10 Worst Solo Albums by Superstar Band Members
It’s never pretty when great bands splinter – whether temporarily, or forever and ever, amen. But things can get a hell of a lot uglier real quick when that splintering results in one or more band members recording a solo album that, how shall we put it, stinks to high heaven. Unlike goose eggs laid by artists born solo (e.g. David Bowie’s ‘Never Let Me Down’), such blunders can end up compromising the parent band’s own, previously unblemished, godlike legacy. This point could be argued about all of the solo albums described below; others just plain suck! So here we go with the Top 10 Worst Solo Albums (by Superstar Band Members).
‘Radio K.A.O.S.’ (1987)
No one in their right mind would challenge Roger Waters’ colossal accomplishments as the driving force behind Pink Floyd, but after hijacking the band and either terrorizing or terminally alienating his erstwhile bandmates (then suing them for daring to carry on without him), Waters failed to measure up on his lonesome. 1984’s ‘The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking’ largely recycled ‘70s Floyd with underwhelming results, but ‘87’s virtually impenetrable ‘Radio K.A.O.S.’ took things a step further: reflecting the monomania of an insular artist living so far up his own backside that his convoluted concepts became increasingly un-relatable to the world at large.
‘Two the Hard Way’
This 1977 duets album immortalized the unlikely marriage of southern rock icon Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band and variety show queen and part-time pop starlet Cher; and while it’s therefore not technically a ‘solo album’ by either of them, how could we resist including it in our list of the Top 10 Worst Solo Albums (by Superstar Band Members)? Especially given the tipsy cocktail of mellow southern soul, funky disco and MOR created by the lustily smitten lovebirds; songs that surely left Allman Brothers fans, if not Cher’s, scratching their beards in confusion. Ah, love…
‘Oh Yes I Can’
Sure you can, David, but maybe you really should have made a Crosby, Stills & Nash record instead. Rarely has an artist’s hard-won road to sobriety (courtesy of his nine-month ‘vacation’ in the care of the Texas penal system) received as weak an endorsement as the one delivered by this heartfelt but ultimately limp collection of mainstream twaddle. Then again, if ever a 12-step program’s sheepish apologies were to be documented on record, they may well have sound like ‘Oh Yes I Can,’ which, in fairness to Crosby, was clearly a product of the late '80s’ best forgotten over-produced adult pop music – coma-inducing stuff.
Evil, conniving record company executives finally had their way when they pried Debbie Harry – one of the ‘70s most iconic female rock stars – away from Blondie long enough to record this widely panned 1981 solo debut. Even with the continued involvement of her long-time squeeze and Blondie partner, Chris Stein, ‘Koo Koo’s’ disappointing collection of post-disco pop, funk and proto-rap sounds like a bad day at the office for producers (and main songwriters) Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic fame. Just imagine Blondie’s blockbuster single, “Rapture” diluted and regurgitated many times over, and you’ll pretty much have the gist of ‘Koo Koo.’
‘The Madcap Laughs’
Such is the deafening hipster cult surrounding original Pink Floyd mastermind, Syd Barrett, and his haunting slide into an acid-induced psychosis that you’ll have no trouble finding countless music nerds willing to champion his sparse and seriously unhinged solo output. But let’s be honest, for all of Barrett’s unquestionable visionary genius behind the Floyd’s birth, and even the occasional glimpse of musical coherence found on ‘The Madcap Laughs,’ the album’s deeply unsettling documentation of Barrett’s psychological decline is a musical shambles, at best, and a purely exploitative record company exercise at worst.
All four of the former Beatles have delivered at least one musical bomb worthy of our Top 10 Worst Solo Albums (by Superstar Band Members) list, but George Harrison’s ‘Gone Troppo’ (Aussie slang for losing your marbles) will have to take one for the team. Still reeling from John Lennon’s 1980 assassination and clearly distracted by his dalliances in movie making and car racing, Harrison definitely dialed this one in, conveniently wrapping up his then-expiring record deal. Hey, what can we say? The higher the expectations, the greater the disappointment – sorry, George, and you’re welcome, Ringo.
‘Let Me Rock You’
If you thought Peter Criss’ first, Kiss-sanctioned solo album was the biggest dud of the four (and it was), then you need to get a load of his third concession to being flogged in public: 1982’s ‘Let Me Rock You.’ Filled with tepid pop rock and schmaltzy ballads, this album only narrowly trumped Criss’ second, misleadingly named solo LP, ‘Out of Control,’ for inclusion in our list of Top 10 Worst Solo Albums (by Superstar Band Members). And not for its musical merits, either, but because its awkward cover portrait of a freshly showered Peter (yuck!), made for an even bigger eyesore than its predecessor’s disco dancer-slaughtering jukebox. In any case, both albums effectively buried the Cat’s career in the proverbial sandbox.
‘Standing in the Spotlight’
Proof positive that playing in a rock band can drive you crazy, ‘Standing in the Spotlight’ chronicled Dee Dee Ramone’s jaw-dropping reinvention as wannabe rapper Dee Dee King, after a decade’s worth of escalating drug abuse and commercial disappointment alongside his incessantly brawling ‘bruvvers’ in the Ramones. Mid-life crisis, anyone? Not that you can blame him, nor even stay angry for long with Dee Dee – one of rock’s most lovable and talented runts – considering his earnest (ahem!) artistic intentions and parallel timeless contributions to punk rock as the Ramones’ chief songwriter.
‘Two Sides of the Moon’
Heck, why stop at just two sides? Surely Keith Moon, one of rock’s most notorious schizophrenics deserved to show as many as five or six sides of his personality – which he sort of did anyway on this drunken mishmash of covers, often described as the “most expensive karaoke album in history.” With the doomed ‘Moon the Loon’ fast approaching his self-destructive peak, being aided and abetted by L.A.’s entire decadent rock star elite whilst recording ‘Two Sides of the Moon’ was probably not a good idea for the Who drummer. If nothing else, the album represents an unintended monument to the human liver’s remarkable endurance.
‘The Golden Scarab’
If ever a solo album single-handedly put a legendary band’s achievements into question, then it is probably Ray Manzarek’s deplorable attempt to find life after the Doors via 1974’s unintentionally hilarious ‘The Golden Scarab.’ Within seconds of needle meeting groove, “He Can’t Come Today’s” preposterously samba-fueled “Break on Through” reduction gives Vegas-era Elvis Presley a run for his jumpsuit and sets the tone for a harrowing sequence of songs juxtaposing cabaret, trite lyrics and lingering Doors-isms not fit for the most heinous bad acid comedown. Simply put, naught can compare to ‘The Golden Scarab’s’ sanity-challenging, trans-dimensional musical existence, somewhere between Memphis, TN, and Memphis, Egypt; hippy-dippy mysticism and any old lounge band playing at the nearest Holiday Inn. Approach at your own risk…