Feature photo by Heather Kaplan
Stone Temple Pilots have officially announced that their search for a singer to replace the late Chester Bennington has come to an end. The unnamed new singer will make his or her premiere with the band live at The Troubadour in West Hollywood on Tuesday, November 14th.
The announcement inspired us to revisit our top five best and worst replacement singers in music history. Now, mind you, we wanted to keep each choice to one name — otherwise we would have just listed every Dead Kennedys frontman that didn’t go by Jello Biafra — so hopefully that clears up some confusion.
And before you reply, “What? No women?” Here’s something that female singer-songwriters can celebrate everywhere: They’re irreplaceable. Really, we couldn’t think of one female singer that fit either side of the line, which, technically, is a major compliment. We think.
Anyways, debate, suggest, or sing.
Brian Johnson (of AC/DC)
Who’d He Replace? Bon Scott
Years Active: 1980-present
Why Do We Love Him? It takes more than mere skill to fill the shoes of a legend. But when Brian Johnson mustered the courage to join AC/DC after the tragic death of Bon Scott, he not only filled the void, but helped propel the band to previously unprecedented heights of success. What’s more, it took him virtually no time at all to lock into the band’s formula. Johnson’s voice, albeit gruffer than Scott’s, came in pretty close to the real thing, and the runaway success of Back In Black more or less cemented his place in the band.
Best Example: Back In Black might as well be the roadmap for how to successfully transition into life with a new singer
Greatest addition beyond vocal duties: More than 30 years later, there’s still nothing cooler than that Kangol hat, right?
You could do worse: Noddy Holder, singer for English glam rockers Slade, auditioned for Johnson’s gig. Let’s just be thankful that didn’t pan out.
Sammy Hagar (of Van Halen)
Who’d He Replace? David Lee Roth (twice)
Years Active: 1985-96, 2003-05
Why Do We Love Him? In the mid-80s, Hagar was basically regarded as the intellectual that would turn Van Halen into a Serious Rock Band after leader singer Roth sputtered out of control. Because of Hagar, time has told that Van Halen has stood the test of time. We also now have the song “Pleasure Dome”.
Best Example: Fast song: “Right Now”; slow song: “Love Walks In” (a song about aliens, which comes up later!)
America: 2008 Republican campaign chose a song from Van Hagar’s album F.U.C.K. to play over Governor Sarah Palin’s introduction at a rally in Ohio. No statement was issued by Hagar. Three years, later Hagar claimed he was abducted by aliens.
Don’t judge a book by its cover if the cover has Sammy Hagar on it: Hagar’s autobiography held the #1 spot as a New York Times bestseller. Hagar also jammed with National Book Award winner Patti Smith when they were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the same year.
-Sarah H. Grant
Al Barr (of Dropkick Murphys)
Who’d He Replace? Mike McColgan
Years Active: 1998-present (with Dropkick Murphys)
Why Do We Love Him: Things were clicking for the Dropkick Murphys when singer Mike McColgan left the band to become a Boston firefighter in 1998. Fortunately, the band found another gruff, blue color Boston punk vet in Al Barr to step into his footsteps. Formerly of The Bruisers, Barr’s hoarse, sandpaper bark stands in sharp contrast to McColgan’s pronounced New England drawl, but the earnest, working class aesthetic has remained firmly in tact in the years since his arrival. Now 15 years later, the band isn’t just keeping at it, they’ve amassed the kind of cultish adoration worldwide they never before could have imagined.
Best Example: The band has had plenty of proud musical moments since Barr came on board, but 2001’s Sing Loud, Sing Proud stands above the rest.
Best raucous declaration of stubborn Boston Pride: “Kiss me, I’m shitfaced.”
You could do worse: Sure beats the hell out of the guy from Flogging Molly.
Phil Anselmo (of Pantera)
Who’d He Replace? Terry Glaze
Years Active: 1986-2003
Why Do We Love Him? Well, you both love and hate Phil Anselmo, but let’s focus on the love. Pre-Anselmo, Pantera was a pitiful glam rock band, less Cowboys from Hell and more Cowboys from Heyyyy. When Anselmo arrived, the band all but disavowed their spiked bracelets and charm earings and went on to write three mainstream metal albums that would wipe hair metal off the map. His performance on Anselmo would go on to occasionally make some racist comments and essentially drive a wedge through the band with his drug and alcohol abuse, but that scream of is tears paint off the walls.
Best Example: Anselmo’s whole performance on “This Love” is one of the best metal performances of all time.
Still got that glam in him: Echoing Dimebag’s harmonics at the end of “Cemetery Gates” showed just how high he could sing — unbelieveably high especially when you compare it to what he was doing a few years later on “Drag The Waters”
For best: What if Dee Snyder wanted to forgo his glam rock fame, and put on a ripped jeans and a confederate flag t-shirt? Would the world still be around today?