These are uncertain times for America’s workforce, what with high unemployment, massive seasonal layoffs, and gutted/broke/busted pension plans wherever you look. And you know who understands all that financial turmoil better than you might think? Our great nation’s hardworking pop stars.
It’s true! They might get to play under the spotlights for thousands of screaming fans, but all that fame and adulation comes with a price: the knowledge that at any moment, they could lose their fancy gig and end up giving drum lessons on Thursday nights in the back room of a strip mall instrument shop. And just like that time your entire department was downsized with three days’ notice because the CEO needed to make sure he made his annual bonus, sometimes band members aren’t even replaced. Check out these examples:
Steve Brookins, 38 Special
Of all the rock bands who decided to add a second drummer in the ’70s, none needed one less than 38 Special. Where the Allmans and the Doobies used the extra skins to add a layer of boogie to their rock, 38 used their four percussion arms to…handle all those tricky fills in “Caught Up in You” and “Hold on Loosely”? Yeah, probably not. Brookins vanished after 1986’s Safety in Numbers, with fellow founding drummer Jack Grondin out the door after 1991’s Bone Against Steel.
How many keyboard players does it take to play “Rosanna”? Two, believe it or not. One of three Porcaros who served time in Toto, the synth-toting Steve stuck around for the band’s first six albums, leaving after 1986’s Isolation when he realized he’d co-written Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” and never needed to work another day in his life. Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett, Genesis
Unlike most of the other names on this list, Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett (our third Steve. Hmmm) made a pretty big splash when they gave up their gigs. Gabriel, of course, was the walking flower pot who sang lead vocals on Genesis’ first six studio albums, while Hackett was the innovative guitarist who helped solidify what’s generally regarded as their classic lineup. No matter — when Gabriel took a hike after The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, they just tossed the mic to drummer Phil Collins, and when Hackett followed suit a couple of years later, bassist Mike Rutherford shrugged and added “lead guitar” to his job description. Beer commercials followed. Jesse Harms, REO Speedwagon
Picture it: It’s the late ’80s, and you’re an in-demand session player who just wrote Eddie Money’s Top 10 hit “Walk on Water.” The corporate rock world is your oyster! What do you do? For Jesse Harms, the answer was “join REO Speedwagon and co-write the bulk of one of the most oddly titled flop albums in history.” Never mind that the band already had a keyboard player — founding member Neal Doughty, who wasn’t going anywhere — or that most of REO’s remaining fans had too much dignity or self-respect to walk up to a store clerk holding a copy of something called The Earth, a Small Man, His Dog and a Chicken. The band went on a six-year recording break, and Harms went on to join Sammy Hagar’s Waboritas. Call it a draw.