2018’s Biggest Rock Stories
Classic rock's most memorable headlines weren't limited to albums, singles and streams. This year, music invaded the local movie theater, national politics and the Broadway stage. In between, we welcomed the return of legends from the past, bid fond farewells to treasured friends and listened to some old favorites in a whole new way. Here's a look back at 2018's Biggest Classic Rock Stories.
'Bohemian Rhapsody' Becomes Best-Selling Music Biopic Ever
The Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody took the world by storm. It had already been named the most successful movie biopic ever before soaring into the Top 10 among 2018's highest-grossing movies. That in turn led to renewed album and singles chart action for the band, which later announced a new tour with Adam Lambert. Bohemian Rhapsody also earned a pair of Golden Globes nominations, in the categories of Best Motion Picture-Drama and Best Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama for Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury.
Journey's Steve Perry Returns After Nearly 25 Years Away
Steve Perry had been gone for more than two decades when he released Traces in October. Tragedy both informed the project and necessitated its release. Perry's girlfriend Kellie Nash was battling cancer when they met, and she made him promise not to return to isolation if anything happened. Nash died of cancer 18 months after their relationship began, and the former Journey star kept his promise. Traces became his first-ever Top 10 solo debut, entering the Billboard chart at No. 6. Speculation about a possible reunion with Journey quickly followed, but Perry emphatically nixed it.
Fleetwood Mac Quickly Rebuild After Shocking Split
Lindsey Buckingham's second tenure with Fleetwood Mac abruptly ended in April – reportedly over a disagreement about touring. A few weeks later, they announced new dates with Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers and Neil Finn of Crowded House stepping in. A lawsuit, perhaps inevitably, followed in October – along with charges from Buckingham that Fleetwood Mac had become nothing more than a "cover band." By December, Buckingham had settled with his old group, and was even entertaining the idea of a reunion someday. Meanwhile, erstwhile bandmate Stevie Nicks was announced as a two-time inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, this time in recognition of her solo work.
Rock Royalty Continues to Say Goodbye
The year kicked off with the January announcement by a farewell tour from Elton John. Called the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, John's final dates include a career-spanning 24-song set list, a brand-new stage set and a six-piece backing band performing in front of a massive video screen framed with images celebrating John's many career accomplishments. Neil Diamond also left the road, citing a Parkinson's Disease diagnosis. In April, Ozzy Osbourne kicked off what he's described as his last solo jaunt. (He had to reschedule some dates while he battled a nasty infection, but quickly returned to action.) Lynyrd Skynyrd followed in May, and Kiss announced their final tour in October. Bob Seger was also among those saying goodbye. Up next might just be Meat Loaf, who says ongoing health issues might sideline him forever.
Def Leppard's Big Year Includes Journey Tour, Hall of Fame Honor
Def Leppard played a huge 58-city tour with Journey between May and October, splitting the headliner role. There were a total of 10 massive stadium shows, and visits to famous venues like Fenway Park and Madison Square Garden, as fans thrilled to the opportunity to see the two bands together – a first since 2006. The tour took in $97.1 million, making it the 10th biggest of the year. Then in December, Def Leppard earned induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. "I think it is a nice badge of honor," singer Joe Elliott said after hearing the news. "It was something that we weren’t overly concerned about until the fan vote thing became a major part of it. The people that really matter to every band are the audience. ... That’s when we started thinking, 'Okay, now this starts meaning something.'"
Rockers vs. Donald Trump
Many musicians continue to complain about President Donald Trump's use of their music at political events, with Axl Rose and Aerosmith joining the chorus in 2018. Others had more general concerns. Dave Grohl said he was "ashamed" of Trump's actions, Bruce Springsteen called him "dangerous" and Paul McCartney wrote a song about him. Elsewhere, Rose, Rod Stewart and Neil Young questioned the president's role in this year's California wildfires. John Mellencamp joined Young in using Farm Aid as a platform to challenge the president's policies. Still, not everybody was anti-Trump. Ace Frehley argued that patriotism called for all of us to "get behind" the president, regardless of party. Alice Cooper enthused about playing golf with him. And Trump has always had a reliable supporter in Ted Nugent.
AC/DC Returned to the Studio – Or Did They?
Rumors that AC/DC had returned to the studio again began swirling after band members were spotted in Vancouver, where they recorded three previous records. Fans initially noticed drummer Phil Rudd and guitarist Stevie Young, who filled in for the late Malcolm Young on 2014's Rock or Bust album and tour. A few days later, Rudd and singer Brian Johnson were photographed outside of Warehouse Studios; another shot featuring Stevie and Angus Young surfaced later. Next came speculation on the music itself, namely that AC/DC were completing older songs written with and featuring performances from Malcolm, who died in 2017. Tracks dating back to the band's pre-Black Ice era were supposedly being dusted off.
Vinnie Vincent Announces, Then Reschedules Return
The famously reclusive Vinnie Vincent suddenly returned to action, decades after his time with Kiss. This year saw the guitarist announce and then completely rework and then finally reschedule a series of comeback shows. They would have been his first full-length performances in 30 years. Things started promisingly, as Vincent performed three Kiss songs in October with Four by Fate at a pre-launch party for the Kiss Kruise. (Vincent took over after Bob Kulick dropped out.) Headlining acoustic concerts were set for December in Memphis, then upgraded to "full shred" shows with former Vinnie Vincent Invasion singer Robert Fleischman, drummer Carmine Appice and bassist Tony Franklin. But Vincent subsequently postponed them all, with new dates set for February at the Guest House at Graceland. By then, Fleischman had bailed.
We Said a Final Goodbye to Rock Legends
Guitarist "Fast" Eddie Clarke – the last surviving member of Motorhead's first classic lineup – died in January at age 67 after a battle with pneumonia. Clarke joined Motorhead in 1976 and, with bassist and singer Lemmy Kilmister and drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor, performed on the band's first five studio albums. Vinnie Paul, drummer and co-founder of Pantera, died last summer at 54. Former Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Ed King died at his home in August at 68. King played guitar in Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1972-75, then rejoined them in 1987 during the band's comeback after a decade of inactivity. King was also a member of the psychedelic band Strawberry Alarm Clock, who had a No. 1 hit in 1967 with the song "Incense and Peppermints." Jefferson Airplane co-founder Marty Balin died in September at the age of 76. He had recently filed a lawsuit after being left “totally disabled” following a stay at a New York City medical facility, where he'd been admitted for an emergency procedure.
Weezer Gives New Life to Toto's 'Africa'
Weezer certainly weren't the first band to cover Toto's 1982 hit "Africa," but their fan-suggested update certainly garnered the most media attention. It all began when a Cleveland-area teenager created a Twitter account called @weezerafrica and tweeted at Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo, "It's about time you bless the rains down in Africa." Not long after, they did just that – and the new recording reached No. 89 on the Billboard Hot 100. All of this may have started as a joke, but guitarist Steve Lukather was impressed by how seriously Weezer approached things. The love-fest continued: Toto then covered Weezer's 2001 hit "Hash Pipe," and later added the song to their set lists.
Judas Priest Issue Highest-Charting U.S. Album, Lose Glenn Tipton
Judas Priest’s 2018 was quite a roller-coaster ride. In March, Firepower become their highest-charting Billboard hit ever at No. 5. (It was also just their second-ever Top 10 album, after 2014's Redeemer of Souls.) By then, however, tragedy had already struck: Guitarist Glenn Tipton revealed he'd been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in February, and departed from regular work on the road. They played their first show without him on March 9, though Tipton made a triumphant return later that month to perform "Metal Gods," "Breaking the Law" and "Living After Midnight" in Newark. Judas Priest then embarked on a five-week co-headlining tour of North America with Deep Purple; Andy Sneap filled in on a temporary basis.
Bon Jovi Reunion Becomes Signature Hall of Fame Moment
Last April's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony featured the Moody Blues, Dire Straits and the Cars, but a big reunion stole the show: Richie Sambora played with his old band Bon Jovi for the first time since March 17, 2013. Both Sambora and former bassist Alec John Such joined Bon Jovi's current lineup for the entire performance, which featured "You Give Love a Bad Name," "It's My Life," "When We Were Us" and "Livin' on a Prayer."
Neil Young Pulls Off a Secret Marriage to Daryl Hannah
It wasn't easy, but Neil Young managed to marry actress Daryl Hannah in August without anyone but their closest friends finding out. He arranged for the ceremony to take place on his boat, with a reception held four hours out of Los Angeles near San Luis Obispo, Calif. – all to keep paparazzi at bay. It apparently worked, since news of their nuptials didn't leak until days later. Stephen Stills and Joni Mitchell were among the 100 guests. Young's relationship with Hannah became public in 2014, after he filed for divorce from Pegi, his wife of 36 years. Longtime bandmate David Crosby criticized the move, and the onetime bandmates had a very public falling out.
Greta Van Fleet Get a Whole Lotta Love for Debut LP and Tour
The Led Zeppelin-influenced Greta Van Fleet had already earned positive notice from hero Robert Plant, months before their debut album arrived. Elton John invited them to jam at his Oscar party. Soon, Jason Bonham, the son of Zeppelin's late drummer John Bonham, began to openly worry that they were being over-hyped. Undeterred, Greta Van Fleet kicked off a new tour with a stop at Coachella in April, and extended it in June. Finally, they announced their full-length debut in September, then began releasing a series of advance singles from Anthem of the Peaceful Army. It arrived in October, debuting at an impressive No. 3 on the Billboard 200.
Paul McCartney Roars Back to the Top of the Charts
Egypt Station arrived in September, giving Paul McCartney his first No. 1 hit since 1982’s Tug of War. It was also his first album to debut at the top of the Billboard 200. In a way, that was no surprise. After all, McCartney is one of our most contemporary classic rockers. In fact, in the five years since Paul McCartney's last album, 2013's New, the onetime Beatles star worked on a video-game project and collaborated with Kanye West and Rihanna on some songs. That's on top of constant touring. Egypt Station actually split the difference between nostalgia and looking forward, as McCartney checked in with his spunkiest, horniest and most biting album in years.
Guns N' Roses Return to 'Appetite for Destruction' in a Very Big Way
Guns N’ Roses didn't just expand their breakthrough debut; they went supernova with a hugely expanded "Locked N’ Loaded" box set of Appetite For Destruction. Limited to 10,000 copies, the reissue contained a total of more than 80 items – from vinyl discs and posters to rings, collectible coins and more. Retail price was $999, a figure UMe officials described as perhaps the highest ever. There were a total of 49 previously unheard tracks; they released “Shadow of Your Love,” a song co-written by Axl Rose before the band was formed, as both a single and video.
The Beatles' Smartly Expanded White Album Offers New Insights
The Beatles’ self-titled White Album returned almost exactly 50 years after it was first issued, but with a complete makeover. The set made an important early fan too: Ringo Starr himself hailed the 30-track album’s remix by producer Giles Martin and mix engineer Sam Okell, which arrived in both stereo and 5.1 surround. Extras included 50 session takes, most of which are previously unreleased, and 27 early acoustic takes – the so-called Esher Demos. Recorded at George Harrison’s house in Esher, Surrey, the rough versions include “Not Guilty,” a Harrison-penned song that didn’t make the White Album, but was re-recorded for his self-titled album in 1979; and “Child of Nature,” another unused song that later evolved into John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.” In between, this reissue connects the dots from sketchy demos to finished record, revealing the shades and textures that rested in so many of the songs.
Gene Simmons' Enormous Solo Box Leads to Reunion-Filled Tour
Gene Simmons' mammoth solo box set boasted eye-popping prices and a tour that sparked some cool Kiss reunions. The 150-song collection was available in one of three increasingly expensive ways – $2,000, $25,000 and $50,000, the last of which featured a personal delivery from Simmons, as well as a VIP meet-and-greet. The accompanying dates included an expected appearance by longtime partner Paul Stanley, but Simmons also shared the stage with former bandmates Vinnie Vincent, Peter Criss, Ace Frehley and Bruce Kulick, plus current Kiss drummer Eric Singer.
Nick Mason Returns With a Group Focusing on Early Pink Floyd
Drummer Nick Mason launched a new vehicle for pre-Dark Side of the Moon songs by his old band Pink Floyd, performing a series of U.K. shows beginning in May. Saucerful of Secrets include Pink Floyd touring bassist Guy Pratt, singer Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet, guitarist Lee Harris and keyboardist Dom Beken. They were so well received that Mason later announced plans for his first North American tour since the conclusion of Pink Floyd's 1994 run with Pratt in support of The Division Bell. Mason said he had the blessings of both Roger Waters and David Gilmour – and that Waters could possibly sit in on a future date.
Bruce Springsteen's One-Man Show Takes Broadway by Storm
Bruce Springsteen's stirring run on Broadway continued into 2018, as he announced multiple extensions of the one-man show Springsteen on Broadway – then followed that with an album version and a TV special. The performances were based on his 2016 memoir Born to Run and featured Springsteen telling the story of his life through 15 tracks, accompanied only by guitar and piano. Wife Patti Scialfa also joined him on two songs. The two-disc audio set arrived as the show concluded a 236-performance run in December. The Netflix special, which premiered the same weekend, was comprised of two performances recorded for private audiences in July.
Foreigner Reunite for 'Double Vision: Then and Now' Dates
A one-off August date where Foreigner performed with a few legacy members turned into a string of celebrated reunion dates. Dubbed Double Vision: Then and Now, these “special celebration” shows were held in November and December and featured all surviving members of the band’s original lineup. Band leader Mick Jones appeared with classic-era singer Lou Gramm, Dennis Elliott, Al Greenwood, Ian McDonald and Rick Wills for five numbers, following an opening seven-song set by the current lineup, fronted by Kelly Hansen. Everyone then gathered for the final two songs, “I Want to Know What Love Is” and “Hot Blooded.” The only one missing was original bassist Ed Gagliardi, who died in 2014. Jones and Gramm had previously participated in a handful of informal reunions, after settling their longstanding differences.
Debt-Riddled Gibson Guitar Company Nearly Goes Under
The new year began with troubling news for Gibson Brands, makers of guitars played by Slash among many others, as a finance expert said the company was “running out of time” to resolve serious debt issues that could shut it down. Gibson boasted annual revenues of more than $1 billion, but had upcoming repayments totaling $375 million – with a further $145 million due if the first amount was not paid before July 23. By May, the iconic brand had filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, who had run the company since 1986, was swept out in the deal; Gibson also received a sizable loan to continue operations. It took almost six months, but the company eventually emerged from bankruptcy with a new majority ownership – KKR, a global investment company – and leadership team that officially took over in November.
Jeff Lynne Brings Electric Light Orchestra Back to North America
Jeff Lynne returned to the North America for the first Electric Light Orchestra tour in 37 years. The opening-night set list leaned heavily on Out of the Blue, which had recently celebrated a 40th anniversary, beginning with the show-opening "Standin' in the Rain." They played only one song ("When I Was a Boy") from ELO's most recent album, 2015's Alone in the Universe. In all, ELO visited 10 cities. The tour was announced just a few days before the release of the live concert CD and DVD Wembley or Bust.
Dickey Betts Stages Surprise Comeback Before Suffering a Stroke
Dickey Betts was in the midst of an out-of-nowhere comeback when he was hit with consecutive health issues. The former Allman Brothers Band guitarist played his first concert in four years in May, delivering a “live rehearsal show” in his hometown of Sarasota, Fla., ahead of a planned U.S. tour. He announced those dates just three weeks after confirming his retirement. "When I turned 70 years old, I just figured I wanted to go fishing and play golf and mess around and stuff, so I decided I would retire," Betts admitted in June. "Well, I got bored as hell sitting around here." Then Betts suffered what doctors said was a mild stroke in August, and the rest of those planned shows were canceled. He was subsequently involved in an accident at his home. Betts was apparently playing with his dog in his backyard last September when he "slipped and cracked his head." He was left in critical condition, and required brain surgery. His manager said the procedure was successful, and that Betts had begun a long recovery.