Five Insane Line-Up Changes That Almost Happened: Eddie Van Halen in KISS, Dimebag in Megadeth, and More

  • Axl Rosenberg

Can you imagine how different history might be even these musicians had joined these bands? The great albums we may have gotten — or completely missed? At the end of the day, it’s probably best that these partnerships didn’t sustain. Still, it’s interesting to think about! Below are five of our favorite examples of history that almost was. Add your own in the comments section.

Patti Smith in Blue Öyster Cultpatti smith and allen lanier

Not as odd a match as it may sound: the proto-metal band’s keyboardist and guitarist, Allen Lanier, had a longtime personal and professional relationship with the punk rock legend. Smith contributed lyrics to a plethora of BÖC albums, starting with “Career of Evil,” the opening cut from 1974’s Secret Treaties.

Legend has it that producer and songwriter Sandy Pearlman — a major component of the band, but never actually a member — tried to persuade Smith to join Cult full-time. Good thing for rock history that she passed: less than two years later, she would release her classic album Horses.

Eddie Van Halen in KISSgene simmons and eddie van halen

Back in the 80s, when things started to go south with David Lee Roth, the revered guitarist approached Gene Simmons about replacing Ace Frehley for the album that would end up being 1982’s Creatures of the Night. From Simmons’ 2001 memoir, Kiss and Make-Up:

gene simmons on eddie van halen

Simmons elaborated in a 2014 interview with Guitar World:

“I told him, ‘Eddie, there’s not enough room. You need to be in a band where you can direct the music. You’re not going to be happy in Kiss.’”

The band ended up hiring Vinnie Vincent instead.

Zakk Wylde in Guns N’ RosesSlash and Zakk in Argentina

One of the greatest sources of the tension that eventually lead to the dissolution of the original Guns N’ Roses: finding a new rhythm guitarist after founding member Izzy Stradlin quit the band in 1991. Gilby Clarke replaced Stradlin for touring in support of the Use Your Illusion albums, but was sacked sometime after, when Axl Rose decided he didn’t want to write with Clarke. At some point, Rose got it into his head to add a second lead guitarist to GN’R, and Wylde was brought in for some jam sessions; to hear Rose tell it, though, Slash wasn’t comfortable sharing the spotlight, and Wylde was ultimately dismissed.

In 2012, Wylde recalled the material on which he worked with Guns:

“It sounded like the riffs I write and the way I write, mixed in with the way the guys write, you know what I mean. It would have been like, when I was jamming with Slash and all the guys, even if I’m in the band there’s only one guy that’s playing the solos to ‘November Rain,’ ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ and all those classic songs. I’m not going to do anything there. But the future stuff that we would have been writing, it would have been cool!”

Pursuing the potential riches of the GN’R job meant Wylde had to bow out of Ozzy Osbourne’s band just as promotion for Ozzmosis was beginning (he was replaced by Joe Holmes); now stuck in limbo with no Ozzy and no Guns, Wylde decided to start Black Label Society. So Berzerkers basically owe a huge debt to Axl Rose and Slash for not being able to get their shit together.

Slash in Stone Rosesstone roses with slash

Speaking of Slash: in 1996, The Top Hatted One found himself without a band after quitting Guns N’ Roses, while the UK’s Stone Roses found themselves without a guitarist after John Squire bowed out. According to Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown, Slash, presumably supposing his success to be linked with the word “roses,” offered to replace Squire. Said Brown in 2006:

“I wish we’d taken him on. But at the time we were like, ‘No, we hate Guns N’ Roses, fuck off. Is he going to bring his python with him?’ “But now I think it would have been amazing.”

Slash, for his part, denies the story:

Dimebag in Megadethdave and dime

It’s true — if history had gone a little bit differently, Dimebag, and not Marty Friedman, would have joined ‘Deth after Jeff Young. MegaDave recounted the story for Billboard in 2014:

“I can make it out like it was some huge, elaborate ordeal, but it was really just a simple telephone call, just two guys talking. We needed a guitar player, and [bassist Dave] Ellefson — being kind of the ambassador of the band — had gotten his number and hooked me up with Darrell. I said, ‘Hey, we’re looking for a new lead guitar player.’ He goes, [gruff Texas accent] ‘Alright, man — can I bring my brother?’ ‘Well, who’s your brother?’ ‘Vinnie Paul!’ And I was like, ‘I don’t get it — what the fuck? He’s gotta bring his brother? Is it like Rain Man, or something?’ [Laughs.] So he goes, ‘No, man, he’s my drummer! He’s gotta come!’ And I was like, ‘Aw, man — I just hired [drummer] Nick Menza!’”

Obviously, this ended up working out pretty well for all parties involved — no harm, no foul!

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