Shark Jumping

Jumping The Shark….

If you’re not familiar it’s a term to describe a moment when something that was once great reaches a point where it will now decline in quality.

The origin of this phrase comes from a Happy Days episode where the Fonz jumped a shark on waterskis. That was the point of no return for the show….

So musically who “jumped the shark” and when?

I don’t want to be mean spirited, but it’s really pretty inevitable that an artist who was once great to reach a point where they just can’t do it anymore.

Believe it or not, that’s one reason The Beatles are so revered.  They broke up as a band before they could do any shark jumping.

Started with a home run and ended with a grand slam.

Granted, if you get into the solo work then, yes, there were a few shark jumped.  But as a band?  No skis.  No sharks.

I guess the “luck” The Beatles had (as a group) is they didn’t have to withstand disco in the late 70’s and the “synthesizer” revolution of the 80’s.

It wreaked havoc on a lot of classic bands.

The Stones tried, and it worked for them for a while.  “Hot Stuff” from ‘Black and Blue’ is funky, and could be played in the discos.  Same with “Miss You” from ‘Some Girls”.

But then ‘Emotional Rescue” came around.  Not a complete jump, but they were looking down the fish’s gullet.

It really wasn’t until the album “Undercover” that they looked down at the fin.  They’ve had some moments since, but….

The Who jumped when they didn’t stop after Keith Moon passed away after watching ‘The Abominable Dr. Phibes’.

They should not have made another record.

Should have followed Led Zeppelin’s lead after John Bonham died.

And some would say there was a small jump for Zep with ‘In Through the Out Door’.

I’m not one of those people.  It might not have been the swan song they wanted (pardon the pun), but it had its moments.

To me the worst offender is….

Elton John.

Not because all of his stuff just blows now (no jokes), some of it doesn’t (I guess)…

It’s because in his prime he was amazing.

When is the last time you listened to ‘Tumbleweed Connection’?

Get it.  Right now.  Put it on.  Listen.  It’s great.  Probably better than you even remember.

Same with ‘Madman Across the Water’.  Timeless.  Brilliant.

Then came ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’.  Absolutely brilliant.  Classic album.  But something started to change. He was becoming a pop star.

He still managed to put out great records with ‘Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy’, but his “edge” was gone.  He stayed afloat with ‘Rock of The Westies’ (for some reason, a favorite of mine), but it was over after that.

‘A Single Man’ was awful, then disco kicked him in his crotch with ‘Victim of Love”.  It is absolutely one of the worst albums by a once brilliant artist in history.

Then came a long line of them….

‘21 at 33’, ‘The Fox’, ‘Jump Up!’, ‘Too Low for Zero’, should I go on?

And every time (if you actually listened to any of these) you screamed at the speakers “WHERE IS THE GUY THAT DID HONKY CHATEAU??????”


I don’t know this for sure, but I think it all happened when the hats and wigs gave way to the hair plugs.  They look okay, I admit, but did they go down too far and poke something that de-stimulates creativity?

To be fair, he apparently had a bad drug habit in those days.  But hell, that always helped Keith Richards.  Keith jumped when he got clean!

And Elton has actually had a small comeback or two in recent years, but as far as being on top of the mountain and falling the hardest, Elton didn’t jump a shark.  It was a Blue Whale.

To bring up a positive, there is one artist who got his START during the disco era, made it through punk, new wave, bad 80’s production, and still always managed to do it right by writing great songs that never (or very rarely) followed fashion.  That’s Tom Petty.  He should be given some sort of an award just for doing it WHEN he did it…

Some other possible Fish Jumping moments:

-Paul McCartney with “The Girl is Mine” (duet with Michael Jackson)

-Axl Rose when he left GnR, and had all the facial surgery.

-Jefferson Airplane when they became ‘Starship’

-Kiss when the makeup came off.

-“All by myself” by Eric Carmen who was GREAT in the Raspberries.

-“The Heat is On” Glenn Frey

-Styx, everything after “Crystal Ball”

-‘Su-Su-Sussudio’, Phil Collins

-Hall and Oats with ‘Private Eyes’

-“Young Turks” Rod Stewart

-Pink Floyd when they really weren’t Pink Floyd anymore

and of course…

-Steven Tyler on American Idol

Any others?



6 responses

  1. Shawn Ryan

    I would say that Rod Stewart jumped the shark with “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” although I detest “Tonight’s the Night,” the favorite song of old skeevy pervs trying to pick up young virgins.

    Queen jumped with the discofied Hot Space, although they redeemed themselves somewhat with The Works right after. But after that, PU.

    Black Sabbath with Technical Ecstacy and Never Say Die.

    Blue Oyster Cult with Mirrors, although the only truly stellar thing about Spectres, the one before it, was Godzilla.

    Genesis with Then There Were Three. There should’ve been none.

    Kansas — everything after Steve Walsh left.

    AC/DC — Fly on the Wall.

    Eagles — The Long Run

    I’d say Kiss jumped the shark with the first Kiss Alive, a live album that was recorded in the studio because their actual live tapes were so bad the only thing salvageable was Peter Criss’ drumming.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    • Berry Dye

      Here are a few of mine:

      Van Halen completely jumped into the tank with Diver Down and never got back out.

      KISS Dynasty? Shark Tank!

      Ozzy Osbourne blew it with Bark at the Moon and kinda came back later with Zack Wylde.

      I think in most cases the first album a band releases may be their Shark Tank. Look how many 1st albums were the best.

      January 25, 2011 at 5:11 pm

  2. Shawn Ryan

    You know what they say: You have your whole life to write your first album and 18 months to write your second.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:20 pm

  3. Derek Scudder

    The Doobie Brothers sold a lot of records (and their musical souls) when they let Michael McDonald in the band. Listen to “China Grove” and “Rockin’ Down the Highway” and the Toulouse Street album. Then listen, if you can, to “What a Fool Believes” and “Minute by Minute”. I still weep.

    January 26, 2011 at 5:55 pm

  4. Vicki Welch

    I agree, biggest disappointment is Elton. You left “11-17-70” off his list of greats, one of THE all-time best live albums ever, IMHO.
    Not to change the subject, but to Shawn R., I long for the days you were writing music reviews for the News. My mother always told me if I couldn’t say anything nice about someone not to say anything at all, so I won’t comment on the current critic…suffice to say you are missed. I may not have always agreed with you, but at least you were informed. Nowdays…*sigh*…
    BJS, very much looking forward to the Eagles show!

    January 27, 2011 at 5:29 am

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