Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Simple Question about Rock and Roll Front Men


Karen: Who is/was the best front man (or woman) in all of rock and roll? And what qualities set him/her above the rest?

























 






















31 comments:

Edo Bosnar said...

All right, Karen, I know when you and Doug post photos to accompany these posts, they're just visual aids, but man, I simply have to point out that you omitted the most screamingly obvious of the front men: Mick Jagger.
In fact, I would argue that Jagger pretty much defined the concept of lead singer as a rock band's "personality": with his distinctive voice, his distinctive (not necessarily good) looks and his swaggering, over-the-top stage persona, he pretty much became synonymous with the Rolling Stones.

Otherwise, all the others pictured are really excellent choices. My personal favorite among them, and another guy who quintessentially defined his band in the way Jagger did the Stones, is Jim Morrison.
A few others that come to mind are Joe Strummer, Chrissie Hynde and Shane McGowan.

Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, wait, Karen, I apologize, I now realize that the guy on top right is Jagger (don't laugh: at first quick glance I thought it was Steve Marriott from the Small Faces. Okay, laugh).
But I stand by the rest of what I said about Jagger...

J.A. Morris said...

Edo's correct, it's Jagger. He defined "front man" as much as anyone, all who followed were influenced by him. And some of the other guys looked a bit nervous, not knowing what to do sometimes. Jagger absolutely OWNED every stage he ever walked on.

Colin Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Humanbelly said...

Oh, I am such a loser. I recognize only half of the folks in the pictures. I have no cred whatsoever.

I'm gonna go w/ Mick Jagger still ---even though I honestly can't stand his on-stage persona-- the swaggering/strutting "look-at-me" thing is just about as unappealing as anything can be in almost any artistic endeavor. But. . . it's the schtick that did work for him, so who am I to criticize?

HB

Ewan said...

Jagger's the obvious popular choice, but I'd actually argue the guy who defined the iconic front man for many years to come was Plant. I'm slightly biased having played in a heavily Zeppelin influenced band for a number of years, but as huge as Jagger was, Plant established the blueprint for the blond high note rock front man that has been much imitated over the years.

Ewan said...

Jagger's the obvious popular choice, but I'd actually argue the guy who defined the iconic front man for many years to come was Plant. I'm slightly biased having played in a heavily Zeppelin influenced band for a number of years, but as huge as Jagger was, Plant established the blueprint for the blond high note rock front man that has been much imitated over the years.

Anonymous said...

Jagger. Everybody above has listed why. Personal favorite (although the Stones and Zephyr are #'s 1 and 1A in my book) is Percy. Have always thought as far as voice and appearance, Robert Plant defined "Rock God".

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot to post name on my comment above about Jagger and Plant. It was from

David in Wisconsin

William said...

I have to buck the trend and go with Robert Plant. If not just for the reason that my wife would kill me if I didn't. Because she pretty much worships Led Zeppelin. Also though, Plant was a very charismatic dude with an amazing voice and stage presence.

I'm also going to add Bono of U2 to the mix. He's actually one of the first people that came to mind when I read the topic question. He's definitely a front man with a magnetic personality and and he (and U2) have had a huge impact on music in past 30 plus years.

Anonymous said...

Sigh, having issues. That was also supposed to say "Zep " not "Zephyr. "

David in Wisconsin

Karen said...

This seems to be boiling down to Jagger and Plant, and it's no mistake that I put the two of them at the top of the post. They both seem to personify that image of lead singer/front man so well, but in decidedly different ways. But the swagger, the command of the stage, the raw sexual bravado, it's all there.

Edo, that particular picture of Jagger may not be the most well-known but it has special significance for me: when I was about ten I sketched that image of Jagger onto a large cardboard box we had in our TV room using colored pencils, and my father just hated it! Like most men back then, the whole glam rock/androgyny thing just bugged him to no end, and I remember him saying it was a really good drawing, but why did I have to choose THAT guy to draw? He would even turn the box around so he didn't have to look at it! It still makes me laugh.

david_b said...

David from Wisconsin, glad to see you're back.

Eh, Jagger, no question. He was the first (unless you're counting Buddy Holly or 'James Brown and the Flames' or something..), and changed the industry dynamic, much like the Beatles counter-changed it with 'no frontmen' (well, in theory..).

Jagger defined the entire genre of the prancing, lead singer with out a guitar (until much later around 'Some Girls'). Everyone one learned from him, as he learned most of his moves from Tina Turner and James Brown (TAMI Show, anyone..?).

Who are those other guys..?

Ewan said...

I'll make somewhat of a stretch bronze age analogy just for fun. Jack Kirby (Jagger) versus Neil Adams (Plant).

Kirby's legacy and impact overall are immense (like Jagger, he tops most votes in their respective spaces and likewise for very good reasons).

But if you look at who had the biggest direct influence on other artists in the 70's and well into the 80's, Neil's style is much more pervasive. I see the same with the singers from that time, much more direct channeling of Plant.

I love all of these guys so just throwing out another way of looking at it.

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, I'm still feeling contrite and apologetic; after I hit publish, I thought to myself, "wait a minute, Marriott was pretty good with the Small Faces and Humble Pie in particular, but not in the same class as Plant, Daltrey, Morrison, et al." So I went and took a closer look, and realized that it is indeed a picture of the big-lipped one. Later in the day, I did a Google search and actually
found some pics that were apparently taken during that same tour.

Ewan said...

Sorry, "Neal", not "Neil", I knew that looked wrong after I posted!

Dr. Oyola said...

James Freakin' Brown.

Good God. HAAAAAIIII!

Karen said...

Doc, James Brown was without a doubt an electrifying performer -but he (just like Bowie, or Elton John, or Madonna...whoever) doesn't fit the definition of "front man" as he was a star with a backing band. This is really about bands -OK, sometimes the front man becomes a "first among equals," but it really is about bands and not solo performers.

It's fun to break it down though as see who influenced who. Jagger has said he copied Brown, Tina Turner, and countless others. Then guys like Morrison and Iggy incorporated elements of Jagger into their acts, and then other guys took from them... it's like the Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox...

A lot of these guys have their own moves though. I think Roger Daltrey's microphone-twirling act is pretty singular. And Iggy -holy cow, what didn't he do to himself?

How about Steven Tyler of Aerosmith? And David Lee Roth? Two very outsized personalities who pretty much stole the show.

Dr. Oyola said...

Sly Stone!

Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, yeah, Sly Stone is definitely one of the greats.

Anonymous said...

Just to break them down, for those who aren't quite sure, the front men pictured are Robert Plant, Mick Jagger, Roger Daltry, Jim Morrison, Joey Ramone, Freddie Mercury, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry and Bon Scott (of AC/DC).

I absolutely LOVED Freddie Mercury as a talent. Where I may quibble is with his taking turns at the piano and letting others sing lead, he could be considered a 4th member of Queen. It's a slight argument but there are some merits.

And one of the tough things about Iggy is, no doubt he did a great job as front man of the Stooges but can anyone separate Iggy Pop from Iggy Pop time or Stooges time? Post-Stooges, would Iggy now be in the James Brown category? Star with a back band? If we open the door for Iggy, JB has got to come crashing through!!! (Still love the !!!!).

So long story short, what I'm trying to say is Bono.

The Prowler (I walk into a window, to see myself and my reflection when I thought about it, my direction going nowhere, going nowhere).


Dr. Oyola said...

I like the Stooges A LOT better than Iggy solo stuff. I can tell the difference.

Fun House is one of my all-time favorite records.

I wouldn't consider Roger Daltry a "front man" b/c Townsend was at least his equal in being "up front" virtually if not literally.

As for James Brown - I was thinking he was the front man for the J.B.s

What about George Clinton?

Just trying to mix it up.

Anonymous said...

Captain Beefheart, for blindingly obvious reasons.

-sean

Anonymous said...

To my admittedly tin ear, two choices come to mind - 1) Sir Mick Jagger; good God, how long has he been doing this? They should give him a Nobel prize just for lasting this long, but he's still the template all others are following up to this day, and 2) Freddie Mercury. Someone once said God put Freddie on this planet to sing, and I second that. RIP Freddie.


- Mike 'vinyl records over iTunes' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Anonymous said...

Roger Daltrey, for me. It takes a lot of ba-I mean, guts, to swing a microphone around at high speeds, toss it up in the air, and catch it with one hand, in front of thousands of people. Imagine if he dropped it!
Also, he turned into a great vocalist, despite a lack of range.
Can you picture someone else singing the vocals on Baba O' Reilly or Pinball Wizard?
I can't.

Edo Bosnar said...

Anon, re: Pinball Wizard. Elton John? ;)

Sean, I think Captain Beefheart kind of falls into the same category as James Brown, Bowie, etc. as Karen noted: basically a electrifying solo performer with a back-up band.
I'd say the same thing about Zappa and George Clinton (he crossed my mind too, Osvaldo) - regardless of how super-talented some of the "backing" musicians for the latter two may have been.

Dr. Oyola said...

Not about a front man, but a back man. . . . Wanted to share it and was not sure where was appropriate: Keith Moon: An Anniversary Appreciation

Anonymous said...

Edo - I'd say some of the Magic Band might disagree with you there... I tend to think its all debatable, and that the line between solo artist and band maybe isn't always clear cut; when Beefheart did actually use anonymous session guys in the mid 70s, it didn't really work for him.

As for George Clinton, anyone who can appear regularly on stage with the likes of Bootsy Collins and make them seem like just a "backing band" definitely deserves to be considered as a top front man in my book. Even James Brown couldn't pull that off!

-sean



Ace Frehley Jr said...

What about Paul Stanley? Chuck D? James Brown is awesome too!

Joseph said...

My all-time favorite singer is Daltrey, but I agree with Dr. Oyola that he doesn't fit that dominating front man that this topic is about.

While Roger held his own, Townshend and Moon were so hypnotic that I begrudgingly don't see Roger in the same category with Jagger, Plant, Morrison, Mercury, etc. I'll chalk that up to the power of The Who collectively while also nodding at the charisma of those other frontmen.

PS - i love Ewan's Kirby/Adams analogy!

Ace Hamilton said...

Thanks for inadvertently reminding me about Zephyr:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDAtQrHD2GY

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