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When Is It Time for a Band to Retire?

Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 12:01AM by Registered CommenterAllyson B. Crawford | Comments20 Comments

I've been thinking about retirement a lot lately. I just turned 31 and with each passing birthday, I reflect on my past and future. My husband and I have some very aggressive, concrete goals for our future. Here's a hint: we don't plan on working until we're 80! In fact, we'd like to be done "working for the man" by 50 and if I can swing 45, great. This will take a lot of discipline on our part, but we're giving it a shot. All that said, I wonder if musicians ever really create a retirement plan?

This thought comes into my mind after watching the slow death of one of my favorite bands. Great White is a group of great musicians but singer Jack Russell is very ill and he just can't perform at the same level anymore. Lately, the band has been using guest vocalists to fulfill contract duties. Why not cancel the dates and reschedule when Jack is better? Obviously that's a short term solution - but what about the long-term?

The sad fact is that our favorites won't be able to tour endlessly for the next 20 or 30 years. At what point do bands hang it up? That's a hard thought for someone like me to handle. I find it comforting to know that Poison will be out on the road next year. That another Crue Fest is in the works. That Van Halen will likely tour again soon. But these bands are on a different level than the likes of Great White or Dokken.

How does a band like Great White bow out? There's a fan base there for sure. There's also the lasting stigma of the Station Nightclub fire. There's "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" and then there's painful YouTube clips of Jack clearly in agony at Rocklahoma '09, trying his hardest to perform. He gets my respect for fulfilling his duties and doing his job but it can't go on. At some point, it's degrading the legacy of the music.

Or maybe I'm wrong.

Maybe the band can keep on as they are, grabbing guest vocalists and waiting for Jack to heal. I really don't think so, though. I have to believe the other guys in the band want to retire like "normal" people someday. Sure, musicians choose a different path and generally shudder at desk jobs...but at some point, even performing for crowds of people night after night becomes work and the road wears even the most grisled guy down. Rest is rest.

Do I think Great White will hang it up anytime soon? No. But I do think we need to brace ourselves for a long list of retirements within the next five to ten years. As it should be.


Reader Comments (20)

I saw Great White a few months back at a little shit-hole bar near Cincinnati and it was PAINFUL to watch. Jack had to be helped to the stage by a roadie, walked with a cane and a noticeable limp, and sat in a stool for about 90% of the show.

Part of me thinks its "cool" and "rock n roll" that Jack and the band would perform no matter what but a bigger part of me was saddened by the whole scene. Great White needs to at least STOP PLAYING SHOWS right now until Jack is back to where he was. If Jack never is better than maybe find a permanent replacement.

Dee Snider said it best. The minute a band makes their audience feel old, not nostalgic, they need to go away. Old bands like The Rolling Stones still put on high energy shows. But Great White made me feel old. And I was perhaps the youngest person in the small crowd.

Get well Jack. We all love and respect you. But Great White and their management... Enough is enough!
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Ozz
I think you've missed the underlying issue. Great White are a good band. They definitely are not millionaires. I doubt they can afford to stop, unless they find other work. What are they qualified to do ? What options do they have that are more appealing than continuing to perform at whatever level they can get away with ? Same goes for all the z-level bands. What is Tracii Guns going to do, except play guitar ? These guys turned their back on the idea of real jobs to pursue a dream, and so long as they are paying the rent, they'll keep doing it. Bands like Poison will keep releasing albums b.c they want to, even Iron Maiden said recently in an interview that they know they will lose money on every album they release from now on in. There's no money in it, they do it b/c they make enough money to pay for it, and they like doing it.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristian
I recently had this exact discussion with a friend of mine. We came to the conclusion that bands don't retire because playing music is their job, and it's the only way they can make money. A lot of these guys have been professional musicians since their teens, so changing careers would be really tough. Not to mention that most of these guys don't have a great education (they were in a band when we were going to school), so options are very limited.

But more than that, most of the people in bands that have been successful are dedicated & talented musicians who love playing music. And if you love doing something, why would you stop? As long as fans are coming to the shows and a living can be made, there is no point to stopping if they don't want to.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryon
If there was no demand, they would have no option but to retire from music (or from the current project and would have to try something new). But, the fact is, GW still gets paid for playing shows, and obviously the pay exceeds the cost, or they wouldn't do it. If people stopped going, promoters would stop buying the shows.

I don't mind a band running the name into the ground because it is their name. It's up to me if I want to go see a show or not, but if enough people still want to go...then it is still worth it to the band. To be honest though, I don't understand who is still going to see GW, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bang Tango, etc., but those bands just keep going. Whatever, I hope they are all successful and keep making money at what they do.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian C.
November 12, 2010 - TnT (AC/DC cover Band), Warrant, and Great White at Medina, MN

Chair ? Cane ? Doesn't matter to me.... I'm there for one thing...the music. I've been to acoustical shows, exclusive shows, etc... where the whole band sits down. I still have a great time. Do I feel old ? Sure I do, but I don't need a band to make me feel that. I'm going to enjoy it while I'm here and obviously by them touring I'm hoping they do to.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGNR
I thought Great White needed to take a break after Rocklahoma last year, now that was truely PAINFUL to watch, And yet they just kept booking shows. WHY?? All it has done is do harm to their reputation as a solid band and THEY ARE A SOLID BAND!!!! Jack Russell's voice when he is ON can send chills up your spine he's so good!
As far other bands from back in the day still touring...I love the fact that some of these bands I grew up with are still touring, however I do see the trend shifting to fly-in dates and limited summer tours. Whatever works to keep the bands playing works for me! I know there will come a day where they'll have to hang it up and I'm just not ready to accept that yet.
this is probably also a reason I tend to love the summer festivals when the bands all come together b/c I don't get a chance to see them play regularly.

Don Dokken needs to REST his vocal chords. He does so much damage to them by constantly touring. I don't understand it!
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkari
Kari - I definitely agree with you about Don Dokken. I have total respect for the guy and love the band, but it's painful to watch him try to perform these days. I guess it's better to be a drummer or guitarist as you get older, becuase it sure seems like the vocalists just can't maintain the same performance level later in life (with the rare exceptions of Coverdale, Dio and a few others).
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRich
Why the fuck does everyone think Don Dokken is a bad singer now.Obviously he has lost range in his voice but at least he recognizes that and doesnt still try to hit the high notes.I saw Dokken in Rhode Island a few months ago and he put on an awesome show saying wow I love when I used to be able to hit those notes.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
This clip was most disturbing. Not only from a fan's perspective, but a HUMANE perspective. All they had to do was "reschedule" the dates or out right cancel them. Jack is in NO shape to be on stage. The vocals really are there, but physically the guy can't ROCK like a frontman. GW doing acoustic sets might be better suited for them all. The adrenaline that rushs through your body when that crowd goes nuts gives you that euphoria that you can do shit you're really not capable of doing...hence Jack NOT sitting. When he falls and has that panicked look in his eyes then humiliation sets in, then anger...its troublesome. I am a HUGE Great White fan, so call it rock n roll and a day...at least for a little while.
August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSweet Lou
PARDON MY IGNORANCE BUT I SEE THIS ALL DIFFERENTLY. IN REGARDS TO YOU A 31 YR. OLD...RETIRE??? NAH!!! TAKE A BREAK FROM PERFORMING...OK...BUT THERE ARE OTHER PARTS OF YOUR BEING YOU HAVEN'T EVEN TOUCHED ON..YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE DOING, DOING, DOING ALL THE TIME...STOP A WHILE...LOOK INSIDE YOURSELF AND WORK ON PARTS OF YOUR SPIRITUAL BEING, MEDITATION, OPEN UP YOURSELF AND TRY STUDYING MUSIC YOU WOULD NOT EVEN DREAM OF OR LIKE FOR THAT MATTER...PAINFULLY FORCE YOUR SELF AND IN DOING SO FEEL - CRY - WRITE IT OUT ON PAPER, EXERCISE ALONE - FEEL THE LONELINESS AND PAIN THE PARTS OF YOU THAT HAVE BEEN BURRIED DUE TO THE CONSTANT SCHEDULE/DISCIPLINE/ROUTINE THAT IS LIMITED NOW AND HAS PERHAPS BECOME SO TECHNICAL AND UNFEELING SOMETHING ELSE THAT YOU ARE MISSING. DO YOU HAVE THE DISCIPLINE TO STOP WHAT YOUR DOING AND TRY THIS...BELIEVE ME IT IS NOT EASY...BUT IT WORKS AND COME ON GIRL 31 YRS..OLD...YOUR RIGHT - STOP - FOR A WHILE NOT FOREVER - IF YOU REALLY LOVE MUSIC...GOTTA MIX IT UP A BIT...SACRIFICE...AND COME BACK BETTER AND STRONGER THAN EVER...WANNA BET???
I like great, solid, music with an excellent melody a great vocalist supported with excellent musicians - that means bass & drums well connected, Excellent guitarists and whatever works well together.

Seperation between instruments is crucial with the proper balance --- distortion rarely a little perhaps for special effect but crucial to be placed in the exact part of the song...and not all over the place - it distracts and cheapens the true real melody - why not place heavy there in the melody - wouldn't that give the great singer the chance to really sing it out and the guitarist too and the bass & drums to really play!

OK - NOW WHAT'S WRONG WITH GLAM???? I LOVE A GREAT PERFORMANCE...IT'S VISUAL...INTERESTING...ENTERTAINING

WHEN DONE RIGHT - IT'S MUSIC = FASHIONABLE.FUN AND INSPIRES AND FULL OF GREAT COLORFUL MUSICIANS - HEAVY!
THE YEAR IS 2010
LOOK AT COUNTRY MUSIC TODAY - CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?
LOOK AT RAP - DID YOU EVER EVEN IMAGINE IT WOULD BE A MUSIC CATEGORY - IT'S BIGGER THAN ROCK
NOW
TAKE GLAM - THINK ABOUT IT - AND - IT IS GOING TO REACH WHAT GROUP OF PEOPLE AND HOW AND IT'S GONNA CHANGE HOW...WANNA KNOW....I BELIEVE IT CAN & WILL!
Holy shit.....My head hurts now.
August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Ozz
The "caps lock" is between the Shift and Tab keys Ms. Pure....lol
August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGary
My head hurts too :) You know, on one hand, everyone has a right to earn a living and, as long as there is a demand, these bands have every right to continue playing. Like someone else said, many of them probably need to keep playing to pay the bills.

That said, I agree there is a "painful" factor - a sadness at watching your heroes at half-mast. Whether it's Jack's mobility issues or Vince's inability to sing half his lyrics or hit the notes he used to (ditto for others like Don D, Mark S), it hits you like a punch in the gut when you experience it.

You become instantly, acutely, bittersweetly aware that times have changed. I'll never forget seeing Jack at Rock in America last month. He walked by me three times at the hotel and I had no idea it was him. Hunched over, hobbling with a cane, I was wondering who this dude was and kept waiting for "Jack" to get off the bus. When it dawned on me, I felt sad. Sad to see how far he'd fallen from the strong, energetic guy he once was. Sad to think of all the emotional and physical pain this guy has endured in recent years.

So as long as these guys are playing, I am likely one of those folks paying to see them. But it's definitely not the same.
August 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertracy
Why should one ever retire from performing music? BB King is going on 85 and doesn't look like he is near the end. It doesn't matter how many people are in the crowd. Ride till you die.
August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWill
Ms. Pure, I think you're looking for the "Bring Back the Psychedelic 60s" website, and maybe you should go ahead and take that next hit of acid - oh wait, before you do that, do us all a favor and HIT THE FREAKING CAPS LOCK KEY! Thanks!
August 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRich
very nice.
August 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterugg shop

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