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“You’re Out! No, You’re Back IN the Band!”

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Stand-up comedian Larry Miller joked: “I don’t understand couples that break up and get back together—especially couples who divorce and remarry. That’s like pouring milk on a bowl of cereal, tasting it, and saying, ‘This milk is sour. Well, I’ll put it back in the refrigerator—maybe it will be okay tomorrow.’”  Miller very well could have been talking about rock groups who fire a band member only to uncomfortably reunite because cold cash heals all bruised egos.

One case in point: The Mamas and the Papas’ Michelle Phillips, whose husband, Papa John, sacked her because she got into the sack with Byrd Gene Clark. He then brought her back into the fold when fans didn’t show any love to the “new” Mama, Jill Gibson.

Drink and drugs have led to the firing/rehiring of many a rock star, including Ozzy Osborne from Black Sabbath and Vince Neil from Mötley Crüe. Often, the story behind a band’s messy divorce is more enjoyable than their music.

At the end of a show in Biloxi, MS,  Kiss drummer Peter Criss chucked his sticks at Gene Simmons’ head instead of throwing them into the audience as he normally did. Criss recalled, “I didn’t mean to hit him hard. But the thick end of the stick whacked him.” Before the group launched into their encore, Simmons kicked Criss in the shins. Gene revealed: “Each boot weighs about as much as a bowling ball.”  After the show, Criss recalled: “I found one of Ace’s [guitarist Frehley] empty champagne bottles and broke it against the table. As soon as Gene walked into that room, I went after him with the broken bottle, but some of the crew intervened and dragged me away. But Kiss, as the world knew it, was over.”

Criss returned for a 1996 reunion tour (paid merely as a sideman) and one album, 1998’s Psycho Circus, only to quit in 2001, then return once again.  In 2004, Simmons and guitarist Paul Stanley decided Criss wasn’t worthy of a new contract and didn’t inform him (or his attorney) that his drumming services were no longer required.

A sure-fire way to tell a bandmate that he’s out of the group is by giving him the cold shoulder—or knocking him out cold, which is what The Who’s Roger Daltrey did to Keith Moon. In late 1965, Daltrey was the only band member who eschewed amphetamines, noting, “I wanted to be the singer, and if you want to be a singer you can’t take amphetamines and all that kind of stuff because it dries your throat up.”  But after one horribly played concert, a furious Daltrey decided to drop some speed.  Unfortunately, it was Moon’s speed that he dropped–down a toilet.  A feud ensued, which resulted in a bloody nose for Moon and a pink slip for Daltrey.  Daltrey accepted his job loss, saying, “It was a fair fight that I got thrown out of the band–because Moon came for me with a tambourine.”

After the group was reminded that losing their lead singer would kill their momentum, his bandmates had a change of heart and the next night, Daltrey was twirling his microphone again.  In the 2013 film, The Who and the Making of Tommy, Daltrey confessed: “I thought if I lost the band, I was dead.  If I didn’t stick with The Who, I would be a sheet metal worker for the rest of my life.”

If tribute bands were around in the ’60s, Townshend might have plucked a faux Who singer from obscurity as Pete has basically stated that Roger was dispensable.  Townshend declared, “Keith was a genius. John [bassist Entwistle] was a genius. I was certainly in on the edge of it. Roger was a singer.  That was it.”

In contrast, Judas Priest needed somebody to replace their burned-out lead singer Rob Halford.  Priest found that body in Tim “Ripper” Owens who was wailing away in British Steel, an Akron, OH Judas Priest tribute band.  Priest’s search for their singer became fodder for the 2001 film, Rock Star.  Ripper wasn’t a big fan of the movie, stating, “They fabricated things and decided to pull away from my story. If I could sue, I would.”  But after ten years of being away from the group, Halford got back in and Ripper was out.

Halford later called his disappearing act merely an act of “miscommunication,” stating, “At the end of that Painkiller tour, I should’ve said ‘Guys, I’m gonna go off for a couple of years and just chill and maybe do some stuff.’ But that’s not the way it turned out. We just fell into this terrible miscommunication. Bands are like families — you fall out in your family.”

Translation: “I went back to me mates not because of any family fallout. I came back because I didn’t want me bank account to go in freefall.”

-Mark Daponte

Photo: The Who (Getty)

1 comment on ““You’re Out! No, You’re Back IN the Band!”

  1. That last comment comes across as a bit of a cheap shot at Rob Halford, who by all indications is a pretty decent guy who was dealing with a lot at the time of his split from Judas Priest.

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