Not every band winds up being a huge commercial success. Many of our favorite bands might not be radio darlings or platinum selling artists, but their musical talent is undeniable. For every band that attracts a huge audience there are dozens of equally talented bands that don’t get as recognized. This is simply the way the music industry works. But even considering that not all bands are going to connect with a wide audience and achieve huge success, there are some bands that seem like they should have been bigger than they were.
Sometimes you’ll scratch your head as you think about why some bands weren’t bigger than they were in a popularity sense. A certain band may have all the right stars aligned to make a major run at becoming a pop culture phenomenon and then completely fizzle out for one reason or another. The reason for things like this happening to a talented band vary. It could be due to tragedy striking a band or it could simply be because of a lack of proper management.
I decided to take to a look at a few bands that I feel had massive amounts of potential to become huge in the music industry. The bands that I highlight here are simply ones that in my mind deserved more attention than they were given during their heyday. There are hundreds of bands out there that could be showcased in a piece like this, so these are just some of the acts that should have been bigger but never quite reached the level of success they aspired to.
Mother Love Bone:
Mother Love Bone was an amazing band that came out of the Seattle scene. They formed in 1988 and existed as a band until 1990. You may recognize the members of this band as being the founding members of the very popular Pearl Jam. Stone Gossard and company had a very successful and musically brilliant band on their hands long before Pearl Jam was formed. In the late eighties the scene that would become known as Seattle grunge was really coming into its own. There were dozens of talented bands that performed regularly in the Washington area and Mother Love Bone was in many people’s opinions the cream of the crop. So why don’t many people even known of Mother Love Bone’s existence?
The reason for Mother Love Bone not becoming bigger than they were was tragedy. Mere days before the band was set to release their major label debut album Apple, the lead singer of Mother Love Bone passed away. Andrew Wood was a very talented front man. He had such a presence on the stage when he was performing and many people close to him always said he seemed like he was born to be a rock star. The trouble was that he had a documented drug addiction problem. Wood overdosed on heroin, leaving himself brain dead. After two days of being kept on life support in a hospital Andrew Wood died. Mother Love Bone could not go on without Andrew and the band as it was died with him.
Their album Apple still released. It got pushed back to July 19th of 1990. Without a band to tour in support of the album, it didn’t perform incredibly well. Regardless, it was an amazing album that showcases just how good Mother Love Bone was. The entire album just seems very special. The singles that wound up being released from the album, such as “Stardog Champion,” were very fun. When you listen to a song like “Crown of Thorns” it sticks with you. To this day it feels almost haunting to listen to the song and think back to what might have been for Mother Love Bone.
The musicianship on display on the Apple album make it one of my favorites from the 1990’s. It deserves more recognition than it received. The members of the band that lived on formed Pearl Jam and became very successful rock stars. Their earlier days in music with Mother Love Bone deserve to be remembered for brilliance as well.
Sevendust is a hardworking band that has been making albums since 1997. They tour relentlessly and have impressed thousands of fans with their high energy live performances. Personally, Sevendust is one of my favorite live bands to see. Their catalog of music suits itself well to singing along as loud as you can. Seeing Lajon Witherspoon put his heart and soul into every note he sings has always been a thrill. The drummer, Morgan Rose, is considered by many to be one of the top drummers in rock and roll to this day. When you combine those elements with the songwriting capability of Clint Lowery, you have a winning formula. All of the members of the band work very well together and they just seem like they’re having a blast playing their music every time I have gone to see them.
The band has been a success in many regards. They have a loyal group of fans who continue to buy their albums and see them on tour each year. Even in a commercial sense, Sevendust has been a band with consistently good album sales. They have many certified gold albums to their name, but no platinum albums. Their album sales are much higher than many metal or hard rock bands, but they’ve never reached the commercial levels of success as some of their peers.
In the late nineties and earlier 2000’s Sevendust had a lot of buzz. You could regularly read about how the band should be the next big thing in rock music in magazines like Metal Edge or Revolver. But no matter how much buzz the band generated they always seemed to hover in that same spot. They were a mid-level rock act with a devoted following. They never seemed to be able to break through and come out with that single that would push them to the next level.
When Sevendust released their album Seasons in October of 2003, I really thought that would be the album that would see them find the success they desired. It was an excellent album musically. The entire album from start to finish is an emotional experience. From relatable tracks like “Honesty” and “Broken Down” to the aggressive songs like “Face to Face” and “Enemy,” the album was very memorable. It remains a favorite to many of their biggest fans. Enemy wound up charting well as a single but not good enough to put them in a higher tier on the rock pantheon. I actually thought the title track, “Seasons,” would have made a good single.
Sevendust should have been bigger than they were. The band isn’t giving up though. They’re releasing a new album on March 28th of this year called Black Out the Sun. What I’ve heard of the album so far has been very promising. It should be another great Sevendust record, but as for whether it will help the band attain a new level of success, the jury is still out on that one. I am personally thankful to Sevendust as a band for providing all of their fans with great music throughout the years. No matter what they’re a band who has made a gigantic impact in the hearts of their fans.
The band From Zero was an interesting act. They started getting some recognition in the early 2000’s. Coming out of the music scene from Chicago, From Zero was a group that combined a rap/rock feel with seriously good melody. Generally I am not a fan of rap/rock bands, but the hip hop elements that were used in the band’s music were very slight. This made the music very listenable and catchy. In the time From Zero was coming into their own, the rap/rock aesthetic was still very popular. This band was much more talented than many of the others that wound up becoming huge successes.
Signed to Arista records, From Zero would release their debut album One Nation Under in 2001. What really stuck out about the album was the power of lead singer Jett’s voice. Jett was able to put a lot of impressive vocal harmonies into the record and when combined with smart lyrics it made for a compelling package. The music itself was aggressive on most tracks with a nu-metal feel that was typical for the time.
The album didn’t perform particularly well. The single, “Check Ya,” didn’t see radio play in too many different markets. They impressed many fans with a fun live show but didn’t seem to connect with a large enough audience to attain the success their label wanted of them. The band put out a second record that was far lighter than their previous effort. The album called My So Called Life, not to be mistaken with that MTV show, was far more focused on emotional lyricism and melody. It was a lighter album musically as well. I enjoyed the album and thought that many of the songs might have performed well on active rock radio. The single that they chose to lead off with for the album was called “Sorry.” It was the wrong song to showcase and was one of the weaker songs on the album. My So Called Life sold terribly and that was basically the death knell for the band.
The reason I feel From Zero should have been bigger is that they had all of the tools they needed to become a success during the time period they were releasing albums. Rap/rock bands were selling a lot of albums at this time in the music industry. I thought From Zero was the most talented musically of all of those bands. They were much better than Crazy Town or Limp Bizkit when it came to substance. The music wouldn’t work as well in the modern era where rock music has moved away from such trends. Even still, there are elements of From Zero that were very enjoyable and they could have attained more success with better management decisions such as what songs to highlight.
These are just some of the bands that, if given an opportunity to do things differently, might have become much bigger successes than they were/are. Each of these three bands are very talented in their own right, although From Zero is the dark horse of this list. We all have our own opinions on what bands should have become big stars. These are just a few of my ideas. I’d love to hear what bands the LRI community thinks went under-appreciated in their day. Take to the comments section and let your voices be heard. Tell us what bands you think should have been bigger. You just might turn somebody on to some new music in the process.
Thanks Robert. I will start off by saying that it is a pretty sad commentary that this list could go on forever because the amount of great musicians that never quite get their due is endless. It always reminds me of what record producer Michael Wagener told me about every single thing having to line up perfectly for a record to break to a mass audience. The promotion team, the radio airplay, the touring slots….all of it has to be green-lit in order for a band to REALLY blow up. Here is just a small list of the artists from the 70s to today that come to my mind when thinking about acts that should have been bigger.
Mother Love Bone- I totally agree with Robert on every single level about Mother Love Bone. I think the groundwork for their breakthrough was already there with Andrew’s popularity from his previous band Malfunkshun as well as the connection with grunge forefathers Green River. I remembered reading about their EP “Shine” in RIP magazine and picking up the cassette tape and being blown away. It was like Led Zep, Aerosmith and the Chili Peppers had a crazy baby and slathered it in KISS makeup. I can still feel the profound, simultaneous sense of satisfaction and depression upon hearing their full length major label debut,”Apple” and realizing there would be no follow up. I will always, always love Mother Love Bone; one of the greatest examples of talent and addiction sadly going hand in hand.
King’s X- King’s X certainly had and still have their fans and even had a nice level of breakthrough with “It’s Love” and “Black Flag” but the three otherworldly performers that made up the band really should have become even bigger household names in my opinion. If you’re not familiar with King’s X it is far from too late as they are thankfully still around and playing gigs in addition to making solo albums. Listening to the epic, deeply involved and evolved performance on the title track from “Faith Hope Love” should be enough to blow your mind.
Badlands- I am not sure why Badlands did not break to at least the level of bands like White Lion or FireHouse. I guess it is because they went the Tesla route of music first and image second, maybe it was the fact that Jake E. Lee was the guitarist and not the front man. I have no idea but you will never hear more unstoppable performers than Eric Singer, Greg Chaisson or Ray Gillen. If you saw their blistering bare bones live show you are scarred for life.
Enuff Z Nuff- Another reverse example of image confusion totally and completely screwing up a really, really good band. Enuff Z Nuff managed to get signed out of Chicago rather than New York or L.A. Because they have songs that would have made any other band millionaires. The confusion of whether or not they were a glam band or a normal lookin bunch of guys was clear on the very first album sleeve and the brilliant songwriting was perpetually stymied by bad label and business moves. Again, it’s not too late to go see them live since Chip and Donnie are still doing their thing. R.I.P. Derek Frigo and Ricky Parent.
Savatage- Savatage covered more musical ground than most bands dared to, they had the songwriting and playing chops to pull off everything from the ultra heavy “Sirens” to the underrated rock opera “Streets”. Tragedy befall the guys when guitarist Criss Oliva was killed but they STILL managed to produce amazing albums with guitarists like Chris Caffery and Alex Skolnick . New vocalist Zak Stevens took over some of the limelight from original front man Jon Oliva while Jon continued working behind the scenes. I totally respect and understand that much of the Savatage team has transitioned to the very successful Trans Siberian Orchestra but it is in so many ways just a constant reminder of the greatness of Savatage.
Hanoi Rocks- How ironic that a Finnish band would single handedly set the tone for the total takeover of the Sunset Strip metal scene and how terrible that Motley Crue, one of the bands that would go on to be the very biggest from that scene, would play a part in their demise. The sleaze factor and fashion sense not only became the template Izzy Stradlin and GNR worked from but the band’s catalog remains grossly underrated. They have made a couple of very valiant reunion efforts and frontman Michael Monroe made a phenomenal record recently but nothing has been the same since Razzle was killed.
Starz- New Jersey legend Jon Bon Jovi knows how important Starz were, Billy Corgan not only named a song after them but came to our FB page to “like” an interview with them and Nikki Sixx has often cited them as a major influence on early Crue. Why don’t more people know about Starz?? They had great songs, great productions and performances but perhaps a bit of bad luck and the shadow of KISS always looming over them as they shared management.
Angel- Speaking of the shadow of KISS….. Casablanca labelmates Angel were the total package but never seemed to grab the platinum they deserved. They had the charismatic star guitarist and bassist and a Plant/Bonham combination on vocals and drums and put on one of the best live shows of the era. Songs like “Tower” and “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” still stand the test of time and only serve to frustrate fans who are left perpetually wondering “What If”.
Fig Dish- I would venture to guess you have literally never heard of Fig Dish. They released two albums in the mid 90s, “That’s What Love Songs Often Do” and “When Push Comes To Shove” and had a very loyal following in underground circles and in their hometown of Chicago. Both albums are great; taking the best elements of the replacements, the pixies, cheap trick and archers of loaf and putting it into a drunk blender perpetually set to fun.
Local H- I guess there were just too many good Illinois bands in the mid 90s. Scott Lucas songwriting is brilliant sarcasm, angst and rebellion and Local H has always had a nice fan base but never blew up to the level that much lesser bands achieved who shall remain unmentioned. Local H is so good that I really can’t recommend one album in particular, it’s really best to just pick up their entire catalog. They are that good.
Danko Jones- I only include Danko Jones here because they have been around SO GODDAMN LONG and have made so many must-have albums that it is clear they are truly misunderstood. Not sure what there is to misunderstand in their straightforward, ultra catchy music and I am hoping this spring’s tour with Volbeat will launch them out of American obscurity. The rest of the world gets it…Danko Jones rocks, perfect music built for highways and hook ups. True power trio magnificence!
…….That’s all I have right now guys but I am absolutely positive both Robert and I missed a ton of bands that are on the tip of your tongues…We really wanna know what bands do YOU think should have been bigger, leave us a dang comment and thanks for reading! —- John Parks, Editor/Senior Writer, LRI