The Beatles would have been the Beatles even with Pete Best behind the drum kit. The Yardbirds went from Eric Clapton to Jeff Beck to Jimmy Page without skipping a beat. Nobody can ever name the bassist. But if you change the lead singer, a band is transformed completely and utterly. Follow the career of Scott Weiland and you will see this truism not once, but twice.
Weiland, who will be performing this Saturday with the Wildabouts at Revolution Live, was the lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots until this year, when he was unceremoniously booted from the group. Now led by Chester Bennington, formerly of Linkin Park, any traces of glam Weiland provided have vanished, instead generic metal has entrenched STP. But the people have spoken and they love it. The new STP line-up scored a number one song with their first release "Out of Time."
Perhaps it's karmic; Weiland is forced to see his old band find success with a new singer. A decade earlier, Weiland himself was a smash replacement for one of the biggest singers in rock history. With Axl Rose spending his days crocheting his hair into cornrows, Velvet Revolver formed with Weiland and former Guns N' Roses members Slash, Duff McKagan, and Matt Sorum. Their first album Contraband debuted at number one on the charts, and their second album made the top five.
But he's not the only lead singer of a powerful rock band that's found success as a replacement to another. Here are four other acts that were able to navigate the tricky tango of changing frontmen.
When Bon Scott died from excessive alcohol abuse in 1980 after recording the unfortunately titled Highway To Hell it seemed the end of the road for the Australian rockers. But they dedicated their next album to Scott. With Brian Johnson taking over, decked out in school boy outfits, Back In Black became AC/DC's biggest seller. Thirty years later, many of their fans would be surprised to learn Johnson wasn't always on vocals.
3. Van Halen
David Lee Roth fans derisively call the Sammy Hagar era of this California band Van Hagar. While it's true that all sense of humor evaporated with Roth's dismissal in exchange for serious, self-important ballads suitable for Pepsi ad campaigns, Van Halen sold more albums with Hagar singing the tunes than they did with Diamond Dave. Both sides want to pretend Gary Cherone, the lead singer of Extreme didn't take over the microphone for Van Halen for three years. And no one remembers that arch-nemeses Roth and Hagar joined forces at one point to tour together to stick it to Van Halen.
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Following the Velvet Revolver blueprint of a popular group losing their singer and reforming with a superstar from another outfit, the bandmates of Rage Against the Machine came together to circle around former Soundgarden singer, Chris Cornell. What came out was much shinier than the rap/rock hybrid of the former or the grunge of the latter. Still, Audioslave found success in platinum records, Grammy nominations, and were the first American band to play in Cuba. But the two factors never meshed properly or entirely, and they all went back to their first marriages with separate reunions of Rage Against The Machine and Soundgarden.
A unique property, Santana was based around their guitarist Carlos Santana who in spite of naming the band after himself, rarely sang. The classic rock staples "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va" were sung by organist Gregg Rolie. After Rolie left to form other bands, including Journey, a parade of singers came and went, before 1999's Supernatural. This album struck gold (or rather 30 times platinum) by increasing the speed with which the revolving door moved singers along. One song employed Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty, another had Dave Matthews, and others featured Lauren Hill and Cee Lo Green.
Scott Weiland & the Wildabouts with the Last Internationale. 7 p.m., Saturday, August 24, at Revolution Live, 100 SW 3rd Avenue, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $29.50 in advance plus fees, and $32 day of show. All ages. Call 954-449-1025, and visit jointherevolution.net.