Musings on rock frontmen

So I was messing around on the Web one day and googled “The Doors,” which of course were one of the biggest rock bands of the ’60s and early ’70s. Come to find out, there were more iterations of The Doors than I thought there were. Apparently keyboardist Ray Manzarek & guitarist Robby Krieger teamed up to form a band known alternately as The Doors of the 21st Century, D21C, and Riders on the Storm.

They now call the band Manzarek-Krieger or Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of The Doors; drummer John Densmore and Jim Morrison’s estate took them to court and got an injunction preventing them from using the name The Doors. John Densmore was invited to join the band, which was initially fronted by none other than Ian Astbury of The Cult. If Wikipedia is to be believed, Densmore wouldn’t join the band unless Astbury was replaced by one Eddie Vedder. Densmore has been quoted as saying, “I’m not gonna join them with Ian. That’s not to diss Ian, he’s a good singer – but he’s no Jim Morrison. Eddie Vedder? My God, there’s a singer.”

I read that and thought, “Really? Johnny-boy and I must have been listening to two different Eddie Vedders. The one I’ve been hearing on the radio for the last 20 years or so, Ian Astbury could sing circles around that guy.” Eddie Vedder is and has always been the biggest reason I have never liked Pearl Jam, even more so than my general feeling that grunge is overrated. From what I can tell he really doesn’t have that much of a range, and he always sounded like he was singing with a mouth full of marbles. The best way I can put it is like this: Listening to Ian Astbury sing is sort of like watching an experienced driver make his way around the course at Sebring in a Ford GT, while listening to Eddie Vedder is like watching that same driver try to negotiate that course in a loaded down Freightliner. Drunk and stoned. I have no doubt that Ian Astbury could nail pretty much any Doors song you handed him.

And while we’re on the subject of classic rock frontmen, I saw this on Cracked the other day, and this bit here on Aerosmith’s “Livin’ On the Edge” pissed me off more than a little bit:

Steven Tyler, who typically exhibits a metal singer’s range and a rapper’s metric alacrity, merely phones in generic B-plus rock vocals more fitting for Bad Company …

Paul Rodgers was a B-plus rock vocalist? Are you kidding? Sure, he was no Rob Halford, Geoff Tate or Bruce Dickinson (or, for that matter, Steven Tyler), but for the kind of music Rodgers did with both Free and Bad Company he sounded damn good. And at least he sounded good singing in the lower range; you can’t really say the same for Steven Tyler in “Livin’ On the Edge.” Frankly, if you ask me he sounds like he’s bored shitless in that song. Paul Rodgers never sounded that way, even in the verses to songs like”Feel Like Makin’ Love” or “Shooting Star.” Of course, that may well be the Bad Company fanboy in me talking, but I just don’t think the lack of vocal pyrotechnics a la “Dream On” justifies relegating a singer to a lower tier. Different styles of singing for different styles of music, and all that.

But maybe that’s just me.



3 Responses to “Musings on rock frontmen”

  1. Sabra Morse Onstott Says:

    So I was messing around on the Web one day and googled “The Doors,” which of course was one of the biggest rock bands of the ’60s and early ’70s.

    FTFY.  In America, group nouns take singular verb form.:)

  2. peter Says:

    Hmm, are you sure about that? I don’t think I’ve ever heard an American say that. I consider The Doors to be singular, one band. However, the Brits would say the Doors are…

    • Sabra Morse Onstott Says:

      America= The Doors is a band.
      Britain=The Doors are a band.

      Group nouns use singular verb form here; plural there. We agree, I think, we’re just saying it differently. The fact that the band name is plural makes it wonky, but it’s still a group noun because it’s a group of people as one entity.

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