THE FRONTMAN Takes Center Stage








My next post was going to be correlated with a poll, regarding the best keyboardists in the history of Rock. Then came the Led Zeppelin DVD. I spent the better part of last Saturday evening wrapped up in that audio/visual experience. I was impressed, from start to finish, how Robert Plant could control the stage, the way he did. It changed my original idea, and here we are, celebrating the great "leading men" of Rock.

Again, please note that these opinions are MINE, and I am sure will not match yours. That is why I cherish the comments section, where you can agree or disagree with me. I will also post a poll, where you can cast your vote. And don't worry, keyboard enthusiasts, your turn will come.

Before Led Zeppelin, even back to the early days of Rock music, so much of what went on was truly from a band cooperative. In the early days, you had artists like Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, etc., who were really a featured solo artist, although in many cases, they had a backing band. With Buddy Holly and The Crickets, Buddy was always considered the main talent... not discounting the yet to be appreciated talent of Waylon Jennings!

I am not considering charismatic solo artists (David Bowie, James Brown, etc.), but focusing my attention on vocalists that became a focal point in their respective groups.

So, let us go back to ROBERT PLANT, as our first entry. The man would not be considered (from a classical standpoint), one of the best vocalists in the history music, but when you are talking Rock and Roll, there was something about his performances that made him stand out from among his peers. His controlling presence, his bluesy voice and his ability to play off of Jimmy Page, made him one of the greatest talents in the history of Rock.

One name that is every bit as famous as the band that he fronted, was... err... is JIM MORRISON. I remember getting a subscription to ROLLING STONE magazine, when I was in 9th grade. One of my first issues featured Jim Morrison on the cover. The caption read, 'Jim Morrison: He's Hot. He's Sexy. And He's Dead'. I asked myself, who the heck is Jim Morrison?? Now I know. And did any lead singer ever have the power to take a crowd under his spell, like Jim Morrison? Oh, did I mention that his band was The Doors? Like I had to do that?? Yeah, that's what I said...


Next up, MICK JAGGER! This is a late addition, as I nearly forgot Mick. Don't ask me how I could have forgotten the man that is quite possible THE most energetic and charismatic lead singer of our time. Wow... I nearly forgot Mick. Sheesh.

Let's move on to FREDDY MERCURY. One cannot watch a performance of Queen, and not only be blown away by the man's voice, but also by his astonishing stage presence. There is a reason why Queen (all but) closed up shop, after the untimely death of Freddy Mercury. They have continued on, performing periodically with guest vocalists (the Freddy Mercury tribute concert from the early 90's is a prime example), along the likes of George Michael. Of course, this past few years has some some extensive collaborations, including a live CD and DVD, with PAUL RODGERS...

... so let's mention PAUL RODGERS, shall we? Here is a man who many do not know by name, but many know by song. With his years in front of BAD CO., Paul was moving with such songs as "Seagull", "Feel Like Makin' Love", "Can't Get Enough", "Shooting Star", among others. Bad Company was NOT Paul's only foray into Rock music, he also performed with FREE, THE FIRM, as well as an extensive solo career. If you happen to see recent performances of Paul Rodgers, whether he be crooning in front of Queen or Bad Company, you can't help but notice this man's incredible voice, and stage presence.

Okay, this one will be a tad bit painful for me, but it needs to be addressed. Diamond Dave... Mr. DAVID LEE ROTH... the vocalist that almost completely succeeded in making himself look a touch...dare I say, pathetic? For the latter part of the 1970's, and well into the early 80's, David Lee Roth was a household name. If you were a teen aged girl, during that time, chances are you had some off colored fantasies revolving around the suggestive gyrations of Diamond Dave. David Lee Roth was every bit the superstar as Eddie Van Halen...until he dedicated his life to derailing his career, with solo albums... "California Girls", etc.

While we are on the Van Halen train, let's talk about SAMMY HAGAR. Another man with great presences, and a powerful Rock and Roll voice. From his early days with MONTROSE, to his successful solo career, and then the eventual teaming up with Van Halen for their VERY successful 5150 and OU812 albums. Yes, his career went further with the VH crew, but it was between 1985 and 1998 that Sammy really showed us how to rock.

Another person that nearly missed the list is STEVE PERRY. The man that took Journey from the relatively unknown Jazz/Fusion/Progressive Rock quartet of the early 70's, to nearly every radio across the better part of the planet. His voice is still heard, every day, in every major radio market across America. What was his downfall? Was it his solo career? No, that was fairly successful. Was it his health problems? Maybe. Or was it his inability to lose the IDIOTIC TUXEDO COAT, WITH TAILS?? Yeah, that may have been the final nail in the coffin. Where Mr. Perry stands with Journey, nowadays, I don't know... but one thing is for sure, they have since replaced him with a little clone. See my earlier mentions of Journey, in some June/July blog posts.

Alright, this one may just be MY guilty pleasure, but I need to mention ROB HALFORD of the legendary JUDAS PRIEST. From his completely colorful concert antics, including rising up out of the stage, straddled across a Harley Davidson motorcycle, revving it's engine in an attempt to deafen the crowd, this man controlled a crowd. He not only had to outshine one great guitarist (think David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar), but he had to deal with TWO stellar guitarists. Ah, the days of rocking out to The Priest, trying to sing as powerfully and HIGH as Mr. Halford. It can't be done. If you don't believe me, go back and listen to "The Green Manalishi" off of the live album, "Unleashed in the East". PROVE ME WRONG!

Next, I am going to mention a guy that I would have NEVER considered, if I hadn't seen him in concert. GARY CHERONE, the lead vocalist for Extreme, charmed us all in 1990, with the tender 'power ballad', "More Than Words", but it was his on stage energy that completely blew me away. I had the opportunity of seeing ZZ-TOP in 1991, with Extreme opening the show. I was not particularly into the music of Extreme, although the hit single could be considered a guilty pleasure. But man, that guy could ROCK!

Okay... this is getting to be a little long, so I am going to close with three other vocalists that I think should make the list. Well, I may mention a few others, but these three will be featured.

JOHN LYDON (a.k.a. JOHNNY ROTTEN) took the world by storm, in 1977, while fronting the legendary SEX PISTOLS, but that wasn't the end to the story. By the late 70's, Johnny had resurfaced with P.I.L. (Public Image Ltd.). Their career lasted the better part of the 80's, during which I had the pleasure of seeing the band twice. He controls the crowd. From screaming, "All right, all you boring mother f***ers, sitting up in the stands!", to his trademark spitting on the crowd, there was never a dull moment. I once had the pleasure of seeing a triple-bill that was a dream come true for those of us who grew up during the 80's. NEW ORDER was the headliner, with supporting acts P.I.L. and The Sugarcubes (Bjork, pre- Bjork days). New Order shot themselves in the foot, as they are NOT a stage band. Pretty bland. And having the antics of John Lydon and Bjork (with the assistance of fellow Sugarcuber, Einer Orn) opening the show, it was only downhill. I should mention Einer Orn. He was a front man like no other.

Next, I am going to mention the late MICHAEL HUTCHENCE, lead vocalist of 80's Pop sensations, INXS. This man was a staple on MTV throughout the 80's, and throughout much of the 90's. Although his career was on the receding end, close to his death, Michael had charisma like very few singers, and the looks to boot. Girls loved him, guys wanted to be him... unless guys were batting for the other team (not that there is anything wrong with that), and then they wanted a little bit of BOTH.

Next, I need to wrap this up by mentioning one of the most charismatic lead singers to take the stage in the past thirty plus years. You may know him as PAUL HEWSON, but chances are you know him as BONO, leader of the aural battle station knows as U2. People fell in love with his voice, but most of all, his ability to not only work a crowd... control a crowd... but BECOME PART OF THE CROWD. In a U2 biography that I read, Bono spoke of how one of the hardest things for him to deal with, was his inability to go down into the crowd, as the band increased in popularity. Not to let fame get the best of him, to this day he will still bring people out of the crowd (guys and girls, alike) to dance with him, sing with him, or just simply lie with him on stage. I can't say enough about the power and versatility of Bono. Not to mention, he is partly responsible for ONE.ORG. So, not only a singer among singers, but a humanitarian. Gee whiz, that's swell.

Anyhow, that is my ten cents worth. Or ten bucks worth... I've been going on for quite a while. Tell me who YOU like. Either vote for one of the aforementioned artists on the POLL, or simply vote for "other", and share your comments here. Gracias!

Oh, and I apologize if I abused the word "charismatic". It couldn't be helped...

Now playing: David Bowie - Andy Warhol
via FoxyTunes

Comments

Kate said…
Okay: here is the deal.

First off, you speak of "frontman", thus eliminating the likes of Susannah Hoffs, Belinda Carlisle, Cherie Currie and Debbie Harry. In fact, there are no women on your list. I know that as you read this, you are physically kicking yourself, so I will let this go. :: big grin ::

With that intro, I can say that the most charismatic "frontman" of all time is Freddie Mercury, as I indicated on your poll. The most charismatic "frontwoman" is Stevie Nicks, assuming you've never seen her on VH1 and found out how lame she is. If you DO know how lame she is, then you'd probably go with one of the Wilson sisters for most charismatic. LOL!

Thank you for the opportunity to explore this topic!

xoxo