Reunions, Breakdowns, and Procuring Murders: Michael Christopher’s Top 10 stories of 2014
It’s fairly safe to say that when it came to the rock world in 2014, the art of self-sabotage was taken to levels that heretofore didn’t seem possible. Musicians involved in murder-for-hire plots, collapsing after gigs and getting hospitalized, claiming terrorist cells were hiding amongst family members — hell, a band couldn’t even give its music away without facing unrelenting backlash from millions.
There were bright spots though; a couple bands reunited or announced reunions that nobody ever thought would play again, one act redefined the eye-rolling phrase “concept album,” and despite having the proverbial deck stacked against them, there’s a legendary outfit still shouldering forward. Here are the biggest stories of 2014.
10. As I Lay Dying frontman sentenced in plot to have wife killed
Murder for hire plot turned into the new “stupid shit rock stars do” starting last year when As I Lay Dying singer Tim Lambesis was arrested for trying to have his wife, and mother to their three adopted Ethiopian children, murdered by a hitman. That’s not a very Christian thing for a guy who is in a Christian metal band to do. A San Diego judge apparently thought the same, sentencing Lambesis to six years in prison.
9. Decade anniversary of Dimebag Darrell’s shocking death
Earlier this month marked the 10th anniversary of the passing of guitarist Dimebag Darrell, who was shot to death while performing live with his post-Pantera outfit Damageplan at a small club in Columbus, Ohio. The murder sent shockwaves not just through the metal world, but the music community at large, who suddenly felt extremely exposed on what was supposed to be a sacred and safe space in front of the fans.
Less than one month after Liam Gallagher announced Beady Eye was breaking up, and in the midst of most Britpop fans looking for a sign that Oasis would be getting back together (despite Noel Gallagher’s continued denials), early ’90s shoegaze heroes Ride revealed they would be reuniting, now that guitarist Andy Bell wasn’t busy. European and North American dates were announced that begin next spring and include a New York show at Terminal 5 in June. Coincidentally, Bell’s post-Ride outfit Hurricane #1 have plotted their own comeback, but nobody really seems to care much about it.
It’s hard to decide who to feel more sorry for in this middling bickering through-the-press exchange; the elder statesman Guitar God who desperately wants to record and perform with his former bandmates with whom he’s best known for working alongside, or the guy who just wants them to sod off so he can move on with his more than respectable and successful solo career. Unfortunately, one of them is going to have to make nice with the oblong box before the talk ceases.
Until then, we’ll have the back and forth saga of ex-Led Zeppelin with barbs traded via likely chopped up quotes from interviews with Page saying of Plant, “He’s just playing games, and I’m fed up with it,” only to have the singer retort, “I think he needs to go to sleep and have a good rest, and think again.”
6. Morrissey still has a thorn in his side
Everyone has that family member who wraps themselves in drama like it’s a warm blanket on a chilly December night. And while most people mellow out as the years go by, these are the people that ramp it up a few extra notches as each grey hair makes an appearance. Steven Patrick is that family member when it comes to music. Mozzer spent the year making statements that were guaranteed to be disagreed with by the general populace like how nobody wants a Smiths’ reunion. He did manage to release a new album, the very, very good World Peace is None of Your Business, but all that meant was a shit-ton of tour dates would inevitably be cancelled. The nerve-wracking countdown to the Boston show continued as multiple gigs leading up to it were nixed.
Alas, the show did happen, but not without major turmoil; longtime opener Kristeen Young left the tour just two days prior. Immediately following the unexpectedly triumphant Boston date, which Moz himself declared the best of the North American dates, the singer collapsed and was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was treated for acute fever. The rest of the tour was cancelled, Morrissey blamed Young for spreading the germs that got him sick and a petition was launched to stop him from touring the States.
He was then alleged to have tried to bring “physical harm” to a fan who runs the most popular Morrissey fansite, which of course was denied. Then Miserable Moz blamed his label for the failure of the new record, and was not surprisingly dropped. Then came quite the serious moment in October when he revealed he had been treated for cancer, an event to which he responded to like a self-flagellating Ivan Drago: “If I die, then I die.”
5. Foo Fighters come up with cool premise, drop ok album
Coming off what was arguably their best album, 2011’s Wasting Light, Dave Grohl and his merry band of Foo went the gimmick route for LP number eight, picking eight cities across the country that had deep musical backgrounds and hitting up local — and often famous — artists to pick their brains for lyrics and have them play on the developing song. Sonic Highways became the name of the record and companion documentary television series which, surprisingly, played out much less contrived than it looked on paper.
Much of the success of Sonic Highways has to do with Grohl’s unabashed and genuine enthusiasm for everyone he meets and everything he does. The the album itself, which featured guest spots varied as Joe Walsh, Ben Gibbard and Gary Clark Jr. wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t groundbreaking. But the HBO series was incredibly revelatory, crossing musical, generational, economical and racial divides to endless accolades.
Predictably, this pisses off a lot of people, hipsters mainly, who take issue with the fact that the drummer for Nirvana could perform with Paul McCartney while wearing a Slayer t-shirt, do a thrash-metal project with guys from Venom and Celtic Frost, direct a Sundance selected documentary on a legendary studio, while still making goofy videos that have cameos from the likes of Lemmy. Sorry haters — Dave G. ain’t goin’ nowhere.
There were some who said that Nirvana getting inducted into and performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year brought credibility to the institution. There was talk of redemption, there was talk of feminism and there was talk of a torch being passed. But like the apex of the Seattle band’s popularity, it was all a bunch of misguided, over-hyped, journalistic circle jerking bullshit.
When bitter enemies Dave Grohl and Kurt Cobain’s widow Courtney Love embraced during the acceptance speech, it was a cool moment. When Grohl, bassist Krist Novoselic and guitarist Pat Smear took the stage as Nirvana for the first time since the Clinton administration, it was a cool moment. The fact that the three enlisted four women in Joan Jett, Kim Gordon, St. Vincent and Lorde to handle vocal duties? That was brilliant and cool.
Following the stuffiness of the RRHOF ceremony, Nirvana performed an invite only show at a Brooklyn metal bar with Jett, St. Vincent and Gordon reprising their roles and welcoming J. Mascis and Deer Tick’s John McCauley to take on a few songs in the 15-strong set. That was an epic celebration. The only negative is that someday this multi-vocalist celebration will go on the road and armchair pundits will be climbing over each other en masse in an attempt to decipher what it all means.
It means we’ll get to hear some cool fucking music.
3. Scott Stapp goes completely off the rails
There’s no doubt that being Scott Stapp isn’t the easiest job in the world; you sell millions and millions of albums to adoring fans but still remain one of the most loathed figures in music history no matter what you do (Hint: that song you did for the then-Florida Marlins did not help). Drugs and alcohol have long been self-admitted coping measures for the guy, but no one would have ever expected what has gone down in the last month.
The day before Thanksgiving, the Creed singer posted a lo-fi video dubbed “Public Statement #1” where he revealed he was homeless and penniless. During “Statement #2,” taken on Thanksgiving, he’s outside of a Florida police station waiting for an officer to come out so he can file a report on those who allegedly have been stealing from him. Less than an hour later, he took another video in his car saying that the report had been filed successfully – though against whom it’s never made clear.
Since then, the videos have been removed, but a slew of audio from phone calls that Stapp has made from the side of the road where he claimed to be on the run from people out to kill him and, most disturbingly, in a call to his son’s school he claims, “I’ve uncovered the core of ISIS is within my own family.”
It doesn’t take Kreskin to figure this isn’t going to end well.
2. U2 give away new album for free, which pisses people off
When U2 decided to surprise fans by giving away their 13th studio album for free in conjunction with the yearly Apple pats-itself-on-the-back conference, it seemed like a cool idea. Then it turned out Songs of Innocence had just showed up in the music library of everyone who had iTunes and shit really hit the fan. Those who didn’t ask for it and who don’t even like U2 were angry that it was now a part of their collection – and it took a few days to figure how exactly to get it the fuck out of there. The always understating Sinead O’Connor likened the move to terrorism, while Bono eventually apologized for the move.
Still, the damage was done, and one of the most pretentious bands in history somehow managed to seem even more pompous.
1. AC/DC thunderstruck by drama surrounding comeback
Following more than a year of speculation about a farewell tour or outright retirement, three chord Aussie rockers AC/DC announced in September a new album but dropped a bummer of a bombshell: co-founder Malcolm Young had left the band due to illness that was later revealed to be dementia which had forced the guitarist into assisted living, while his replacement in the group was nephew Stevie Young. The news was somewhat cushioned by the first two singles, “Play Ball” and the title track, being particularly strong.
Then it got nuts, as in early November drummer Phil Rudd was charged with attempting to “procure a murder,” along with possession of cannabis and a small amount of methamphetamine. Later in the month he showed up late to a court hearing, was almost put back in jail, and piggybacked his security guard to his car where Rudd nearly backed into an oncoming truck. A few days later, the drummer got into a fight at a coffee shop with “a much larger man” reportedly involved in the case against him.
The band has been evasive in what their next move will be when it comes to filling the seat behind the kit; after all, a tour is slated to begin in late spring. As for Rudd? Just yesterday he told New Zealand’s One News yesterday, “”I’m going back to work with AC/DC, I don’t care who likes it or who doesn’t.” He also revealed his plans for later on involved, “lots of fornicating tonight.” Here’s to hoping he isn’t fucking himself.
Follow Michael Christopher on Twitter @blackbranchmc