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10:53 a.m. - May 13, 2005
Tribute Bands?? Not On Your LIFE!
My high school friend Andy emailed me the other day. He joined a Doors Tribute Band in Indianapolis (imitating Robby Krieger) and wanted me to see their gig coming up. I said, OK, sure why not. I'm a bit jealous of him because like me he has a wife and little ones, and a job in the real world, but he's out there playing music as well. Sure, it won't get him famous or rich, but the Doors had some good songs (even if they are quite overrated as a whole) and they're fun to play.

Me? I never had the time or patience to learn. Probably should have bought a bass and stuck to it, but instead I decided to consume music voraciously, instead of play it for dozens.

But I got to thinking about other tribute bands. The Doors are pretty good fodder for a tribute band. They're not going to reunite, and everyone knows a lot of their songs and they are easy to play. (Sure, they "got back together", but Ian Astbury only matches Jim Morrison in pretension.) Personally, I hope Andy's band tries to do, say, The Soft Parade or Not to Touch the Earth, but I'm demented and sad at times.

There are other bands, though, that should probably go without tribute. Especially if the tributes are done by people my age (late 30s), because sometimes you just gotta leave the past where it lays by the side of the road. So here is a listing of bands that I don't think you should see tributes for any time soon (and if you do, run away quickly!)

1. Focus - OK, an obscure one to begin the list. But think about it - guitar god from the progressive seventies with perfunctory backup, fronted by a mad-man / flute player. People in my era remember their hit (!) Hocus Pocus which somehow, someway got to the top 10 in 1973. (For those too young, I will try to summarize: Killer guitar riff, drum break, yodeling (!), killer guitar riff, drum break, yodeling (!), killer guitar riff, drum break, madcap flute playing, guitar solo, etc. etc. etc.) My thinking is that you won't find a flute player / yodeler 'round these parts, anymore.

(Sidenote - I bet in the Netherlands there are Focus tribute bands. Just like there are tribute bands for Golden Earring. Now, I feel superior because I can name FIVE Golden Earring songs and actually have listened to the "Moontan" album in entirety (but only remember "Candy's Going Bad" aside from "Radar Love"). At any rate, I think the Focus tributes should stay in the Netherlands . Not that there is anything wrong with the Dutch. I have learned that you don't mess with people from the Low Countries . I once mixed up Flems and Walloons. Oof.

2. Adam and the Ants - I know the D in Adam is supposed to be backwards, but I'm too lazy to figure out how to do it. At any rate, I don't think people in their late 30s should be prancing around on stage in pirate gear wearing Native American warpaint on their face. Especially when they are singing songs like Whip in My Valise and Beat My Guest. Think about it. You want Bob from Accounting swinging around on stage acting like a dandy highwayman? Didn't think so.

3. Van Halen - oh, wait -Van Hagar with Sammy Headache. We have ONE Sammy Hagar floating around already. Lord knows we don't need two.

4. Kraftwerk - If you can sell a tribute band for them, then you have a gift of gab beyond anything I can imagine. All you would need is four guys from the office who can dress up like Dieter from Sprockets and stand in front of machines, while a computer plays all of their songs.

5. Creed - Well, since they were an overblown Pearl Jam tribute band, there is no reason!. Sure, they have broken up, but the fact that Scott Stapp is going to go solo means that we're not rid of him. The other guys need to hire Michael Gira from the Swans (yes, obscure reference, but I am sure you can find some Swans stuff on the net. The voice should tell you I'm right. BTW - The Swans released a record called "Public Castration is a Good Idea". Presumably, they were talking about Scott Stapp. (Ouch, did I say that??)).

6. The Replacements - Seriously, they were a shambling drunken mess. Any bar band on a bad night could imitate them on stage, and no one would even come near to what it would take to play their songs with the same fire and verve. (Not that it's bad to be a shambling, drunken mess. But only the 'Mats could do their songs justice when inebriated, mainly because they were proving state-induced learning valid).

7. Yes - Now, why in the hell would you want a tribute to Yes? Be honest, aside from a few highlights (when they actually tried to write pop songs and not 13 part Buddhist babblings), most of their records were played as an excuse to get totally stoned. Because they were so freaking long, and the songs were so freaking long, it didn't harsh your buzz. And they were "meaningful", but only if you were stoned. Also, the album covers looked cool when you were tripping! But live? Now? Yeesh!

8. The Sex Pistols - Anyone could play their songs, sure. But it would just be an excuse for everyone to get violent and spit all over everyone, and we don't want that. Plus, if someone tributes the Sex Pistols, then John Lydon may come out of his cave again and annoy us all again. (And this goes doubly for a PiL tribute, but Lord knows why anyone would THINK of such a thing, unless they just want to do the Second Edition record in an endless loop.)

9. Fleetwood Mac - This would pose problems. Which version would you do? The superior, yet obscure blues incarnation? And would you dare try to be Peter Green? The equally obscure, yet flaccid, middle period? Why would you dare imitate Bob Welch? And if you do the popular version, then you have to find someone who sounds like a cross between a goat and a harp seal to sing, or bleat. (However, if the tribute band has the stones just to do the Tusk album, and only that album, in entirety, I take this back.)

10. Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band - I was thinking of Frank Zappa at first. But while he was a master guitar player, songwriter, iconoclast, and irreplaceable talent, his extant music is fairly easy to do justices to because he used so many guest vocalists and voices that it's easy to tribute as long as you have the chops. Beefheart, on the other hand, requires a band full of people with chops AND a personality that is totally teetering on the edge of psychosis, on a good day. And you just won't find that in tribute-band dom. Think about it! People have found children to do Guns and Roses and Motley Crue, and midgets are tributing Kiss. But for someone as complex as Beefheart, you need an out of control man-child with 4 octave range and no sense of anything, really, in this temporal plane along with a band that can play differing patterns and time signatures at the same time.

11. Sonic Youth - If only for the expense involved. (50 guitars would do that). That and the mere impossibility of it.

12. Queen - Let's see. Every record sounds like it had 3,487 overdubs on it before the vocals were laid down, then there were about 22,387 vocal overdubs. (But they used no synthesizers!). You may be able to get away with a few tunes (cool ones like Brighton Rock or Dragon Attack) but not the whole shebang. Even THEY didn't do Bohemian Rhapsody live (really) so why should you?

Well, there's my short list. I'm sure there are others, but there is no point to some. Right now in my iPod is Missing Persons, and there is no way you could do a whole tribute show to them, since you can count the memorable songs on one hand even if you were Mordecai Brown.

So until next time, spend money on music wisely! But spend money on music!


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