What happens when a famous band replaces the person who was the group’s voice?
Original Lead Singer: Peter Gabriel
What Happened? Creative differences within the band and personal issues in Gabriel’s life (notably family troubles) came to the fore during the creation of the band’s 1974 prog-rock magnum opus, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, prompting Gabriel to quit.
Replacement: Phil Collins, who was already in the band as the drummer. His ascension came after the band auditioned a number of famous singers, including Jeff Lynne (ELO), Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy), and teen heartthrob David Cassidy (yes, really).
Did It Work Out? Did it ever. The band’s 1976 album, A Trick of the Tail, outsold all the other Genesis albums combined and got the band started on its move away from its progressive-rock roots and toward radio-friendly arena rock, where they’d find great success in the 1980s.
Bonus Round: Phil Collins left Genesis in 1996 to focus on solo work, and Genesis’s two remaining members, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, recruited Ray Wilson (formerly of the little-known band Stiltskin) and released 1997’s Calling All Stations. It flopped, and Wilson was fired from the band. Collins reunited with Genesis for a world tour in 2007.
Original Lead Singer: Steve Perry. (He wasn’t actually the group’s original lead singer; others before him included keyboardist Gregg Rolie, guitarist Neal Schon, and singer Robert Fleischman. But Perry was the singer during the band’s most popular era, from 1977 through 1987.)
What Happened? After a decade-long hiatus following the band’s 1986 Raised on Radio album, Journey reunited for 1996’s Trial by Fire. But their tour plans were delayed when a hiking accident required Perry to undergo hip replacement surgery, which he was reluctant to do. Annoyed by their lead singer’s indecision—he couldn’t continue touring without the surgery—the band decided to go on without him.
Replacement Lead Singer: Steve Augeri, former lead singer of the band Tall Stories, which had not had notable success. Augeri was working as a manager of a Gap store in New York City when he was tapped as Perry’s replacement.
Did It Work Out? Sort of. Augeri’s vocal delivery was reminiscent of Perry’s, and the band had a minor hit, “All the Way,” in 2000. But the album, Arrival, didn’t chart well (it topped out at #56, far below the #3 debut of Trial by Fire), and fans were ambivalent about the substitution of Augeri for the popular Perry. Nevertheless, Journey remained a big concert draw, especially when touring with other 1980s bands such as Def Leppard.
Bonus Round: In July 2006, Steve Augeri developed voice problems and was temporarily replaced on tour by Jeff Scott Soto. Soto was officially named the band’s lead singer in December 2006…and then was tossed out in June 2007. A few months later, the band hired 40-year-old Arnel Pineda, a singer from the Philippines, after guitarist Neal Schon saw videos of him singing Journey songs…on YouTube.
Original Lead Singers: Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr
What Happened? The band rode high in the early 1980s with a series of hit singles and albums, but after 1987’s critically and commercially disappointing Door to Door, the Cars ran out of gas and disbanded. In 2000 Orr—the bassist and singer on “Drive,” the band’s most successful single—died of pancreatic cancer. Ocasek, the better-known former front man, continued with a solo career and as producer for other bands and musicians, including Weezer, No Doubt, and the Killers.
Replacement Lead Singer: Todd Rundgren, who had a notable career in the 1970s as a solo artist (“Hello It’s Me”) and as a record producer (Hall and Oates, XTC, Meat Loaf, Cheap Trick, and others).
Did It Work Out? Not especially well. The group Rundgren joined in 2005 called itself the New Cars and had only two original members: guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes. (It also included former members of Utopia and the Tubes.) The group released a single (“Not Tonight”) that went nowhere. There was no bad blood between Ocasek and the New Cars—Ocasek gave his blessing to the endeavor, although he perpetrated a fake feud between himself and Rundgren on the comedy show The Colbert Report in 2006. (The “feud” was conveniently timed with the New Cars’ “Roadrage” tour.)
Alice in Chains
Original Lead Singer: Layne Staley
What Happened? He died. As the band rose to fame with hits like “Man in a Box” and the No Excuses album, Staley was struggling with a heroin addiction that took an increasing toll on him—as well as on the band. During performances, guitarist Jerry Cantrell, whose voice sounded a lot like Staley’s, was often called on to pick up the verses when Staley wandered offstage. Staley sang with the band for the last time when they opened for KISS on July 3, 1996, and he worked in music only fitfully after that. On April 19, 2002, family members found his remains in his Seattle condo; he had died an estimated two weeks earlier. The cause of death was an overdose from a “speedball”—a mixture of heroin and cocaine. Staley was 34.
Replacement Lead Singer: William DuVall, also the lead singer and guitarist for the Atlanta-based group Comes the Fall.
Did It Work Out? So far, so good. Alice in Chains went on a promotional tour for a greatest hits album in 2006, playing club dates with DuVall as the front man. The fan reaction was positive, and DuVall joined the band again on tour in 2007, this time as Alice in Chains opened up for Velvet Revolver (a supergroup of musicians from Guns N’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots). DuVall has since been given the title of the band’s lead singer, and Alice in Chains’ Web site reports that the group is working on a new album.
Originally published in Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges into Music”. Translated from original text in English. Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader books are currently printed in English only.