Change can be difficult for many of us.
Whether it’s moving to a new neighborhood or city that we’re unfamiliar with, enrolling in a new school and making new friends, change can be daunting and scary. But sometimes it can be rewarding, satisfying and a breath of fresh air.
It’s rare in music for a band to retain its original lineup from beginning to end. Band members come and go for a variety of reasons. Sometimes those changes in personnel can give the band a new lease on life, and other times they’re never the same and the fans no matter how dedicated aren’t willing to accept those changes.
Today on PopLurker I’m going to look at 10 times a band made a change, usually out of necessity that they and the fans hoped would keep that rock and roll train a-rollin’. Would these replacement players get the job done, or make the fans pine for the good old days?
10) Stevo/Dave Quackenbush
Orange County’s own The Vandals have been around as long as I have, almost forty years.
When the Vandals formed in 1980 their first frontman Steven “Stevo” Jensen aided the group in providing a more humorous and sometimes sophomoric approach to the SoCal punk scene. While other bands like Bad Religion, T.S.O.L. and Black Flag were more sociopolitical in their message, The Vandals sang about urinating on the cheese if you wanted to be free on Anarchy Burger, tripping on LSD on the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean ride on Pirates Life and the legend that was Pat Brown on…The Legend of Pat Brown.
By the mid to late 80’s the Vandals became a little more experimental and…weird in some cases, shifting their direction with a country album as well as a Christmas album still rooted in their punk rock sensibilities, with new lead vocalist Dave Quackenbush laying it down with his high pitched screams as he sucks in air during the Sweatin’ to the Oldies version of Join Us for Pong and the bands most metal sounding song ever Small Wonder from arguably their best album Fear of a Punk Planet where Dave professes both his love and his fear of the robot Vicki from the show of the same name.
Stevo sadly passed away in the mid 2000’s but his contributions to the early days of the Vandals can’t be forgotten, however longevity breeds familiarity and I can’t imagine The Vandals without Dave.
9) Jeff Hanneman/Gary Holt
Replacing a founding member of an influential and celebrated band is one thing. It’s an entirely different thing when its due to a tragic death; which we’ll explore again later when we get to number one.
Jeff Hanneman is responsible for many of Slayer’s well-loved and at times infamous songs. From Reign in Blood and Postmortem to Seasons in the Abyss and Dead Skin Mask, Hanneman always had his finger on the pulse of what made Slayer, fuckin’ Slayer!
So, when Jeff sadly passed away in 2013, it’d be fair to think the band could very well pull a Led Zeppelin, call it quits and ride off into the sunset, but instead recruited Exodus guitarist Gary Holt into the fold and have soldiered on since then. Holt is an accomplished lead guitarist and Slayer have hardly missed a beat but there’s no replacing someone of Hanneman’s stature.
8) Peter Criss/Eric Carr
If you haven’t learned by now that KISS is one of my favorite bands of all-time, then you haven’t been paying attention.
My love of the band is rooted deep in their 70’s catalog, but I dig a lot of the 80’s records and Eric Carr was a big part of the Hottest Band in the World’s 80’s sound.
From Creatures of the Night to Lick it Up to Asylum, the Fox filled the arenas with a huge drum sound that the Catman could never match. Eric Carr gave Gene and Paul the shot in the arm they needed to stay relevant without the makeup.
But, while I love Eric and won’t hesitate to say he’s the more “talented” drummer between he and Peter Criss, it was that 70’s straight ahead, hard rock sound that made me enlist in the KISS Army in the first place. From the bands debut record up to Love Gun, and with that Rod Stewart streetwise gravelly wail on songs like Black Diamond and Baby Driver, Peter gets the nod from me every time.
7) Joey Belladonna/John Bush
Of all the bands that make up the Big Four, Anthrax was always the most fun.
They were goofy, into skateboarding, comic books and survived Peg Bundy’s “mystery pack”.
By the mid 90’s Anthrax got more serious for lack of a better word. Darker in tone at times, perhaps to keep up with the popularity of grunge, John Bush of Armored Saint would fill in on vocals after Joey Belladonna exited the band, and while Sound of White Noise is a great and at times underrated record, fans of Anthrax, were glad to see Joey make his way back into the fold and bring the band back to their former prominence.
6) HR/Israel Joseph I
There are only a handful of bands that I can say changed my life forever. KISS was the first, Iron Maiden would make a major impact on me as a pre-teen as well and while it was only five years ago that I was introduced to Washington D.C’s Bad Brains by a long-time friend, once I heard their brand of hardcore fused with metal, funk, and reggae and saw HR perform what could politely be referred to as “dancing” on stage, with his spasmic movements including cutting a backflip in perfect time with the climax of At The Movies I was hooked and needed to learn everything I could about him and the mighty Brains.
By the mid 90’s HR had come and gone from the group more than once, battling mental health issues, namely schizophrenia. The band recruited Israel Joseph I to steer the Soul Craft on its Voyage to Infinity, and while Joseph sounds a lot like HR and breathed some new life into the group, there’s no substitution for the original. Some fans are disappointed that HR is far more mellow and subdued today than he was in the 80’s due to his issues with mental health and his brain surgery a few years ago to relieve issues with debilitating headaches, but if anyone wants to see HR and the band at the height of their powers, that’s what YouTube is for.
5) Paul Di’Anno/Bruce Dickinson
Iron Maiden are in my top 5 for favorite bands not just in metal history but music history.
Arguably the greatest of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) acts, the band started off with more of a punk influence thanks to their original frontman Paul Di’Anno.
While those first two Maiden records are great, and certain songs like Prowler fit Di’Anno’s voice better, when Bruce Dickinson joined the fray with Number of the Beast, it was Aces High from there. Maiden dominated the 80’s with one amazing record after another.
Iron Maiden and Killers are incredible albums, but they don’t even begin to touch Piece of Mind, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son or my personal favorite Powerslave.
4) Ozzy Osbourne/Dio
I was introduced to Black Sabbath in junior high by an acquaintance one day in wood shop.
We all know the history of the band, by the 80’s Ozzy was on a fast path to self destruction, so Tony, Geezer and Bill separated themselves from Ozzy and moved in a different direction. In hindsight, could we say that Ronnie James Dio joined Black Sabbath or did Sabbath join Dio?!
Don’t get me wrong, I love Dio. From his voice and his sound to his sword and sorcery/Dungeons and Dragons sensibilities and both Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules are great records, but they’re closer to Dio in their sound and scope for me than they are Black Sabbath; outside of Tony Iommi’s guitar riffs.
While I love Dio’s contributions to the godfathers of doom metal, that run of Ozzy led records in the 70’s from their self titled debut to Sabotage remains untouched.
3) Ace Frehley/Vinnie Vincent/Bruce Kulick
KISS have always had the good fortune to employ some amazing lead guitarists.
In the 80’s Vinnie Vincent helped the band retain their edge after the release of Creatures of the Night with Lick it Up, but as Gene once said Vinnie could be hanging himself as you’re handing him the keys to the kingdom. Bruce Kulick is another amazing guitar player who laid some heavy riffs down on albums such as Asylum and Revenge, but anyone who’s known me for a minute knows I’m always going to side with the Space Ace.
Ace Frehley was, is and forever will personify KISS and will always be the greatest and coolest lead guitarist in KISStory.
But, Jonathan. What about Tommy Thayer?!
To that I say…
2) David Lee Roth/Sammy Hagar
There should be no question about who the greatest frontman in Van Halen’s history is…. Gary Cherone!
Just kidding. That joke was terrible and so was that era of the band.
There’s a reason during the 80s the band was referred to as Van Hagar. While they undoubtedly gained more commercial success thanks to Sammy, Van Halen lost something when Diamond Dave left the band. Their balls.
Sammy can sing his ass off no doubt, but David Lee Roth had a swagger and a sex appeal that can’t be denied. Dude does everything short of fucking the camera in their video for You Really Got Me and is arguably the greatest frontman of all-time.
Stay frosty, kids.
1) Bon Scott/Brian Johnson
Being asked to choose who’s my favorite AC/DC vocalist is like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. It’s not a fair question, and in fact it’s goddamn ridiculous. I love both Bon and Brian for different reasons, but I love them equally.
Much like David Lee Roth, Bon had a sleazy sex appeal and swagger about him. A sexual pirate pillaging booty any chance he got, Bon could also break your heart or touch your soul on a song like Ride On or Gone Shootin’. Brian was no less confident though and would get down and dirty dropping innuendo on songs like Givin’ the Dog a Bone and What Do You Do for Money Honey.
Brian has the longevity with the band naturally and is the kind of guy we’d all love to share a pint and crack dirty jokes with at the bar, at least I know I would. Bon however gets the very slight edge. He was the Night Prowler; the Problem Child and this Lurker is calling shotgun for a ride down the Highway to Hell.
Jonathan is irreplaceable and you can find him hanging out on Twitter.