Bombarded by social text messages, work emails and endless calls from strangers trying to sell us the most incredible deal of our lives, it is not surprising that people drop off our radar. In particular, with so much wonderful music to listen to, how can we not lose track of the many artists who have decided to retreat into obscurity, or who are simply not making the charts anymore? But where do these musicians end up? Guitars Exchange goes on the hunt of some of the ‘great disappeared’ behind the big hits…
Wyman, whose birthday on 24th October helped provoke this ‘where are they now?’ article, was the bassist for the Rolling Stones from 1962 to 1993, when he used to play his Bill Wyman signature Vox Teardrop; amusingly now, in the world of amateur archeology, he is known for his Bill Wyman signature metal detector. For over 20 years after the Stones he toured and recorded with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings – that included Georgie Fame, among others - who released their last album, Studio Time, in April 2018. He is an avid photographer who has held a number of exhibitions; ran a London restaurant ‘Sticky Fingers’ that closed this year due to Covid; and was devastated by the loss of Charlie Watts who he says “was like a brother to me.” It is hard to avoid the biographical fact that at 52 he married 18 year old Mandy Smith; and that, according to her, they started their sexual relationship when she was 14; though it seems he has been with his current wife, actress and producer Suzanne, since 1993.
Deacon was the bassist for Queen from 1965 to 1991 and during that time wrote the top hits You're My Best Friend, Another One Bites the Dust, and I Want to Break Free. Deacon performed occasionally after that until 1997 when he retired from the music industry; and did not work with Brian May and Roger Taylor on projects such as the Queen film Bohemian Rhapsody. He now lives in Putney, London, with his wife Veronica Tetzlaff, and has six children. It seems he was particularly devastated at Freddie Mercury’s loss; he reportedly said to May at the end of their last performance together in Paris in 1997: “I can never do this again. I can't do this.”
Covington originally gained fame through the music TV series Rock Follies. She then sang the original version of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, which was based on the life of Eva Perón, and that in 1977 hit the top of the charts in the UK, Australia, Belgium and Ireland, among other countries. She also saw chart success with a cover version of Alice Cooper's Only Women Bleed, which reached number 12 in the UK Singles Chart. However she turned down the chance to play in the stage show Evita, which eventually launched Elaine Page to fame. Her albums The Beautiful Changes Plus and Julie Covington Plus seem to have been recently re-released, but without accompanying publicity; it seems that she has opted for a very low profile in her golden years...
Slick is best known for her work with Jefferson Airplane and the subsequent bands, Jefferson Starship and Starship. She wrote the huge hit White Rabbit for Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow, which will forever identify her with pyschedelia, and saw further successes with We Built This City, Sara, and Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now. In 1971, Slick had a brush with the Grim Reaper when the car she was driving crashed in a San Francisco tunnel, reportedly while she was drag racing with a friend. She finally left the music business with the words: "All rock-and-rollers over the age of 50 look stupid and should retire." After retiring - and a house fire, divorce, and meltdown - Slick began drawing and painting animals, mainly to entertain herself. She’ll be 82 at the end of this month (she was born on October 30); Happy Birthday, Grace!
Of the three members of the legendary grunge band Nirvana, bassist Novoselic has had the lowest public profile since the band ended; mind you he would have had to be going some to match Cobain and Grohl. Novoselic has played for Sweet 75, Eyes Adrift, the punk band Flipper and Giants in the Trees, but he has predominantly focused on politics. He was co-founder for example of JAMPAC (Joint Artists and Musicians’ Political Action Committee) and was chair of an electoral reform organization called FairVote. He has also learnt to fly a plane and earned a degree in social sciences from Washington State University. In early 2004, he married American artist Darbury Ayn Stenderu, and they have two children. They reside on a farm near Deep River, Washington, where they grow their own food. Of this, Novoselic says: "I live out in the country now … it's quiet and it's a place where I can think a lot."
Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus, released in 1985, is reportedly one of only seven non-English language songs to top the US Billboard Hot 100. With over 60 million views on Youtube the song has an earworm that doesn’t fade with time, but the difficulty in following that level of success contributed to the Austrian artist’s issues with drugs and increasingly erratic behaviour, which led to his manager describing him as "an extremely difficult artist." Tragically in 1998, Falco was killed when his car collided with a bus on a road linking the towns of Villa Montellano and Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, just as he was planning a comeback. He was 40 years old.
Stipe was a songwriter and the lead singer for REM, one of the biggest rock bands of the 1980s and 90s, with their hits including Losing My Religion, Everybody Hurts, Low and Nightswimming. The band split in 2011, but Stipe has kept busy working in other art forms, such as with sculpture, and photography. In fact as an adolescent Stipe used to take photos of bands like Queen, The Runaways and The Ramones, and has since published several books on the issue. Stipe has also been heavily involved in various political issues such as protecting the environment, animal rights and arms control. He is - or was - very close to musicians who are also activists like Patti Smith, Thom Yorke and Kurt Cobain. In fact, Stipe sought to record with Cobain in part in order to help distance him from his drug addictions, but the Nirvana frontman died before they could record anything together. More recently Stipe spoke out strongly against Donald Trump who used It’s the end of the world as we know it on his campaign trail; though he is said to now be ‘happily living in New York’.
Billy Corgan’s band The Smashing Pumpkins (SP) split in 2000 but were reformed in 2000. In 2015 the band co-headlined a tour with Marilyn Manson when Corgan reunited with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and guitarist James Iha. Corgan is known to enjoy playing a number of Fender Strats, including his signature copy, but in 2017, he used Snapchat to document himself playing a number of small gigs on his acoustic. Surprisingly, Corgan has both run a teahouse called Madam ZuZu's in Highland Park, Illinois, and became a professional wrestling promoter. Over the last decade SP has released Monuments to an Elegy (2014); Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol 1, (2018); and Cyr (2020). In what might be seen as a grand gesture, Corgan’s band released 10 songs as singles before the album Cyr was even released.
Harket was the lead singer of Norwegian synth-pop band A-ha. In 1984 their song Take On Me made the band the first from Norway to hit number 1 on America's Billboard Hot 100; and the video is fast approaching 1.5 billion views on Youtube. A-ha temporarily disbanded in 2010 but reunited for the album Cast in Steel and a world tour in late 2015. Harket has three children with his ex-wife Camilla Malmquist Harket. The lead singer suddenly returned to the public eye in January 2021, when he appeared on the second series of the British version of The Masked Singer, masked as the Viking. He became the first contestant on the franchise to perform his own song, when he sang Take on Me; but despite his previous successes this time he only managed seventh place...
Wood is an English singer-songwriter who incredibly taught himself guitar, bass, sitar, cello, saxophone, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, keyboards, drums, bagpipes, French horn, double bass and crumhorn. In 1967, Wood contributed backing vocals on the track, You Got Me Floatin', on the Jimi Hendrix Experience's album Axis: Bold as Love. He went on to co-found the Move, Electric Light Orchestra (with Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan), and Wizzard, and in doing so was a key figure in both glam and prog rock. In his various bands Wood had more than 20 singles in the UK Singles Chart and three number 1 hits, including two consecutive singles, See My Baby Jive and Angel Fingers. Later the Roy Wood Rock & Roll Band played live gigs and supported Status Quo around 2010. The great man currently lives in Cubley, Derbyshire, in what used to be a grand old pub that dates back to at least the 1820s.