Some bands pool their talents to present a united front – writing credits are shared and there’s a designated lead singer. These bands often feature stable lineups and long tenures; examples include R.E.M. and Rush. Other bands are full of competing talents with distinct individual voices.
Here are ten bands that couldn’t contain so many talented members for long – each band spawned at least two notable spin-off acts. These spin-off acts includes solo legends like Neil Young and Dr. Dre, and notable bands like Led Zeppelin and Whitesnake.
I only included bands that provided the first notable recording experience for an artist; for instance I disqualified the Eagles because Joe Walsh was already established as a solo artist before he joined (and because Don Henley was the only other Eagle with a notable solo career). Bands that just missed the cut include John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and The Housemartins.
Ten Bands That Spawned Multiple Successful Artists
Unlike some of the other acts on this list, The Beatles‘ work as a band clearly overshadows the members’ solo work. Nonetheless, all four Beatles scored UK number one singles as solo artists; even Ringo Starr scored a pair of chart toppers in 1974 (‘Photograph’ and ‘You’re Sixteen’). Some great albums also came out of The Beatles’ solo careers, notably George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, and Paul McCartney’s RAM.
1960s folk-rockers Buffalo Springfield only released three albums, and only one of them (1967’s Buffalo Springfield Again) captured their potential. Nonetheless, many of the individual members went on to subsequent success. Neil Young, Stephen Stills, and Poco’s Richie Furay were all original members of the band, while replacement bass player Jim Messina went on to form Loggins & Messina.
Roger McGuinn anchored folk-rock band The Byrds during their 1960s and 1970s heyday, but plenty of other talent passed through the group. Gene Clark quit to enjoy an artistically satisfying solo career, while David Crosby formed Crosby, Stills, and Nash after his dismissal. Later, Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman left to form the country-rock pioneers The Flying Burrito Brothers.
Legendary English hard rock band Deep Purple boast an extremely convoluted history. It’s so complicated that the different lineups of the band between 1968 and 1976 are labelled Mark I, II, III and IV. They also spawned a lot of spinoffs; guitarist Ritchie Blackmore left to form Rainbow, Ian Gillan formed Gillan, and David Coverdale formed Whitesnake.
English folk-rockers Fairport Convention were formed in 1967 and were a going concern more than fifty years later. At least 25 different musicians have passed through their ranks. Notable Fairport Convention alumni who’ve enjoyed solo acclaim include Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, and Iain Matthews, while founder Ashley Hutchings later formed Steeleye Span and the Albion Band.
In 1971, the classic Genesis lineup, the quintet of Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford, released their first album together. The progressive rock of Nursery Cryme belatedly peaked at #39 on the UK charts. Fifteen years later, Genesis and its offshoots were commercial juggernauts; Invisible Touch, Peter Gabriel’s So, Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required, and Mike + The Mechanics were all hugely successful. Former guitarist Steve Hackett never reached the same height of commercial success, but has quietly released many well-received solo records.
N.W.A. inarguably peaked with their debut album, 1988’s Straight Outta Compton, popularising gangsta rap. Before they released a follow-up, Ice Cube had already left the band and released AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, while Dr. Dre eclipsed his former group commercially with 1992’s The Chronic. The charismatic Eazy-E had little chance to establish a solo career, passing away from AIDS in 1995.
The Velvet Underground are often name-dropped, but I didn’t hear any of their songs until I tracked down their albums. On the other hand, leader Lou Reed’s solo career produced radio-friendly songs like ‘Perfect Day’ and ‘Walk on the Wild Side’. I prefer the solo output of former band-mate John Cale, who created records like Paris 1919 and Fear and later helped to popularise Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. Nico, who provided vocals on The Velvet Underground’s debut, also enjoyed acclaim for albums like Desertshore.
Staten Island’s Wu-Tang Clan were an unusually large hip hop crew – the original lineup featured nine MCs. The collective’s solo albums often feel like a continuation of the group’s oeuvre – mastermind RZA is in the producer’s chair for solo efforts from Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Genius/GZA.
The lineup of 1960s blues band The Yardbirds was relatively stable, featuring mainstays like Chris Dreja, vocalist Keith Relf, and drummer Jim McCarty. But the group went through a succession of legendary lead guitarists. Eric Clapton left the band to form Cream and was replaced by Jeff Beck who injected a middle eastern sound into the group. The Yardbirds broke up in 1968, but still were contractually bound to perform a Scandinavian tour. Guitarist Jimmy Page pulled together a new band; initially named The New Yardbirds, they were later renamed as Led Zeppelin.
Did I miss any of your favourite talent factories? Suggestions below please!
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Aphoristic Album Reviews is almost entirely written by one person.
Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate both Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Based in Fleet Street (New Zealand), he's been writing this blog since around 2000. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.
Read about the discographies of musical acts from the 1960s to the present day. Browse this site's review archives or enjoy these random selections:
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