August 19, 2008

Irreplaceable "Frontmen"

Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation at the ...Image via Wikipedia In your opinion:

Which Rock Frontmen are irreplaceable?  

I'll explain what I mean.  An irreplaceable frontman is a lead vocalist that, upon leaving the band, causes the band to lose its popularity without him.

For example, David Lee Roth is replaceable because Van Halen did fine without him.

What would have happened if Robert Plant, Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey Jim Morrison, or Bono left their perspective bands for a solo career?  

Which bands have lost their lead vocalist and become less successful?

Black Sabbath?
Bad Co.?

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curious servant said...

The Police?

The Beatles?

But... here is an interesting one:

Genesis. When Peter Gabriel left Genesis, it changed the band... for the good. What a huge difference it made bringing Phil to the front. What a huge shift for the better, his drumming background changed the shape of their music completely... and, and this is the interesting part, Peter Gabriel blossomed as a solo artist. He did so much better on his own.

In this case, the changing of the front man vastly improved both, the front man and the band.

By the way... I bought Genesis' first album (vinyl of course) when no one knew who they were (not even me... it was an impulse buy... Licorice Pizza, Newport Blvd, Costa Mesa).

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

I USED HANG OUT THERE ALL THE TIME! Curious, I forgot you used to live around here! I LOVED that store!!!!

Plus, I totally agree about Genesis and Peter Gabriel, great example!!

curious servant said...

Small world. I used to live just a few blocks from that store.

I think I still have that album!

As to the subject at hand... Bono definitely. I'm not sure about the music, but the voice, and definitely the lyrics of those songs spring from his experiences, his walk.

The Stones of course.

Oh, and the Grateful Dead... though Gerry wasn't really the only front man, but without him they simply weren't the band.

Grace Slick?

Russ/rfduck said...

I think The Who might have done OK without Roger Daltrey. Pete is a fine singer and sings on a good number of The Who's songs.

I think Freddie Mercury is irreplaceable. Whatever the other guys in Queen may do, it won't ever be the same.

mantiz said...

Dave mustaine!!

Yeah I know Megadeth wouldn't be Megadeth without him!

ah btw, he acts like that too ;D

Bond said...

Since Curious mentioned the Dead... The Allman Brothers...without Greg, would it be the same band? I think not.

I interviewed Collins, Rutherford and Banks during their first tour of the US. Gabriel stayed behind in the hotel - poser! We even went bowling after the interview...LOL

Malcolm said...

Excellent question Barbara!

I think that almost any rock frontman is replaceable. It all depends on three things:

1. At what juncture in the band's career the lead singer departs.

Because Peter Gabriel left Genesis before they achieved mainstream success, it made it easier for Phil Collins to replace him.

2. Whether or not the frontman is the "face" of the band.

Even though many hardcore rock fans can name the other members of INXS, Michael Hutchence was the one that even casual fans knew by name and face.

3. Who the band brings in as a replacement.

When David Lee Roth left Van Halen, it was a great move for the band to bring in a lead vocalist with a proven track record in rock circles. If the J. Geils Band had looked to bring in a solid frontman to replace Peter Wolf (instead of handing over lead vocal duties to keyboardist Seth Justman), they might have had some staying power.

The RIpple Effect said...

I agree with Malcolm's statements. I think most true front men are irreplacable. I guess a strong argument could be made that AC/DC did fine after Bon Scott died. They made a great choice of lead singer.

I think a strong argument could be made that Van Halen didn't do very well after losing Roth. Sure album sales stayed high, but overall the quality and dynamics of the music fell hugely with Hagar. Van Hagar was never Van Halen.

The role of front man is integral to the sound of the band. Certainly the Door mystique was wrapped up in Jim Morrison. U2 couldn't survive without Bono. Even a MOR band like Foreigner couldn't survive without Lou and Blind Melon couldn't survive with out Shannon Hoon.

The Ripple Effect

Yashar said...

Freddie Mercury from Queen
James Hetfield from Metallica
David Gilmore from Pink Floyd
Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits
Blacki Lawless from W.A.S.P.

Starrlight said...

Well..Edge actually sounds remarkably like Bono :0

That said I don't think any of U2 could leave and have it be the same band.

Freddie Mercury. Sorry Paul Rodgers, love you in Free and Bad Company but NOT ON QUEEN. Just. No.

Sammy sucked on VH in my opinion. And that greaseball who came after him. Bleh. Diamond Dave or no VH for me.

We will not speak of the Elvis impersonating famewhore who is now fronting -and I use that word lightly - INXS. JD Asshat, you are not now nor will you EVER be Hutch. That is all.

Metallic-ah without the-ah Het-ah would-ah suck-ah. Seriously.

The Police - Who would ever be so stupid as to try to replace Sting?

The Rolling Stones - or more aptly named The Two Old Dudes Who Really Make Up The Stones. No Keith No Mick No Way.

Billie Joe Armstrong - Green Day without the Brat Prince would be a Blue Day.

d.edlen said...

Korn, Disturbed, Blind Melon, Black Crowes, Kings of Leon, Verve, Oasis, Rage Against The Machine, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, The Clash, Smashing Pumpkins

I know I'm missing a ton, but I guess I'm thinking of bands where the frontman's voice has a huge role in defining their sound and presence, but who aren't the "whole band" or who the band's named after.

Jim Morrison's an interesting one, because I heard that he was sick for one show and Ray sung for him. He definitely defines the band's creative force though.

d.edlen said...

Woah, woah, woah. I just reread curious servant's first post. Genesis was better off without Gabriel? Heeeyeesh. Hell no.

Yes they became more commercially successful, but they lost their musical soul. Banks and Rutherford split with Collins as his ego got in the way. True it was largely Gabriel's ego that led him to better things after Genesis, but with him went their main progressive creative force. "Selling England By The Pound" and "Foxtrot" are a couple of the best prog albums ever, still fresh today, while later Genesis and then Collins solo stuff became "pop".

In my opinion, Genesis shouldn't have been called Genesis after Gabriel left. It was a different band, and I don't think better.


David Amulet said...

I'll strongly disagree with Curious Servant and others about Genesis. The band lost it's heart and its soul when Gabriel and Hackett left. More successful in terms of sales and popularity? OF COURSE. But it became notably less spiritual music, less inspiring and simply good instead of special.

In that, I agree with D. Edlen. But I see the two albums after Gabriel's departure as romantic successes ... so Hackett's departure hurt even more, in my opinion, than Gabriel's exit.

And I'm also with Ripple Effect. You must argue, based on sales, that Hagar VH was more "successful," but I find it hard to say DLR was replaceable or that the band was "better."

David Amulet said...

I apologize for the typo. How embarrassing!

musicobsessive said...

I'm afraid I'm in agreement with the Gabriel/Genesis crowd. Only albums up to 'Lamb' count as true Genesis albums and the final nail in the coffin was the departure of Steve Hackett - I might have allowed them Collins on vocals whilst Steve was on board, but not after.

Another subject but strangely related. Joy Division. This is a difficult one to guage as losing your singer to suicide is loaded with emotional baggage. However, as with Genesis, they reinvented themselves as New Order and became a substantially different band. This is the only correct option - to change your name and musical style and it is an option that Genesis refused to consider.

Starrlight said...

I 100% concur with musicobsessive on Joy Division. New Order was NOT Joy Division and didn't try to replace Ian. They evolved under a different name with a new sound. That is the way to do it.

Anonymous said...

How about the "Dooby Brothers". I thought were much better when Michael McDonald joined them and when he left the band for his own career the band was never as successful. Just one man's opinion.

The RIpple Effect said...

Very interesting arguments, by all.

I think the Doobies argument follows the Genesis argument (to a lesser degree because even at their best, the Doobies were no Geneisis, and I love the Doobies.)

They became more successful with Micheal McDonald taking over the helm, but it's hard to say the music got better. More pop for sure, more slick, but I'd take Black Water or Jesus is Just Alright any day over What a Fool Believes.

Also, it's hard to call the Doobies a band that had a truly integral front man before McDonald. They had several singers like Pat and Tom and split songwriting duties. In fact, a knock against early Doobies could be that they didn't have an identity, but gained one with McDonald.

I agree with the Joy Division/New Order thread. New band, new sound.

I think the most interesting band to change a real front man was AC/DC. I know some who still think that AC/DC without Bon Scott is garbage, but I think we can agree that Back in Black was a great album. Who's right? Did they successful replace their frontman?

Starrlight said...

AC/DC is odd in that Brian Jones and Bon Scott sound eerily similar. Angus said they felt Brian had been possessed by the spirit of Bon. Hard core listeners can tell the difference but I would be that the average radio listener would be hard put to tell the difference in singers between say Back in Black and Dirty Deeds.

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