Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rock & Roll Sabotage



This is simple, really.

What band would be so much better if it wasn't for their horrible lead singer?


My trusty iPod, on its usual shuffle mode, threw the Yardbirds lowlight, "Still I'm Sad" at me, and I suddenly realized, whenever I get raved up about this band, it's always about the raucous performance of the musicians, not the hypothermic delivery of Keith Relf, who admittedly tries, but really just doesn't belong.

Yes I admit, "Still I'm Sad" is a terrible example. It's just not a very good song to begin with.  But even through all of my favorite moments, I find myself twitching just a bit, wishing it was a young Rod Stewart or just about anyone else...'cept maybe Jack Bruce....singing those songs.

24 comments:

vanwoert said...

Sal, I agree with you on Keith Relf and I think Yes would have been more interesting with someone other than Jon Anderson singing. Also I never liked Mike Love.

Anonymous said...

I know you're a BIG fan ,but as a young man I never could get past Plants vocals in Led Zepplin . Loved the band ,but that screaming.....

James A. Gardner said...

How did Mott believe they could replace Ian Hunter with Nigel Benjamin and survive? Their post-Ian albums might've had a chance of being decent--or, at least, listenable--if not for that gawdawful screeching.

Sal Nunziato said...

YES, James!

cmealha said...

First of all Mr. Anonymous, Robert Plant was THE best singer. His vocals were melodic and inventive. Do you accuse Aretha of 'screaming'? Getting back to the point of the blog, THE worst lead singer ever was Gary Cherone of Extreme and Van Halen. He single-handedly took whatever good music Nuno Bettencourt and Eddie Van halen came up with and sunk it with his random caterwauling. he could of learned something from Robert Plant or even Sammy Hagar for that matter. It's not that he didn't have a voice he just didn;t know what to do with it!
Thank you for letting me get that off my chest.

Eric said...

I was quite impressed by their LIVE performances, especially on guitars by the STROKES, but Julian C.'s pipes are incredibly bad.

Anonymous said...

The Who. Roger Daltrey is bombastic, jarring, false and obnoxious. Some of the early vocals were OK (Magic Bus thru My Gen) but he became increasingly unlistenable. No problem with Plant or Jon Anderson tho.

FD13NYC said...

To Vanwoert, I guess you're not a Beach Boys fan. Mike Love's surf music voice fit the band like a glove. Plus he sang the baritone parts in the harmonies. Same for Plant, Daltrey and Anderson. Their voices were an integral part of what made those bands who they were. Who should have sang lead for these bands? Tony Orlando or Tiny Tim?? Yes, I admit replacement vocalists for great or good bands is a mistake.

All of a sudden after over 40 years people are finding fault with these great vocalists? I don't understand it.

C'mon listeners, open up your ears. The negative opinions to this post is a moot point.

cmealha said...

I was not a big fan of Daltrey either. He was the weak link as far as I'm concerned but it somehow worked for the most part.

Sal Nunziato said...

I love the Beach Boys and I don't care for Mike Love's voice. I don't think the negative comments are "moot points." It's a discussion.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, yeah, maybe Yes. Hard to actually hear those old groups that way though- I've gotten so used to the way they sound.

But for more modern stuff- bands I can't listen to at *all* because of the singer- the Walkmen, Crooked Fingers, and the Decembrists. I have no idea if any of those bands are actually any good, because their singers are all chalkboard-nail-level irritants.

I *totally* understand people who feel this way about Craig Finn, but I still like him a little...

Anonymous said...

Preparing to duck... The Richard Thompson Band. He can stay in the band though :-) Just have never been much of a fan of his singing, although
that quibble is overwhelmed by his other talents of course. Still that's what comes to mind immediately. Agree with the Daltrey and Plant detractors too.

Sarest

Shriner said...

It's hard to answer this. As Townsend said: "It's the singer, not the song".

So -- for me -- it's next to impossible to imagine a really good song that would have been a better song with a different vocalist.

Iif I can't get past the singer, it tunes out the rest of the song, regardless of how good the track is.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Corey Glover of Living Color, hands down! Vernon Reid had roots in the jazz avant garde, and the band could play their ass off(still can), but Glover? Feh. The black Geddy Lee...

- D. Williams

aguycalledTak said...

Mike Love's nasal/whiny voice is a counter point to Brian/Carl's sweet voice.
I don't care much about Mike's voice, but "Fun, Fun, Fun" should be sung by Mike, not Brian or Carl.
Because that's what this song is all about.

Manfred Mann is probably the only band which the new vocalist era has been as successful as the original guy.

M.Lamerex_(SouthWest US) said...

I'm always late to the BW Comments party here, being nearly on the opposite coast.

When playing this plug-in 'replacement' singer game, one should recall that Relf contributed MUCH more than his (limited range) vocal ability, as far as why the Yardbirds were a great band.
He was also the frontman, lyricist & creative catylist. Just like Jagger's role, actually! (also considered a 'limited' singer back then).
Replace them, and the 'memorable band' simply no longer exists. So the singer-as-plug-in-module notion doesn't work with Band Leaders.

Rod Stewart ONLY has ever had his killer pipes & swagger...he was NEVER a committed writing collaborator, or an ambitious, bandleader.
Point being: those unique pop-psyche Yardbirds songs have everything to do with Relf being there...no one else. His voice, take it or leave it, defined the band.

Now, someone who I'VE always felt was strident, & blandly underwhelming vocally (& given waaay too-much run as a legit throwback "rock star") is that Chris Robinson dude. (Whom you have completely accepted, I believe?).
Don't care if he "IS" the Black Crowes, or that Jimmy Page chose to back him (to get a much-needed gig). He's one preening white-boy bore.

ps- I also think that "Fantasy Football" is a pointless black-hole pastime.

hap holidaze, mitch

cmealha said...

Liked Anderson. Mike Love worked, although I didn't like looking at him.
How about Geddy Lee? Although Rush were very talented musicians they were a bit like Cherone in that they didn't know what to do with all that talent, so I'm not sure if I can put all the blame on Geddy. Still, you've got to admit his voice was grating.
Good night.

Eric said...

jarring the memory at this late hour: Stevie Ray Vaughn....i know people idolized him....but his voice...if he coulda sung like clapton, the EC sal once loved, he woulda been bigger than life...

Gene Oberto said...

I'm not sure if this fits the subject, but it seems that no matter how good/bad the singer is, when the band hits that magic moment, everything seems to work.

Jim Morrison and Freddy Mercury , when they left their respective bands, the remaining members, all very talented musicians, could not recapture the mojo. Jerry Garcia, by no means a talented singer, yet have the Dead ever been as good since his passing?

Even when "A" List vocalists join "A" List bands, the results are tepid at best. Paul Rodgers and the remaining members of Queen come to mind.

I guess what I'm saying is that the alchemy between members of successful bands is made of gossamer and whatever the talent, remove one from the other and it dissipates into the realm of what once was is no more.

Sal Nunziato said...

I wasn't looking for "replacements," per se. This all started for me after I heard "Still I'm Sad." It reminded me that for years I knew I was supposed to love The Yardbirds, but never really got beyond how much I didn't like Relf.

As Shriner said, "it's next to impossible to imagine a really good song that would have been a better song with a different vocalist."

Also, Mitch, re: The Black Crowes, yes I've not only accepted the band, they have become one of my favorite live bands, but that doesn't mean I am a fan of Chris Robinson. More times than not, he reaches and misses. But I don't notice his imperfections on record as much as I do others. Relf just doesn't sound like a singer to me.

Jeff in Denton TX said...

While both would likely still suck, Motley Crue and Poison would be better bands with better singers. I know that both Vince Neill and Bret Michaels have "frontman charisma," but I really dislike both of their voices.

Jeff in Denton TX said...

Oh, yeah. I think I would've liked Rage Against the Machine better without Zach De La Rocha. Tom Morello's guitar work is impressive, but the yelping/shrieking gets on my nerves after awhile. Considering that I LIKE Geddy Lee's vocals with Rush, that's sayin' something.

Anonymous said...

Interesting question....lead singers and the bands they sing for are , in my mind, components of one entity that CAN'T be changed...the really good classic bands, that is...a different singer makes it a different band, period..they all stay, dammit....even Relf, who I kinda always liked anyway....

Anonymous said...

An example...really good local band in the '80's...Pep in the Cat......one terrific singer,one not so much but gave it his all...I wouldn't have replaced either one for the world...wouldn't be the same band...faults become personality after a while...leave it alone...by the way, the drummer was damn good, too....