Top 5... - August 23, 2018

Alice in Chains (and five other bands who found success with a new singer)
by James
James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

Alice in Chains (and five other bands who found success with a new singer)

Like many other bands who emerged from Seattle in the early 1990s, Alice in Chains first rose to fame on the wave of the grunge scene that began emerging in the city at the tail end of the previous decade. Thanks in large part to the commercial success of Nirvana's second album Nevermind, record labels quickly began snapping up bands from the Washington seaport city and it soon seemed as if Seattle was the epicentre of the music industry, with dozens of the city's bands dominating both the airwaves and the Billboard charts. Alongside Nirvana, the Seattle scene's other leading lights included the likes of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Stone Temple Pilots, and Alice in Chains themselves.

However, despite being heavily associated with the city's all-conquering grunge scene, Alice in Chains always considered themselves to be more of a metal band, but the band nevertheless became the first of the bands with the 'Seattle sound' to reach the top 50 on the Billboard chart with their 1990 debut album Faceless. The songwriting partnership of guitarist Jerry Cantrell and frontman Layne Staley continued to yield success over the course of the band's first three albums, but after the release of their third LP – 1995's self-titled Alice in Chains (sometimes known as 'the dog album' thanks to its iconic cover) – things began to unravel. A long period of inactivity followed, with Staley's drug addiction becoming increasingly problematic and the singer becoming more and more reclusive. Then, in 2002, tragedy struck when Staley was found dead in his home at the age of 34.

For several years after Staley's death the band remained inactive, refusing to perform together our of respect fro their erstwhile frontman, but in 2005 the remaining members took to the stage for the first time since the singer's passing for a benefit concert aiming to raise money for the victims of the tsunami which struck South Asia the previous year. Performing alongside them were a group of other musicians that included Tool's Maynard James Keenan and Heart's Ann Wilson. The show proved to be the initial catalyst for the band's reformation, and while it took several years of wrestling with idea of working together again under the Alice in Chains name, eventually the surviving members recruited vocalist and rhythm guitarist William DuVall and began working on a fourth studio album, 2009's Black Gives Way to Blue. The title track was written by Cantrell as a tribute to Staley and featured Elton John on piano.

Follow-up The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here arrived in 2013 and improved on its predecessor's top five chart performance by peaking at no. 2 on the Billboard chart (and no. 22 on the UK's Official Album Chart). This week the band will be hoping to repeat that success as they deliver their third album with DuVall on vocals, and their sixth in total.

Rainier Fog arrives in stores this week and takes its name from Mount Rainier, the volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range which overlooks Seattle. It's also the first album the band have recorded – at least partially – in their home city for more than 20 years. As with the previous two albums, Cantrell's vocal contributions are shared with the band's new frontman, while Ranier Fog is also their third successive LP produced by Nick Raskulinecz. The new album also sees songwriting duties shared between Cantrell and Duvall, and features 10 new tracks including 'So Far Under', 'Never Fade', and 'The Only One You Know'.

You can find the video for the latter below – beneath that we've picked out five more bands who have suffered the departure of their singer for one reason or another, but still managed to maintain or build on their success.

 

 

AC/DC

After the death of original lead vocalist Bon Scott in 1980, the remaining band members gave serious thought to calling it a day, but after encouragement from Scott's family, who insisted that the late singer would want them to carry on, the band set about looking for a new vocalist. Several candidates were considered, including Slade frontman Noddy Holder, but eventually the remaining members settled on former Geordie frontman Brian Johnson, who they had first heard about from Scott himself.

Johnson faced a daunting task filling Scott's shoes, not least because of the success of their most recent album Highway to Hell, and the sessions for its follow-up didn't begin well. Recording at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas was disrupted by tropical storms battering the area, interfering with the studio's electricity supply and causing delays to shipping their equipment to the islands. Even Angus Young admitted that the band were “a bit jittery” during the sessions, but the resulting album Back in Black went on the become one of the biggest-selling albums in history and has been hailed as a high watermark for the hard rock / heavy metal genres.

 

Jefferson Airplane

Most Jefferson Airplane fans would probably define the band's 'classic' line-up as the one featured on their 1967 sophomore LP Surrealistic Pillow, with Grace Slick on lead vocals, but when the band originally formed two years earlier it was co-founder Signe Toly Anderson leading the line. A jazz singer who was well-known on the San Francisco circuit, Anderson was on vocal duties for the band's debut LP Jefferson Airplane Takes Off and enjoyed some moderate success with songs such as 'High Flying Bird', but after the birth of her first child in 1966 Anderson reportedly decided to quit after struggling to juggle the demands of touring with those of being a new mother. Another local singer named Sherry Snow was initially approached but declined to join the band, who eventually recruited Slick as Anderson's replacement.

It proved to be a game-changing move for the Airplane and their next album Surrealistic Pillow yielded two of the band's biggest hits with the Slick-penned 'White Rabbit' and another song written by her brother-in-law Darby Slick, 'Somebody to Love.' The album would prove to be the peak of their commercial success under the Jefferson Airplane moniker, with the band eventually evolving into Jefferson Starship around 1974 and then Starship by the mid-1980s, by which time Slick was the only Airplane member still involved.

 

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd had been steadily building a reputation for themselves for a couple of years with a series of long, psychedelic live shows before they were eventually offered a recording contract by EMI in 1967, releasing their first singles 'Arnold Layne' and 'See Emily Play', both written by the band's original lead vocalist and guitarist Syd Barrett. Both became Top 20 hits in the UK and led to another contract to record their debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, with Barrett once again writing the majority of the album's material. However, as has been well-documented, by this time Barrett's frequent use of LSD and deteriorating mental health was becoming increasingly problematic.

In December 1967 the band hired Dave Gilmour, an old friend of Barrett's, as a fifth member and second guitarist, with the intention of keeping Barrett involved as a non-performing songwriter. However, even that soon became unworkable and Barrett's departure was eventually announced in April the following year. Gilmour took over vocal duties and the band went on to produce masterpieces such as 'Dark Side of the Moon' and 'The Wall', becoming one of the biggest-selling bands of all time.

 

Joy Division / New Order

Manchester's post-punk pioneers Joy Division seemed as though they were well on their way to international stardom by the time they'd completed work on their second album, 1980's Closer, with an American tour about to begin and the instant classic 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' already in the can, but behind the scenes all was not well; the band's frontman Ian Curtis was suffering from epilepsy and battling depression, eventually taking his own life at the age of just 23.

Even before Curtis' death, all four members of Joy Division had agreed the band would not continue under the same name if one of them were to leave. Eventually they decided to continue as a trio, playing their first gig before they'd even settled on a name. Manager Rob Gretton is the person credited with coming up with the New Order moniker and the band added Gillian Gilbert to their line-up, with guitarist Bernard Sumner stepping into the spotlight as the band's new frontman. Increasingly influenced by the New York electronic music scene, the band went on to record and release the biggest-selling 12” single of all time with 'Blue Monday' and a further 10 albums to date.

 

Faith No More

California funk-metallers Faith No More originally started out in 1978 under the name 'Sharp Young Men' with a line-up that included just two the band's current members – namely drummer Mike Bordin and bassist Billy Gould – with Wade Worthington on keys and original frontman Mike Morris handling both vocals and guitars. The name then changed to Faith No Man before Roddy Bottum replaced Worthington and eventually ditched their original vocalist, settling on the name Faith No More and bringing in guitarist Jim Martin in new singer Chuck Mosley. With this line-up the band delivered their limited-release debut We Care A Lot on San Francisco-based indie label Mordam, which helped gain the attention of Warner Bros.-backed Slash Records. A re-recorded version of their debut's title track became a breakthrough hit on the band's second album Introduce Yourself.

By then, however, Mosley's behaviour was becoming increasingly erratic; he fell asleep onstage during the launch party for the second LP, allegedly punched Billy Gould onstage, and one of his roadies got into a fight with the band's guitarist. Mosley was sacked and replaced by Mike Patton, with whom the band recorded their first platinum-selling album The Real Thing in 1989, and who has remained the band's frontman ever since.

 

Rainier Fog
Rainier Fog Alice in Chains

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