MUSIC FEATURE. By John Moe, Special to MSN Music

The Seven Bands You Meet in Heaven


It's been said that if there's rock 'n' roll in heaven, they have a hell of a band.

But rock has been around for a while now and has amassed a pretty lengthy roster of casualties. Does anyone think that even in the divine perfection of the afterlife, all the dead rock stars could somehow get organized enough to play in one giant band? Does any band need that many bass players? Could any band stand that many singers? Of course not. Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison couldn't coexist in the same lineup for five minutes, let alone eternity.

So after several lengthy séance sessions with the late concert promoter Bill Graham, I can confidently announce the lineups of the seven rock bands you'll meet in heaven. Each band features vocals, guitar, bass and drums. Keyboardists sometimes drop in, but they don't tend to stick around long. They're flighty even in the afterlife.

 

Band No. 1 -- The Metallic Kissing Beatles

John Lennon (Beatles) -- vocals, rhythm guitar
George Harrison (Beatles) -- vocals, lead guitar
Cliff Burton (Metallica) -- bass
Eric Carr (Kiss) -- drums

Since the Fab Four were always one of The Big Guy's favorites, He pulled some strings to keep John and George together. But it's the metal influence of Burton and Carr that really make this band worth pulling up a cloud and listening to. The proto-emo of the Beatles' style is set off nicely with an inescapable, thundering rhythm section. Nothing against Paul and Ringo, but '60s Brit pop with a head-banging undercurrent is quite wonderful. Thankfully for all departed souls, Carr left the fox makeup back on Earth.


Band No. 2 -- The Red Hot Sex Door Carpenters

Jim Morrison (Doors) -- vocals
Hillel Slovak (Red Hot Chili Peppers) -- guitar
Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols) -- bass
Karen Carpenter (Carpenters) -- drums, vocals

On Earth, no, it wouldn't have worked. Even leaving aside the obvious glaring differences in styles, the substance abuse and mental health issues alone would have doomed this combo. But in heaven everyone's feeling healthy, cheerful, and ready to get down to rehearsal. That's a good thing because it took them a while to adjust to one another. Morrison had to pick up the pace, and Slovak had to slow down so they could meet in the middle. Carpenter rallied to meet the challenge of the rock tempo and even manages some amazing duets ("Close to You," "L.A. Woman") with Morrison. Vicious' challenge, of course, is that he could never actually play the bass, but he's been working really hard and it turns out he's a super nice guy.


Band No. 3 -- Nirvana Stones on the Beach Hole

Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) -- vocals, guitar
Brian Jones (Rolling Stones) -- guitar
Kristen Pfaff (Hole) -- bass
Dennis Wilson (Beach Boys) -- drums

Jones is no guitar virtuoso, even after all these years, but thanks to Cobain's skilled axe work, it's not a problem. But the real story of NSotBH is the generational split between '60s and '90s. Cobain and Pfaff were friends back on the corporeal plane and they can laugh at each other's jokes. Meanwhile, Jones and Wilson weren't especially close in the '60s but have been delighted to realize just how much their respective groups influenced one another. Speculation runs rampant that NSotBH is saving a spot for Dennis' brother Brian Wilson, and though no one, even those with omniscience, can guess what a Cobain-Brian Wilson collaboration would sound like, it's much anticipated.

Band No. 4 -- Hooray!


Janis Joplin -- vocals
Robert Johnson -- guitar
Rick Danko (The Band) -- bass
Jeff Porcaro (Toto) -- drums

This is arguably the most celebratory band in all of heaven, which, when you think about it, is really saying a lot. Hooray! takes its name from the fabled deal struck between guitarist Johnson and the devil, wherein Johnson learned to play reeeeeeally well in exchange for his immortal soul. No one knows exactly what went down during negotiations to release Johnson from his contract, although Hooray! does seem to record an awful lot of gospel albums. It should be noted that the Lord has yet to buy Joplin a Mercedes-Benz, a color TV, or a night on the town.

 


Band No. 5 -- The Def Rainbow Cricket Experience

Buddy Holly (Buddy Holly and the Crickets) -- vocals
Steve Clark (Def Leppard) -- guitar
Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix Experience) -- bass
Cozy Powell (Jeff Beck Group, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath) -- drums

Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper sit in occasionally at performances, but this is Buddy Holly's band all the way. It's a much harder sound than we're used to hearing from him thanks to the rest of the group, which draws mightily from psychedelia and heavy metal. While they play some new stuff on occasion, the Def Rainbow Cricket Experience are also fond of covers. Holly's vocals on "Iron Man" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me" are especially memorable.


Band No. 6 -- Who's the Double Zeppelin Queen?

Freddie Mercury (Queen) -- vocals
Stevie Ray Vaughan (Double Trouble, solo work) -- guitar
John Entwistle (Who) -- bass
John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) -- drums

Easily the worst name of all the heaven bands but arguably the most perfectly arranged. Mercury and Vaughan were masters of their crafts on Earth, and when you combine that with eternal joy in paradise it's really something to behold. But can the operatic showmanship of Mercury meld with the blues guitar roots of Vaughan? Yes. Of course. It's heaven. And the human language lacks words to describe the sound. Entwistle's taciturn onstage presence enhances Mercury's theatricality, while Bonham's masterful drumming rounds out the combo. The group is a big favorite of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Cleopatra and Moses, all of whom are never seen without a WtDZQ? T-shirt.


Band No. 7 -- Hendrix Ramone Ramone Moon

Joey Ramone (Ramones) -- vocals
Jimi Hendrix (Jimi Hendrix Experience) -- guitar, vocals
Dee Dee Ramone (Ramones) -- bass
Keith Moon (Who) -- drums

It doesn't seem like it should work but, again, heaven being heaven, it's a thing of beauty. Hendrix and Joey sort of trade off lead-singer duties, since Jimi is fairly good on vocals and Joey never really has been. But they make it work: When Jimi sings, Joey joins in on harp. He found that harps are all over the place up there and that he really had a hidden talent. The sound is kind of an eclectic, soupy, psychedelic, punk style where somehow there are lengthy guitar solos and extended discordant drum solos, yet all the songs still come in at around two minutes.


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