When The Lineup Changes – Judas Priest Part Two

Yesterday I summed up the long line at the Judas Priest drummer’s spot, and also covered the absence of Rob Halford from the group. After 2003 Rob was back and the band’s line-up was stable for several years. Then around the turn of the decade, things started getting weird.

In 2010 the band announced their retirement after a multi-year world farewell tour. Then, somewhat out of nowhere, they announced they were working on a new album and that they were not retiring. It was an odd series of statements that didn’t seem to fully address what caused them to change their minds and it was a confusing period of time, not knowing if they were done or not. A bit of light was shed on things the next year

K.K. Downing retires, replaced by Richie Faulkner

In 2011, Downing announced his individual retirement from Priest. He expressed a desire to pursue other interests, which would involve golf course design. Downing departed on great terms and has led a quiet life in his post-Priest career.

Or not.

First, let’s quickly run through the new guy, Richie Faulkner. Richie is a British guitarist who had logged time in several bands, including playing with Lauren Harris. If that name isn’t familiar, she is the daughter of Iron Maiden legend Steve Harris. The elder Harris had produced some of Richie’s other bands and had already tabbed Richie as an option if anything happened to any of Maiden’s twelve (or three) guitarists.

Instead, Richie wound up in Judas Priest. He remains with them to this day and is likely to stick with the group through the close. While he’s had some detractors, he has been largely embraced by the Priest fanbase and is an excellent guitarist as well as a seemingly great person. He is also the kid of the group – far younger than anyone else in the band and hell, a few years younger than me.

But the focal point of K.K. Downing’s departure has always been K.K. Downing. His exit from Priest left a lot of fans upset and the specifics that have come out since 2011 have been a hotbed of drama. I won’t run down a lot of it – if anyone is interested in learning more, either read Downing’s 2017 biography Heavy Duty: Days and Nights In Judas Priest or read any Blabbermouth.net article about Downing as they run down the whole history anytime he gives an interview.

But it is clear there were personality clashes in the band, and it’s fairly clear who the main adversary was for Downing. If it wasn’t clear right at the time everything happened, it would become much clearer a few years later.

Glenn Tipton steps aside, replaced by Andy Sneap

In 2018, Glenn Tipton announced he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He had struggled with the disease for about a decade before stepping down as Priests’ regular touring guitarist. Tipton would remain a creative member of the band, but would only make sporadic appearances for a few songs on tour.

Tipton’s replacement was renowned producer Andy Sneap, also a guitarist in classic British act Sabbat and part of the reformed Hell. Sneap would serve as the touring guitarist in Tipton’s place while Tipton would continue performing in studio.

Many fans asked the obvious question – if Judas Priest needed a new guitar player, why not their old one? K.K. Downing had not been involved with music since leaving several years earlier and was clearly cut out for the job. Downing himself publicly stated that he would like to come back to the band, but no one reached out to him about the vacancy.

Again, I’m not going to get into the specifics of the drama surrounding Downing and Priest. It’s clear the issues center around Glenn Tipton and there are plenty of Downing interviews readily available where he discusses what happened. And Priest management was also a target of Downing’s ire. That would seem fitting, since just last week longtime Priest manager Jayne Andrews did a podcast where she dumped on Downing in regards to his appearance at the Hall of Fame induction. All other reports from Downing and Priest members about that time had been glowing, so the Andrews interview was a bit of a shock. Maybe not as shocking when it’s known that she is also the long-time partner of Glenn Tipton.

Clearly I don’t know any of these people and I don’t want to get into casting aspersions when I don’t have a lot of information. But it’s also clear that Priest have some management issues. Think back to Rob Halford’s departure in the 1990’s – all he wanted to do was a side project. He had to “quit” the band due to contract technicalities. Instead, he was gone for a decade. And there has been a lot of mudslinging and bad press over the K.K. Downing retirement, a lot more and sustained for a lot longer than many band breakups.

And there’s one more line-up change, albeit minor, that might highlight more odd issues in Priest management. This one happened earlier in the year.

Andy Sneap is dismissed, replaced by … wait for it … Andy Sneap

In early 2022, Priest announced that Andy Sneap would no longer be a touring guitarist. He would focus on producing the new record. The band would tour as a four-piece, with Faulkner being the sole guitarist. The thought of one guitar player in Judas Priest sent fans into a frenzy, and not long after, Sneap was reinstated as the second guitarist. Rob Halford was the one who fell on a sword in public, taking blame for the decision to initially dismiss Sneap.

While this is little more than a footnote in Priest lore, it does speak to how the band is run. I’m personally not buying that Halford was the one who had anything to do with the fiasco. Maybe he did, but I think he took one for the team and jumped on the grenade because he has the most goodwill among fans and could easier absorb the backlash. The Sneap thing was a mess and the idea of Priest heading out without two guitar players is just unreal.

That does it for Judas Priest line-up changes – for now, anyway. Priest is a legend among legends in heavy metal, no dispute there. But they have some wonky management and get up to some weird shit at times. The drama surrounding K.K. Downing still lives on, even as Downing has his own band now featuring former Priest singer Tim “Ripper” Owens. And the Downing fire is one that likely won’t die in the press or the respective comment sections anytime soon. It’s a monster at this point.

But at the end of the day we still get music from some configuration of a band that’s been running for over 50 years now. There is something to be said for that.

When The Lineup Changes – Judas Priest Part One

This one threatens to be a 90 page term paper but I’ll keep it simple, though it will require two parts to get to the most significant stuff. The line-up changes of Judas Priest are numerous – in technical terms, the band as it exists today contains no original members. Singer Al Atkins formed the group in 1969, then it went by the wayside. A new group joined with Atkins after 1970 and this would include K.K. Downing and Ian Hill. While it’s technically correct that neither were “original” members of Judas Priest, in any common parlance it’s fair to suggest that both are founding members. It’s not like the original outfit did a whole lot.

Atkins would depart in 1972 due to the financial strain of being in a band not making any money. He was replaced by Rob Halford, and second guitarist Glenn Tipton was brought in to the band shortly before setting out to record the debut Rocka Rolla. This, along with what was already the tenth or so drummer, would comprise the core Judas Priest line-up for many years. The changes I’ll discuss will mainly revolve around what’s happened in the 1990’s and since, save for the revolving door of drummer. Today I’ll handle that and also the huge changes at singer, then tomorrow I’ll get into all of the guitarist drama of the 2010’s.

Scott Travis (eventually) becomes the drummer of Judas Priest

The movie This Is Spinal Tap is renowned for its gag of exploding drummers. The joke most likely came from the insane amount of times Judas Priest changed members at that position. I guess there were nine different drummers but that’s just a quick glance on my part.

I suppose it’s fair to use the criteria that the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame used to induct Priest earlier this year. Three drummers were inducted – Les Binks, Dave Holland and current drummer Scott Travis. Binks played on Stained Class and Killing Machine, while Dave Holland was the drummer through all of the 1980’s albums.

In 1989 Dave Holland left Priest due to health issues and musical differences. This led to the arrival of Scott Travis, who had played previously with Racer X and Saints Or Sinners (who became The Scream). Travis immediately made his mark with his drum-in intro to the song Painkiller, and Priest was off to the races.

Travis was the youngest member of the band by a mile when he joined, though this would change a few years later. His drumming proficiency and energy injected new life into Priest, who had flagged a bit in the synth era of the late ’80’s. The band would purse a decidedly metal direction with Travis at the drum throne.

Travis has engaged in some side activity during his time in Priest – he is the drummer for the present incarnation of Thin Lizzy, continued work with Racer X and also lent his talents to a few albums I’ll talk about in a minute. But his time with Priest has been fantastic and he was a great addition to the band.

Rob Halford departs, replaced by Tim Owens

Just a few years after Priest had seen renewed interest with their very metal-forward Painkiller album, Rob Halford told the band’s management about his interest in doing a solo album/side project. For whatever goofy reason, the band’s management told him he would technically have to resign from Priest to do this. In the resulting confusion over Halford’s statement, he was gone from the band for a decade. How anyone let that happen is beyond me, but there has been some dysfunction in the Priest camp over the years.

Halford would spend his time with a variety of projects which I have previously covered here. The first one happened to also involve Scott Travis, who was still a member of Priest yet the band was inactive during that time.

Priest would eventually seek to find a new singer and, due in large part to Scott Travis’ suggestion, picked Tim “Ripper” Owens. Owens had done work in the band Winter’s Bane and also the Judas Priest tribute act British Steel.

Judas Priest’s “Ripper” era would be defined by a very heavy sound and subdued interest, though not the same level of vitriol aimed at fellow British metal legends Iron Maiden and their late-90’s period. The band would offer two albums as well as two live efforts during this time.

As with any kind of replacement like this, it was a struggle for Tim Owens to step into the shoes of one of metal’s most renowned frontmen. While I personally always liked him and thought he got a fair bit of unfair treatment, there was no replacing Rob Halford in the hearts and minds of Priest diehards.

The fortunes of Judas Priest were flagging in the early 2000’s, just as they watched Iron Maiden spark new interest with a much-hyped reunion with their legendary singer. And the inevitable came in 2003.

Rob Halford returns to Judas Priest

After some success with a few solo efforts in the early decade, Halford was a rising star again just as heavy metal was finding its way back into fashion. The no-brainer reunion with Judas Priest came in 2003. This left Tim Owens the odd man out, of course. He would go on to sing for Iced Earth for awhile and also participate in a variety of other projects.

Judas Priest have essentially ignored the Ripper period in retrospect. The songs from his albums are not performed live and the albums remain almost untouched reissue-wise, save for the super mega huge box set that came out last year. A bit unfair to not even acknowledge that period, I think, but again, there are some shifty decisions that come out of the Priest camp from time to time.

Priest themselves were back in form with their signature frontman in place. Rob Halford has since taken on a legend all his own and is one of heavy metal’s enduring icons. The band would see mixed success with their post-reunion albums, with the greater success coming from the more recent offerings.

If that were the whole story on Judas Priest line-up changes, it would be more than enough. But some huge moves came in the 2010’s and led to a lot of drama and headaches for all involved. Tomorrow I’ll get into the shakeups at the guitar positions.

When The Line Up Changes – Metallica (Part Two)

Yesterday I talked about two line-up changes from Metallica’s early days. Today I’ll get into the two remaining changes, both at the bass position. (Three if you ask Bob Rock, I guess…)

The first change came in 1986 and was born of tragedy – a bus accident claimed the life of Metallica’s legendary bassist.

Cliff Burton dies, succeeded by Jason Newsted

On September 27, 1986, Metallica’s tour bus crashed in Sweden. The cause is disputed – a point I’ll leave alone here. The result was the death of Cliff Burton at 24 years old.

Cliff’s death was an obvious shockwave through the Metallica camp, as well as the metal scene in general. Cliff was a massive force and contributor to the Metallica sound, his presence was going to be missed no matter what.

The band did decide to press on and after a huge audition process, chose Jason Newsted for the role. Newsted hailed from Arizona thrashers Flotsam And Jetsam, who had just been getting the ball rolling on their output. F&J would go on to have a nice career, but Newsted would find something far beyond nice in Metallica.

The lineup formed in 1987 would stay intact until 2001. In this period, Metallica would become one of the best-selling bands in the world. Their first effort with Newsted, …And Justice For All, would become their biggest seller to date. Then in 1991, their self-titled effort smashed records and stands as one of the best sellers of the 1990s.

Success would not necessarily be easy for Newsted. He wound up with just a few songwriting credits during his time in the band, which saw four full-length albums released. Jason was a total sparkplug when playing live, he was often cited as a highlight of the show for his energy and headbanging. The physical toll of that, coupled with another huge issue, led to him departing the band in 2001.

Jason Newsted quits, replaced by Robert Trujillo

When Jason Newsted announced his departure from Metallica, it wasn’t a quiet event. The band happened to have a film crew around them, shooting for a very drama-filled movie that became Some Kind Of Monster.

Newsted cited physical issues from touring, as well as discouragement from the band when he wished to do a side project. The discouragement came solely from James Hetfield, Newsted originally found the rest of the band and management keen on the idea.

Newsted would perform in a variety of bands over the years after Metallica – with that “side project” Echobrain, a tour with Ozzy Osbourne, as a member of Voivod and in a self-named band. Newsted disbanded that outfit sometime in 2014, citing the extreme expenses he was funding to take the band on tour. He has sporadically appeared in various capacities since, though not with a full time act.

For Metallica, they were between a rock and a hard place as they were working on their next album. With a lot of delays and drama found in plentiful supply on the Some Kind Of Monster film, the band’s producer Bob Rock filled in on bass for the album. It did at least come off as if Bob thought he was joining the band in a full capacity, though I don’t wish to speak for someone I’ve never met.

In any case, the audition process for a new bass player commenced, also documented on Some Kind Of Monster. The band chose Robert Trujillo, a career musician with an impressive resume spanning from Suicidal Tendencies to Black Label Society and Ozzy Osbourne (Newsted directly replaced Trujillo as Ozzy’s bassist, in fact).

Trujillo hit it off well with the established members of Metallica and was accepted fully into the band, something that never found his predecessor Jason. And it’s fair to say that Robert’s embrace into the group was the result of lessons learned from Newsted’s departure, James and Lars have said as much over the years. The band have released two albums with Trujillo and have toured extensively as the bearers of a now 40 year legacy as metal’s most successful band.

That about does it for the line-up changes in Metallica. There are other things that could be discussed, like fill-in guitarists when James has injured himself, the luminaries who auditioned for the bass role in 1986 and 2001, and the band’s idea to bring in John Bush as a vocalist and let James concentrate on guitar. But all of that is side stuff that can wait for another day. For today I’ll rest on the band’s present (and likely final) construction, ending with a final mention of Dave Mustaine simply because it’s not a Metallica discussion without Dave Mustaine.

When The Line Up Changes – Metallica (Part One)

Today and tomorrow I’m going to look at the major line-up changes in Metallica. The band have had a few over the years and they are some of the most-talked about personnel changes in music.

For the first part I’ll go into the two early era changes that would shape the band’s first run. One saw the addition of the “heart and soul” of the group, while the other change is one of the most discussed band member exits in music history.

Ron McGovney quits, replaced by Cliff Burton

When Metallica originally formed, James Hetfield brought with him Ron McGovney, a bandmate in prior outfits. The band used McGovney’s parents’ house to rehearse in during the early days, and Ron played bass on several demos.

There were apparent tensions between McGovney and the rest of the band, and Ron quit in late 1982. McGovney was not especially active in music after departing Metallica, but has joined the band at anniversary celebrations in the years since.

The titanic shift in Metallica came when McGovney was replaced – James and Lars watched the band Trauma performing at the famed Whiskey A Go Go. They discovered that the crazy sounds came from the band’s bassist, Cliff Burton. Burton was approached about joining Metallica and agreed, as long as the band relocated from Los Angeles to the Bay Area. The move was made and history would follow.

Burton would be a massive addition to the band. He played his bass much like a guitar, employing effects pedals and playing riffs seemingly more suited to six strings. His unique sound became a hallmark of the band’s early recordings and landed him solo spots on albums. Burton was also a huge contributor to the songwriting process, responsible for many of the band’s landmark songs in the first era.

While Cliff Burton’s time would be cut short through tragedy in 1986, he bears great responsibility for Metallica becoming a worldwide phenomenon. His entry into Metallica in 1982 is the catalyst for the band becoming what they were. There isn’t a Metallica as we know them without Cliff Burton.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about Cliff’s death and the shockwaves from that. But for now, it’s time to write about that which has already had trillions of words spilled about it. A few line-up changes in history have been titanic and are discussed widely even to this day, but this one might take the cake as far as how often it’s brought up, both by fans and by the aggrieved party.

Dave Mustaine is fired, replaced by Kirk Hammett

The story is well-known – Dave was in the early version of Metallica. The band were drunken hellraisers as a rule, but Dave took it to a line beyond that. Though specific stories are thrown around and disputed, Dave was eventually booted from the group just as they prepared to record their debut album. Mustaine was given a cross-country bus ticket back to Los Angeles from New York and he would form Megadeth. With a giant chip on his shoulder, Mustaine blazed his own trail in the thrash realm and remains the head of the Megadeth table today (a Megadeth line-up change post would be novel length and may or may not materialize someday).

To replace Mustaine, Metallica called across the country and asked Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett to join. Hammett flew out directly to New York and was given the Metallica job in quick order. Hammett remains Metallica’s lead guitar player to this day.

It’s kind of funny how much there can be to talk about regarding this line-up change, and almost none of it revolves around Kirk Hammett. Kirk seems to be a pretty reserved, quiet guy who doesn’t stir the pot much. Kirk left Exodus, the band he had formed, for Metallica.

Exodus already had a reputation in the Bay Area scene, much of it for their violent live shows. Kirk’s departure left Gary Holt to be the main creative force in Exodus, a path that has served the band well in the decades since. Hammett has appeared live and in studio on occasion with Exodus in the years since.

But, as most already likely know, this line-up change isn’t really about Kirk Hammett. No, it’s about Dave Mustaine. Dave has given countless interviews over the years expressing his displeasure at being bounced from Metallica. While Mustaine is credited for songwriting contributions on the first two Metallica albums, he has in the past claimed to have written far more than he was credited on.

Mustaine also attacked Hammett in the past, accusing Kirk of simply ripping Mustaine off. Mustaine was a vocal thorn in the side of Metallica for many years, though the members of Metallica didn’t often take the bait and discuss Mustaine in any great detail.

It was clear that Mustaine was bitter about Metallica – most likely envious of their huge success, even as he found his own way with Megadeth. I hate to speculate about a person’s thoughts and motivations, but it’s pretty clear there was something to that with Mustaine and Metallica.

Over the years stances would soften, and Mustaine wound up jamming a bit with his old bandmates and his replacement during the Big Four shows. The feud entered an era of relative peace, even though Mustaine can still be counted on to say something occasionally.

A lot is made of Mustaine’s contributions to early Metallica, and this sometimes gets heated fan discussion going over what the band would have sounded like had he stayed, or if he really did provide more early material than he’s credited for, what have you. Various scenarios are argued over and over again, to no real effect but to take up bandwidth on the Internet. No one really “knows” what happened since none of us were there, and it’s so long ago now that it really isn’t important. But people have to have stuff to talk trash on, I guess.

It was just one line-up change for a band in their early years, just before recording their first record. But the saga of Dave Mustaine being tossed from Metallica lives on 40 years later, and will probably remain in the metal consciousness for so long as people have access to the Internet (and Mustaine is around to offer his occasional thoughts).

That wraps up the first part of Metallica’s line-up changes. I’ll be back tomorrow with the death of Cliff Burton and also the departure of the guy who replaced him.

When The Line-up Changes – Accept

In this installment of line-up changes I’m going to tackle a band that has had way more than one. In fact, the group has only had one constant member in its 46 year history. Discussing every change would be an insane task and be a 50 part series on the blog. It would also be extremely dry and uninteresting – very few of the line-up changes had any massive impact.

Today’s subject is Accept, the long-running German metal outfit who have several solid albums under their belts, as well as a book’s worth of line-up changes and a few extended breaks from touring and recording. Guitarist Wolf Hoffman is the only member to remain in the band from 1976 until now and to have recorded on every album.

Accept would gain notice in the 1980’s with albums like Balls To The Wall, Restless And Wild and Metal Heart. They would begin long periods of instability in 1987 when vocalist Udo Dirkschnieder was dismissed from the group. A series of reunions and extended breaks took place between 1992 and 2005. Hoffman was insistent on taking the band further after the 2005 reunion tour but blamed Dirkschnieder for inactivity after the tour.

The line-up change of note would happen in 2009 – Accept would reconvene with a new album and tour, and this time Udo was not invited. Taking his place was American singer Mark Tornillo, who had fronted New Jersey-based TT Quick in the 1980’s.

TT Quick were a bit of a “hidden gem” band from the ’80’s, never quite breaking big but still having an influence. Their guitarist David DiPietro would bear huge influence on fellow Jersey guitarists Zakk Wylde and Dave “Snake” Sabo, neither of whom should need any introduction. But TT Quick would remain under the radar and mostly inactive after the early 90’s, save for a brief reunion around the turn of the century.

It was a huge deal for Accept to reunite and do so without Udo Dirkschnieder. Udo was the definitive voice of Accept, having fronted the early and classic albums. A few records with other singers did not stand out or have the same impact as those from Udo’s time with the group. The band toured on festivals with the classic songs and that’s what fans were paying to see.

It was a massive risk to take on a new singer and someone as relatively unknown as Mark Tornillo. While Accept have international acclaim, they are a European band and taking on an American singer from an obscure group would be strange news to fans. The Internet lit up with negative reaction to Tornillo’s appointment, metal fans are not one to react well to major line-up changes like this.

Accept were prepared for the backlash, and very well armed to fend off critics. Filling Udo’s shoes was going to be a tall task, so the group hit the studio and prepared an album before announcing the line-up change. 2010’s Blood Of The Nations was the first new music from Accept in 14 years and the first without Udo in 21 years. It also became the first Accept album that anyone truly gave a shit about in 24 years.

Mark Tornillo’s “prove it” moment was a hit out of the gate. While many fans clinging to the Udo legacy still spewed venom across Internet comment sections, critics and fans were in awe of Blood Of The Nations and Tornillo’s strong performance. The major line-up change and huge risk would pay off. Not only did Tornillo gain accolades for his work on the album, but many praised his adept handling of the Accept back catalog.

That is where many replacement singers run foul of the fanbase – a new album can be good, even great, but when the new singer can’t lend due performance to the legacy works, people get turned off. And in fairness, it’s still not hard to find people slagging off Mark Tornillo and his singing on Accept’s classic tunes. If there is an Accept article at all on Blabbermouth or wherever, there are still plenty of comments from people unwilling to “accept” the new singer.

Music is personal opinion, of course, but I think the people still ripping Accept in its current form are just crying for the sake of crying. I saw Accept live in 2013 and the band blew the roof off the venue. Tornillo was spectacular and the band as a whole was in great form. The detractors are honestly just people who want to be butthurt over Udo’s exclusion from the group. I don’t often waste my time dissecting the opinions of people who hold contrary views to my own, but in the case of Accept, it’s one I feel comfortable doing. It isn’t an Accept problem, it’s a them problem.

The line-up change for Accept has been a success. Tornillo is now five studio albums and 13 years deep into his Accept run. The band have dealt with other line-up issues since but are still keeping at it. Udo Dirkschnieder is no worse off either – he is touring constantly and releases new studio albums more frequently than some people change their underwear. And even with all the commotion over the line-up change and Udo’s complex feelings about Accept, he has offered nothing but praise for Tornillo and how the latter has handled the role.

Sometimes the line-up change works, other times it doesn’t. In the case of Accept, their risky and daring change in 2009 panned out for the band and fans, or at least the fans who were willing to approach it with an open mind and ear. I’m sure it wasn’t an accident that they went with a singer in a similar vein to Udo. Accept have been able to add a new chapter to their legacy and were able to buck the odds and re-establish themselves when up against their own history.

When The Line-up Changes – Motley Crue

One big part of being a music fan is enduring line-up changes. Bands break up or members quit or get fired. Other times it is tragedy that forces a band member change. Sometimes the change is not even very noteworthy – person x is in place of person y behind the drums of that thrash band that’s good but no one is up in arms about. But other times the line-up change is world-shaking and causes intense amounts of speculation and drama.

Numerous line-up changes have occurred over the years in bands I like and listen to. I’m going to begin a new series where I look at changes that have had a great impact on the band in question and my fandom of said band. There are enough of these that I can go on about them for quite awhile.

For my first look at a band’s member changes I’m going to look at Motley Crüe. The group have only had a few member changes but one especially was a nuclear bomb that changed the course of the group immeasurably.

Motley Crüe had no lineup changes for 11 years, only having jettisoned a second guitar player before the band was named. The same line-up of singer Vince Neil, bassist Nikki Sixx, guitarist Mick Mars and drummer Tommy Lee would go on to terrorize radio, hotel rooms and women for over a decade unscathed.

While 1991 saw a new form of rock overtake hair metal as the new format of choice, Motley Crüe were one of a few 80’s bands that seemed poised to make it through the mess with a career still intact. The group released a greatest hits compilation in October 1991 called Decade Of Decadence that offered highlights from the group’s career. It also feature a scorching, heavy as hell new track Primal Scream. That song gave the appearance that the band could regroup and offer a more gritty, heaver version of their sound that might still resonate in the new music climate. Decade sold well and Primal Scream was a much-talked about song in the Crüe legacy.

But it wasn’t to be. In February 1992, the band announced that Vince Neil was departing. It’s still unclear if he quit or was fired – the consensus seems to be that both happened. Either way, the Crüe were now in uncharted waters.

Neil went on to record two decently received yet commercially unsuccessful solo albums, while his former band hired The Scream mainman John Corabi to helm a new record. 1994’s Motley Crüe came out the gate decently enough but then floundered. The band would see the financial writing on the wall and reunite with Vince in 1997 for the equally unsuccessful and, well, bad Generation Swine.

So what was it like at the time? The music landscape was shifting, of course, but it was still a bit of a shock that Motley Crüe were parting like this. Like I said, they seemed like they might be able to crank out something viable to keep up with the times. Primal Scream had a fair bit of grit to it and the band were certainly capable of delivering above the standard hair metal line. As much ink has been spilled about the changing face of rock in the early 90’s, recall that one of the best-selling groups of those years were Aerosmith. Even with the arrival of grunge and alt-rock, there was room for Motley Crüe.

The singer change in 1992 was one that just did not bear fruit. Yes, John Corabi is an excellent musician. The band updated their sound for the times and let Corabi inform their recording, and honestly that was probably too much. They made a record that sounds great with John but it really just isn’t Motley Crüe. It didn’t have the sneer and sleaze that defined the band up to that point – the early indications in 1991 were that the classic outfit could update their own sound. The self-titled record proved too much for fans to bear, even if the album is good or even excellent in its own right.

The band was knocked off course through the 90’s and wouldn’t get right again for quite some time. Their other major line-up change would come in 1999, just after the failure of Generation Swine. Drummer Tommy Lee, by this time far more of a tabloid star than a rock drummer, would leave the band due to frustrations with Vince Neil. And if you heard the dredge that Lee released as a solo artist, he must have been very angry to leave his signature band behind and release that crap.

Lee was replaced in Crüe by former Ozzy Osbourne skinsman Randy Castillo, who helped the group record 2000’s New Tattoo. Castillo was beset by health problems before the tour began and was replaced by Hole drummer Samantha Maloney. Castillo would unfortunately find himself in a losing battle with cancer, passing away in 2002.

New Tattoo was a better offering than their prior effort but did not move the needle for the band. In 2004 the group decided to put their differences aside and reunite. This time the classic line-up would stick for eight years, through a new album and several tours. The tours attracted a lot of attention and the band would ride a wave through to their “retirement” at the close of 2015. Of course they would famously reunite for a 2020 2021 2022 stadium tour several years later.

In most line-up changes I can accept whatever caused the rift or loss and I can set my feelings aside and allow a band to move on. But in the case of Motley Crüe it just didn’t work out with Corabi. The band seem fine ignoring the time period – Nikki Sixx had long been complimentary of the Corabi period but recently turned on his former collaborator in interviews. The songs from that era are left alone in live sets and the album doesn’t even get the reissue treatment.

Motley Crüe the album probably ought to see a revisit. I have no problem citing its worth, though I can see why so many fans turned on the band. But enough others hail it as one of the band’s best and would cough up the necessary cash for the much-needed repress. Hell, the other two albums from the band’s “dark” period could also see new issues – neither was ever officially pressed on vinyl.

But Motley Crüe seem to be happy to retrofit their career to 1981-1991, and 2004-2022. It’s probably a wise choice given the poor reception to the line-up change despite the merits of the replacement singer. It’s the case of one band where line-up changes didn’t work out. The Tommy Lee departure in 1999 might not have been terribly impactful – by then the damage had already been done. And they’re the only line-up changes the band has had in its history. Sometimes a group has to stick with what works, and that is certainly the case with Motley Crüe.