Bands That Replaced Irreplaceable Members (And Those That Shouldn't Have)
When you consider punk rock, it seems like it is hard to find a band who hasn't replaced a key member at one point or another. Some other examples of bands who have replaced key members with relative degrees of success and failure would have to include The Damned, Misfits, The Vandals, TSOL, and Black Flag. Some of these have gotten away with it, and some, like the Dead Kennedys have not.
The Damned have had so many different lineups over the years it is hard to single them out, but to me, it's hard to imagine or accept them without Rat Scabies on drums. Arguably, the original lineup with Dave Vanian (vocals), Brian James (guitar), Captain Sensible (bass), and the aforementioned Scabies on drums is the finest, although Sensible is a more-than-capable guitar player. The Damned have achieved high levels of success, though, in terms of the quality of some of their post-original lineup recordings. The line up on "Strawberries," for example, with Sensible on guitar and Paul Gray on bass and Roman Jugg on keyboards, is stellar.
The Misfits, as they currently exist, are more punk rock second-bananas-gone-wild than anything else. My disdain for them is well documented, but even I can concede that a Misfits without Glenn Danzig is not really the Misfits, however shitty the "classic" lineup of the band actually was. They have attempted to replace the weak-jawed midget for many years with various levels of success, and now feature Dez Cadena, formerly of Black Flag, on guitar and backing vocals, with bass player Jerry Only handling the lead vocals, and a lad named Chupacabra on drums. Now that is both scary and punk, and perhaps slightly dumb.
The Vandals used to have a great singer named Stevo. Stevo and guitar player Nils Ackermann, for all intents and purposes, were the creative forces behind the band from the get go. Most of you little punks, though, never got to see the original band, which also featured super-douche Joe Escalante (thief, liar, and lawyer) on drums, and Steve "Human" Pfauter on bass. Check out the movie Suburbia to see Stevo in action, as he was one of the better SoCal frontmen ever. What the Vandals have been since 1984 is a joke band with lame jokes. When Stevo uttered the line, "Couldn't make it as a punker" in their classic song, "Urban Struggle," off of Peace Through Vandalism (1982), he was probably talking about Escalante, who ended up attempting to steal all of the Vandals' song rights and royalties.
Also on the Suburbia soundtrack and appearing in the film as well, True Sounds of Liberty (TSOL) attempted at one point, to replace the entire band. For several years, TSOL became a hair metal band led by a guy named Joe Wood, which was particularly disappointing to longtime fans expecting to hear songs like "Code Blue" and "Abolish Government." Eventually all was righted in the world, though, and the three of the four original members came back to the fold (Todd Barnes died at age 34 of a brain hemorrhage) and punk rock was alive and well, just like when TSOL formed in Long Beach in 1978.
Black Flag's (sort of) original lineup was its best. Sure, there were a few bass players before Chuck Duckowski took the helm in 1977, and Brian Migdol was no slouch before handing over the drumming duties to Robo in 1979, but the dudes who ran the show during the first three or four years were the bomb. There is no argument, and even if you do want to troll the comments section and slap high fives with the other mongoloids who have difficulty with polysyllabic words, you're still wrong if you think there was any Black Flag singer who could hold Keith Morris' tiny jock strap. Maybe the only irreplaceable member of Black Flag is truly Greg Ginn, and if so, great, but he's been trying to replace Morris, Robo, and Duckowski for years and it has just never come together the way it did in 1979.
Fortunately, though, the off-shoot band FLAG tours occasionally, which features Duckowski, Morris, Bill Stevenson, Dez Cadena, and All's Stephen Egerton on guitar.