I Will Survive - 20 bands that survived and thrived
"You'll never survive without me", said the singer as they flounced out of the room..."oh yes we will" said the band (and their management and lawyers)....20 bands that have survived and thrived after splits, deaths and tantrums...
1. Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd survived the loss of their band leader not once, but twice. Dave Gilmour was drafted in to play guitar alongside Syd Barrett as he started to unravel. Gilmour took over most vocals after Syd finally left.
Then when the mercurial Roger announced that Pink Floyd was over, lawsuits kicked in and by 1987, Pink Floyd were back, Back, BACK. Probably not as good as they were with old grumpy Rog, but still cracking and delivering wonderful live shows, much to Roger’s chagrin. They eventually performed four songs in 2008 for Live8 with Roger.
2. New Order
When Joy Division’s singer Ian Curtis took his own life in 1980, the band quickly decided that they wanted to carry on, rebranding as New Order and bringing Gillian Gilbert in on guitar and keys, so Bernard could focus on singing and still play lead guitar. NO would arguably go on to become even more influential.
Then again in 2001, when Gillian Gilbert took a sabbatical to look after her and Stephen’s daughter, they drafted in Phil Cunningham and came back with one of their better later period albums, Get Ready.
Finally, when Hooky unilaterally announced the band was gone in 2007, Bernard and Phil briefly formed Bad Lieutenant, before reforming New order with Stephen and Gillian back in the folder, and a new bass player. Derided by Hooky, they made one of their greatest albums without him, the seminal Music Complete.
Over four albums in the 80s, Marillion did the unimaginable and brought prog rock back into the charts. But as success, drugs and tensions rose, their intimidating larger than life singer and lyricist, Fish, started demanding 50% of the writing credits and that the band sacked their manager. When they refused, he resigned. Rather than roll over, Marillion went out and recruited a new singer immediately, the sonorous Steve “H” Hogarth. The opposite of Fish, 5ft 7in, mop of black hair and a gentler, more versatile vocalist who also wrote lyrics and music and played keys and guitar.
Whilst they never quite reached the same levels of success, they have sustained a career for over 30 years, releasing 14 albums, pioneering crowdfunding, and maintaining a hugely loyal fanbase all over the world (of which I am firmly a member, having seen them 27 times in the UK, Europe, the US and Canada). Whereas, Fish has had financial woes, released 11 albums, which have been far more erratic. I am pleased he seems to be ending his career on a relative high, but he’s been hard to love. I would argue Marillion have been much better without him.
At one point, none of the three original members of the band were still members – their rotating door policy meant that there was an entirely new line-up by 2009.
However, behind the scenes, the original line-up of Keisha, Mutya and Siobhan reformed under their own name (Mutya Keisha Siobhan) in 2012, finally reclaiming the Sugababes name in 2019.
First guitarist Anthony Philips leaves, to be replaced by the marvellous Steve Hackett. Then front man, and fox impersonator, Peter Gabriel leaves in 1975. Rather than recruit a new singer, Phil Collins steps up, whilst continuing to drum for them. Hackett leaves by 1977, and the continue as a hugely successful trio.
But it’s all very friendly and when Gabriel got in trouble in 1982 (he was underwriting the WOMAD festival and was facing bankruptcy), Genesis reformed for one night with Gabriel and Hackett to bail him out – a hugely kind gesture.
When Collins departed in 1996, they brought in Stiltskin’s Ray Wilson, but it was one change too many. However, Collins came back for a tour in 2007, and will be back on stage with them again in 2021. Happy ever after indeed.
Before Midge joined, they were Ultravox!, fronted by the marvellous John Foxx. Foxx went on to become a hugely influential solo artist, but with no major success, whereas Midge’s Ultravox were enormous. Let’s hope success was a bit Vienna for Foxx and meant nothing to him….
7. Fleetwood Mac
They survived the departure of lead singer and guitarist Peter Green, replacing him with various guitarists and singers, including the lovely Christine McVie on keys and vocals. It was only when Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks that they found their commercial groove (plus inter band shagging and mountains of Bolivian marching powder).
Buckingham left, and returned, having been replaced by two fairly anonymous singer/guitarists. It was not the same.
More people joined, then McVie left. Finally, in the mid-2010s, the Rumours line up were back and touring, but it was not to last, with Buckingham fired, replaced by Neil Finn and Mick Campbell from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.
They still tour, they are still huge, but contrary to one of their biggest hits, maybe it really is just time to stop?
8. Take That
Robbie leaves, Take That continue, but split soon after. But reform without him a few years later, with their greatest single, Patience. As things progressed, Williams returned, left, as did Jason Orange, but Take That continue. And it would be a brave betting man to rule out at least one of them re-joining. Hokey Cokey might have been a better name?
9. S Club 7
I am sure you all cried when Paul Cattermole left to form his “nu-metal” band….S Club just rebranded and dropped the 7. Sorted. They are all back together again these days...
10. Spice Girls
After Geri left, they released one more album – it wasn’t great, but Goodbye is a cracking pop song. I literally couldn’t name one Geri solo single…
They have since reformed and then lost Victoria…they just don’t sound the same without her. They are so much better!
11. Iron Maiden
There are currently six members of the metal monsters, but another 17 have left over the years (bassist Steve Harris is the only consistent members over 46 years). They even survived when singer Bruce Dickinson left in 1993, replaced by Blaze Bayley, until Bruce returned in 1999. They are still head banging now.
12. Faith No More
When Chuck Moseley left following the wonderful We Care A Lot, you might have understandably written them off, but they returned with Mike Patton, bigger and better than ever. Midlife Crisis is a career highlight, a magnificently fucked up track!
Bon Scott was an essential part of AC/DC’s magic, so when he died, you might have thought they were a goner. But Brian Johnson took over in 1980 and they became even bigger and better - coincidence flat cap sales rocketed around the heavy metal world. If you don’t like You Shook Me All Night Long, have a stern word with yourself…
14. The Fall
Mark E Smith was the only constant of these post punk legends. As the great man himself said “If it's me and yer granny on bongos, it's the Fall”. Over their 40 odd years, there were over 45 members, plus another 30 plus contributors to the band’s records. As John Peel said, “They are always different; they are always the same".
15. The Blue Aeroplanes
Topping The Fall, Bristol’s indie heroes have had over 90 members and contributors over their 40-year career – the only constants being poet/singer Gerard Langley and dancer Wojtek Dmochowski. I have never seen them live with less than 7 people on stage (one show had 16 people playing at once).
They are and will remain the greatest live band I have ever seen. They have also finished every live show they have ever played with the same Tom Verlaine cover version (Breaking In My Heart) – you’ve gotta love consistency!
16. Manic Street Preachers
After three albums, Richey Manic, their enigmatic and eloquent co-lyricist disappeared, his car abandoned near the Severn Bridge in early 1995. Richey had struggled with depression, self-harming and alcohol throughout their career. His lyrics often reflected his own personal demons (their third album, The Holy Bible, is an extremely dark, but brilliant record).
Following his disappearance, the band decided to continue, with bassist Nicky Wire taking on all lyric writing, and James and Sean continuing to write all the music. However, they continued to use lyrics left by Richey and when they first came back, their was a visible hole on the band on stage. However, they arguably came back with their strongest album (Everything Must Go), and greatest song - A Design For Life. They have rarely put a foot wrong since, though they always talk with great affection and loss for Richey, who was legally declared dead in 2008, after 13 years listed as a missing person.
17. The B-52's
When band leader Ricky Wilson died in 1985, The B-52's went into hiatus and you might have reasonably expected them not to come back. However, they regrouped and returned in 1989 louder and brasher than ever with global smash hit Love Shack and the brilliant Cosmic Thing album. They never learnt when to use an apostrophe though...
This is just weird, a split no one seems to quite understand and now there are 2 UB40s playing – both selling out massive shows. Frontman Ali Campbell left in 2008 to go solo, and the band continued, drafting in his older brother Duncan as a replacement. Ali left due to business issues (most of the band were declared bankrupt in 2013, due to issues with their label). Two more members, Mickey and Astro left to join Ali and now we are left with 2 x the band touring. It all seems so sad, given how tight they were when they formed.
Losing Freddie Mercury seemed insurmountable and frankly, returning with Paul Rodgers from Free on vocals seemed to only reinforce that idea (he was dreadful, I don’t care if you disagree).
So, whoever thought that a runner up from American Idol would be a good idea deserves a massive round of applause, because Adam Lambert is fabulous fronting Queen today. No new material but magnificent live shows, respectful of Freddie’s legacy. I think Freddie would approve. And would probably try and shag him, the old rogue.
20. The Rolling Stones
In many respects, the Stones were Brian Jones’ band, but as he lost the plot to booze and drugs, Mick and Keith kicked him out, brought in Mick Taylor and marched on (the drugs and booze didn’t touch Keef’s sides it seems).