The weird and wonderful almost-bands in history
As insane as it might be now to imagine Ian Brown pausing ‘Made Of Stone’ for three minutes while a voodoo-hatted hair fountain stomps on a monitor and lets loose a Sunset Strip riff barrage that sounds like someone’s dug a tunnel between the Viper Room and the Hacienda, it wasn’t such a crazy idea in 1996 that Slash might have joined The Stone Roses. He was at a loose end after quitting Guns’n’Roses, The Roses had just released a mammoth blues rock record with quasi-religious overtones and hey, Slash would only have to get the first half of each of his G’n’R tattoos fixed. A no-brainer, right?
Thankfully, this historical travesty – possibly the only thing that might have made The Roses at Reading 1996 even worse – was averted, just like the following stories of musicians almost joining completely the wrong band…
When pivotal prog rockers King Crimson began falling apart in the wake of their seminal 1969 debut ‘In The Court Of The Crimson King’, the band went hunting for singers in the British art rock scene and beyond. Amongst those auditioning were Bryan Ferry, yet to form Roxy Music.
Also amongst the auditionees for King Crimson back in 1970 was a struggling young piano man by the name of Elton John. “Elton had been booked to sing all the songs on ‘In The Wake Of Poseidon’ for £250 as a session singer and as I wasn’t familiar with his work, Crimson mainstay Robert Fripp wrote. “But his style didn’t seem right for Crimson and the album was poor, so I cancelled the sessions.”
Hall & Oates’ Daryl Hall couldn’t, um, go for that when Eddie Van Halen asked him to sing in the band in the wake of their split with Dave Lee Roth. We can only assume Hall looked him straight in the eye and said “no can do”.
Axe-slinger for hire since The Smiths split, one of Johnny Marr’s early forays into inadvisable guitarist positions occurred in 1989, when The Happy Mondays ‘kidnapped’ him to try to convince him to join them on their legendarily drug-drenched trip to Barbados to record ‘Yes, Please!’. Marr claims he was in the Mondays for “about 25 minutes”. “There were some guys standing there at the door,” he told Argentinian website Kulbritania, “like security guards and they were there to not let me out and these were guys I knew, I just couldn't believe it. That was before they did this album in Barbados. But it was really the right decision. I wouldn't be here right now. I would either be dead or I would be sat on top of a cave somewhere rocking backwards and forwards."
Snide comments about Courtney Love being the grunge Yoko were only given more fuel in 2004 when Uncut magazine unearthed an interview with Kurt Cobain in which he was aksed if he’d ever like to play music with his wife. ”I’d like to,” he replied, “But to tell you the truth, I would rather just quit my band and join Hole. When I have played music with them, there’s a level of connection that’s a little bit higher than with anyone else I ever played with.”
In a 2012 interview, the estranged New Order bassist claimed that he’d come within a hair’s breadth of joining the Scream Team prior to them hiring Mani. “I was almost in Primal Scream before, when the first bass player left,” he said. “Before they got Mani they actually got me in to play with them. Throb, their guitarist, thought it sounded too much like New Order, so he voted against it, so the lads didn’t have me. I was very upset about it, cos I was single at the time, it would have been wonderful. I did know what they meant, I wasn’t Primal Screamy enough for them, and I made them sound like New Order and Bobby liked that, but Throb didn’t, so it was a shame, but I think it was the best decision for them I must admit.”
Axl Rose wasn’t the only Guns’n’Rose to be considered for a spot in AC/DC. According to posters to an online G’N’R messageboard, drummer Steven Adler auditioned for the band during their ‘The Razor’s Edge’ era. “It was something AC/DC’s manager set up,” the poster claims, “and somewhere along the line he got tipped off by GNR about what a humongous headache Steven is, so AC/DC came to their senses and went in a different direction.”
Things were so tight-knit in the Louisville indie rock scene of the early 1990s that Fleetwood Mac might have thought it all a bit 'close to home'. Which is why Slint considered asking Will Oldham, the burgeoning alt-folk legend who sat on stage to hold the drumkit steady at their first gig, to join their band. Unfortunately, Oldham wasn’t quite up to the job as he only knew three chords at the time, although to be fair, he could play them for a really long time…
In some awful alternate universe, Patti Smith accepted the invitation to join New York rockers The Blue Oyster Cult - to whom she’d been contributing lyrics - as singer prior to forming her own band, never released ‘Horses’ and punk never happened. Brrrr.