Looking at the Least Talented Members of Famous Bands

The history of rock music is a strange and thorny place, a scarred landscape littered with the tales of bad bands that made it big, great bands who never got their chance and plenty of odd characters at varying levels of talent who somehow had their moment of fame. It's true that many of the bands who've risen to the top are composed of gifted musicians with talent to spare, but then there are those...exceptions. Popular bands who have plenty of talent on display, but then they have one or two members who seem like they're not in the same league of musicianship as their bandmates. This is for those dudes, the guys who somehow tagged along on the fame train with their more talented pals.

10. The Beatles — Ringo Starr

Perhaps it might seem mean to pick on the seemingly good-natured Ringo Starr, but he kinda feels like he was the odd man out in regards to raw talent in The Beatles. While the guy could play fine, he wasn't exactly amazing, and was probably better suited to the band's early material. By the time the band quit playing live gigs and became an increasingly experimental and groundbreaking studio band, Ringo's songwriting skills just didn't match the abilities of his bandmates. However, credit where it's due, he's not a talentless hack, and he might've been the only member of The Beatles who got along well enough with everyone else to play diplomat.

9. AC/DC — Phil Rudd

Australian rockers AC/DC have somewhat improbably become a band everyone seems to like, whether everyone admits it or not. Part of the band's appeal has always been its simplicity, but the feral screaming of Bon Scott, mixed with some of the catchiest rock riffs ever recorded, combined in ways that are hard to define. While drummer Phil Rudd played well enough, he didn't really seem to leave an indelible print on AC/DC's music the way his bandmates did. Almost any drummer probably could've gotten the job done just as well. Perhaps Rudd's talent was in holding the tempo without any real flash, elevating Angus Young and company to a higher level. I don't know. Brian Johnson seems to like the guy, though.

8. Metallica — Lars Ulrich

It's a pretty well-known fact that Lars Ulrich is way better at shooting his mouth off than he is at playing drums, at least live. Everyone else in Metallica seems to be able to play well enough, but compared to other famous metal drummers, Lars Ulrich just never really made the grade. The fact that he's also famously an asshole a lot of the time makes it easy to point out his chops are pretty bad.

7. Everyone in Van Halen Except Eddie Van Halen

Moving on from uninspiring drummers, we have the band that the Van Halen brothers built. Eddie Van Halen changed rock guitar playing forever and changed the sound of hard rock along with it. He's routinely on all of those "Best guitar players of all time" lists, and deservedly so. The rest of Van Halen? Pretty much decent bar band level. They could all play adequately, but none of them would be famous if not for EVH. I've heard his isolated recorded vocal tracks, and David Lee Roth would probably still be in some crappy bar band, ripping off Black Oak Arkansas's Jim Dandy Mangrum's wardrobe choices, if Eddie Van Halen hadn't come along.

6. The Sex Pistols — Sid Vicious

Starting out as a non-musician with the right look and connections to the band, Sid Vicious couldn't really play bass well at all, but he sure looked good trying, and his tendency to embrace chaos continues to fuel his legend. But yeah...The Sex Pistols weren't RUSH, yet the other musicians in the band could play their instruments well enough to get by, and Sid apparently couldn't.

5. KISS — (Special Rules. See Below)

KISS is sort of like the WWE of rock. Yes, when they play live, it's a "real" performance, but KISS is about spectacle more than virtuosic musicianship. Of the original band, Paul and Gene wrote most of the songs, but Ace seemed to be the guy who could play the best, and Peter looked adequately catlike in his makeup. KISS almost seems to break all the rules, because with the exception of Ace's guitar and Paul's vocals, the musicianship was usually pretty bad, but the entertainment level was generally high. Comparing the individual talent of KISS's members seems almost beside the point, like arguing over whether Frankenstein is more badass than Dracula.

4. Bon Jovi — Alec John Such

Alec John Such was Bon Jovi's bass player during their '80s heyday, but was ousted from the band in 1994, reportedly because he had substance abuse problems and had never been musically up to par with Bon Jovi's other members. Supposedly, many of the band's bass tracks were recorded by another player, named Hugh McDonald, who "unofficially" filled in for Such after his departure, before being officially added to the band's roster in 2016.

3. The Cure — Lol Tolhurst

As a founding member of The Cure, drummer/keyboardist Lol Tolhurst had a few good years in the band before being tossed out and replaced during the mix of their Disintegration album. Most people seem to regard Lol's contributions to The Cure as being of a minimalist nature, and as they developed a more complex sound, he was no longer a good fit.

2. Black Sabbath — Ozzy Osbourne

Look, I love early Black Sabbath, so this may sound blasphemous, but Ozzy Osbourne was definitely the weakest link in the band. His vocal abilities were adequate but not much more, especially compared to the tight musicianship of his bandmates. Ozzy didn't even write the lyrics to most of Black Sabbath's music, so it's not TOO difficult to envision the band still being amazing with almost any other classic-rock-era singer.

1. Happy Mondays — Bez

Happy Mondays were one of the more popular bands to come out of Manchester, England's potent music scene in the early '90s, but while the band itself was made up of talented enough musicians, someone decided to have a guy named Bez onstage during live shows to dance weirdly and play maracas. I'm not sure what illicit substances were responsible for that band decision, but Bez has to be one of the stranger band members to have performed with a reasonably famous group.
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Chris Lane is a contributing writer who enjoys covering art, music, pop culture, and social issues.