This week, Rolling Stone and NME got wind of the fact that '70s hard-rock heroes Thin Lizzy will hit the studio this fall to record their first new album since band founder/leader/icon Phil Lynott's death 26 years ago. The news was actually broken by HotPress.com last week, but it took a while for word to spread; mostly because major media outlets haven't been following Thin Lizzy too closely since band founder/leader/icon Phil Lynott's death 26 years ago.
And why would they? To many fans, Phil Lynott was Thin Lizzy. Not only was he the face and the voice of the band that served up indelible hits like "Jailbreak" and "The Boys Are Back in Town," he was also the group's driving creative force. In sum, he was the star. When he died, it was the end of the band.
For a while, anyway. The group was reactivated in 1996 as a tribute act, and Thin Lizzy has toured for the past two years led by guitarist Scott Gorham and drummer Brian Downey with Marco Mendoza on bass and Ricky Warwick on vocals. Great as Lynott was, people still like hearing those old songs and dual-guitar harmonies. But is anyone itching for new music from this crew? Can they do the original group justice?
Judging from history, it's possible. Thin Lizzy isn't the first classic rock band to try replacing a dead frontman. The results have ranged from worthy to unnecessary to embarrassing. As we try to imagine Lizzy back in the studio without the Black Rose, let's take a look back at the legends who soldiered on with new voices.
5. AC/DC, Back in Black
Let's be real, here: Back in Black is the shining example that probably gives today's Thin Lizzy hope that there could be creative life after Lynott. When lead singer/band mascot Bon Scott choked to death on his own vomit in 1980, it looked like the end for AC/DC. Nervous about the future and still grieving over their friend, the group picked up the pieces and delivered a classic rock totem that became an instant smash, eventually becoming one of the biggest-selling albums of all time.
To be sure, AC/DC had a few advantages over Thin Lizzy in this achievement. Most notably, Scott was not the band's primary songwriter, and AC/DC was still firmly in its creative prime. Still, it was a daunting task to continue on without the guy who belted out "Big Balls" and hope that fans would accept a new singer. Improbably, they succeeded beyond all expectations.
Worthy, Unneccesary or Embarassing: Worthy
4. The Doors, Stoned Immaculate: The Music of The Doors
The Doors have experimented with a number of famous replacement singers since Jim Morrison's death in 1971. The band was fronted by Eddie Vedder when they were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, and original members Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger even toured with Cult singer Ian Astbury as the Doors of the 21st Century in 2002. Mostly, though, they've stayed away from the studio.
Aside from a session for VH1 Storytellers, the exception has been the 2000 "tribute" album, Stoned Immaculate: The Music of the Doors.. The disc was a collection of classic Doors songs reworked by modern-rock acts -- with the surviving Doors sitting in. It also included a couple of new tracks credited to the Doors: "Under Waterfall" and "The Cosmic Movie." If you've ever heard either, congratulations, you're officially the world's biggest Doors fan.
The Doors get a little credit for mostly sticking to the Morrison-era stuff, we guess, but Jesus, dude: The world did NOT need to hear motherfucking Smash Mouth's take on "Peace Frog." Creed and Train also make appearances, and Days of the New got two tracks on this piece of shit cosigned by the Doors themselves. Avoid.
Worthy, Unnecessary or Embarrassing: Embarrassing