January’s Biggest Classic Rock Stories: 2017 in Review
As 2017 comes to a close, we're taking a look back at the year and some of its biggest classic rock stories. From the deaths of some of rock's biggest names to political fallout to band squabbles, here are a few of January 2017's biggest stories.
Butch Trucks Dies
Fans were shocked to learn Trucks -- a founding drummer for the Allman Brothers Band -- had died on Jan. 24 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was with the band from its inception in 1969 until its final shows in 2014.
After disbanding, he focused on his own Freight Train Band in Florida. His death, and Gregg Allman's passing months later, leave only two living original band members — Dickey Betts and Jai Johanny Johanson — though neither has played with the band continuously over the years. As the band's statement at the time read, "Butch will play on in our hearts forever."
Rockers React to Trump Inauguration and Orders
President Donald Trump kicked off the classic rock connections himself when, during his inauguration concert, he walked out to the Rolling Stones' "Heart of Stone," an odd presidential choice, and one that speaks to sexual conquests. By then, the Stones had already charged Trump with using their music without permission during his presidential campaign.
His inaugural address also sparked outrage, with Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett lashing out on Twitter. "Trump's Inaugural Address and his asking us to put America first sounds, to me, familiar to what was said in speeches going around Germany in the 1930's ... and later Russia in the 1940's," he wrote.
He wasn't alone. Guns N' Roses offered a Trump pinata for fans to whack at their Mexico City concert. Elton John, Queen and George Harrison's estate joined the Rolling Stones in protesting their music being associated with Trump. Bruce Springsteen called the president "a moron," and supported the Women's March, a reaction against Trump's misogyny, from abroad, declaring the band part of "the new American resistance," while a Springsteen tribute act, the B Street Band, pulled out of the Garden State Presidential Inaugural Gala, after receiving complaints, including from members of the E Street Band. Metallica's Lars Ulrich, Meat Loaf and members of Rage Against the Machine also shared their distaste.
Trump's executive order banning Muslims from entering the country stirred more ire, provoking artists like Peter Frampton and Duff McKagan to speak out online, while Springsteen again chimed in, calling the action "anti-Democratic and fundamentally un-American."
John Wetton Dies
Wetton, who began his career in 1972 with a revamped King Crimson lineup, went on to stints with Roxy Music and Uriah Heep before co-founding the band U.K., and eventually, Asia, whose self-titled debut topped charts.
But through the years, Wetton also suffered a number of health setbacks, including a public struggle with alcoholism, as well as a heart condition that required surgery. Not long before his death, he had to pull out of Asia's tour Journey to undergo chemotherapy.
The band has decided to continue performing in Wetton's honor.
Heart Sisters Part Ways
After releasing Live at the Royal Albert Hall in late 2016, the Wilson sisters were stepping away from the band for a while. In mid-January, Nancy Wilson announced she was taking some time off from Heart to launch a new side project called Roadcase Royale, and tapped Heart vets — keyboardist Chris Joyner, bassist Dan Rothchild and drummer Ben Smith — as well as former Prince vocalist Liv Warfield and guitarist Ryan Waters to join her. Meanwhile, sister Ann Wilson was also at work with her side project, the Ann Wilson Thing!, who at the time announced plans to release their third EP and a short solo tour.
It later became clear that the Wilson sisters' professional break from each other was also a time for them to try to heal wounds, following charges filed against Ann's husband for assaulting Nancy's teenage sons. But the two have made it clear that while their relationship as sisters is their first priority, Heart will continue.
"It’s never going to be like it was before. … We’re both individuals, with each other and without each other," Ann said. "That’s a really cool thing."
Dog Eat Dog, Ratt Eat Ratt
In a long-burning feud over the Ratt name, Bobby Blotzer accused his former bandmates of spreading "misinformation and lies" in their quest for ownership of the trademark. After a five-year hiatus from the band, Blotzer began touring with his own group under the Ratt name, claiming that the original outfit had breached fiduciary duties. But once he hit the road, the rest of the group was moved to tour as well — without him. Singer Stephen Pearcy, guitarist Warren DeMartini and bassist Juan Croucier claimed they owned the rights to the name, which appeared to have been based on a technicality invalidating the foursome's partnership.
"For five years I tried to rally these guys together, and NOW they’re good to go on tour? ... I simply wanted to tour," Blotzer wrote in a Facebook post last January. "They didn't. They didn't speak to each other till they saw the huge success we had this past year. We did 70 or so shows, and grossed more money on this tour than any tour Ratt has done in 20 years past. I tried to keep the originals and the rest together. This isn’t my undoing."