Put your money on Motley Crue.
That's the consensus among rock insiders analyzing the separate futures of the L.A. rock group and departed lead singer Vince Neil, who was fired from the band two weeks ago in the biggest hard-rock split since Van Halen and David Lee Roth parted ways in 1986.
With speculation that John Corabi, singer for the Hollywood band the Scream, is the leading candidate to replace Neil (Kik Tracee singer Stephen Shareaux has also been mentioned), the band is getting better odds out of the gate.
"To me it's obvious that Motley Crue is (likely to do better), because (bassist) Nikki Sixx is responsible for all the lyrics and co-wrote most of the music," says Janiss Garza, senior editor of the hard-rock magazine Rip. "Other than having experience of being a front man for an arena-level act, Vince isn't that much of a proven talent."
Gregg Steele, program director of Long Beach-based hard-rock radio station KNAC-FM, concurs. "I would put my money on Motley," he says. "I liken it to the Van Halen split. And the listeners of KNAC seem more interested in what this means for the Crue."
It's not an idle matter. Motley Crue has sold more than 20 million albums in the United States in the 10 years since it rose from the Hollywood rock clubs, capping it with the recent "Decade of Decadence" best-of collection, which hit the No. 3 spot on Billboard magazine's album chart shortly after being released in November. Elektra Records signed the band to a new contract reportedly for as much as $35 million just last September.
"Any change is questionable," says Trudy Green, a manager whose client list is topped by Janet Jackson. "It's very rare when a major person leaves a band and both go on to have a huge career. There's something about the magic in the band, the combination that really works."
Historically, singers-gone-solo have fared better than the bands they've left behind, but there are a few notable exceptions. Genesis only got bigger after Peter Gabriel left and Phil Collins took over lead vocals, and Fleetwood Mac survived the comings and goings of seemingly dozens of leaders.
But it's the Van Halen experience that relates best to the Motley matter. At the time, the conventional wisdom was that the irrepressible David Lee Roth had limitless star potential, while a blander Van Halen, even with the addition of singer Sammy Hagar, would have trouble matching its old commercial form. As it turned out, Van Halen flourished, while Roth's solo career floundered after a promising start. The Van Halen band identity was strong enough to withstand the change, and many say the same will be true with Motley Crue.
"You're dealing with a band where each member is a pretty large personality," says Carey Curlop, program director of L.A.'s KQLZ-FM. "I think each member has equal footing in terms of the public. . . . The public identifies with each member but, more importantly, it identifies with Motley Crue."
But Tommy Nast, who writes the column "Nasty News" in the trade magazine Album Network, warns not to count Neil out.
"With the right people, he can be a major talent," Nast says. "He's a great front man, there's no doubt about that. But the fans really win. They'll get a Vince Neil record, and a Motley Crue record with their new thing. Then the fans will decide."