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Nov 12 2012

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When does a band become a tribute band?

When does a band become a cover band?

The gourmet picnic

The gourmet picnic

I ask this because I had another weekend away with the girls at a Day on the Green concert. It was a fabulous weekend – beautiful accommodation (Maple Cottage at Berrima), great company and brilliant Aussie rock bands. And of course our obligatory gourmet picnic.

Except … I couldn’t suspend my disbelief long enough to pretend that the second band on stage really was Dragon.

My early teenage years were spent with some of the best Aussie rock music of all time, as well as some of the best international rock music. My first concert, when I was 13 years old, was Status Quo at the Hordern Pavilion. I know they’ve lost all credibility with those totally tragic commercials they did recently, but back in the 70s they were brilliant.

And for those who are counting – yes that does make me a little bit older than the 37 years I keep admitting to. But if you ever believed that – I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

Some of those bands were so good they are still around, and still touring. But are the bands that are touring, and cashing in on fabulous music, really the same bands.

Because so many of those bands from my formative years have broken up and reformed, this is a conversation I’ve had with various people over the years.

Take Dragon – please.

The original band (well, the one that hit the big time) consisted of Marc Hunter, Todd Hunter, Robert Taylor, Paul Hewson and Kerry Jacobson.

Marc Hunter died of cancer in 1998 and Paul Hewson died of a drug overdose in 1985. The last time I saw Robert Taylor he was playing with Dan Johnson. Kerry Jacobson is still out there somewhere but not playing with Dragon. The only original band member on stage on Saturday was Todd Hunter. So can they really lay claim to being Dragon????

Choirboys - the first and one of the best bands at the Day on the Green

Choirboys – definitely NOT Dragon

AC/DC managed to survive the loss of Bon Scott, but they are one of the few.

Then there’s INXS, who apparently have just announced they are calling it quits. I know the band was originally called the Farris Brothers, and that Andrew and Tim Farris and Kirk Pengilly have been there all through the band’s life, but without Michael Hutchence it just wasn’t INXS. And that stupid reality TV search for a rock star show lost them all credibility!

Perhaps the most ridiculous example, and one that encapsulates the problem, is that of the Angels.

On New Year’s Eve 1999 they played their last concert and Doc Neeson left the band. Then in the early 2000s they reformed, with all the original members except Doc Neeson.  Then Doc sued the others to stop them using the name The Angels for their band, and promptly formed his own band Doc Neeson’s Angels.  And the fight goes on ….

Doc (my Doc, not Doc Neeson) was watching a Queen concert on MTV a couple of weeks ago when we had this conversation again. All the original members of Queen were performing – except Freddie Mercury. I argued that without Freddie Mercury it just wasn’t Queen, regardless of how good the new singer was and even though it was the same music performed by the same musicians. It just wasn’t Queen and I didn’t want to watch it as Queen.

He pointed out that we had previously been to one of those “tribute band” nights where a lot of different musicians and singers performed Pink Floyd songs, and I had enjoyed it. And he was right, I did enjoy it. But at no stage did anybody try to pretend that the band on stage WAS Pink Floyd – and therein lies the difference.

Noiseworks - the headline act

Noiseworks – also NOT Dragon

They can still play the music, and I can still enjoy the music, but please don’t pretend to me that you are the real band that made it famous.

My son is a muso in a band. They’re only young and they’re not famous. When they first formed their band at school they were called they the Sycophants. Then they changed their drummer – and changed their name. Their rationale? It was a new band so it needed a new name. They’re now called the Bennisons. They still play a lot of their old songs, but they also have a lot of new music that wasn’t played by the Sycophants line-up and which they figured needed a new identity.

Who knows, maybe if they were famous they wouldn’t be so quick to change, after all they would have a lot more to lose.

And there’s the rub – by keeping the band’s name they get to keep the identity, the fans and the fame that goes with it. But unless you can continue to make new music and have that recognised as being just as good as with the original band (see AC/DC), then you aren’t the original band. So stop trying to insult my intelligence – and loyalty – by pretending you are.

Permanent link to this article: http://kathswinbourne.com.au/when-does-a-band-become-a-tribute-band/