity fetishes that may accumulate around cult musical acts. It seems natural that the musical ‘personalities’ of band members should exemplify that band’s sound. How could a member of the Clash – ‘The Only Band That Matters!’ – have, a few years earlier, wanted to play in a band that could open for Supertramp?

Most musicians in most bands could probably, quite easily, have ended up playing for quite different bands, if it had fallen out that way.

There have always been dark rumors that Charlie Watts only likes jazz. But I don’t suppose even Keith Richards just listens to Rolling Stones albums all day – or old Chuck Berry albums.



phenomenal cat 09.10.14 at 2:18 am

Richards is something of a jazz head too.


godoggo 09.10.14 at 2:20 am

I read that prior to Fear, Lee Ving had a band with Don Grolnick, best known for his association with Michael Brecker. He decided that he liked the energy of punk audiences, so he hired some session cats, dressed them up punk rock, and that was Fear.


js. 09.10.14 at 2:52 am

Does the fact that early T. Rex (when they were called Tyrannosaurus Rex) is weird hippie folk shit fit, or is that too obvious? (Bowie’s obviously too obvious, and doesn’t fit.) But the roots of glam in hippie folk are kinda weird, much like prog and punk.


ianma 09.10.14 at 3:11 am

I tend to think replacement members get a pass on the “purity test”. Headon seems like a perfect example of this. My understanding is that it was always a known fact to Clash fans that he was the outsider in the band.

If you watch The Clash: Westway to the World, Headon more or less says he had no love for punk, but Joe Strummer wanted to make music that required a good drummer, and Topper Headon was that guy until his heroin problem. Once you have a good thing going, you just look to bring in anyone who fits your music needs and then fire them once they don’t. Firing Mick Jones was an outrage, while firing Headon was a shrug.


floopmeister 09.10.14 at 3:56 am

Second idea: members of cult bands with surprising musical biographies

How could you miss the shining Australian example? (No getting off Scott free!)


dn 09.10.14 at 4:24 am

John Entwistle of the Who was a classical-music kind of guy. He and Townshend also played in a trad jazz band before they became rock ‘n’ rollers (on trumpet and banjo, respectively). Keith Moon, OTOH, basically only listened to surf rock and supposedly never really liked the high-concept stuff Townshend would cook up.

Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead studied composition under Luciano Berio before meeting Jerry Garcia (he was classmates for a time with Steve Reich). He also once tried his hand at conducting, and reportedly did a credible job on Stravinsky and Elliott Carter (!).


bad Jim 09.10.14 at 6:01 am

I remember driving home to Berkeley from a hiking trip in the Sierras and listening to a radio interview with Jerry Garcia during which they played music he liked, which included Weather Report’s “Mysterious Traveller”. That was magical.


godoggo 09.10.14 at 7:28 am

I also remember Keith Levene saying that his favorite guitarist was Steve Howe. I think a fairly big part of post punk was punk rockers letting their taste for prog show.


godoggo 09.10.14 at 7:31 am

…wikipedia says he was a roadie for Yes. So there you go.


Phil 09.10.14 at 8:40 am

Then there are entire bands changing direction or adopting protective coloration. Ultravox! (John Foxx’s Ultravox!, that is) were a Bowie/Roxy glam band called Tiger Lily until they (or their management) decided to latch on to punk; a friend of mine saw Squeeze before they went punk (which, admittedly, didn’t last very long) and said reproachfully that they were really good musicians, in the jazz-funk area; and the Blockheads were previously the Loving Awareness band, an unusual experiment in hippie jazz-funk. And then there’s Status Quo’s pop-psychedelic phase, which lasted as long as it took for the band to talk among themselves and discover they’d all rather be playing heads-down no-nonsense mindless boogie.


rea 09.10.14 at 11:52 am

Tommy Stinson of the Replacements ended up in Guns ‘n Roses . . . (yeah, he was a replacement in G ‘n R).


Trader Joe 09.10.14 at 12:56 pm

I’ve always been fascinated by the countless musicians who toil away as part of session or studio bands – sometimes appearing or being mentioned on dozens and dozens of famous albums, but never really generating a whole lot of recognition in their own right. A few of these enjoy short bursts of success….a taste of the big time….then disappear only to pop up again and again. Duck Dunn is among the more well known examples, but there are many just as talented and far more obscure. No doubt the cognosecenti here have their personal faves.


Tom Hurka 09.10.14 at 2:08 pm


Well, Duck Dunn got to play, including live, as part of Booker T. and the MGs, who were pretty well known. But the boss of Stax wanted the MGs in the studio most of the time making hit records, so their touring time was limited.

The classic example is of course the Motown musicians. There’s that poignant moment in Standing in the Shadows of Motown, where two of the guys, now retired, are eating in a California restaurant and “My Girl” comes over the sound system. As the guitar riff plays one of them points to his friend and says to the waiter, “You hear that? That’s him.”

The MGs were actually pretty well treated by Stax, each getting a share of the studio’s profits until things broke down in mutual acrimony. (The drummer went off to make records with Al Green.) The Motown guys, if the movie is accurate, were treated shabbily by Berry Gordy.

But yes, there were all those great studio musicians. More interesting, I’d say, than prog rockers turned punks.


Captain Bringdown 09.10.14 at 2:11 pm

From the world of avant-garde jazz, I know of two musicians with somewhat odd histories — guitarist Sonny Sharrock and bassist Charlie Haden.

Sharrock started out as a doo-wop singer. Haden was born into a rural, musical family who performed country and folk music. Each man maintained a deep affection for his musical roots throughout his life.


Ronan(rf) 09.10.14 at 2:50 pm

I’d like to write a (plausible) counterfactual novel based primarily on evidence from the historical record and pure logic, titled- “When Simon killed Garfunkle”
It would stress contigency in historical matters, the butterfly effect etc, so could double for an introduction to social science research methodology for tots.


Uncle Ebeneezer 09.10.14 at 3:04 pm

The Jerry Garcia thing totally makes sense in that, say what you will about hippie-jam musicians they tend to be fairly open to multiple musical genres, often studying jazz (which shares alot of elements of jamband music.) Trey Anastasio of Phish claims that Tool is one of his favorite bands and that he was as influenced by Boston and Sun Ra as he was by the Dead.

Eddie Van Halen has famously claimed that classical piano is his true love.

And on a more obscure note, when I saw Elbow at the Greek a few years ago the singer remarked about how when they started out their drummer was only into playing speed metal.

Another example of a complete U-turn by a band: didn’t Ministry start out as a poppy, New Wave-ish band before going heavy/industrial?


Mike Schilling 09.10.14 at 3:11 pm

Ray Manzarek of The Doors was a classically trained musician. There’s a Fresh Air interview where he explains that the organ solo of Light My Fire was inspired by Bach.


thelogos 09.10.14 at 3:53 pm

Indeed Uncle Ebeneezer, the earliest album I’ve owned of Ministry’s “With Sympathy”, has that poppy-New Wave feel and there’s a hint of that in “Twitch” (“Over the Shoulder”).


xaaronx 09.10.14 at 4:39 pm

This one’s pretty well known, but Bad Brains originally formed as a fusion band.


novakant 09.10.14 at 4:54 pm

How about Glenn Gould discussing Petula Clark on his own radio show:


bgn 09.10.14 at 4:56 pm

This happens all over. As a sort of opera queen, I’ve noticed over the years interviews with opera singers who claim to listen to rock music in their time off. I’ve also noticed a certain amount of pearl-clutching in response (“how dare they not spend their spare time listening to historical recordings to see how the music really should go rather than that horrid vulgar rock”). But I don’t blame them. I imagine that if a professional musician listens to a recording of something in her main area of expertise, she may be so busy thinking of what she could have done better on that recording that she can’t really relax and listen to the music.


TheSophist 09.10.14 at 5:51 pm

Spinal Tap successfully made the transition from “Listen to the Flower People” to “Sex Farm”.


The Temporary Name 09.10.14 at 6:03 pm

I haven’t enjoyed anything Phish has done. Nevertheless this is a good interview with Trey Anastasio, largely about his creative processes.

The same sort of thing from Bill Harkleroad, aka Zoot Horn Rollo.


The Temporary Name 09.10.14 at 6:06 pm

“Me mum and me dad.”


Teachable Mo' 09.10.14 at 6:45 pm

Keith Richards loves standards. His version of “The Nearness of You” somehow found its way to Hoagy Carmichael who, in turn, wrote an appreciative note about it to Richards.


J— 09.10.14 at 6:58 pm

22: And Derek Smalls got to fulfill his dream of doing “Jazz Odyssey.”


J— 09.10.14 at 6:58 pm

Oops, that was to 19.


Erik 09.10.14 at 7:02 pm

Elijah Wald’s How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll describes how pre-recorded music professional musicians could play in all sorts of genres. I guess some of that genre-crossing has been retained even as audiences have begun to pigeonhole musicians into genres (as opposed to putting music into genres).


Haftime 09.10.14 at 7:26 pm

It’s not directly related – but I’ve found sportspeople who don’t like playing their sport interesting. The examples I’m familiar with are footballers (e.g. but I imagine there are other examples in any sufficiently well remunerated sport. I’m not sure if there’s ever been a comprehensive study of this, but they do highlight that being a professional sportsperson is, amongst other things, just a job (interesting from a ‘Do What You Love’ perspective, perhaps).


CaptFamous 09.10.14 at 8:05 pm

Given that, by definition, pioneering bands play music that is notably unlike what came before it, wouldn’t they all have to have listened to music that isn’t like what they ended up playing?


PJW 09.10.14 at 8:11 pm

Garcia said if he had another musical life to live that he would spend it playing the banjo.


The Dark God of Time AKA DA 09.10.14 at 9:10 pm

Speaking of Bach, the pop song “A Lovers’ Concerto” was taken from a minuet from the Anna Magdalena Notebook by Bach(or, to be musically correct, known to have been compiled by Bach, possibly by works he himself didn’t write).


PatrickinIowa 09.10.14 at 9:52 pm

Fleetwood Mac late sixties, early seventies:

Fleetwood Mac 1979:

I blame the cocaine.

Speaking of which, Warren Zevon briefly hung out (studied with?) Robert Craft and Stravinsky. This is the first single of his to chart, as lyme and cybelle:

What a long strange trip it’s been.


deliasmith 09.10.14 at 10:54 pm

novakant @ 20:
Glenn Gould was RUDE about the Beatles. Isn’t that actually illegal?

Petula Clark – much more interesting than she is given credit for. This is the best song about the cervix; effective because she sings it without a hint of knowingness.

J’ai caché
Mieux que partout ailleurs
Au jardin de mon cœur
Une petite fleur


Dave Heasman 09.10.14 at 11:05 pm

If you want to look at classical influences on pop music, the strangest I’ve found, and I’ve found a few (Van Dyke Parks nicks from Chopin etc) was Stevie Wonder’s “They Won’t Go When I Go”, off “Fulfillingness”, later covered by George Michael. The melody of which was nicked totally from French viol merchant Marin Marais’ (1656-1728) piece called “Les Folies
d’Espagne (La folia)”.

I heard the Marin Marais on France Culture in 1978, but where the hell did Stevie Wonder hear it? What with him being blind and in LA and all?


Jim Fett 09.10.14 at 11:22 pm

I can’t believe no one mentioned Lemmy being in Hawkwind before Motorhead!


John Holbo 09.10.14 at 11:29 pm

“Given that, by definition, pioneering bands play music that is notably unlike what came before it, wouldn’t they all have to have listened to music that isn’t like what they ended up playing?”

Yes, that’s sort of my point. Not that I’m just trying to prove there’s nothing new under the sun. Just that it’s tempting to project a wrong sort of purity on newness.

I wonder what the Ramones listened to, that was utterly un-Ramones-like?


godoggo 09.10.14 at 11:45 pm

I’m not sure how un-Ramone-like this is, but I seem to recall them being big Hendrix fans, at least some of them. Maybe not Johnny…

Anyway, I just put together a youtube playlist called “Greg Kurstin jazz” for the keyboard-playing half of Yglesias favorites The Bird And The Bee, and it suddenly occurs to me that it might be relevant to this thread.


godoggo 09.10.14 at 11:46 pm

Hmm, I didn’t mean that to embed…


floopmeister 09.11.14 at 12:04 am

I can’t believe no one mentioned Lemmy being in Hawkwind before Motorhead!

Not to mention his first band was The Rockin’ Vickers – and he was a roady for Jimi Hendrix.

TBH, Motorhead is basically what he wanted Hawkwind to be – as he once said (I’m paraphrasing): “Under all that ‘toot toot ‘and malarkey Hawkwind is basically a three piece rock band. I always wanted to be in the MC5!”

I guess Motorhead gave him the chance to do just that. :)


Bruce Baugh 09.11.14 at 12:41 am

I love learning about these kinds of things, and it makes a lot of sense to me – a large majority of writers much prefer and/or need to read things unlike what they’re working on, too.


js. 09.11.14 at 1:43 am


I don’t know much about Warren Zevon at all, but that Lyme and Cybelle song is amazing! Seriously, spending a year of my life getting to know the 4-volume Nuggets set has been one of my smarter decisions. (See also “Baby Please Don’t Go” as done by the Amboy Dukes, Ted Nugent’s first band! No really, it’s fucking good!)


a different chris 09.11.14 at 2:01 am

>I wonder what the Ramones listened to, that was utterly un-Ramones-like?

I heard like just a week ago, that Joey Ramone once said something along the lines of “we really wanted to do stuff like the Beach Boys but we didn’t have the talent”.


The Temporary Name 09.11.14 at 4:08 am

Professor Griff really loved Steve Perry. From Journey.


dn 09.11.14 at 4:31 am

Tangential in that it’s about movies rather than music, but apparently Andrei Tarkovsky was a big fan of the original Terminator movie.


JakeB 09.11.14 at 4:51 am

@PatrickinIowa #33–

Indeed, sir, but nevertheless I must say I prefer Judas Priest’s version of “The Green Manilishi” (as well as their version of “Diamonds and Rust”).


godoggo 09.11.14 at 5:57 am

Bad Jim, I was just browsing youtube and happened upon something entitled, “Grateful Dead ~ Weather Report Suite ~ 07.19.1974.” I’m not a Dead fan myself, but thought you might want to know.


godoggo 09.11.14 at 7:01 am

Actually, there are a number of videos of performances of it. Me I never heard of it.


Tim Silverman 09.11.14 at 8:01 am

@Dave Heasman

Howard Goodall talks about that connection in one of his TV series, maybe How Music Works? Unfortunately I can’t remember the context but there might be more detail there if you can find it.


bad Jim 09.11.14 at 8:33 am

Godoggo, thanks. What I sampled was pretty tasty, but it’s late, I’m old (I was listening to Van Cliburn playing Brahms) and my herbal supply is dwindling, so I’ll put off a deeper perusal to another evening.

I defaulted to Brahms because my first choice, a Revueltas string quartet, was way too distracting: Ives meets Stravinsky.


Martin Bento 09.11.14 at 11:30 am

Keith Jarrett tried to be a psychedelic folk singer-songwriter. He was surprisingly bad at it, given his innate sense of melody. Here is a cut from his album Restoration Ruin (though the Youtube credits say The Art Ensemble is involved, it isn’t. The guy just took it from one of those stupid double album reissues that mixed this wannabe Tim Buckley Jarrett record with an outside jazz album by the Ensemble). The funny thing he had already cut Live Between the Exit Signs, a straight jazz album and had been playing with Charles Lloyd for about 2 years, so he had already found his voice pretty much, but still did impressions.


David J. Littleboy 09.11.14 at 11:32 am

Benny Goodman played classical clarinet as well as the swing he’s more famous for. My father wore out a record of him playing Mozart during his 3.5 years in the Navy in WWII and said he wouldn’t have made it through sane with it. Goodman’s daughter Benji showed up in our shop along with a customer (her fiancé), who introduced her simply as Benji Goodman. Father said “The?”, she said “Yes”. That was the extent of the conversation. Apparently Goodman continued to also play classical into his later years, since said customer (a cellist) reported playing the Mozart clarinet quintet at Goodman’s home with the man himself on clarinet, and this would have been around 1970 or so. (Hmm. Goodman would have been 60, which now (I’m 62 and play in bands with blokes in the 75 to 85 age range) doesn’t seem like “later years” at all.)

For a 1938 recording, this sounds real nice:


bill benzon 09.11.14 at 11:47 am

@Phil #10: E.g. The Bee Gees didn’t start out as Disco dons. They had a long prior history as rockers:


bill benzon 09.11.14 at 11:52 am

A couple of years ago a classical vocal coach, Claudia Friedlander, was asked to critique so metal vocalists. The result got reblogged all over the place because it was so good:


bill benzon 09.11.14 at 12:03 pm

My Music: Explorations of Music in Daily Life

Susan D. Crafts
Wesleyan University Press, 1993 – Music – 218 pages

My Music is a first-hand exploration of the diverse roles music plays in people’s lives. “What is music about for you?” asked members of the Music in Daily Life Project of some 150 people, and the responses they received — from the profound to the mundane, from the deeply-felt to the flippant — reflect highly individualistic relationships to and with music. Susan Crafts, Daniel Cavicchi, and Project Director Charles Keil have collected and edited nearly forty of those interviews to document the diverse ways in which people enjoy, experience, and use music.


Jim Fett 09.11.14 at 12:03 pm

In the past few years there have been a number of people from the indie-rock spectrum expressing an appreciation of black metal. John Darnielle is a most unlikely Marduk fan.

Someone above mentioned Tommy Stinson playing in Guns n Roses. This falls into the category of my-band-is-over-but-I’d-really-rather-play-music-for-a-living-than-get-a-“real-job”. Brian Baker’s post-Dag Nasty work comes to mind. wanted to embed “Salad days” but couldn’t figure it out :(


bill benzon 09.11.14 at 12:04 pm

What you learn from My Music is that most people have fairly wide-ranging tastes in music. Monoculture is not the way of music.


Martin Bento 09.11.14 at 12:46 pm

Here’s a band that probably would have gotten pretty interesting had they stayed together. The Mynah Birds featuring Rick James and Neil Young. Though it doesn’t sound too unusual, Young and James were writing songs together, so this could have gone someplace unique. On Motown, yet.


PatrickinIowa 09.11.14 at 1:00 pm

JakeB @ 46. Thanks. Didn’t know that one. My son’s the metalhead in the family; I’m just a neophyte.

Both for the Judas Priest, and for the fact that while I was on Youtube, I found this little gem from Pantera: Gotta love the venue.

In the immortal words of Dr. Dre: “That sh$t is not to be f#@ked with.”


stostosto 09.11.14 at 2:44 pm

A young Jimi Hendrix playing choreographed backing guitar.


doquijoterocket 09.11.14 at 3:10 pm

Given all the arcane musical knowledge exhibited in this thread perhaps someone can help me with a debate I’ve been holding with myself for years now.Were the Strawbs more influenced by classical roots or by British folk? I’ve thought it equal amounts of either but have never determined the influence of classical on British folk or vice versa.


Scott Penney 09.11.14 at 7:23 pm

An early Safe As Milk-era Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band lineup included Jerry McGee, later of the Ventures and before that a Tulsa Mafia member (Glen Campbell, Leon Russel, etc.)


Bartkid 09.11.14 at 7:26 pm

You all know about Peter Frame’s Rock Family Trees books , right? I think they contain much of the two book ideas proffered in the original post.


drkrick 09.11.14 at 7:52 pm

Members of the Talking Heads have said that they were trying to play like James Brown’s bands, but that what you hear on the first couple of albums is as close as they could get.


drkrick 09.11.14 at 7:56 pm

Jerry Garcia’s dream gig was to be one of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys for awhile, but despite mutual friends and associates they never crossed paths as far as I know. One of the reasons the Dead tolerated the taping culture that grew up around them was that a young Garcia had traveled the bluegrass circuit taping performances of Monroe and of Clarence White with the Kentucky Colonels.


Dave Heasman 09.11.14 at 8:18 pm

@godoggo – The Grateful Dead’s “Weather Report Suite” is a very long way from the band Weather Report. The Dead have/had something called the Rex Foundation that helps to record modern music – I recall Robert Simpson benefitting from it, but I may have the wrong guy there.


The Fool 09.11.14 at 9:46 pm

The song, Weather Report Suite is not really like the band Weather Report though Airto Moreira played with both. It does show one aspect of the Dead’s incredible range though going from the folkie first part to mind blowing psychedelic rock (but in a way different than you may think when you hear that term) in the second — especially the way the 2nd part was played live.

Garcia had a well known bluegrass jones. And Mickey Hart is a well known ethnomusicological collector of world music sounds with an emphasis on percussion.


godoggo 09.11.14 at 9:55 pm

Maybe I’ll give it a listen sometime. I’ve occasionally heard them and thought, OK that’s a good song, or that’s a nice guitar solo, but I think my problems with them are pretty typical.

I once saw an interview with Garcia in which I think he said his favorite guitarist was Al Dimeola.


godoggo 09.11.14 at 10:00 pm

On Motorhead being like the MC5… well kind of, but I don’t think Motorhead ever did anything like”Starship,” let alone play gigs with Sun Ra himself, as the MC5 used to do.


The Temporary Name 09.11.14 at 10:05 pm

Members of the Talking Heads have said that they were trying to play like James Brown’s bands, but that what you hear on the first couple of albums is as close as they could get.

There’s a very strange essay in one of the Reckless Flaming Lips reissues in which Wayne Coyne writes about how they thought they were a metal band for the first three albums.


harry b 09.11.14 at 11:55 pm

Jon Lord wanted Deep Purple to be prog rockers.

Andy Summers was lead guitarist for Kevin Coyne’s outfit, for several years.

And its rumoured, and there seems to be evidence for it, that The Doors asked Kevin Coyne to be lead singer when Jim Morrison died. I like to think it was the success and fame that Coyne objected to, not the genre (though I can’t stand the Doors, and love Coyne).

RE Haftime’s point: Andre Agassi didn’t like playing tennis. I think that being the best in the world at something you don’t like doing is s symptom of deep psychological problems. So does Agassi.

Oh. And Johnny Rotten was vociferous in his enthusiasm for Kevin Coyne.


Bloix 09.11.14 at 11:57 pm

“a book about band members of famous bands who apparently don’t really love their own band.”

I think this even a possible topic because of the value (principle? ethos? cult? myth?) of authenticity in rock and roll. You wouldn’t think twice about a dance band trumpeter who’d rather have been blowing be-bop, or a Nelson Riddle string player who never got over being cut from a symphony orchestra.


John Quiggin 09.12.14 at 12:13 am

I (mis?)remember an interview with Mick Jagger in which he described Brian Jones as a traddie.


floopmeister 09.12.14 at 12:43 am

On Motorhead being like the MC5… well kind of, but I don’t think Motorhead ever did anything like”Starship,” let alone play gigs with Sun Ra himself, as the MC5 used to do.

Yeah, good point – but then I reckon he got all of that out of system playing with Hawkwind:


floopmeister 09.12.14 at 12:43 am

Umm.. sorry for all the embedded videos – any idea how not to embed Youtube clips?


Collin Street 09.12.14 at 1:05 am

Copy-n-paste the url as an an anchor tag.

[a href=”http slash slash etc”] text and stuff goes here [/a]

Only with angle-brackets instead of square.


godoggo 09.12.14 at 1:15 am
Type text after the url and it won’t embed.


floopmeister 09.12.14 at 2:42 am



harry b 09.12.14 at 3:25 am

The Leyton Buzzards became Modern Romance.


bad Jim 09.12.14 at 4:03 am

Brahms admired, even envied, Johan Strauss. Gershwin wanted to study with Ravel; supposedly, when they compared incomes, Ravel said “Perhaps I should take lessons from you.”


dn 09.12.14 at 4:20 am

Dave Heasman @66 – I believe the Rex Foundation has also given grants to Elliott Carter (and possibly Stockhausen too? I know Lesh had a thing for Stockhausen – during the mid-70s he did some funky Stockhausen-inspired electronic-tape work as an interlude during Dead concerts). In any event, the foundation doesn’t just do music; it’s given money to a wide variety of worthy causes.

Re: bands that almost were: Supposedly, Emerson, Lake and Palmer would have been Hendrix, Emerson, Lake and Palmer had not Hendrix kicked the bucket at an inopportune moment. Now that would have been something else.


John Emerson 09.12.14 at 4:24 am

Benny Goodman commissioned and recorded two or three avant-garde pieces by Bela Bartok. His own parents were from Hungary. Bartok ended his life in NY, in Manhattan much of the time. Unfortunately he was both destitute and fatally ill. He spent his time finishing up his compositions to the extent possible. Otherwise I am absolutely sure that he would have ended up at Minton’s listening to early bebop, because that’s the kind of thing that Bartok did.

Charley Christian of early bebop was discovered playing in Bismarck, ND (originally he was Oklahoma, like Barney Kessel). . He almost certainly was playing western swing there. Once he got to NYC he transformed jazz. Peggy Lee and the little known bebop guitarist Mary Osborne also came from Bismarck or thereabouts.


Wayne 09.12.14 at 8:03 am

Ah music.

A friend of mine was one of those one hit wonders around 1970. He and his band flew everywhere. Years later, he became a programmer so he could afford to play in a band.

I think you are right, they all have a varied taste in their personal music.



bill benzon 09.12.14 at 10:27 am

James Brown & Luciano Pavarotti, bringing on the patriarchal triumphalism:


JMG 09.12.14 at 11:17 am

I have never met a musician, and at one time I worked at a very low level of the music industry and hence met a bunch, who didn’t have wide-ranging tastes beyond their own specific genres. This is only logical. Writers don’t just read their own stuff or the kind of thing they write, after all. If J.K. Rowling had only read fantasy, she probably never would have written a published word.


rea 09.12.14 at 11:42 am

Benny Goodman commissioned and recorded two or three avant-garde pieces by Bela Bartok.

He also released some excellent recordings of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto and Quintet, the Weber Clarinet Concerto, and the Neilsen Clarinet Concerto–essentially the classic clarinet soloist repertoire.


Andrew Condon 09.12.14 at 2:20 pm

Here’s a Joe Strummer / Robert Fripp joint interview, wherein Joe reveals just how much he liked seeing King Crimson in a “tent in Plumpton”.


The Temporary Name 09.12.14 at 6:56 pm

Something we can all agree on from that interview:

I got the new Ellen Foley record recently and I noticed that you and Mick wrote most of the tunes, and that you all (the Clash) back her up on the record. I played it for a few people and asked “now, who do you think this is?” Most people thought it was Abba…

Strummer: That’s a compliment!

Fripp: Abba are very, very good.


godoggo 09.12.14 at 10:00 pm

On Bad Brains, I remember reading that they were also a disco band at some point. I think the sequence of the regression was fusion -> disco -> punk, but I’m not sure.


Bill Benzon 09.12.14 at 10:23 pm

As someone remarked above, for a professional musician in the modern world, the odd musical history is one of pure devotion to only one kind of music. Diversity is far more common.


js. 09.12.14 at 10:30 pm

I think the sequence of the regression was fusion -> disco -> punk, but I’m not sure.

What does “fusion” mean in this context? Because there are straight up reggae songs on their first album. (Maybe after that too, but I’m not that familiar.)


godoggo 09.12.14 at 10:41 pm

Fusion is fusion. You know what fusion is. They used to alternate between punk and reggae when I saw them. That was kind of their gimmick, along with being black and having some chops.


godoggo 09.12.14 at 10:45 pm

I never heard their fusion stuff, but I imagine is sounded kinda sorta like one or another of the big fusion bands everybody knows.


Kiwanda 09.13.14 at 1:24 am

Corinne Bailey Rae, with the sunshine picnic video of the mellow “Put Your Records On”, started out doing indie/grunge.

Robert Plant, known for his collaborations with Allison Kraus, liked 50’s R&B enough to do an album of it as a member of “The Honeydrippers”, with former Yardbirds member Jimmy Page.

Katie Perry started out doing gospel (well, Christian).

Brian Setzer has played both rockabilly in a trio and jump with an orchestra.

David Bowie apparently has tried some variations in musical style. Ditto the Arctic Monkeys.


Jonathan 09.13.14 at 7:14 am

Glen Matlock unashamedly saying the Sex Pistols had ripped off Abba riffs


godoggo 09.13.14 at 9:07 am

I’d really like some specifics about that.


Matthew B. 09.13.14 at 4:45 pm

Deborah Harry did an album with a folk band called The Wind in the Willows in 1968.


js. 09.13.14 at 9:14 pm

Fusion is fusion. You know what fusion is.

I was—and am—genuinely unsure what fusion meant/means here. To me, it can often mean mixing two genres that aren’t generally combined, so reggae and punk kinda fits. I’m now thinking you and others meant fusion in the jazz-related sense, but I’m still not totally sure. In any case, it was an honest question.


godoggo 09.14.14 at 2:27 am

Fusion means, you know, Mahavishnu, RTF, Weather Report, Headhunters, etc. Obviously Bad Brains wouldn’t have been on that level, but I’ve always heard that they’d been a fusion group before they were punk. I recall reading a comment back in the day, whenever that was, about them going from playing “McLaughlin-type chords to Crass-type chords.” Anyway it was somebody else here who originally brought that up, and I was just adding that they supposedly also played disco for a while, but anyway I don’t think any of this is documented.


Bill Murray 09.14.14 at 4:20 am

Jonathan Richman going from post-Velvet Underground rock with Jerry Harrison of the Talking Heads and David Robinson the drummer for The Cars in 1971 to playing whimsical, soft music by the time The Modern Lovers became popular in ~1976.

Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers — Abominable Snowman in the Market —

The quintessential gospel to popular transition would be Sam Cooke, but really he didn’t really change much stylistically from his work with The Soul Stirrers to his solo work. As I remember from his biography, Cooke mostly just changed the songs from loving God to loving a girl.

he’s So Wonderful — Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers


godoggo 09.14.14 at 11:06 pm

Pre-Bad Brains demos here, apparently. Haven’t downloaded.

CT was redirecting me to youtube for a while, btw.


godoggo 09.14.14 at 11:07 pm

Haven’t downloaded yet.


Cool Bev 09.16.14 at 10:15 pm

This thread wasn’t supposed to be about musicians who started out doing X and wound up doing Y, but I can’t resist. Bubble-gum rockers The American Breed (“Bend Me, Shape Me”) went through several changes in name and personal before becoming Rufus (with Chaka Khan.

And now you know… the REST of the story!


Glen M. 09.17.14 at 12:23 am

I would have to agree with this article. There is no possible no rockers have never wanted to be in other bands. If you think of it one way, I would say at least 50% of any famous musician would love to be in the Beatles. Musicians compliment other musicians, not everyone loves their style, yet they do love the money they make


blah 09.17.14 at 4:03 am

Robert Quine — Velvet Underground bootlegger, guitarist for Richard Hell and the Voidoids, buddy of critic Lester Bangs, collaborator with Lou Reed and many others — was the nephew of philosopher W.V.O. Quine and a law school graduate.

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