Worthy or Worthless: Quesionable Band Members

"Worthless" might be a little extreme, since any band member must be there for a reason. But in some cases, bands have official members that either don't fit a traditional role (sing or play and instrument), or don't seem to really do anything. A closer look, however, reveals that sometimes a band member who seems to do nothing but occupy space could play a key role in the group. Other times, that member really is worthless.

Here are some band members with questionable roles and a look at what they really contribute. Ratings are on a scale of one to five.

The Hype Men

Taboo and apl.de.ap - Black Eyed Peas

courtesy photocourtesy photo
Saturday Night Live did an entire skit about the unpopularity and/or worthlessness of the two "other guys" in the Black Eyed Peas. In the skit, the fictitious Taboo and apl.de.ap host their own show called "Our Time" but are constantly interrupted and overshadowed by will.i.am and Fergie, a la real life. The worst part? Fergie was played by Miley Cyrus. When you have Hannah Montana openly mocking you, it's a sign you're on a ride to Superfluousville.

The only discernable job these guys have in the band is to say "whoo hoo" in the background. Granted, apl.de.ap will sometimes spit out a short rap and Taboo will do some pretty impressive Jeet Kune Do moves and Michael Jackson poses, but neither of these skills are especially vital when you've got Fergie and will.i.am cowriting the songs and providing the group with a real identity. But here's the strange part: The Black Eyed Peas were around before Fergie, releasing two moderately successful albums as an old-school rap trio. It wasn't until their 2003 Elephunk album that Fergie joined the ranks and took the group to the stratosphere. Apl and Taboo have adjusted well to their new roles, enjoying their time on the fringes of fame and poking fun at how paparazzi will push them aside to get to Fergie and Will. After all, they know who is bringing home the pop/rap/rock/electronica bacon.

So what do these guys contribute? Think of it this way: a party is pumping if a lot of people are jumping around and having fun. The guests don't need any particular talent, just an interesting look and the appearance of always having a good time. If it was just Will and Fergie, the group wouldn't carry around that party vibe - they wouldn't even be a group. There's also a case for diversity, since apl.de.ap is the most famous Filipino outside of Manny Pacquiao.
Worthy Rating: 4

The Drug Dealer

Bez - Happy Mondays

Happy Mondays was a band that represented the artistic pinnacle of the Manchester drug scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Granted, there isn't much competition in a niche that small, but for all intents and purposes Happy Mondays was THE place to go for all your English club music needs in 1990. Shaun Ryder was something of a frontman for the group, taking on the duties of lead vocals, while his brother Paul took care of bass. Mark Day and Paul Davis took on lead guitar and keyboard and Gary Whelan was the drummer.

And then there was Bez. Bez, or Mark Berry, joined the band through his friendship with Shaun Ryder. Bez wasn't Ryder's jam buddy or music teacher, though; he was the band's drug dealer. Now, plenty of bands depend heavily on their drug dealer but the Happy Mondays apparently needed theirs always within their reach. What better way to achieve that then to keep him onstage? But of course drug use was a huge part of the band's identity and, say what you will about their talent, we certainly can't call them phonies.

So Bez was necessary to keep the Mondays Happy by keeping them medicated. Other than that, though, he didn't exactly shine. He was most known in the band for his dancing, and the videos that Happy Mondays made at their professional peak bear witness to this. Basically, all Bez does is dance and the dancing isn't, by any stretch of the imagination, what one would call good. It certainly isn't going to twist anybody's melon. But people who dance at raves while on drugs aren't trying to impress anyone with their dancing. And Bez was almost assuredly on drugs whenever he was dancing on stage or in a video. He actually seemed to be on the same drug every time, since he danced in the same way almost constantly. Sometimes he had strange-looking glasses on, other times his clothes seemed like they were stolen from someone three times his size. On all occasions, though, Bez looked like he had no idea where in the hell he was. But he always looked like he was enjoying himself. After all, who wouldn't enjoy a career where you move around like a flailing inflatable tube man and get paid while the rest of the group does all the real work?
Worthy Rating: 4

The Pretty Boy

Lance Bass - 'N Sync

Folks outside the teenage girl demographic often mocked 'N Sync, but there was a time when they were the most popular group in the world. Their second album, No Strings Attached, was an ENORMOUS hit. In its first week the album sold nearly two and a half million copies, something that will never happen again now that downloads and iTunes are the music buying outlets de jour and de rigeour. To put it in perspective, Lady Gaga's madly anticipated Born This Way album, priced at 99 cents on Amazon to drive up the numbers, sold 1.1 million copies that first week. What was more astonishing about the success of the band is that they were, for all intents and purposes, a ripoff of The Backstreet Boys, who themselves were a ripoff of New Kids on the Block. But 'N Sync trumped all the boy bands that came before and after. They had a little something that their kinsmen and competitors O Town, BSB, 98 Degrees and LFO lacked, and it obviously wasn't proper grammar. No, 'N Sync's astonishing success came courtesy of Justin Timberlake and three role players. J.T.'s wingmen were the Bad Boy Chris Kirkpatrick, the quirky/funny Joey Fatone, and semi-talented singer JC Chasez.

And then there was Lance. Lance was definitely not the most unattractive member of the group (that prize went to Joey Fatone). His boy next door, aw-shucks appearance was incredibly endearing to young girls who liked their crushes like they liked their Juicy Juice: Sweet and not overbearing. Still, Lance didn't necessarily stand out. He was considered the worst dancer in the group, as Kirkpatrick was quoted as saying. Lance later showed that he had stepped up his game when he appeared on Dancing With the Stars, but that was long after the dissolution of the group. Bass was also the last member to join, further adding to the notion that he was less than essential. In the end, Lance's role seemed to be "cute boy who is less threatening than the other cute boys." Still, he is among the most recognizable members of 'N Sync these days thanks to his refusal to leave the public eye - in ways that have nothing to do with music. When he isn't trying to colonize space or contributing to the least shocking headlines list by coming out of the closet, he's appearing on any celebreality show that will have him.
Worthy Rating: 1

The Vamp

Posh Spice - The Spice Girls

The cover of Victoria Beckham's solo albumThe cover of Victoria Beckham's solo album
Yes, we know that trying to determine the most worthless Spice Girl is like trying to figure out the least flattering skin disorder. That being said, Posh Spice, known better as Victoria Beckham, might be considered the leprosy to the rest of the group's scabies.

Each Spice Girl was assigned a certain role (Baby Spice, Scary Spice, Slutty Spice, Dopey, Doc, etc.) and it can be argued that each role could conceivably have been important to the overall packaging of the product. That being said, Posh's role seemed the least essential. Her M.O. was to be a sort of snobbish vamp who pouted her lips far too often. It is also possible that she was meant to be the "hot one." This may or may not be the case, though, because you might remember that Ginger Spice was formerly called "Sexy Spice" for a good portion of the band's early fame. Sexy/Ginger was also the one who would wear Union Jack lingerie that expertly mashed her heaving British breasts up and over the top of the bustier so that her mammary runoff would make FEMA gasp. So what the hell was Victoria's role in the group? Ah yes, to stand a bit to the side and pout.

And in a cruel (or possibly humane) twist of fate, it is this detritus of a band member who is now the impediment to any more reunions of the Spice Girls. For one, she's something of a product herself, with a successful fashion line and a marriage to high profile disappointment David Beckham. Together the couple have earnings that approach $150 million. This sort of phenomenon, when a useless band member eclipses the rest of the band in fame, is known as Flavor Flav syndrome.
Worthy Rating: 1

Why isn't Flavor Flav on this list? Because he's basically a character, and he did it very well. Chuck D. explained it like this: "He's like lubrication to the whole machine. He adds that looseness – or, at least, that perception of looseness. He keeps it from being so serious, keeps it from being like straight vodka with no chaser. It's the chaser that makes it lighter, easier for people to handle.

And by the way, Harold Brown told us that Flav's mom was a concert pianist, and he has genuine musical talent, which apparently he likes to keep hidden. Seems he has us all fooled.

The Lyricists

Pete Sinfield of King Crimson, Keith Reid of Procol Harum

Does a guy who does nothing but write lyrics really deserve band member status? When you write the words to "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" or "The Court Of The Crimson King" it sure does.

Pete Sinfield was listed as part of the lineup for King Crimson upon the release of their first album, though he didn't play in the band. He wasn't necessarily a bad guitarist, but that duty was taken up by the more able Robert Fripp. Sinfield's main contribution was helping Ian McDonald with writing lyrics for the debut album, thus making Sinfield's job title something like "backup lyricist."

But prog rock was a funny world, and in those days King Crimson would have fallen under the banner of Acid Rock. In those first years of the burgeoning music form, it wasn't always about the music. Pomp and spectacle played as big a part as lyrics and music. Remember that these were the days of cosmic fools and merry pranksters. This was Sinfield's real contribution to the band. By his own admission, he "became their pet hippie because I could tell them where to go to buy the funny clothes they saw everyone wearing." Though a phone book could have contributed almost as much as Sinfield did in that instance, he did manage to give the band an air of credibility among hippies and acid-heads. He would also offer King Crimson advice on artwork, lighting, stage shows, and other things that would enhance the Acid-inspired style the group was going for. As we've learned from that wise sage Bez, drug users are sticklers for authenticity.

As for Keith Reid, he and Gary Brooker combined to write most of Procol Harum's beloved songs, including that classic tune we mentioned earlier with the "vestal virgins" and the "light fandango." When we asked Brooker if he ever changed Reid's lyrics when he was putting music to them, Gary replied: "No, I would never think of it. Because I knew that he had thought very carefully about every single word. Every 'V' and 'N,' there wasn't anything - I mean, if I tried to take even a small adjective out of a line, it would be strongly resisted by Keith, because that would take away the sense that he had. Therefore, I've never needed to change his lyrics."

Keep in mind that plenty of people make a living with words, but there are only a few who are exclusively lyricists and have contributed to hit songs - Billy Steinberg and Will Jennings are the best examples. It's a rare skill, and a lot harder than it looks.
Worthy Rating: 5

The Spiritual Guru

Baba Oje - Arrested Development

Those who fondly remember Arrested Development will likely recall that the one development not being arrested was the consistently swelling size of their band. In 1992, the group debuted with an already heady six members. In 2011, Arrested Development had eight members.

They also had similar problems reining in their album names. Their debut smash was entitled "3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of..." This was a clever nod to the arduous process that took them from unsigned bandmates to a full-fledged group with a label. Perhaps it took them that long to notify everyone in the group that they'd been signed. At any rate, though, the group was always a stalwart bolster against gangsta rap, in those formative years when socially conscious rap battled for supremacy over its grittier and more alluring thug counterpart. Guess which won!

The two driving forces of the group, or the two development arresters, were vocalist Speech and DJ Headliner. As for the four other members (and later six), there is one that stands out significantly. His name is Baba Oje and he made a marked contrast to the rest of the band because he was in his 60s. In videos and performances he'd often be sitting in a chair, befitting a man who is easily forty years older than the rest of the group.

But is Baba Oje really useless or is his seeming stoicism a hint at his true worth? When we spoke with Speech in 2008, he had this to say: "Baba means 'father' in Swahili and Oje is his name. And he's 75 years old. When I met him he was 57 and he went to my college."

Speech explains that the concept of the old, wise mystic is an important one in Jamaican culture, where elders would freely associate with the youth in order to give them the gift of wisdom that only comes with years of experience and soul searching. In return the youthful vigor and pith that is so evident in spirits not yet crushed by the world's woes would provide the kind of chutzpah (a word probably not used in Jamaica) that, combined with grace and experience, would create transcendent ideas that would then be put into action.

As Speech went on to say, "I wanted to have an elder in the group. It was a very radical concept at the time because I didn't know any groups that had ever done that." This makes it difficult to discount the role of Oje. Who really knows how important an "elder" is to a band's body of work? Possibly less than a bass player, but consider that under Oje's watch, Arrested Development has continued to thrive, delivering an enlightened black perspective to issues like climate change, and picking up a devoted following in Japan. It is never wise to discount a muse.
Worthy Rating: 4

The Dancing Guy

Ben Carr - Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Boston ska heroes the Mighty Mighty Bosstones was one of the most exciting groups to come out of the mid '90s shortlived fascination with ska and swing music. It was a strange time in America; a time when the top of the pop charts were populated by brass-filled bands with more horns than a herd of gazelle. Those were the days when the Billboard top 10 was rife with names like "Squirrel Nut Zippers," "Cherry Poppin' Daddies" and "Reel Big Fish." So a band like "Mighty Mighty Bosstones" was a perfect fit.

But the other, more striking feature of these name-intensive groups was their sheer size. Swing and ska both hearken back to the days of Big Band and a big band was certainly needed to handle the richly diverse sound coming out of these new acts. The Cherry Poppin' Daddies had anywhere between eight and ten members in their ensemble, while Reel Big Fish made do with a paltry six or seven, depending on the year. The Bosstones weren't ones to mess with the formula of a successful ska group and so they too had a large, bustling band. They had the necessary trumpet, sax, and trombone players and lead vocal duties were manned by the ever capable Dicky Barrett. The group seemingly had all the bases covered. A strong brass section, great rhythm players and a designated dancer.

Yes, that's right. The Bosstones set themselves apart from the flood of third wave ska groups by having a bandmember who...just....dances. Think of him as the American version of Happy Mondays' dancing drug addict. But this dancing guy somehow seemed even more extraneous than Bez (the Happy Mondays' dead weight) because of the already bustling size of the Bosstones. To this day, people still refer to this dancing guy from the Bosstones as "that dancing guy from the Bosstones," despite the fact that he has a real name: Ben Carr. Yes, Ben Carr is a full-fledged member of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones as well as the band's tour manager. So while he may be useless insofar as his contribution to the band's sound, he is most definitely indispensable when it comes to hooking the Bosstones up with proper hotel arrangements. And with a band approaching double digit size, that kind of skill can't be overestimated.
Worthy Rating: 3

The Third Wheel

Pras - The Fugees

Think of the Fugees, and you're probably thinking of either Lauryn Hill or Wyclef Jean. Hill, who has experienced success both in the Fugees and as a solo act, is rightly known for her outspoken views regarding the nasty politics of the music industry, as well as for her inimitable vocal style. Jean has done a slew of successful remixes and other collaborations, and is so important to the Haitian community that he tried to run for president. Together, the two have influenced not only musicians but activists and philanthropists. But did we mention that there's another member of the Fugees? And it isn't Hill's ego.

Pras, also known as Prakazrel Samuel Michel, isn't exactly an untalented artist. He has accomplished a great many things aside from the Fugees, including acting roles and film production. So Pras isn't a hack by any means but, in regard to his role in the Fugees, he was kind of a hack. This isn't necessarily his fault, though, since Hill and Jean are such outsized personalities. What's more, many rumors as to the breakup of the group hint at an intimate relationship between Hill and Jean that ended less than amicably. So not only was Pras not much of a contribution to the Fugees, he was the only member of the group not hooking up with anybody!

But many folks don't know that Pras, like his bandmates, is also a dedicated community activist. He created a documentary about the homeless situation in downtown L.A. and also supports several non-profit groups that combat injustice in many forms. So one could argue that Pras at least fit into the socially conscious mindset of the Fugees. The only difference is nobody knew who the hell he was.
Worthy Rating: 2

~Landon McQuilkin
June 29, 2011

More Song Writing

Comments: 38

  • Noklen from IndiaI didn't see that guy from Boney M on this list.
  • Franco from Oklahoma CityIt takes some nerve, and few brain cells, to bash on Ben Carr. He is a huge part of their live performances.
  • Harley from Chrishall GrangeThis is outragious. Apl.De.Ap and will.I.Am were the original members of BEP and Taboo was third. Fergie was last and wasn't even their first choice. Apl and Taboo are by far worthy of their status. They don't need haters like you. Will moved onto solo work, Fergie started struggling with a drug addiction and had kids. Taboo got testicular cancer, has had 2 kids and has brought most of them back together. Apl did solo work too. Now that they're getting back together, I'm happy and they are too. Except Fergie. It's as if she's forgotten them and it doesn't look likely that she's coming back. If any of them, it's Fergie who isn't worthy.
  • Jim from U.s.aFlavor Flav deserves to be on this list. He was useless and still is.
    To say he contributed to Public Enemy is a sham. Chuck D didn't need him, Public Enemy would have been just as great without Flav.
    The only flavor that Flav added to music was useless sourness
  • Ben (oddly Enough) from Detroit, MichiganBen from Mighty Mighty Bosstones has always been important. He's done background vocals a time or two plus the dancing helps to get the audience interested. Ska bands do less running around on stage than other performers and that stationary performance can be unappealing after a time. Ben keeps it lively up there.
  • Jmb from ArizonaJust saw Bosstones a few days ago in Tempe, AZ and i gotta say i loved Ben's role in the band. He is a big part of the show. Many times i watched Ben do his thing instead of Dicky. That man deserves his credit!!
  • Chris from Clevelandthe "least talented" of the spice girls? interesting. So there were talented ones? Are we talking about the same spice girls?
  • Sarah from Sydney AustraliaPosh Spice is constantly slammed as being the most useless, hopeless Spice Girl. Yet she freely admits she's not the most talented in the group, she's not a strong singer or dancer and those are the same reasons why she won't participate in a reunion. Slammed for participating, and then slammed for not participating. Makes sense.
  • Eddie - Luvdoc204 from West Palm BeachIn reference to Ben Carr's worthiness it's worth mentioning how he came to be part of the band. It's a story of loyalty. As I understand Ben “The Bosstone” was a good friend/Roadie for the band. Like much of the band at the time, Ben was under age. One night the band was told by a club owner that Ben would have to leave since he wasn’t 21 and wasn’t in the band. Dicky insisted Ben was in the band and told Ben to get on stage and jump around so he wouldn’t be kicked out… Again, it just stuck! Behind the scenes Ben would eventually go on to do double duty as Tour Manager as well.
    From http://www.bosstonesmusic.com/faq/
  • Praveen from Pittsburgh, PaMan, how can this list exist without Andrew Ridgley - the most useless member of all time. What the hell did he even do? He couldn't dance. He couldnt sing. He didn't play instruments as far as I can tell other than pretending to in videos
    As far as FAVOR FLAV, you are way offbase in including him along with the others here. Flavor Fav's vocals were essential to complement the mood set by Chuck D's big booming voice. Otherwise, it can get reptitious. Who was the lead vocal on 911 is a joke? Flav!!. He was a great hypeman. Just because he made a fool of himself on Surreal Life should not diminish his role in PE.

  • Fraser from EnglandNo No No Posh Spice was totally useless, couldn't sing, dance or smile. Complete and utter waste of space and still is!!!
  • Brainiac6 from San DiegoWouldn't Bernie Taupin qualify as exclusively a lyricist and has contributed to hit songs?
  • Al from MassachusettsNearly thirty years on The Bosstones are going strong!!! BEN IS INDISPENSABLE!!!!
  • Joy C. from VirginiaRegarding Apl an Taboo, I don't they are just some useless members of Black Eyed Peas. You should have looked more closely still, Fergie also was a member of her own girl group who wasn't even successful too. Apl was already in the group with Taboo and they already had mild success and critical acclaim witout Fergie. So I think all of them are equally important to the group's success. The addition of a lady vocalist not specifically Fergie yet was one of the strategies brainstormed by the group to enhance their mainstream appeal. And it worked didn't it? As people like you actually thought Fergie was the group.

  • Skueez from Manitobahow is posh spice useless? she was a vocalist, which is not analogous to a dancer or other non-musical bandmember. just because her image can't be assigned a category doesn't make her a useless band member. those two things aren't equivalent
  • Jason from Chattanooga. Tn"gay, scarf-waving guy with a mustache, that is classic. Been laughing all day.
  • Jamie from MontrealJim - Einar could play a mean trumpet, for about 5 seconds. And on "Regina" we learned that he really didn't like lobsters. In THAT band, that's full-member worthy.
  • Sarah Greenlees from PhilippinesApl and Tabu has co- wrote and co-produced most of the black eyed peas songs,,, i don't think they're completely useless.
  • Dd from EnglandWhat about all the members of the Pussycat Dolls apart from Nicole Scherzinger? All the rest did was do a dance in the background and some occasional backing vocals.
  • Dubiousraves from San FranciscoLinda McCartney
  • Tanya from La Verne, CaTheo, Michael was the bass in a harmonizing quartet. He certainly wasn't useless.
  • Theo from South AfricaThat deep-voiced guy from Boyz 2 Men? All he ever did was say a few mushy lines in a couple of songs.
  • Poodlepal from New JerseyWhat about "gay, scarf-waving guy with a mustache?" Frankie goes to Hollywood is one (and possibly the only) band that had that member. Also in the 80's, there were Fake Instrument Players--non-famous musicians played most of the parts, while the official band members just--well, I don't know what they did. ( Non-singing Thompson Twins and Culture Club members, at least in some later reunions for the latter). Also, there's the "guy who sings lead on some songs, but not on any singles," ala John Oates.
  • Paul from BelgiumI saw the Bosstones in the 90's when they opened for the Offspring. That dancer was kind of pudgy, but he danced his ass off continuously for the hour or more that the Bosstones were on stage. He deserves his 'full band member' status.
  • Jim from Tampa, FlWhat about Einar from the Sugarcubes? If not useless, certainly the most irritating superfluous band member of all time. Made Bjork look positively normal.
  • Bill from Reno, NvThank goodness, I didn't have to bring up Linda McCartney myself- I'm sure there are those who would say it was in bad taste. Now all I have to do is agree with you, Jim
  • Sparkpug54 from Shelbyville, Ky-Zak from Bristol--I believe that Otis Williams was the singer that held the Temps together. The only original member (I think, didn't research this post), he provided the characteristic "bottom" as bass singer. Basses don't get much lead time, by nature of their part. You must not like Motown much
  • David from EnglandThis list would be incomplete without the great Andrew Ridgeley of Wham!
  • Joe from Metro DetroitHow about Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode who was more of a Manager than anything else. Alan Wilder never felt fully appreciated even though he was the best musician and did a lot of production work, while Andy basically stood there and was more of a mate to David and Martin.
  • Zak from Bristol What about Ottis Williams of the Temptations? Awful singer and to my knowledge hardly ever sang lead and certainly not on any hiits?
  • Matt from Ottawai think the most successful "useless" band member is ozzy osbourne after getting fired from black sabbath just look how good he is doing for himself solo wise and black sabbath reunions have been doing better with him than with any other singer (im not saying hes better than dio but definetly more in demand)
  • Jim from UsaAh hem... Pattie Scalfa
  • Danno from TennesseeWhat about Donna Jean Godchaux, former Grateful Dead member, who just stood there, contributed minimal backing vocals, shook her butt and hippie hair, until Jerry Garcia wisely fired her?
  • Ernesto from PeruAlso add The Prodigy in here, I don't know where they are now since I haven't listened to them since 1997, but there was Liam Howlett, who pretty much did all the sound; those other two guys who occasionally contributed vocals, and one fourth guy who only danced on the videos. What exactly his contribution was I never knew.
  • Steve from London, EnglandThat's kind of what the piece says, dude
  • Behertzbe from Thousand OaksThis list is going to be very painful, for at least eight or nine people.
  • Jim from North Billerica, MaVery creative list, but you left off The late Linda McCartney of Wings fame. And are your sure Victoria Beckham isn't Miserable Spice instead? I mean the woman looks like she just had a colonoscopy without a sedative. has anyone ever seen that woman smile? ever?
  • Rudolf from Davao, PhilippinesFor your information, apl.de.ap (Allan Pineda Lindo, Jr.) of the Black Eyed Peas(BEP) was born in Sapang Bato, Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines, to a Filpino mother and an African-American father. On the other hand, Taboo (Jaime Luis Gómez), also of BEP, Taboo was born in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, California, to an America Indian mother and a Mexican father, making apl.de.ap the only BEP member with a Filipino heritage, and not Taboo.
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