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Meet the New Boss: Ten Bands That Tried to Make It With a New Singer

Judge how well the new guys fit in Journey, Yes, Iron Maiden and other groups that lost their frontmen

journey arnel pineda steve perry

Bobby Bank/WireImage and Ebet Roberts/Redferns

The biggest mistake you can make in a rock band (or in any job, really) is to assume that you're irreplaceable. Lead singers are especially prone to making this mistake. After all, they're the voices behind the songs – they can't possibly be replaced, right? As Steve Perry, Vince Neil, Dennis DeYoung and many others have learned, they can in a heartbeat – and often by somebody younger with a similar voice who's happy to tour year round and never utter a word of protest.

That said, it's not very solid ground to stand on. The fans often long for the original singer, and the threat of a reunion is always hanging over their heads.

Here's a side-by-side video gallery of bands performing one of their signature songs with the original singer and their replacement. In some cases, the replacement has since gotten the boot, and in others they are still fronting the band. 

By Andy Greene

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Steve Perry didn't make life easy for the guys in Journey. At the height of their fame in the early 1980s, he insisted on taking a long break. He released solo songs, and when he came back in 1986 he fired two key members of the band. Then he quit completely, only to reform the band in 1995 – and then cancel a tour after hip problems. The guys got sick of waiting, so they hired Steven Augeri, but when he had some vocal issues in 2006 they brought in Jeff Scott Soto. That lasted about a year. (Got all that?) All seemed lost, until they discovered Arnel Pineda on YouTube. He doesn't look much like Steve Perry, but the guy can sing his ass off. Check them out doing (what else?) "Don't Stop Believing."

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Genesis has actually had three singers, but the first two worked out a little better than the last one. The baton pass from Peter Gabriel to Phil Collins in 1976 was on the smoothest in rock history, and the band was actually significantly more popular after Gabriel left. They were a theater act when Gabriel bolted, and by the time that Phil Collins had enough they were packing stadiums across the globe – and scoring massive hit singles. Former Stiltskin frontman Ray Wilson took over as lead vocalist in 1997, but their album Calling All Stations completely tanked and the American tour was canceled. Here's Phil Collins singing "Land of Confusion" with Genesis in 1986, and Ray Wilson doing the same tune with them in 1998. 

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A surprising number of original lead singers got booted from their bands when temporary injuries kept them off the road, and their group got tired of waiting. Yes was a touring juggernaut all through the 1980s and 1990s, but after the 2004 summer tour, Jon Anderson needed some downtime. The group waited a few years, but then grew restless when Anderson got ill and they had to cancel their planned 2008 tour. Enter Benoit David, the frontman of a Canadian Yes cover band. He has a shockingly similar voice to Jon, and he was willing to embark on a neverending tour. This didn't make Anderson too happy, and he hit the road with former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, whose son was briefly playing with the new Yes. Then Wakeman's son got fired so they could bring in Geoff Downes from Asia. It's all very confusing. Anyway, here's video of Yes singing "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" in 1983 with Jon Anderson, and the group doing it in 2009 with Benoit David. 

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Quick, name the lead singer of Foreigner. If you said the name "Lou Gramm," you're probably in a small minority of rock fans. The dude just isn't very famous, even though he sings "Cold As Ice," "Double Vision," "Hot Blooded," "Feels Like The First Time," "Juke Box Hero" and many, many other huge rock hits. Relations between Gramm and Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones broke down after a 2002 tour, and in 2005 the band hit the road with former Hurricane frontman Kelly Hansen. They tour almost every summer, and many people in the audience probably don't even realize the original guy isn't singing. Here's Foreigner singing "I Want To Know What Love Is" in 1985 with Gramm, and again with Hansen in 2009. 

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Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver

This is a bit of a special case because Guns N' Roses still exist and Velvet Revolver is technically a separate band, but Velvet Revolver is actually just Guns N' Roses with a new singer and they do many GNR songs in their set. At least they did before Scott Weiland quit and the band fell apart. Maybe when they hire a new singer we can compare Scott and the new guy singing "Fall To Pieces," but here's Guns N' Roses doing "It's So Easy" in 1988 and Velvet Revolver doing the song a few years back. To make it more authentic, original Guns N' Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin joined Velvet Revolver at this gig. 

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Creedence Clearwater Revival

There was a lot of bad blood among the members of Creedence Clearwater Revival when they broke up in 1972. Things got worse in the 1980s when John Fogerty felt that the group were against him in his battle over control of their catalog, and it reached a boiling point in 1993 when Fogerty refused to perform with surviving members Stu Cook and Doug Clifford at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Two years later they hit the road without Fogerty, calling themselves Creedence Clearwater Revisited. Fogerty sued them, but the courts reasonably figured that 2/3 of the surviving band were entitled to 2/3 of the name. Their current lead singer is John Tristao. Check out the original band doing "Fortunate Son" in 1969, and Creedence Clearwater Revisited doing it a few years back. 

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Styx went through many years of creative strife before finally giving frontman Dennis DeYoung the boot in 1999. They had recently wrapped up a successful reunion tour, but DeYoung was having medical issues concerning light sensitivity and he needed time off. The group carried on without him, putting Lawrence Gowan at the helm. We recently spoke with Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw about the matter, and Dennis DeYoung. Needless to say, they had very different takes on the situation. Here's Styx performing "Come Sail Away" during their 1970s heyday, and with Gowan in 2005. 

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Judas Priest

In the 2001 movie Rock Star, Mark Wahlberg becomes the new frontman for Steel Dragon after singing their songs in a local cover band. The group continues playing arenas and the fans seem to have little problem accepting a new singer. The situation was inspired by Judas Priest, but when Tim "Ripper" Owens took over for Rob Halford in 1996, the group's popularity took a severe downturn and they were back playing clubs. Fans never totally accepted Ripper, and they were overjoyed in 2004 when Halford came back. Here's them performing "Living After Midnight" with Halford in 1982, and 20 years later with Ripper. 

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Mötley Crüe

Mötley Crüe really shit the bed in the early 1990s. All through the 1980s they got more and more popular, culminating in 1989's massively popular Dr. Feelgood. They were even off drugs at this point and they could have put out one more massive album before grunge wiped them off the map, but instead they totally imploded and Vince Neil left the band. The band claims he quit, and Neil says he was fired. Whatever happened, they replaced him with John Corabi and released a self-titled disc in 1994 that quickly went into the cut-out bin at Coconuts, even though they still toured behind the album. In 1997 Vince Neil came back and Corabi was sent packing. Here's Motley Crue doing "Home Sweet Home" on their 2005 reunion tour, and the Corabi line-up doing the song in 1994. 

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Iron Maiden

Bruce Dickinson isn't the original lead singer of Iron Maiden, but to legions of metal-heads around the world he is God – and the only man they ever want to see fronting the band. In 1993 he left Iron Maiden for a solo career, and the band replaced him with Blaze Bayley. They actually put out some good stuff with Blaze, but everyone was thrilled when Dickinson came back to the band in 1999. Here is the group doing "Fear Of The Dark" with Blaze in 1996, and again with Dickinson on their 2008 Somewhere Back In Time tour.