Disposable pop: the least mandatory band members

Lemon Meringue Pie

Though it is a sad day for some fans, Jason Orange’s departure from Take That hardly represents a tectonic upheaval in the group’s creative dynamic.

No offence to the man himself – he seems to be a good egg, and he was also the only permanent Thatter with his tax affairs in acceptable order. But he was fundamentally brought into the group as a breakdancer – a role of drastically diminishing importance as the band settled snugly under the lap-blanket of middle-age – and, besides a foray into lead vocals on the closing track on 2006’s Beautiful World album, Orange was comfortably and self-awarely the least influential quarter of the current foursome. Missed? Yes. Essential? Not exactly.

History is littered with bands containing an Orange: a member appreciated in their own right but who, if push came to shove, could be lifted out like a deftly extracted Jenga brick without compromising the structure of the whole. Here’s a select few of pop’s other superfluous and interchangeable members.

DJ Lethal – Limp Bizkit

Putting aside any suggestions that the band itself could be removed from the musical landscape without causing too much of an atomic wobble, the presence of a turntable DJ in an idiotically loud nu-metal troupe was as baffling as their sartorial choices, album titles and utterly absurd frontman. DJ Lethal occupied a role that a mid-range multi-FX guitar pedal could equally ably have served, and the only reason anyone knew he was there at all was the nails-on-chalkboard Durst proclamation “DJ LETHAL – BRING IT ON” that featured in My Generation. What he “brought on” in this moment of glory was a scratch solo that sounded like two marketing executives playing squash. Lethal left the band acrimoniously in 2012 after falling out with Durst, which suggests that he’s probably an alright bloke. Limp Bizkit are no worse for this. Neither, sadly, are they any better.

Pat Smear – Foo Fighters

What does he actually do? Bringing him into Nirvana to thicken out their live sound was understandable – three-pieces can struggle to replicate the expansive sound of an album when they play live with only one guitar, particularly when that album is produced by Butch Vig. But Smear’s introduction to the Foos seemed unnecessary, because on record and live they sounded huge anyway. If the notoriously generous Dave Grohl is happy to split the band’s money another way because Smear’s his mate (although Smear has previously left the band) then that’s understandable, but as to what precisely Pat brings to the band that they couldn’t replicate without him? No idea.

Ed O’Brien – Radiohead

As a guitarist, trying to make yourself heard over the elastic-fingered Jonny Greenwood must be practically impossible. So impossible, in fact, that Ed O’Brien is often relegated to percussive work – the cabasa on Paranoid Android, the floor tom throughout There There – or reduced to cupping his hands around his mouth and wailing, replicating, in corporeal form, a twisty knob on the PA marked “reverb”. He’s selfless and modest, in that his raison d’être in the band is to accentuate rather than amaze, but often his abilities are squandered on duties normally reserved for touring guitarists who stand in the shadows behind keyboards and play barre chords. Inevitably in any band with three guitarists, especially three as accomplished as this, there will be one who could probably “do a Bez” (who, incidentally, is ESSENTIAL to his band), pick up the maracas, gobble a few dizzy bizzies and rave like a loon on a full moon without crippling the band’s sound noticeably. And let’s face it, the cabasa is basically a posh maraca anyway.

Andrew Ridgeley – Wham!

It must have been tough for Andrew Ridgeley in the 80s. As tough as being a millionaire pop star can possibly be. Forever overshadowed by the resplendent bouffantry of studmuffin George Michael, Ridgeley occupied himself by standing in the background playing guitar on tracks which, to the layman’s ear, contained little or no guitar at all. His smile was wide, Michael’s was wider; his hair was hairdried up, Michael’s was hairdried uppier. On posters adorning teenager’s walls worldwide, the area around George Michael’s mouth was soggy and translucent from years of poster snogging, while Ridgeley’s gobzone remained as dry as a Churchillan putdown. Ridgeley’s songwriting was largely responsible for Wham’s success of course, but he could have very easily saved himself a lot of time and trouble and stayed at home while George gallivanted around the world singing Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. He could have written a book or something.

Every single original Sugababe

The original trio of Siobhán Donaghy, Mutya Buena and Keisha Buchanan lasted three years before Donaghy left in 2001, to be replaced by Atomic Kitten’s Heidi Range. Buena then departed in 2005, followed by Buchanan in 2009, who tagged in Amelle Berrabah and Jade Ewen, respectively. As in the (untrue) notion that every seven years the human body replaces all of the cells contained within it, the reconstituted Sugababes shambled on like a luxe-waved, Numan-sampling Darth Vader. A Sugababe isn’t something you are, apparently, it’s something you’re temporarily lumbered with, like a yellow jersey, or an annoying friend at a party who wants to talk about how the stress of their job has brought about a vengeful bout of psoriasis. The current Sugababes lineup is on hiatus for the moment, while the initial three reunited to form MKS in 2013.

These are of course just one writer’s opinions, so let us know your suggestions …

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Luke Holland, for theguardian.com on Friday 26th September 2014 10.09 Europe/London

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