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Stylus Counsel | Area Resident’s Records

Track 20 | Now U2 can be in Hawkwind — but Weird Al still has you beat.

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Keeping bands together isn’t easy. The live version of my own band, Area Resident, has had 13 different people in five years. I’m the only constant. I know — what does that say about me, right?

My pal Jim Bryson and I were talking about his neighbour who is a big “Weird Al” Yankovic fan. Jim mentioned that Al’s band has an interesting distinction: The longest uninterrupted tenure of any original band lineup. Al, Jim West, Steve Jay and Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz have been playing together since 1982. That’s an incredible 40 years. I thought about this quite a bit over the past week. Could that be true?

Looking through my own record collection, The Beatles’ original lineup — starting with when they made their first record — lasted eight years. The Kinks managed just three before original bass player Pete Quaife quit. The Who were together 13 years before Keith Moon died and was replaced with Kenney Jones. Even The Rolling Stones, arguably the longest-running rock band, only kept the original lineup together from 1962-1969 when Brian Jones was fired. The Beach Boys have been around since ’61 — but their original lineup wasn’t really ever a thing.

The chair says it all.

I thought Mötley Crüe would be up there with the Yankovic band — they started a year earlier in 1981 — but Vince Neil split for a while in the ’90s. So just 11 years. Maybe Huey Lewis & The News? Seems like they got their real name and lineup together in 1980 and stayed together until bass player Mario Cipollina bowed out in 1995. That’s 15 years.

Wait — U2! They’ve been together with the same members since 1978. That’s four years before Weird Al’s band. Forty-four years. Bonkers. If Dusty Hill hadn’t passed away last summer, ZZ Top would have held this honour, having been around since 1969. Golden Earring have technically had more than a dozen different lineups since they began (BACK IN 1961!) but founders Rinus Gerritsen and George Kooymans were there throughout, until the last hurrah in 2020.

The other end of the spectrum is just as fascinating. I have an Atomic Rooster album with an illustration of the band in the gatefold. The lineup had changed before the album was finished, and again before it even came out. Reminds me of that Spinal Tap quote: “Thirty-seven people have been in this band over the years,” according to David St. Hubbins in 1982.

Eventually, everybody will be in Hawkwind.

That’s nothing compared to Hawkwind, who have had 50 members since they began in 1969 — 46 different lineups. Time in Hawkwind is like mandatory military service. Manchester’s The Fall is in the same category. Between 1979 and 2017, they released 32 studio albums — plus live albums and compilations — and had 44 official band members, along with an additional 30-some “contributors.” At least Hawkwind and The Fall had Dave Brock and Mark E Smith the entire time. They were the only constants. There are lots of bands touring with no original members at all: Quiet Riot, Yes, Thin Lizzy, Ratt, Canned Heat and Humble Pie.

Eric Singer.

Who’s been in the most bands? Drummer Eric Singer, I believe. By my count there’s 14 different acts with which he recorded or toured, including KISS, Black Sabbath, Badlands and Alice Cooper. Now 64 years old, Singer is on more than 75 albums, not including singles and EPs. He’s the Robert Loggia of rock — but not one rimshot on a Weird Al record. Because even though he might be more than a passable Peter Criss, he’s no Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz.

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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check out him out on Discogs.

Photo by U2Start.