Welcome to this year’s edition of Rock Music Menu’s “New Year’s Resolutions for Rockers Who Need Them,” where we assist often otherwise occupied musicians with setting goals for the coming 12 months. It’s not an easy job, but one that has to be done.
Just like you and I, there are rockers, rollers and other assorted musical miscreants out there who need help keeping their declared promises to make the weeks ahead better than the 52 prior. When it came to music, 2021 was only marginally better than the year prior, but at least a good number of bands got back on the road, even it was all for naught as a positive Covid test in the camp led to postponements or entire tours being cancelled.
Even in the midst of a pandemic, there was some success rate this space has had in making recommendations last year, whether it was urging stadium bound headliners or music festivals to wait until 2022, for the most part the advice was heeded. Obviously, some forged ahead, to varying degrees of success, and good for them.
This time around, there’s less trepidation, even as the Omicron variant rages and a level of uncertainty for 2022 can be held by even the most positive thinking individuals. Here at Rock Music Menu, were as hopeful as the next, so let’s get at it and start dispensing some guidance for our favorite musicians in the spotlight.
WHO: ERIC CLAPTON
RECOMMENDED RESOLUTION: JUST GO AWAY
Talk about someone seemingly intent on destroying his legacy. Good ol’ Slowhand has been outspoken against Covid vaccinations, releasing a series of songs against proof of inoculation at live shows and in one particular collaboration with Irish singer/songwriter Van Morrison, where he compared lockdowns to slavery. That’s not exactly a good look for Clapton, who infamously decried foreigners in his home country of England during a stage rant back in the mid-70s, one he punctuated with a cringey “Keep Britain white!”
Then there was the recent outcome of a court case where the guitarist sued a German woman for selling her dead husband’s Eric Clapton live compact disc on eBay for $11. It turned out the show was a bootleg, and she was found guilty and ordered to pay nearly $4000 in fees, including those for Clapton’s legal fees. Attorneys tried to explain the logic behind the ruling, but the court of public opinion wasn’t hearing it, labeling the musician behind such massive hits as “Layla” and “Wonderful Tonight” as a bitter old curmudgeon.
A statement from the guitarist’s camp last week indicated he wasn’t going to pursue any additional actions against the woman, including attempts to collect on monies. Sadly, the damage had already been done.
WHO: WOLFGANG VAN HALEN
RECOMMENDED RESOLUTION: KEEP BLOWING OFF THE TROLLS
Being the offspring of a famous musician is never easy, and in the age of social media, it can be an absolute minefield. That said, Wolfgang Van Halen – son of late guitar icon Edward – spent a good part of 2021 giving a clinic on just how to deal with trolls intent on telling him just how he should move forward with his band Mammoth WVH.
The debut by Wolfgang, one where he played all the instruments himself along with handling vocals, was one of rock music’s highlights of the year, landing on many a critic’s top 10 lists. Still, fans of the band Van Halen had other ideas, whether it was telling him he was profiting off the legacy of his father, should be sifting through the vaults at 5150 studios for unreleased VH material instead of focusing on his solo career or playing songs from the legendary rock outfit.
Not only did he handle all comers across social media with astonishing aplomb and wit, but he also effectively showed that it was much more fun trolling the trolls than anything else. Take for example when he took to Twitter prior to a show at Chicago’s Wrigley Field where Mammoth WVH were opening for Guns N’ Roses where Wolfgang shared a setlist for the night’s performance. “Wrigley Field with GnR tonight!” it read. “Y’all are gonna get a special set too! See you soon!”
It had listed on it the Van Halen hit “Panama” nine times and nothing else. Epic.
WHO: 90s ROCK BANDS
RECOMMENDED RESOLUTION: NOW IS THE TIME TO RETURN
Did anyone really see the return of Limp Bizkit as a thing, like, ever? Not even late psychic Miss Cleo would’ve seen that one coming. Yet there were the rap rockers, playing the main stage at Lollapalooza this year in Chicago, with frontman Fred Durst trading in his formerly ubiquitous red New York Yankees ballcap in for a grey wig and rose-tinted sunglasses, showing he was truly in on the joke. They even named their first album in a decade ‘Still Sucks.’
It very well may be just a joke, but it can still be fun. Remember in the early to mid-aughts when hair metal acts like Poison, Warrant, Ratt and the like put together package tours and saw middle-aged audiences flock to shows to relive a bit of their youth? The same thing can happen here. Where you at P.O.D.? Zebrahead? Incubus? Quarashi? Crazy Town?
And yes, here at Rock Music Menu, we are well aware that many of the aforementioned are still active musical units, but wouldn’t it be more fun seeing them all on the same stage for a night?
WHO: BRITNEY SPEARS
RECOMMENDED RESOLUTION: SERVE UP SOME REVENGE
Speaking of the 90s, Britney Spears’ wasn’t exactly hitting home runs in the past decade plus, but it was for a completely different reason than people being over her; she was under the complete control of a terribly bonkers conservatorship that restricted her every move, professionally and personally. Now that the 13-year nightmare has ended what was tantamount to a real-life Rapunzel nightmare, it’s time to strike out at those responsible for keeping her under her thumb.
Sure, she could do this by putting everyone – the lawyers, her family and the blind or corrupt judges – who kept her under the conservatorship thumb on blast, but first why not return bigger and better than ever by returning to music, the road and the top of the charts. Then put out the documentary flaunting all that success.
WHO: BANDS WITH ONE ORIGINAL MEMBER
RECOMMENDED RESOLUTION: CALL IT A DAY OR CALL IT A TRIBUTE
There are entire too many musical outfits picking the pockets of fans on their name alone when there is only one original member of their classic lineup left joining the charade onstage – and sometimes it’s not even a primary one. Quiet Riot, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Yardbirds, Thin Lizzy, etc. are all guilty of such blasphemy.
This isn’t an invitation to put something obfuscating in front of your name – we’re looking at you “The Legendary Drifters” with no one remotely associated to the original or classic lineups. Take a cue from Jeff Lynne, who even as the mastermind behind Electric Light Orchestra has the class to call the current version “Jeff Lynne’s ELO” on albums and tours. Put “revisited” or “featuring” or some other sort of quantifier in the name and make it at least somewhat clear to the audience.
A version of this article appears in this week’s print and online editions of my syndicated Rock Music Menu column under the title “New Year’s Resolutions for Britney, Wolfgang, Clapton and more.”