The Yardbirds weren’t one of the more popular British Invasion acts on these shores, but they were at the forefront of the Limey Blues Boom of the mid-‘60s, paving the way for later acts like Cream, the Who and Led Zeppelin. More importantly, three faces on classic rock’s Mt. Rushmore of Guitar Heroes – Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page – passed through the nest.
Last week, Rollingstone.com announced that Beck and Page would reunite with founding bassist Chris Dreja and drummer Jim McCarty for a tour. The lead singer is TBA, because original vocalist Keith Relf was electrocuted by his guitar in 1976. Days later, though, Beck’s manager announced that the man who inspired Nigel Tufnel’s haircut would indeed not participate in any reunion.
So that got me thinking: what other classic-rock bands could tour with not just one era’s lineup, but a combination of overlapping players for a megashow blowing through their entire catalogue? And what’s the likelihood on a scale of 1 to 10?
Fleetwood Mac: The most familiar and commercially successful grouping is the mellow-gold, cocaine-and-lace lineup of Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, and then-spouses John and Christine McVie that ruled the late ‘70s and early ’80s. But at its birth in 1967, the Mac was the brainchild and baby of blues guitar virtuoso Peter Green, and stuck mainly with that genre (huge, airy hit “Albatross” notwithstanding). Green left his band for a bizarre odyssey of drugs, schizophrenia, and mental institutions, and guitarist Jeremy Spencer gave up rock entirely to join the Children of God cul…er, religious group; while third guitarist Danny Kirwan has been mostly a hermit. But all three are still alive, and Green in particular has been active in recording and touring. Hell, a truly massive Mac show could even bring back Bob Welch!
Possibility: 5. Buckingham has always shown an appreciation for the Mac before him, but Christine McVie is content these days just gardening.
Doobie Brothers: Originally a denim-clad biker-rock band under singer/guitarist Tom Johnston (“China Grove,” “Long Train’ Runnin’”), the Doobies later became Yacht Rock forefathers when super-smooth singer/keyboardist Michael McDonald (“What A Fool Believes,” “Takin’ It to the Streets”) took over. Both men were even in the band together briefly. Today’s touring Doobies include Johnston, co-founder Patrick Simmons, and longtime players Michael Hossack and John McFee, so adding McDonald, bassist Tiran Porter, guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, and a few alumni wouldn’t be out of the question. A handful of these fat Doobie shows have happened over the years, but a full-on tour – Dave Shogren, where are you? – would make even more people listen to the music.
Possibility: 8. No hard feelings a potent bag of Acapulco Gold couldn’t smooth over.
Eagles: When Hell Froze Over in 1994, it was the last, more-rockin’ Long Run lineup of Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Don Felder, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit, not the country-tinged group of 1972’s Eagles (Henley, Frey, Randy Meisner, Bernie Leadon). Commercially, it was the right move. But even Leadon’s then- squeeze and future First Daughter Patti Davis wanted to know why the ejected pair couldn’t have joined the party to add a little “Take it to the Limit” to “Life in the Fast Lane.” Now, with Felder thrown out of the nest, these birds are squawking again.
Possibility: 4. Henley and Frey know how to hold a grudge, and two meteorological miracles in the netherworld might be pushing it.
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Journey: With the current lineup, which includes Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, and Ross Valory, on indefinite hiatus sans a lead singer, it’s time to give fans what they want and bury the hatchet with Steve Perry. And on the heels of the Tony Soprano-initiatied resurgence of “Don’t Stop Believin’,” a reunion – which could also include original keyboardist Greg Rolie and other alumni – would guarantee a summer of sold-out sheds. Plus, dawg, Randy Jackson was their bassist in the mid-‘80s, and an American Idol appearance would ensure a whole new audience who weren’t even around when their mothers were moved to tears by the video for “Faithfully.”
Possibility: 9. Unless the famously fickle Perry pulls the Escape hatch.
Van Halen: Would the stage be big enough to handle the egos of Diamond Dave and the Red Rocker? Maybe – Sammy Hagar has already publicly floated the idea. But most hardcore fans couldn’t stomach “Runnin’ with the Devil” and “Dreams” in the same setlist.
Possibility: 0. Plus, Eddie and Alex hate Michael. – Bob Ruggerio