What's in a (rock band's) name?
Oliver Stone would surely cry conspiracy.
Next month, The Doors will reunite to play the first concert of a major tour. But this is hardly the 1960s band the filmmaker once made a movie about. Of the original lineup, only guitarist Robby Krieger and keyboardist Ray Manzarek will be on stage. Stewart Copeland (ex-The Police) is taking over for John Densmore on drums and Ian Astbury, one-time frontman of The Cult, will stand in the microphone spot where the late Jim Morrison used to cavort.
But can the group legitimately claim to be The Doors without the legendary Morrison? The foursome ought to be called The Doors - Unhinged.
Or how about Axl Rose? Despite a divorce from guitarist Slash and other band mates, Rose and the keyboard player from Guns N' Roses are touring with session musicians under their old moniker. Isn't Guns N' Posers a more suitable label?
And what of Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend? This summer, just days after the death of bass player John Entwhistle, they went out as The Who. To grieving fans, who also lost drummer Keith Moon years ago, it was more like Who's Left?
It's sad when bands swap out musicians but retain the name - like a James Bond franchise that keeps replacing the lead actor. It signals that the name has become a consumer brand when its purpose may once have been to label the bottled chemistry that made the band unique in the first place.
Occasionally, a group will nod to a member's irreplaceable contribution. A few months ago, seven years after Jerry Garcia played his final jam, the surviving members of the Grateful Dead reconvened under a new name: The Other Ones.