Re-branding old bands and holograms!?



So in one week the world of classic rock has seen [or heard] 2 new directions, both of which I think are misleading, in bad taste and showing a grim and desperate road for bands and managers from an era that has already lost a number of aging rockers earlier in the year.

The first being a new album by Blackfoot… or in reality a band named Blackfoot, who’ve been handed the name and back catalogue to start from. The southern rock band that began in the early ‘70s after Rickey Medlocke left Lynyrd Skynyrd [as their drummer] and moved up to guitar, lead vocals, and major songwriter. The original [and only line up for most fans] included Greg T. Walker [also ex of LS, bass], Jakson Spires on drums [RIP], and Charlie Hargrett [guitar]. From 1975 to 81 the band released 5 albums, most notably Strikes in 1979 [their most successful] – which featured the classics “Train Train”, “Road Fever” and their best known song “Highway Song”.

Strikes was followed up by the underrated “Tomcattin”, which was a bit heavier, and featured such classics as “Warped” and “On The Run”, and then 1981’s Maurauder with faves “Fly Away”, “Dry County” and “Rattlesnake Rock n Roller”.

Blackfoot 1

The band added Ken Hensley on keyboards for 1983’s Siogo and the follow up Vertical Smiles. The latter didn’t feature Hargrett, as he’d left before it was done. The new commercial 80s sound didn’t stick with longtime fans and following Hensley’s departure, and Bobby Barth’s joining the band band soon broke up. Medlocke would reform a new band as Rick Medlocke & Blackfoot for a contractual album, and carry on a few years with changing line ups and a few more albums, before he joined Lynyrd Skynyrd. Hargrett, Walker, and Spires reformed Blackfoot with Bobby Barth soon after [leasing the name from Medlocke, presumably], but after numerous changes, and the loss of Spires, Medlocke stepped in, took back the name and branded a new group as Blackfoot in 2012. So, that is my Blackfoot history in a nutshell…

Fast forward to current days… And this ‘new’ younger band that’s been given the name has released a new album as Blackfoot. And I will say – before ANYTHING else – regardless if Rickey manages, or contributes to the writing or production [I’m not totally sure, nor do I totally care!] because this is NOT Blackfoot! Regardless if the album is decent or has any similarities to the original band [I’ve heard the single, watched the video – it’s ok, somewhat generic], or if these guys are great players and writers – it is a band branded and being sold as something that no longer exists. It may be a great Blackfoot tribute band live – but that’s all it can be. Imagine if Paul McCartney did something similar with the Beatles name and catalogue or Jimmy Page with Zeppelin, etc… ? there’d be global fucking outrage! This may be a good band, but I won’t be duped into buying it as a Blackfoot album – to compare and sit alongside the rest of the BF collection I have. And I am a huge fan of Rickey Medlocke, and would love to hear him doing new material outside of Skynyrd! But, frankly I am cynical enough about bands still out there calling themselves Lynyrd Skynyrd, Thin Lizzy, and Foreigner! [And this is a whole other debate]. Tribute bands may be the best way to experience bands no longer able to perform, but call them what they are – and record under a different name. [Even Scott Gorham realized the backlash he’d likely get if his incarnation of Thin Lizzy used the name on a new album].

The other disturbing occurrence this week was the use of a hologram of Ronnie James Dio at Germany’s Wacken Festival. Dio’s former wife and manager, who supports the tribute Dio’s Discpiles also came up with and supported this hologram idea. Dio’s Disciples were put together less than a year after the guy passed away, and consists of players that replaced his original band – that band [Vivian Campbell, Jimmy Bain and Vinny Appice] reassembled 2 years back, called themselves Last In Line, and issued an album of new material earlier this year. Sadly, things went south when Jimmy Bain passed away suddenly on the Def Leppard cruise. And for me [and many others] – THAT original line up was the Dio band, and I’d be far more interested in seeing them [if they come around with a sub bass player], playing the classics they wrote and recorded, as well as new material.

So, back to this gimmick of a lazer / light show and vocal of Dio, which was played along to by his former bandmates for the finale [“We Rock”], and there’s talk about taking this kind of creepy circus act on the road next year!? Yeesh!

Sorry, but why bother – aside from former colleagues cashing in and creating a fake experience for everyone, mostly fans. If these guys are out there doing their regular act as a tribute to RJD – fair enough, but resurrecting him on stage is in poor taste, IMO. It would also wind up being predictable and uninspired with the band playing the same thing note for note – no room to change, and no between song banter from a dead guy fronting the show!  Frankly, this is something one would think Sharon Osbourne would try [she’s likely pissed someone’s beat her to it]. Imagine going to see a full show of this by your favorite band, with a hologram of their long deceased frontman? Where would it end? Imagine worse if this sort of thing got put on to a recording with band playing along to the same vocal performance from years before? and geez – who would be on the t-shirt?? and what dying rock star would say “sure, make me into a hologram when i’m gone to keep the band going and employed!” [?]

The golden era of rock is long gone – there won’t be any more Led Zeppelins, Beatles, Thin Lizzys, or the classic line ups of Uriah Heep, Queen, Rainbow, etc… but you can get out there and try to enjoy those still performing, while we can. Forget the gimmicks and the tricky branding and packaging of once great rock acts. I saw a band called Thin Lizzy 5 years ago, and being a huge fan, and having never seen the real deal – I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I understood that it was a tribute to the band – there’s no Phil Lynott, just the same as there’s no Ronnie VanZant – so the latter day Lynyrd Skynyrd doesn’t fool me either, but I can enjoy it for the fact that it’s the closest thing to the real thing we’ll ever see nowadays, and that can’t be replaced by a new group using the name or a hologram!


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