More than any other musician, it’s fun, in a very macabre sort of way, to play the “what if” game with John Lennon, who would have been celebrating his 72nd birthday today. What if he hadn’t been shot? What would he have done after the release of Milk and Honey? Would he have ever reunited with the other Beatles? Would he and Yoko have continued to record? Would he have appeared on The Simpsons? Obviously, we’ll never know (except for the Simpsons one because, yes), so all we can do is ask: what if?
This post is about some of music’s biggest never-happened moments that may have occurred, if it hadn’t been for that whole “artist died before they could start and/or finish it” thing. For the most part, it’s just endless speculation about tours and unfinished albums and collaborations, but hey, what if it had happened?
John Lennon and Yoko Ono would have gone on an ahead-of-its-time tour
On October 9 1980 (Lennon’s 40th birthday and his son’s fifth) it was announced to the press by the couple’s assistant, Fred Seaman, that “next spring, John and Yoko will be touring Japan, USA and Europe.” Having been granted a Green Card in 1976 after a long battle with the U.S. Government, Lennon could now travel the world and return to New York without fear of deportation. Allegedly, South Africa, Australia and Canada were also to have been included on the tour itinerary.
Jack Douglas, who first worked with the star as second engineer on 1971’s Imagine album, has confirmed that, “John pictured a big production tour… he definitely planned a tremendous production with new arrangements of Beatles songs he felt he never got right.”
One can speculate endlessly about the tour’s set list, which would inevitably have varied from show to show. Lennon’s recent renewed interest in his Beatles catalogue, along with private comments to those closest to him, suggested that new, specially arranged versions of “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “Help!” and “I Am The Walrus’ were to have made the selection.
Jack Douglas says that the initial scenic ideas came from Lennon himself — his rough sketches of a stage included a device that suggested large crab-like arms with cameras mounted on them. Fisher’s proposal modified these with “some articulated booms above the stage with followspots in them”.
Five large video displays were also featured, and Lennon visualized that video content (projected, given the available technology of the period) would be custom-designed for each city on the tour, notably featuring footage of local people and landmarks, thus emphasizing the One World, One People theme. (Via)
Jimi Hendrix may have collaborated with Sly Stone and Miles Davis
I later found out through Nate Wingfield that Sly was on the way over to meet Jimi Hendrix in regards about a possible collaboration with him, and with the late, great jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. Such an astounding trio of musicians. Maybe that’s what God’s voice would have sounded like? I guess some things are just not meant to be. (Via)
The Notorious B.I.G. would have put out an album with his hip-hop supergroup, The Commission
In The Notorious B.I.G. song “What’s Beef?”, the group members’ “Commission” aliases are listed:
Lance “Un” Rivera – Uncle Paulie
Puff Daddy – P. Diddy
Lil’ Cease – Caesar Leo de Janeiro
Jay-Z – Iceberg Slim
The Notorious B.I.G. – Frankie Baby a/k/a Frank White
However, the plans for The Commission fell apart with the death of B.I.G. on March 9, 1997 and the group went their separate ways. An album was never completed. (Via)
Gram Parsons might have collaborated with Keith Richards, or joined the Rolling Stones
Gram Parsons tagged along with the Rolling Stones on their 1971 tour, hoping they’d sign him to their newly formed Rolling Stones Records to record a duo album with Richards. Parsons extended his stay by moving himself into Villa Nellcôte during the recording of Exile on Main Street, and from most accounts he was routinely smashed and feuding with his girlfriend a lot– aspiring actress Gretchen Burrell, who would later become his wife. Eventually Pallenberg had enough and kicked Parsons out. Some say that he appears somewhere on Exile on Main Street– Richards believes that Gram Parsons is most likely among the chorus of singers on Sweet Virginia, but no one truly knows. After parting from Richards and The Stones in France, Parsons attempted to reconnect on their 1972 tour– but with no luck. (Via)
Sid Vicious was going to record an album full of standards, including “Mack the Knife”
The plan was for Vicious to record an album with fellow Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook in order to raise funds for his defense [he had recently been sent to jail for the death of Nancy Spungen]. This was to be a collection of standards including (according to McLaren) White Christmas and Mack the Knife. It is also possible, according to Paul Cook, that the album was to be a selection of Sid’s favorite songs and would have included tracks from the Stooges, the Ramones, the New York Dolls, and the Heartbreakers. In February 1979, a party to celebrate his release was held at the home of his new girlfriend Michelle Robinson. During his time at Rikers Island prison, Vicious had undergone drug rehabilitation therapy and was supposedly clean. However at the party he obtained some heroin from his mother, and was discovered dead the following morning, having taken a large overdose. (Via)
Kurt Cobain was making his White Album, without the other members of Nirvana
In an interview with Fuse TV, Eric Erlandson, who along with Cobain’s wife Courtney Love was a founding member of the band Hole, revealed that Cobain was working on a solo album at the time of his death.
“That’s really what he was going towards, a solo album but working with different people. I was really excited about some of the stuff he was working on. I got to see him play it in front of me,” Erlandson said, comparing the album to the Beatles’ seminal (and semi-solo) White Album. “That’s why I was really sad [when he died]. I was like, ‘Oh man, not only are you cutting off a life, but a message to the world, a musical path is just left with…Bush and all this other stuff [laughs]. He was cut short. Who knows where the music would have gone.” (Via)
David Bowie would have recorded with Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes for her second solo album
As for the musical projects Left Eye was involved with, TLC were working on an album, and at least four tracks have been completed. Left Eye had been in the studio working on a track with David Bowie [for her a second solo album under the pseudonym “N.I.N.A.” for Suge Knight’s Tha Row Records] and had hoped to do a song with Eve and Pink based on the theme of Philly pride. (Via)