Bands can often be fragile organisms held together with the most tenuous of threads, waiting to collapse under the weight of accusations, creative differences, drugs, alcohol and general rock and roll craziness. Sometimes the whole thing implodes and members go their separate ways and other times the restructuring consists of a single party either getting the boot or just walking away. Once in a while, from the ashes will rise a creative effort from a solo member that is as good as, or better than anything done by the group as a whole. Something that garners “critical acclaim”. Something that sticks. Something where said former band member has the backing to say F@$% you old band, I don’t need you suckers. The following list is in no particular order and rest assured does not contain the 1985 Mick Jagger release “She’s the Boss”.
10. Peter Gabriel – So
Apparently Peter Gabriel left Genesis on reasonably amicable terms, so perhaps he didn’t feel the need to say F@#$ you, and indeed “So” did not follow directly after his departure. It seems it took him a few years and a few albums to get warmed up. Before “So” there were sporadic bits of genius with Solsbury Hill, Je Sans Frontieres, Biko and Shock the Monkey, but it took “So” to pull things all together. Top tracks on this one include Red Rain, In Your Eyes, Sledgehammer and Big Time. It was a commercial and critical success and lead to multi-platinum sales, video awards and Gabriel’s headlining the Amnesty International concerts. With “So” coming at a time when Genesis was in their “Invisible Touch” phase…it’s obvious that it wasn’t even really a fair fight.
9. John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band
John Lennon’s first solo release after the breakup of the Beatles does not contain the song Imagine. While Imagine might be his legacy as a solo artist, this album shouldn’t be overlooked as a masterpiece in its absence. Here we get a real glimpse of Lennon and how great he could be without Paul McCartney as a writing partner. Stripped bare and void of any Beatles influence we are left with the real John Lennon. It’s raw and at times painful as heard with Lennon screaming his guts out at the end of Mother. Other highlights are Working Class Hero, Well, Well, Well, and God . I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me...
8. Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive
Okay…this is a biggie, literally. Remember double albums? Usually one of the records didn’t get played as much as you forged your allegiance to either side one and two or three and four. This monster by Peter Frampton actually came several solo albums deep into his career after leaving Humble Pie. It is more of a greatest hits deal, with the most well-known tracks all having been previously released on studio albums. It took all of them together in one big concert package to take Peter Frampton to the top of the arenas, radio and high school parties everywhere in 1976. Led by Show me the Way, Baby I Love Your Ways, and the iconic Do You Feel Like We Do, this defined his career, and in another sense ruined it, for the next 20 years.
7. Motorhead – Motorhead
Lemmy Kilmister was kicked out of Hawkwind in 1975 after being arrested for drugs at a border crossing from Detroit to Windsor. Two years later came the birth of Motorhead and the rest is history. Screw you Hawkwind…goddamn hippies.
6. Billy Idol – Billy Idol
Billy Idol said F@#$ U to the punk band Generation X and released his first solo album in 1982. From this solo effort came White Wedding, Hot in the City and Dancin’ With Myself (which was originally recorded for Generation X). Rebel Yell was released the following year and contained more hits, but it was the self-titled debut that originally cracked the market for Billy Idol.
6. John Fogerty – Centerfield
After the acrimonious break up of CCR, John Fogerty released two low key albums in the seventies that did not chart well. He was embroiled in legal battles with his former band mates, and there was a third album that the record company refused to release. Then after a lengthy nine year recording hiatus, Centerfield appeared out of nowhere. It is filled with a collection of catchy Fogerty-esque material including the The Old man down the Road, Rock and Roll Girls and the title track Centerfield. Fogerty was vindicated when this went to #1 in the US.
5. Ozzy- Blizzard of Ozz
Ozzy was kicked out of Black Sabbath in 1979 and went on to release Blizzard of Ozz the following year. With Ozzy, Black Sabbath had ruled the world of crunching doom rock for nearly a decade. Without him, they spiraled into a revolving door of lead singers and a whole bunch of forgettable albums. Ozzy teamed up Randy Rhoades and leapt out of the gates with what would eventually become a hard rock classic. Crazy Train, Mr. Crowley, and Goodbye to Romance provide the foundation to this monumental F@#% you.
4. Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
Van Morrison quit the Belfast formed band Them in 1966, after scoring hits with Baby Please Don’t Go and Gloria. There was a solo album prior to Astral Weeks, but it was released without Van’s consent, so we’re going to ignore it. Astral Weeks never had mainstream success and remains somewhat obscure to most of the general listening public. It is sprawling and loose and the songs seem to meander aimlessly from one to the next. It can be overwhelming in its complexities as one searches for some type of grounding anchor. For some reason this makes it an absolute joy to listen to.
3. Janis Joplin – I Got Dem ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!
Janis recorded two records as the lead singer with Big Brother and the Holding Company, but it wasn’t until Kozmic Blues that she took full control of her own band. Apparently members of Big Brother resented all the attention lavished on her and by her own account, Joplin wished to form her own soul music band. Whatever the reason, Kozmic Blues was the result and Big Brother essentially disappeared from the face of the earth. Kozmic Blues features the hits with Try (just a little bit harder), Kozmic Blues and To Love Somebody.
2. Neil Young – Neil Young, Everybody Knows this is Nowhere, After the Goldrush, Harvest
1.Robbie Robertson – Robbie Robertson
While I will never come to terms with Robbie Robertson putting an end to The Band, I must however give accolades to this release. The last couple of albums by The Band were a bit lackluster so this is a return to form by a great songwriter. Broken Arrow, Showdown at Big Sky, Somewhere Down That Crazy River and Testimony are among the highlights of this 1987 release.