The Best Lineup Changes in Rock Part 1

The Best Lineup Changes in Rock Part 1

There have been numerous classic bands who would take great pride in claiming that they were responsible for one of rock history’s more successful lineup changes. There’s no denying, however, that a change of a key band member (whether it’s a result of creative differences, death, or drugs) can have a great effect on a band’s future success. When the right combination of musicians come together, there’s a certain magic that happens, and by changing just a single member, it can result in disastrous consequences. Following is a selection groups who changed a key member of their lineup, but managed to retain a similar level of success. In fact, in some cases, they went on to achieve even greater things.


This band released two of new wave’s greatest albums before tragedy struck. In under one year, the band lost two of its founding members (bass player Pete Farndon and guitarist James Honeyman-Scott) to drug-related deaths. Lead singer Chrissie Hynde refused to break up the band and brought in a few friends to record the classic pop song Back on the Chain Gang before forming a new lineup with journeyman Robbie McIntosh on guitar. The band released the album Learning to Crawl in 1984, which is one of the greatest-ever Pretenders albums. Hynde has remained a constant, but there have been numerous other changes in the band’s lineup over the years.

Van Halen

At the height of their success- after a hugely successful world tour, a No.1 hit, and a multi-platinum album, Van Halen fell apart. Lead singer Dave Lee Roth parted ways with the rest of the band, and a number of executives made the bold prediction that Roth would go on and achieve success, with the others fading into obscurity. Fans weren’t impressed, either, when the band announced that Sammy Hagar would take the place of Roth. With Hagar at the helm, however, Van Halen achieved four consecutive No. 1 albums and a host of hit singles.

Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac have two different sets of fans. One are those who count themselves as die-hard fans of British blues, while the other set are those who enjoy general pop. The band started in the ‘60s as an extension of the Bluesbreakers, with frontman Peter Green. As Green suffered from mental illness, however, the band’s founding members (John McVie and Mick Fleetwood) transitioned into softer rock, This transition meant bringing John’s wife Christine into the lineup in 1971, along with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham in 1975. This lineup became the band’s most successful.

Floyd’s story is not that dissimilar to that of Fleetwood Macs. They started as a psychedelic pop group in the ‘60s, thanks to Syd Barrettt. When Barrett’s mental issues became too much for the band to bear, the other members of the band took control, along with David Gilmour, Floyd’s new guitarist. This new lineup would play around with numerous sonic sounds before it found its niche with The Dark Side the Moon, the prog classic from 1973.