Neil Finn be warned – even the greatest singers and songwriters are on a hiding to nothing when they join an equally famous band with an established fan base.
The news that the Crowded House and Split Enz frontman will join Fleetwood Mac for the legendary outfit’s latest world tour may be a crowning career moment, but Finn is unlikely to win over Mac lovers who just want to hear the absent Lindsey Buckingham on lead guitar.
Finn confirmed the move on Twitter on Tuesday and also told Variety magazine that “two weeks ago I receive a wonderful invitation to be a part of a truly great band”.
Snow warnings for parts of the country, the mystery of Stonehenge solved and yes I’ve joined Fleetwood Mac
— neil mullane finn (@NeilFinn) April 9, 2018
“A few days later I was standing in a room playing music with Fleetwood Mac. It felt fresh and exciting, so many great songs, a spectacular rhythm section and two of the greatest voices ever,” Finn said.
“Best of all, we sounded good together. It was a natural fit. I can’t wait to play
“Fleetwood Mac has always been about an amazing collection of songs that are performed with a unique blend of talents,” he said.
With touring now providing brand name musicians with the bulk of their income it’s little wonder that ‘getting the band back together’ is a popular industry move.
However, Finn should perhaps not expect to be a part of Fleetwood Mac’s line-up for too long, given the less-than-successful history of popular musicians filling-in for key members of other bands.
Australia’s most successful musical export may have been made up of UK imports, but Bon Scott’s death showed that it is possible to replace a key member and get away with it. Brian Johnson took over in 1980 and forged his own legend. Where AC/DC’s problems began was in 2016 when Johnson was forced to retire with hearing damage and the band turned to … Axl Rose.
It’s a mantra all members of this British band have recited time and again: ‘No one could replace Freddie Mercury’. Which makes you wonder why they keep trying to do it.
Devastated by the death of their flamboyant lead singer in 1991, the band have at times turned to guest appearances by superstars like George Michael, Robbie Williams and Elton John.
Former Free and Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers took the job full-time between 2004 and 2009. Ranked 55 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, Rodgers certainly had the musical chops, but no Queen fan has ever been able to see beyond the man who was No.18 on that list – yep, Freddie.
Joe Strummer had a little band called The Clash which changed UK music forever. Less known is his short-lived 1991 turn as the lead singer of Irish-themed folk punk band The Pogues having initially been brought in to produce an album perhaps appropriately titled Hell’s Ditch.
Strummer was forced to step in to replace shambolic lead singer-songwriter Shane MacGowan whose alcoholic excesses on tour fractured the band. MacGowan was clearly irreplaceable as the heart and soul. The experiment was almost immediately abandoned.
In the Queen mould, Australia’s INXS have flailed about trying to replace their lead singer Michael Hutchence, who died suddenly in 1997.
Before the sad spectacle of conducting a 2005 reality TV show to give a newcomer a shot las lead singer, the band had toured for three years with former Noiseworks frontman Jon Stevens. But Stevens summed up the lot of the ‘replacement’ singer when he told The Daily Telegraph in 2009 that he left INXS due to creative boredom.
“No need to be going away for months on end, away from home, away from family. It’s hard to justify it when you’re just playing other people’s songs,” he said.
LITTLE RIVER BAND
There’s the salutary lesson of the Little River Band replacing lead singer and songwriter Glenn Shorrock with solo artist John Farnham.
The experiment lasted for three year from 1982 to 1985, but the new lineup could not replicate the band’s previous success in the United States. Farnham went on to record Australia’s second highest selling album of all time – the inexplicably successful Whispering Jack – while LRB still rolls on the cabaret circuit today having burnt through some 30 members, none from the original line-up.
All good lessons for the members of Crowded House should they start contemplating a replacement for their man Neil Finn while on his Fleetwood Mac duties.
Or, to put it another way, he better be home soon.