Someone Had To Be The Original Lead Singer I Suppose

I’ve exchanged a few e-mails in the last week with a roommate from college and, unexpectedly, the band Tesla ended up in the conversation.

I suppose it wasn’t too unexpected as he claims to have brought the band’s music into our household and he was the one who mentioned them. I don’t recall hearing him playing their albums, but portions of that time period lack detail.

Tesla wasn’t really on my radar during their brief fling with success with Love Song and their cover of Signs. I knew those songs from the late MTV and a few others from the record store where I worked.

(actually, the roommate and I worked together, so that might be where he played it)

Even if he was playing Tesla, it would have merely made me shrug. Their music didn’t move me, but I didn’t viscerally dislike it, either.

But Tesla and I did cross paths again, several years, working in another record store. It was post-grunge and several employees from our California stores came to work at our store for several weeks. It was like some slacker exchange program.

One of them looked like Penn Jillette. The other claimed to have been the original lead singer for Tesla.

It really wasn’t a Tesla crowd.

And we all knew musicians and we all knew that objects often appeared larger in the rear view.

I knew one character that fronted an incarnation of a successful Canadian band from the early ’70s. It was a good decade after the act’s heyday (and I good decade before I met him). Still a cool gig, but, in the time it took to smoke a cigarette, the tales had him all but helping Zeppelin write Stairway To Heaven, teaching Hendrix how to gut a moose, and co-opting the band in question’s history to a degree that you’d think he had been the singer during their prime.

So, maybe this kid had known one of the members of Tesla in junior high school. Maybe his older brother knew one of the members of Tesla in high school.

Maybe he was actually in a band with a member (or maybe two) who went on to be in Tesla.

Or, he might have truly been the lead singer of the an early line-up of the band.

Lead singer is often a revolving door. And there’s been more than a few fairly, sometimes extremely successful bands that replaced a lead singer. Here are four songs from bands that managed to turn the trick and sometimes even have greater success…

(or, as The Drunken Frenchman would have said, they were exactly the same but completely different)

Genesis – No Reply At All
from Abacab

Abacab was really my introduction to Genesis, though I knew a couple of their prior hits like Follow You, Follow Me and Misunderstanding (the former which I’d have posted, but I can’t seem to find). Peter Gabriel-era Genesis would be something I’d learn about a few years later.

The band would lose me by the time they reached megastardom with Invisible Touch, but I became familiar with Abacab through its success on radio as well as my friend Streuss being a fan. I was immediately drawn to No Reply At All which fused British prog-rock to the Earth, Wind & Fire horn section.

Van Halen- Mine All Mine
from OU812

Music fans can (have and will) argue about the quality of the Sammy Hagar-led incarnation of Van Halen as opposed to the output of the band’s music when fronted by Diamond Dave, but there’s little denying that Van Halen’s second act garnered them a more mainstream audience and sold them a lot of albums.

Though I prefer the band with Dave, there was definitely stuff from the Hagar-period that I dug. The hyperkinetic and twitchy Mine All Mine would make the cut from that time. Lyrically, the song lacks the depth I think they sought, but I’ll give them points for effort.

AC/DC – Thunderstruck
from The Razor’s Edge

AC/DC’s major break through in the States came after the death of original lead singer Bon Scott’s “death by misadventure” and his replacement by Brian Johnson. The inimitable Scott had helped set the table with Highway To Hell, but Back In Black, released the following year, would become one of the most iconic hard rock records of all time.

The Razor’s Edge arrived as I was finishing college and the band had released a string of albums of diminishing returns in the latter half of the ’80s. The record store where I worked had a regular customer – a boy of about ten – who was a rabid fan of the band, sticking with them even through Blow Up Your Video.

His devotion was rewarded with the mighty Thunderstruck.

New Order – Regret
from Republic

I suppose that New Order really doesn’t belong on this list, but, though the name was different, the group included the three surviving members of Joy Division with Bernard Sumner taking over vocal duties following the suicide of Ian Curtis.

Though their output in this new incarnation paled to fans that had deified Curtis, the band had refined their synthesizer-driven sound to coincide with the rise of modern rock radio where New Order found favor with a new audience of listeners.

The insanely catchy Regret found the band still going strong into the early ’90s after a hiatus where the members engaged in various side projects.


4 Responses to Someone Had To Be The Original Lead Singer I Suppose

  1. […] Click here to go to BAIFP to check AC/DC “Thunderstruck”, Van Halen “Mine All Mine”, and Genesis “No Reply At All” […]

  2. Perplexio says:

    Another band that comes to mind is REO Speedwagon. Their original lead vocalist, Terry Luttrell, was fired after one album and replaced by Kevin Cronin. Cronin in turn left the band after only 1 album and was replaced by Michael Murphy for 3 albums before he returned. Incidentally, Luttrell went on to be lead singer in 70s prog-rockers Starcastle for 3 or 4 albums.

    Dream Theater went through a few lead vocalists before finding James LaBrie. Their original lead singer, Chris Collins, was fired before the band even recorded their debut album. Charlie Domenici sang lead on their debut but was fired after that and inevitably replaced by operatically trained Canadian vocalist, James LaBrie who has been their lead singer ever since.

    Chicago found success when replacing the late Terry Kath on vocals with Bill Champlin (Champlin shared lead vocals on Chicago 16 & 17, the latter is Chicago’s best selling album in their entire catalog). However their attempts to replace Peter Cetera with Jason Scheff have not proven to be as successful. Incidentally, much to the band’s detriment they parted ways with Champlin after 28 years this past summer.

    • barelyawakeinfrogpajamas says:

      Yeah, I totally forgot about REO, but I probably would have dismissed them for the purposes of this post as they had little success before Cronin.

      Chicago would have fit, though, as they had a good run after Kath.

  3. AMD says:

    And then there were the Bay City Rollers, who initially were a bunch of rather ragged types, including lead singer Nobby Clark, before getting a more teeny-friendly make-over.

    Santana and Toto also changed lead singers like their gym socks.

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