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A band's creative lifespan

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A band's creative lifespan

Old 08-13-11, 11:14 AM
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A band's creative lifespan

I've had this theory buzzing around the brain for a while and wanted to toss it out here to see what people think.

If you look in retrospect, it seems many but by no means all artists seem to have a five-year span where they are at a creative peak, often bookended by two great albums. After that, one thing or another derails them. They get older, married, priorities change, suffer a tragedy or become victims of their success. As evidence:

Led Zeppelin: 1969-1974 (first album-Physical Graffiti)
Pink Floyd: 1974-1979 (DSotM-The Wall)
Not much of a Stones fan but it looks like 68-73 was their peak
U2: 1983-1988 (War-Rattle & Hum)
Rush: 1976-1981 (2112-Moving Pictures)
Aerosmith: 1973-1978 (debut-Draw the Line)

And I've seen it in metal bands a lot.

Metallica: 1983-1987 (debut-AJfA)
Slayer: 1986-1991 (Reign-Seasons)
Nevermore: 1995-2000 (debut-DHiaDW)
In Flames: 1995-2000 (Jester Race-Clayman)
Iron Maiden: 1982-1988 (ok six years, TNotB-SSoaSS)

I apply this to the truly unique bands who make a new album every time. I don't apply it to a AC/DC, where they basically remake the same album every time (and even they admit it).

Some of them have had great revivals. Aerosmith, U2, Slayer, Rush and Metallica all had great rebirths after a real creative low.

So, thoughts?

Last edited by Traxan; 08-13-11 at 01:44 PM.
Old 08-13-11, 11:42 AM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

You don't consider Achtung Baby to be part of U2's peak, but consider Rattle & Hum part of U2's prime? That theory doesn't hold water, at least with that band.

On the other hand, Pearl Jam certainly fits the profile with their peak in their first four albums 1991-1996.
Old 08-13-11, 11:59 AM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Originally Posted by Decker View Post

On the other hand, Pearl Jam certainly fits the profile with their peak in their first four albums 1991-1996.
I think many PJ fans(including myself) would disagree with that.

I think a lot of bands "blow their wad" on their first(and sometimes second) album since those contain songs they've been crafting for some time. Obviously the great bands will have more to offer but i do think there's always that time span where a band does it's best work. Plus there's always that thing bands do where they try to change what they've been doing that often divides their musical career and divides fans opinion on them.
Old 08-13-11, 12:22 PM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

PJ's two best albums are Yield and Backspacer, so I disagree with that.
Old 08-13-11, 12:28 PM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Guns 'N Roses is an obvious example, with their notable albums being released from 1987-1991.

I guess the Beatles could work, if you include A Hard Day's Night (1964) through Abbey Road (1969). But, some would say their entire career was a peak.
Old 08-13-11, 12:28 PM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Interesting thought. There's always exceptions, of course. Motorhead would be one. (I was one of those people that went around saying "only their first 4 albums were any good"; then I got called on it and actually listened to their "newer" stuff and had to disregard saying that anymore).
Old 08-13-11, 01:30 PM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

The Stones doesn't work because their 1973 album was Goat's Head Soup, which was a noticeable step down from 1972's Exile On Main St. Also, several of their mid-60's albums are absolutely brilliant, like Between The Buttons.
Old 08-13-11, 01:43 PM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Originally Posted by astrochimp View Post
I think many PJ fans(including myself) would disagree with that.

I think a lot of bands "blow their wad" on their first(and sometimes second) album since those contain songs they've been crafting for some time. Obviously the great bands will have more to offer but i do think there's always that time span where a band does it's best work. Plus there's always that thing bands do where they try to change what they've been doing that often divides their musical career and divides fans opinion on them.
Yeah but a lot of them have to grow into it. Rush and Pink Floyd are both good examples. They hit their peaks about 4 albums in. Others, like Pearl Jam, started out at their best and went all downhill from there.

BTW I forgot one more example: KISS. 1974-79, although Dynasty was nothing to brag about.
Old 08-13-11, 01:52 PM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Originally Posted by nodeerforamonth View Post
Interesting thought. There's always exceptions, of course. Motorhead would be one. (I was one of those people that went around saying "only their first 4 albums were any good"; then I got called on it and actually listened to their "newer" stuff and had to disregard saying that anymore).
I would argue Motorhead falls into the same category as AC/DC in that they don't really change much from album to album. I know 'head fans will go nuts, but the band has slowed as Lemmy has aged. He's 66, after all. Latter albums just aren't as ferocious as the Eddie/Philthy days.
Old 08-13-11, 02:02 PM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

I'll be "that guy" to say Metallica's formative period was 1984-1988.
Old 08-13-11, 02:19 PM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Originally Posted by Traxan View Post
I would argue Motorhead falls into the same category as AC/DC in that they don't really change much from album to album. I know 'head fans will go nuts, but the band has slowed as Lemmy has aged. He's 66, after all. Latter albums just aren't as ferocious as the Eddie/Philthy days.
Have you heard those later albums? I don't think they've slowed...
Old 08-13-11, 06:45 PM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Great topic and i agree with 5 year on average peak. I mean we are talking creative peaks. Even if they have good to great albums after. Nothing like those 5 years. And yeah there are always exceptions. Here's my picks.

Van Halen (1978-1983)
The Black Crowes (1990-1995)
Old 08-13-11, 07:42 PM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

The Cure: 1982 (Pornography) - 1989 (Disintegration)

Seven years... unless you want to start with Head on the Door instead of Pornography.
Old 08-13-11, 07:52 PM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Disagree with the U2 one because I think most people would agree Achtung Baby was much better than Rattle And Hum. Rattle And Hum was them becoming dangerously close to self-parody and burning out, Achtung Baby was their renewal and helped save them. Now after AB things would never be the same again, but I would say most people would put it alongside War, Unforgettable and Joshua when it comes to "the big four"

Others I think would work, though it isn't all five year spans, but close enough:

Stevie Wonder 1972-1976 (Music Of My Mind through Songs In The Key Of Life. Hotter Than July in 1980 was quite good, but between Songs and July was Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants)

David Bowie 1976-1980 (Station To Station through Scary Monsters, I know some people prefer the Ziggy/glam stuff but to me 1976-1980 is the Bowie that I truly love, he was edgier and more experimental and his voice was in its best form. After 1980 came the pop years, I did enjoy Let's Dance but it was a step down from the five that preceded it)

Prince 1980-1987 (Dirty Mind through Sign O' The Times. Seven years, but seven great albums. Although albums like Controversy and Parade don't get the love they deserve because they're sandwiched between albums like 1999, Purple Rain and Sign O' The Times, they were all very consistently excellent. He seemed to blow his wad on SOTT because afterwards was when he lost some of his magic. "Lovesexy" in 1988 was pretty good for a rushed effort (as he recorded it to make up for the canceled Black Album) but it wasn't as great as his standards, and then Batman came and proved the magic era was over)

Queen 1974-1980 (Queen II through The Game. Six years but those albums between 74-80 were the albums that made them the beloved icons they're remembered for today. After The Game came Flash Gordon and Hot Space, two albums that divide fans. I personally think Hot Space is underrated myself but it is not amongst their classic works.)
Old 08-13-11, 09:04 PM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Bowie's creative peak was 1971-1983 and anyone who tells you different is worse than Pol Pot.
Old 08-13-11, 09:34 PM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Originally Posted by Suprmallet View Post
Bowie's creative peak was 1971-1983 and anyone who tells you different is worse than Pol Pot.
I'm going with personal faves. Diamond Dogs, Pin Ups and Young Americans are good albums but not amongst his best IMO. Everything from 76-80 was ***** and I prefer it to the earlier stuff everyone cums over.
Old 08-13-11, 11:09 PM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Queensryche? - '84 "The Warning" to "Empire" in 1990
Old 08-14-11, 12:00 AM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Damn, now I'm worried about the next Arcade Fire album.
Old 08-14-11, 12:21 AM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Depeche Mode 1981 to 1990
Old 08-14-11, 01:52 AM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

I think Depeche Mode's creative peak was 1984-1990.
Old 08-14-11, 02:01 AM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

The entire Depeche Mode history really comprises of two bands, the 81-84 period of New Wave pop and the 84-90 period of Alternative/Goth. Stuff like Oberkorn hinted at the future.
Old 08-14-11, 02:02 AM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Originally Posted by Drexl View Post
Damn, now I'm worried about the next Arcade Fire album.
I'm downright scared for Nightwish. 98-04 would definitely qualify as their peak. I'm hoping to hell Tuomas shakes off the ghosts of Tarja and Marcello with this new album.
Old 08-14-11, 08:37 AM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Originally Posted by Traxan View Post
I'm downright scared for Nightwish. 98-04 would definitely qualify as their peak. I'm hoping to hell Tuomas shakes off the ghosts of Tarja and Marcello with this new album.
Dark Passion Play is fucking great. The few clips of Imaginarium that they've put out sound amazing. I don't think there is anything to worry about.
Old 08-14-11, 08:55 AM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Originally Posted by Traxan View Post
Metallica: 1983-1987 (debut-AJfA)
Slayer: 1986-1991 (Reign-Seasons)
Nevermore: 1995-2000 (debut-DHiaDW)
In Flames: 1995-2000 (Jester Race-Clayman)
Iron Maiden: 1982-1988 (ok six years, TNotB-SSoaSS)
I would say you're pretty spot on with those bands. Although I would give Slayer a few more years because even now their new stuff sounds good.
Old 08-14-11, 11:21 AM
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Re: A band's creative lifespan

Maiden's peak was the entire 1980 - 1988 period. If you're not including Killers, you're worse than P-- HEY!!!

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