Successful in one genre? Then try another!
When musicians take left turns, from Gregg Allman to Dee Dee Ramone
As news reaches us that former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante is recording an acid house album, we delve into the world of mid-career tangents, where, for better or worse, musicians dared to try something different.
It was unlikely enough when the southern rock guitarist Gregg Allman married Cher, but unlikelier still when he ditched the country blues with which he made his name in order to make a pop album with her in 1977. Two The Hard Way – credited, in the enlightened days of the late ‘70s, to Allman and Woman – was a 24 carat turkey with Allman mashing southern rock against Cher’s pop aesthetic so ham fistedly that the record bombed in the spectacular style. The vinyl version went out of print in 1983 at which point, Billboard have reported, Cher took ownership of the masters and has steadfastly refused to let the thing be reissued on tape, CD or through iTunes ever since.
With Queen at a low ebb and on hiatus in 1985, Freddie Mercury took off on his own. What he wrote in the liner notes to his solo album Mr. Bad Guy was telling – he thanks his cats, cat lovers in general, then adds: “screw everybody else”. He also finds time to thank his Queen bandmates “Brian, John and Roger for not interfering”. Though perhaps they should have. Because the resulting synth-pop and disco album may have had the trademark over-exuberance, but in also reaching for new-wave influences it struggled for direction. Freddie hardly gave it a boost, saying the tracks were “love songs … to do with sadness torture and pain,” before realising that was hardly likely to get Queen fans going. “But at the same time, they’re frivolous and tonge-in-cheek,” he whooped, perhaps a little too late.