Lead guitarists like to think they are the star of the show, but to many fans it is the singer who defines any band’s sound.
And some bands have won long-term by changing their frontmen. Sometimes it is singers leaving, sometimes it’s singers being sacked, other times it untimely death. Whatever the reason, here are 10 veteran bands who changed their singer and got even more successful.
Some might remember “original” Purple singer Ian Gillan being replaced by David Coverdale… but the impressively shrieking Gillan was not the first frontman himself. Rod Evans was singer on the first three Deep Purple albums, and the singer on their big breakthrough, “Hush.” Though successful with Evans, it was only when Deep Purple recruited Gillan that the band’s career went ballistic. Deep Purple love changing members: at last reckoning they were up to the “Version VIII” lineup. At least Evans avoided the constant intra-band squabbles – after his singing career, Evans became director of respiratory therapy at a U.S. hospital.
Van Halen were huge stars with David Lee Roth as the high-kicking, chest-baring frontman. And, reunited with him in 2012, their A Different Kind of Truth album recently debuted at #2 on the Billboard chart. But when Roth originally left Van Halen in 1985, who’da thought Sammy Hagar would step in and Van Halen could not only keep going but get even bigger? The Roth-led album 1984 hit #2 on the charts. Hagar’s debut with Van Halen, 5150, hit #1. Van Halen with Roth? Or “Van Hagar?” You decide which is best. Any votes for Gary Cherone for Van Halen III?
The Australian rockers boast increasing returns when it comes to singers. Bon Scott wasn’t even the first – it was Dave Evans (not the U2 one!). Evans recorded only two singles with AC/DC, “Can I Sit Next to You, Girl” and “Rockin in the Parlour.” He was fired for apparently being too “glam rock.” Scott was recruited and AC/DC became stars. But when Scott died in 1980, most assumed AC/DC were over. Not so! Brian Johnson, of U.K. band Geordie, joined and against all odds, AC/DC became absolutely massive. Johnson’s first album with AC/DC, 1981’s Back In Black, was nearly never recorded – Angus and Malcolm Young were unsure of trying to continue. But Back in Black is now recognized as the third biggest-selling album of all time. Win!
Here’s 1974 AC/DC with their original singer Dave Evans.
Faith No More
Mike Patton was the singer with Faith No More, right? Not always. Before Patton, there was Chuck Mosley for their first two albums. And, very strangely, Courtney Love also briefly fronted Faith No More in their early days – how would that have worked out? But it was with Patton up front that Faith No More broke through, The Real Thing album (1989) being nominated for a Grammy and spawning their major breakthrough hit, “Epic.”
Before “Metal God” Rob Halford, Judas Priest had another frontman. Alan “Al” Atkins was Priest’s original singer and claims to have given the band their name. But with a wife and young daughter to support and no record deal in sight in Priest’s early years, Atkins felt he had to “get a haircut and a 9-to-5 job” (his words) in 1973. Atkins still sings, but it was his replacement Halford who defined Judas Priest’s leather/metal image.
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