The Reason Joe Walsh's Supergroup Only Played Five Shows

When you hear the word "supergroup," you think of incredibly famous collaborations like Cream, which brought Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker together, or The Traveling Wilburys, which combined the star power of George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. The common link in any conversation about rock supergroups is they usually exist long enough to make their mark.

But then there's The Best. Never heard of them? That's both surprising and not surprising. On the one hand, it's surprising because The Best was composed of rock superstars Joe Walsh (The Eagles), John Entwistle (The Who), Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Jeff Baxter (Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers), and Simon Phillips (Toto). The only outlier was lead singer Rick Livingstone, who'd had some success with his band, Agent, in Canada, but who was definitely not in the same category as the others.

On the other hand, it's not surprising at all because they existed for about two weeks in 1990, and as Ultimate Classic Rock notes they played five shows in Japan and Hawaii and then disappeared like tears in the rain. With a lineup of heavy hitters like that, The Best's success seemed assured — but here's the reason Joe Walsh's supergroup only played five shows.

The group's formation was super casual

So how does a rock supergroup form? In 1990, musicians like Joe Walsh and John Entwistle were a bit past their 1970s heyday, but they were still huge stars. You might imagine putting this group together was a nightmare of scheduling, contract negotiations, and careful marketing. And you would be so, so wrong.

As lead singer Rick Livingstone told Rolling Stone, his success in Canada didn't mean much because it's a relatively small market. Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of Steely Dan fame had produced his band's album and invited Livingstone to move to Los Angeles with the idea that they'd form a band. Living on Baxter's couch, Livingstone began accompanying him to the China Club, where every Tuesday night world-famous rock stars would casually drop in and jam as the house band. Livingstone began jamming along with them.

According to Ultimate Classic Rock, one evening some Japanese concert promoters approached Baxter about taking the house band on tour. Baxter literally walked over to the array of rock stars on the stage and asked if anyone wanted to — and just like that, The Best was formed. Livingstone recalls that he wasn't their first choice as lead singer — they approached Terry Reid, the man who turned down Led Zeppelin, first. Livingstone was eventually chosen because they wanted someone low-key and "not famous."

The band's first concert dates were chaotic

According to Rolling Stone, everything started off surprisingly professionally. Lead singer Livingstone recalls that everyone was extremely nice even though he was clearly out of his league in a commercial sense. The band booked some studio time to figure out setlists and learn their parts. The band members insisted on playing only material they'd written — which meant Livingstone had to somehow sing parts originally performed by legends like Roger Daltrey or Don Henley — quite a range of styles to somehow approximate.

Once they got to Japan, things got a little less organized. When they arrived in Osaka for the first scheduled tour, torrential rains had flooded the stadium. As Rolling Stone notes, the band were troupers about it and simply set up in a nearby bar and played their set there to anyone who could squeeze in.

After that, things went a little more smoothly, and the band played several more shows to crowds of 20,000 or more. Rolling Stone notes that the setlist was a bit eclectic because the members all wanted to play the famous songs they'd written as part of other groups, which led to setlists like the one from September 26, 1990, where The Eagles' "Life in the Fast Lane" segued right into The Who's "My Wife," and Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Fanfare for the Common Man" rolled into "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" somehow.

Everyone went back to their main gig

The Best's 1990 tour was short but successful enough. So why didn't they set up an American tour and put out an album? As Ultimate Classic Rock reports, the answer was simple: One by one everyone went back to their day jobs. Emerson, Lake & Palmer announced a reunion tour — so Keith Emerson was out. Drummer Phillips hopped over to play with Toto, the Eagles planned a reunion, and asked Walsh to return.

The Best actually did try to carry on. According to Rolling Stone, John Entwistle and Jeff Baxter recruited singer Mickey Thomas of Starship fame and actually played three or four dates in the U.S. Then The Who decided to get back together, and Entwistle was done with The Best—which meant that The Best was pretty much done.

While Walsh and the rest were established stars, Livingstone never quite made it. He played in a lot of bands and eventually found success working in television, where he's been nominated for eight Emmy Awards. In 2016, part of The Best reunited to perform at the NAMM Show TEC Awards, which you can watch here.