Bands that underwent big transformations

Heard a Fleetwood Mac song and got to thinking how the band began as a straight-up British blues band in the Peter Green days, then took a big left turn into a hugely successful AM radio-friendly pop band when Nicks and Buckingham came on board.

The biggest and most famous example of a band that had a huge transformation would probably be The Beatles, evolving from “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” light poppy love songs to songs that were much more complex musically and thematically. When I was a teenager, discovering music like The Beatles and the Stones for the first time, my mom amusingly said to me once “I used to really like The Beatles in the early days. Then they went away for awhile, and when they came back, it was with that weird Sergeant Pepper’s album, and all their music was strange and hard to understand after that”.

The Rolling Stones, on the other hand, have experimented with different musical genres like Country and of course the attempt at their version of Sgt. Pepper-style psychedelia, “Her Satanic Majesties’ Request”. But by and large, I’d say they’ve always been a blues- based rock band.

So what other bands, without changing their name and having already been at least relatively famous, also underwent dramatic transformations of their musical style?

The Moody Blues started out as an R&B-influenced rock band (see their first hit, “Go Now,” which hit #1 in the U.K. and #10 in the U.S.), and evolved into progressive/symphonic rock.

The Cardigans started as a heavy metal band. “Lovefool”, their big hit in the U.S., was radio-friendly pop. Wikipedia says their later work was more country-influenced.

The Oak Ridge Boys were originally a gospel group, but moved into country.

Kenny Rogers began in psychedelic rock, then moved to country.

The Goo Goo Dolls are a good example. They started out in the mid-80s as a hardcore punk band; Robby Takac, their bassist, was the original lead singer. Eventually, Johnny Rzeznik took over as singer. After the band had their breakthrough hit with “Name”, they fully leaned into a more MOR rock sound, which was probably a good choice, given the string of hits they scored immediately afterwards.

Radiohead went from rock to electronica.

Tangerine Dream started out as a guitar-driven rock band. Here they are in 1969. But they quickly evolved into a band that played ambient electronic music.

The Bee Gees’ early successes were in pop and soft rock, before transitioning to disco, particularly with their songs on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

When I saw this I thought “a band named The Cardigans used to be a heavy metal band??”

Looking at their wiki page it says the band was founded by two heavy metal musicians, but it doesn’t look like the band as named ‘The Cardigans’ ever played heavy metal. My OP was asking about bands that underwent big transformations under the same name, while being at least relatively famous beforehand.

Dead Can Dance went from post-punk to world music-tinged neoclassical dark wave

Genesis went from 10+ minute prog-rock epics in the Peter Gabriel/Steve Hackett era to overplayed radio hits in the Phil Collins era.

Good call on Genesis! Perfect example :+1:

Don’t forget between the Peter Green/Jeremy Spencer/Danny Kirwan version and Buckingham/Nicks version, there was also the version with Bob Welch.

Yes, except I wouldn’t have used the word “evolved”: the change was pretty sudden, with the addition of Justin Hayward and John Lodge, who made about as big a difference to the Moody Blues as Buckingham and Nicks did to Fleetwood Mac.

Some “big transformations” are due to significant personnel changes like this. Others (e.g. The Beatles) are just a matter of the same musicians evolving and changing (or maturing or experimenting or wanting to try new things or selling out).

I don’t know which of these two categories Genesis falls into. Weren’t they still fairly proggy in the early post-Gabriel years?

Genesis made two studio albums after Peter Gabriel left but before Steve Hackett left. And they were still fairly proggy. It wasn’t until Hackett left, “And Then There Were Three”, that they started writing shorter, more radio-friendly songs.

I remember hearing an interview years ago, I forget which band member said it, but the idea was something like how Peter Gabriel wanted to tell stories with the music, but Phil Collins wanted to have a conversation.

Fleetwood mac only wanted Buckingham but he told them they had to take Nicks too as she was his GF at the time.

See also: Yes

Chicago devolved from experimental rock to pablum.

Indeed – in the '80s and '90s, Chicago became “the band that records your prom song.”

I originally was going to comment on Genesis or the Goo Goo Dolls. Since they have both been mentioned, I’ll add Green Day to the thread. Even though they’re still pretty punk, Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) was a huge departure and set the stage for more radio-friendly fare like the American Idiot album. I was thinking about the Beastie Boys, but I don’t think they were all that well established as a heavy metal band before turning to rap.

Another huge change as a result of a personnel change. I still haven’t forgiven Terry Kath for dying (or Peter Cetera for wanting to be a lounge singer).