Where’s my side band?

On the Ball column by Craig Lindsay, as in April 20 Grand Forks Gazette.

Writing the story about Cannafest got me thinking about music. Music has always been a big part of my life and many people’s lives I’m sure. An old song often brings back memories of a certain time and a certain person. November Rain by Guns ‘n Roses always reminds me of university days and mellowing out after the bar. Who can listen to Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear the Reaper without wanting more cowbell like from the famous Saturday Night Live skit with Will Ferrell. Of course, that song also reminds me of the start of the mini-series The Stand by Stephen King from many years back. The music set the scene perfectly for a apolyptic wasteland after a nasty virus decimated most of the population.

Music is such a subjective thing though. Sure, society has pretty much decided that the Beatles are great and Nickleback is umm not. But there are always those that will argue against that. And every band and singer in between is up for debate. Many love Adele but I can’t stand her screechy voice, repetitive lyrics and ubiquity. But I’m sure many don’t like my favourite band They Might be Giants with their silly and usually non-sequitor lyrics and squeeky voices. One of my favourite Giants songs is Ana Ng, “Ana Ng and I are getting old and we still haven’t walked in the glow of each other’s majestic presence. Listen Ana hear my words, they’re the ones you would think I would say if there was a me for you.”

Musicians are an interesting lot no doubt. It doesn’t seem to be easy to be in a band for years without fighting and the inevitable break ups. Musicians are also known for their hard partying, hard drinking and drug taking, all of which just magnify any personal problems. Mega-huge band Oasis (Wonderwall) were led by Noel and Liam Gallagher who were notorious for fighting despite (or because?) they were brothers. Maybe they got the idea of fighting from the Davies brothers from another UK band, The Kinks (You’ve Really Got me and Lola).

So it’s not surprising that bands and singers would branch out and perform with other people. It seems that duets and side bands are a relatively new thing. Famous duets from those early days (I’m talking the 80s) including a pair of collobarations between superstars Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney (Say, Say, Say and The Girl is Mine). I always though those songs proved that two great voices doesn’t always equal a double great song. Other famous duets from the past include Endless Love with Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie and the country hit Islands in the Stream with Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.

When done properly, a duet can be a perfect blend of two performers complementing each other.

Hip hop/rap (and r&b) has long seen colloborations between performers. Jay Z and Alicia Keys hit gold with the huge hit Empire State of Mind. Keys brought just the perfect smooth r&b voice to Jay Z’s raspy, hard-edged rap lyrics. Jay Z has also paired with Justin Timberlake, another r&b superstar, on jams such as Holy Grail. Staying with Jay Z, Jigga put out a whole album with fellow rap superstar Kanye West called Watch The Throne.

Side bands and solo albums are another way musicians try different musical styles that may not fit their band’s style. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones had a couple of solo albums in the 80s with middling success, while guitarist Keith Richards had several albums with the more bluesy Keith Richards and the Expensive Winos.

Duran Duran was one of the biggest bands of the late 80s leading the new wave of English music with their catchy pop ditties like Hungry like the Wolf. Predictably, band members were soon hungry to get away from their band mates. Guitarists Andy Taylor and John Taylor joined with Robert Palmer to form Power Station. They had a couple of big hits like Some Like it Hot. I actually saw them play in Vancouver but Palmer had already left the band to pursue a solo career. So I got to see them with Michael Des Barres fronting the band. Not the same. Meanwhile, the other three Duran Duran members (Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor) formed Arcadia, who only put out one album. The only real hit was the very good Election Day.

One of the biggest bands from the 90s, Blink 182, might have Duran Duran beat as far as side bands go. Blink 182 was known for their juvenile lyrics (Enema of the State is one of their albums) and pop-punk sound. The side bands tended to be a bit more serious and brooding. Guitarist/vocalist Tom Delonge formed Box Car Racer, and was joined by Blink drummer Travis Barker. Box Car Racer had some very good introspective tunes such as I Feel So. DeLonge also formed Angels and Airwaves, which came along years later and has released five studio albums. Not to be outdone Mark Hoppus, the third Blinker, and Barker, formed +44. The band was formed in 2005 shortly after the first breakup of Blink 182. The band only put out one studio album, that was received with mixed reviews and didn’t do all that well.

Of course there are many, many more than that from throughout the years but it’s time to fade out for now.


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