One of the great, long-running mythologies in popular music is the one surrounding the integrity of the Original Lineup. There’s a long-held belief that, the instant a member leaves a band, that band’s work is somehow diminished, or can exist only as a pale imitation of what came before. And while that’s certainly true in some cases, it disregards dozens of instances in which bands not only survived lineup changes but, in some cases, actually surpassed the commercial and artistic successes of their first iterations. Bands respond to roster changes differently: some are able to simply move forward as if nothing had happened, others use the opportunity to completely redirect, creating a new sound, a new image, and a new identity. All of the bands here have weathered lineup changes and emerged intact. See how the two lineups compare to each other – and work out which you prefer.
Joy Division / New Order
Joy Division was on the eve of their very first American tour when sullen lead vocalist Ian Curtis took his own life in May, 1980. It was a crushing blow: the group’s popularity had surged in their native Britain — overseas success seemed almost inevitable. They first attempted, on Movement, to continue with a slightly synthier version of their doomy post-punk, with guitarist Bernard Sumner assuming vocal duties and attempting to sing in the same low register as Curtis. But they quickly wised up, instead emerging as a propulsive electropop outfit that would go on, with songs like “Blue Monday” and “Bizarre Love Triangle,” to score chart-topping hits on both sides of the Atlantic.
With his heady lyrical concepts and elaborate stage outfits — some of which included a fox-headed creature and an oversized flower — Genesis were the very definition of ’70s art rock. Their albums were sprawling and moody — The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway containing vivid lyrics like, “The wall of death is lowered in Times Square” as synths flutter in the distance. So Gabriel’s departure in 1975 was thought to be a death blow, robbing the band of its entire animus. But history had other ideas: drummer Phil Collins stepped up to the microphone, the band dropped their arty pretensions and they went on to become worldwide arena-filling superstars.
Destiny’s Child emerged in the late ’90s — after years of false-starts and name-changes — as a four-piece, dishing out nervous-sounding R&B songs topped with steely, assertive lyrics. Both “Bills, Bills, Bills,” and “Jumpin’ Jumpin’” projected an image of tough women with limited patience for shiftless men. And then came one of the uglier splits in pop music history, with LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett, depending on who you ask, either leaving or being forced out due to contractual disputes and the increasing control of Beyonce Knowles’ father Matthew. The streamlining turned out to be a good thing. The trio of Beyonce, Kelly Rowland and new member Michelle Williams pushed the group’s image of clenched-fist determination, even casting sly shots at the gossipy Roberson and Luckett in the brawling “Survivor.”
Depeche Mode made just one record with Vince Clarke before he departed to form the moody dancepop group Yaz, and Speak & Spell stands in pointed contrast to the records that followed. Bright, blippy and thumping, it sounds like the Texas Instrument toy that gives the record its name. Once the songwriting chores were fully assumed by Martin Gore and frontman David Gahan, things got noticeably chillier: throbbing odes to S&M, sneering denials of God and icky underage come-ons (“You’re only 15/ but you look good,” from Black Celebration‘s “A Question of Time”) took the place of pie-eyed boy-bandy love ditties like “Just Can’t Get Enough,” and the group embraced their roles as the dark lords of the seedy electro underbelly.
The Doobie Brothers
When lead vocalist Tom Johnston was diagnosed with stomach ulcers after the tour in support of their 1975 album Stampede, the time came for the group to reassess not only its lineup, but its overall direction. Toulouse Street and What Once Were Vicesâ€¦ are pleasing slices of rollicking FM rock and roll, certain segments of which could even be mistaken for good ol’ boy outfits like Alabama. But when Michael MacDonald joined the band in 1976, there was a noticeable change. The highway-roving harmonies and rangy guitars were swapped out for arrangements that owed more to soul and R&B — all the better to showcase MacDonald’s smoky voice. Their career trajectory continued upward, with hits like “What A Fool Believes” becoming instant radio staples.
Band of Horses
In “Factory,” the first track on 2010′s Infinite Arms, Band of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell sings, “It’s temporary/ This place I’m in/ I permanently won’t do this again.” That line could just as easily be applied to his band’s history: The South Carolina-via-Seattle group’s Wikipedia page lists twice as many past members as it does current, Bridwell being the only constant since he formed the group in 2004. Oddly enough, most of the personnel changes happened throughout the band’s first two albums, which are the most similar sounding in their catalog. Compared to the reverb-soaked guitars and racing sonic buildups of those first two sets, Infinite Arms finds the group a bit more toned down and at ease.
Since Jeff Tweedy founded Wilco in 1994, the Chicago band has endured countless personnel changes, though the lineup has been the same for the past eight years. The most significant turning point came right after recording their experimental Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which famously got the band dropped by Reprise and eventually picked up by Nonesuch, another subsidiary of Warner Bros. (You can watch how it played out in the film I Am Trying To Break Your Heart). Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was the first set recorded with current drummer Glenn Kotche and the last with the late Jay Bennett. In the time between its 2002 release and the 2004 follow-up, the Grammy Award-winning A Ghost Is Born, Wilco lost multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach and gained Mikael Jorgensen, Pat Sansone and Nels Cline to round out their current, airtight setup.
For such a long-running, band-of-brothers outfit, Pearl Jam sure had a hard time settling on a drummer. Dave Abbruzzese, the band’s timekeeper through its earliest days, bashed and flailed with puppy-dog enthusiasm that you can still hear on the rocking, cymbal-heavy coda to “Alive.” Unfortunately, their meteoric grunge-superstar ascent created rifts: Abbruzzese saw nothing wrong with the band’s newfound fame and evidently savored the magazine-cover posing and arena-touring that came with it. Vedder, meanwhile, was grasping with increasing desperation to hit the brakes. After the strained, queasy Vitalogy, Abbruzzese was out, ushering Pearl Jam from their first career stage as Reluctant Grunge Martyrs to their current, happy status as durable road warriors. After a brief dalliance with Jack Irons, they settled down with Matt Cameron, formerly of Soundgarden, who has been happily bashing the skins ever since.
Perhaps the most famous rock-band brand reboot in history, and certainly the most controversial, Van Halen vs. Van Hagar is one of those pop-culture lines in the sand — Beatles or Stones? Yankees or Red Sox? Biggie or 2Pac? — that defines who you are. Van Halen were the quintessential hard-rock party band whose peacocking, lion-maned lead singer David Lee Roth eventually grew too rambunctious to contain within Van Halen’s confines: he had drunken-uncle solo albums and weird Tin Pan Alley covers to record. Thus ended the first era of a band who would have more eras than most: Roth, whose vocal abilities were limited to a sleazy speak-sing and a chihuahua yip, was replaced by a belting, scatting, barrel-chested and spaghetti-haired Sammy Hagar. Under Hagar, the band became corporate-rock superstars, selling more albums than ever and knocking out hits for the next two decades.
Foo Fighters began as a bunch of Nirvana demos that Kurt Cobain deemed not good enough to pass muster for Nirvana; when Nirvana ended, Grohl put them out himself, playing every instrument himself. It was a shock for Nirvana fans to hear the sweetly yearning McCartney melodies pouring out of the whip-haired, Animal-like blur that grounded the rhythm section for the Most Important Band of the 90′s. After that self-titled record, Foo Fighters ceased to be a bedroom-recording project and became a band. Grohl, who quickly discovered that you can’t drum, sing, and play guitar simultaneously, installed William Goldsmith, drummer for emo legends Sunny Day Real Estate, in the drummer’s stool. But filling in for one of the greatest drummers of all time is not easy work, and Goldsmith found himself recording takes nearly one hundred times to meet Grohl’s standards during the recording of sophomore album The Colour and the Shape. After Grohl went ahead and replaced all the takes anyway, Goldsmith, nursing hurt feelings and early carpal tunnel, parted ways with the Foos, and Taylor Hawkins, who eerily resembles a Nordic version of Grohl, took over and has been the band’s mainstay ever since.
Faith No More
With its original vocalist Chuck Mosley, Faith No More were sneering, competent alternative rock band. When Mosley departed, Mike Patton stepped in, and things got a whole lot weirder — ersatz-funk slap bass, videos full of flopping fish, acid-reflux yowling, legions of keyboards, instrumentals called “Woodpeckers From Mars,” and something that sounded a whole lot like (gasp) rapping. For ninety percent of the band’s fans, Faith No More 2.0, under Mike Patton, is the only Faith No More, the band that thrashed through the pre-alternative rock netherlands with more bizarre ideas and weird sounds than half the bands in late-80s L.A. and Seattle combined. Patton’s subversive streak and love of Frank Zappa would power them through several increasingly challenging albums and make them cult heroes forever.
Blood, Sweat & Tears
The studio wizard and virtuoso keyboardist/Hammond organ player Al Kooper was a founding member of the 1960s brassy soul-rock powerhouse Blood, Sweat, & Tears. Kooper, with his ambitious jazz-rock fusion visions, helped the early BS&T record their critically acclaimed, masterful first album Child Is Father To the Man. But Kooper was forced out of the band afterward, and as so often happens, the early departure of a creative visionary paved the way for much greater chart success. The reconstituted BS&T, with David Clayton-Thomas on vocals, scored almost all of the Blood, Sweat, and Tears hits you already know, from the jazzy, key-shifting “Spinning Wheel” to “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” to a cover of folkie Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die.”