I remember the dark summer when it was announced that David Lee Roth had left Van Halen. My buddy Matthew was up in summer school at Kansas State University and he drew a VH flag at half staff on his chalk board. It was the end of an era. Perhaps it was the end of innocence, the end of the good times. It was our first “big” band break up. I mean, we were too young for the Beatles and while the Stones bickered they were smart enough to not “officially” break up. It’s important to always leave the door open, and the Stones knew that. We should have seen this VH split coming. After all, Roth had put out the miserable EP “Crazy From The Heat” and had done a series of “wacky” videos. This was hubris like we’d never seen before in a singer. Rod Stewart had had a solo career with the Faces, but even he balanced it better than Roth had. When the announcement of Roth’s departure was made, Eddie Van Halen was quoted as saying something like, “Yeah, Dave just had the worst case of LSD so we parted ways.” At first I thought Roth was doing acid, which would explain a lot but then I found out that LSD was “Lead Singer Disease,” a malady which is sadly very prevalent in rock and roll.
I looked up LSD in the Urban Dictionary, and I think it sums it up pretty well:
“The tendency for the lead singer of a rock band to become egotistical and impossible to work (with).
There are a number of factors that can contribute to the onset of LSD including; a natural tendency in the singer to act like a prima donna and treat other people like shit, the level of fame and fortune the band manages to achieve (whether deserved or not), how quickly the band goes from being dirt poor and unknown to filthy rich and overly famous, and whether or not other members of the band have enough talent to compete with the singer for the public and the media’s attention.
LSD is often fatal… …for the band. Once a singer develops LSD there is very little hope of them ever recovering from it.
PLAIN ENGLISH VERSION: Lead singer’s disease is what happens when a lead singer lets the success of their band go to their head, starts acting like he or she is god and begins to demand that everything be done their way. If they don’t get their way their inflated ego makes them think that they don’t need the other band members and the band splits up.”
Having seen Guns N Roses this week with Axl Rose, it naturally led my thoughts to LSD again. Often times the press focuses so much attention on the lead singer of a band the megalomania that sets in is simply unavoidable. How could you not think of yourself as “a golden God” when the rest of the world treats you as such. I can’t imagine how big these guys percentage of groupie action is… but I assume it’s high and that always clouds your judgement. What all these guys seem to forget, which was so eloquently put by Joe Strummer of the Clash who said, “Never underestimate the chemistry of four guys alone in a room.” That was four guys people, not one guy with a fucking microphone.
So without further adieu, here is the B&V selection of the Top 10 Victims of LSD. There are, sadly, many more examples, but these are the most egregious.
1. Axl Rose, Guns N Roses – Axl will always hold the crown for LSD. Even his recent triumphant reunion shows won’t blot out his crimes. The guy took what might have been one of the greatest bands of all times and smashed it to pieces. Who would run off Slash? Slash is not only talented as fuck but he’s a laid back guy. This band should have stayed together for ages and saved rock and roll but instead Axl fired everybody, got fat and went insane. Or, insaner.
2. David Lee Roth, Van Halen – Dave, Dave, what went wrong? Roth looks like someone pithed him now. He’s dead behind the eyes. So many years spent in the wilderness that didn’t have to go down that way. VH was the perfect rock band, the heirs of Led Zeppelin when Dave’s ego took over. It’s probably the saddest case of LSD on here. Even a couple of solo albums with the virtuoso guitarist Steve Vai can’t erase all of this.
3. Steven Tyler, Aerosmith – WTF happened to Steven Tyler. He went on reality TV and now he’s doing a country album, which is a worse sin in my book. Joe Perry would be justified to brain him with is guitar.
4. Vince Neil, Motley Crue – At the height of their popularity, right after Dr. Feelgood, Vince decides he’s the star. He didn’t write any of their music, so I’m unclear as to what the thought process was there… of course this was the 80s and cocaine was pretty prevalent… it must have been pretty powerful stuff. He released his crappy first solo album, and he even had a decent song, “You’re Invited But Your Friends Can’t Come” but then he shows up in the video with see-through mesh pants on and a shirt that looked like a dress… the horror, the horror.
5. Roger Waters, Pink Floyd – Technically Waters wasn’t really the lead singer of Pink Floyd. I’d give that tag to David Gilmour. But Waters was such a titanic asshole, and wanted to be the lead singer so badly, to prove he was the genius, he gets on the list. He wanted complete creative control and then fired Rick Wright, the keyboardist, because he wasn’t contributing enough. Which way do you want it Roger? His hubris was such that he thought when he quit the band would end. Gilmour and the rest of the guys carried on without him and Waters sued them earning himself a spot in the douche bag Hall of Fame.
6. Sting, The Police – If you were to look up megalomania in the dictionary, it’s likely you’ll see Sting’s picture. Either megalomania or “pretentious” either word applies. I knew this guy was done as soon as he got the nose job and took a part in the movie “Dune.” He ditches the Police and recorded a series of shitty jazz-influenced albums. I’m not smart enough for jazz but neither is Sting.
7. Bono, U2 -I love U2 and Bono…and he didn’t cause a break up, but his attempts to save the world, while admirable, have hurt the creativity of the band. It doesn’t take a genius to solve U2’s problems – “Uh, Edge, turn up the guitar…” If only Bono was paying attention…All politics are local… focus on the band Bono…
8. Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac – After ending her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham, and becoming “The Mistress Of a Generation,” (my title for her as she worked her way through several bands including Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and possibly the Heartbreakers) Stevie decided to strike out on a solo career. Again, I must ask, have we learned nothing from Rod Stewart on how to juggle this? Her ego got so big she made Fleetwood Mac do a country song on “Mirage.” These days the Mac are poised for a return with Christine McVie but Stevie is so focused on reviving her solo career she can’t be bothered.
9. TIE: Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins and Courtney Love, Hole: Both these seminal 90s Grunge Rockers turned into Axl Rose-like control freaks. They fired everybody else in the band yet continue on as the Smashing Pumpkins and Hole… it’s more like they’re glorified tribute bands. You can’t get rid of everybody and still be the same band.
10. Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin – I’m not putting Plant on this list because of anything he did during Led Zeppelin’s reign on top the rock world. I’m putting him on this list because he steadfastly refuses to get back together with Page and J.P. Jones. Even Pete Townshend said, “Robert would make a lot of people happy if he’d do it…” Jesus, Robert, throw us a bone. Led Zeppelin ’17… fuck yes, I’m down for that tour!
If you’re out there in a rock band somewhere, and you’re lucky enough to have the talent and balls to find yourself with the microphone, remember it’s the guys behind you that are more important than the crowd in front of you…