Some fans idolize members of their favorite bands to the point where if one of them gets replaced by a new musician, the latter is received like an evil stepparent into a previously perfect family. In most cases, these frosty receptions aren’t so much about any failings of the new member, but rather testament to the icon status bestowed upon star musicians (which may or may not correlate to their musical abilities). Also, members usually leave because of personal turmoil within the band and/or wilting commercial fortunes, so their replacements often walk into pre-existing challenges which fans, looking from outside, may attribute to the newbie’s arrival.
A short book could be devoted to the negativity directed toward all Guns N’ Roses musicians who weren’t on Appetite for Destruction alone but, given space restrictions, here are 10 of the otherwise most famously rejected replacement band members.
1. Jason Cooper, The Cure
There are entire forums dedicated to (mostly unfavorably) comparing current Cure drummer Jason Cooper to his predecessor, Boris Williams. Incredible, given that Williams left the band 25 years ago and was neither a principal songwriter nor original member. A cluster of debatably coincidental factors appear to fuel Cure fans’ huge nostalgia for Williams. Firstly, his time in the band coincided with the Cure’s commercial apex, whereas Cooper’s first contribution was to Wild Mood Swings, which sold less than any Williams-era effort. Swings also marked the end of the group’s long relationship with producer David M. Allen, and a resulting change in drum sounds which irked many listeners. Additionally damning Cooper is the Cure’s increased use of programmed drum loops live, to the dismay of diehards, since his arrival.
2. Blaze Bayley, Iron Maiden
Metal bands have a long history of controversial singer replacements, from Black Sabbath and Judas Priest to Anthrax and Sepultura. One of the most graphic was Iron Maiden’s hiring of Blaze Bayley during the 1993-1999 absence of Bruce Dickinson. On paper, Bayley was a logical choice: like Dickinson, he had a decidedly English aura (albeit of a more blue-collar variety); his bawdy charisma had ably driven his former band Wolfsbane; and he was a known quantity, as Wolfsbane had previously opened for Maiden. But his two albums with the Irons (relatively) bombed and he struggled to hit some of Dickinson’s quasi-operatic high notes on stage. With Dickinson back aboard, Maiden quickly re-established their genre dominance with 1999’s hugely successful Ed Hunter tour.
3. Valor Kand, Christian Death
Guitarist Valor Kand was already a member of O.C. deathrock pioneers Christian Death when he replaced the departed Rozz Williams as singer and bandleader in 1985. Centered around Kand and his glamorous bassist/vocalist wife Maitri, the famously blasphemous band endures, albeit with convoluted lineup changes, to this day. At times there were even simultaneous, competing incarnations, fronted respectively by Kand and Williams (who committed suicide in 1998). Yet to the faithful, Williams- and Kand-era Christian Death are only distantly related (in part because Kand didn’t feature on the band’s most influential album, 1982’s Only Theatre of Pain), and even 35 years since the original fissure the relative merits of the two frontmen remains a heated debate among darklings everywhere.
4. Sammy Hagar, Gary Cherone, and Wolfgang Van Halen, Van Halen
Household-name hard rockers Van Halen hold a unique place on this list, having twice brought controversial new frontmen aboard, and then replaced their longtime bassist with guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s own son. While larger-than-life original singer David Lee Roth appeared irreplaceable, VH surprisingly maintained their multi-platinum status with his fanbase-dividing 1985 successor Sammy Hagar. But the arrival of former Extreme singer Gary Cherone for 1998’s ballad-heavy Van Halen III was too much for many, and the record registered disappointing sales. Van Halen has since reunited with Roth, but in 2006 replaced bassist/vocalist Michael Anthony with the 16-year-old Wolfgang Van Halen, incensing some concert goers to wear “Where Is Michael Anthony?” T-shirts — and confirming that VH is essentially a family dynasty.
5. Noel Burke, Echo & The Bunnymen
To their followers, masquerading as Echo & the Bunnymen without singer Ian McCulloch would be an unspeakable sacrilege. Yet it really happened, when — following McCulloch quitting in 1988 and drummer Pete de Freitas’ death in a motorcycle accident the following year — the remaining members recruited one Noel Burke for 1990’s Reverberation album. While it would have been a very decent debut for a new band, Reverberation, with Burke’s vocals so much higher than McCulloch’s brooding timbre, was a Bunnymen effort in name only. The accompanying tour was well received, but the album performed poorly, the band were dropped by their label, and by 1993 they’d disbanded. Reunited with McCulloch in 1996, the Bunnymen continue to record and tour.
6. John Corabi, Mötley Crüe
While many heyday hair metal bands had revolving lineups, LA’s Mötley Crüe maintained an unchanged quartet throughout the initial, super-successful “decade of decadence” (1981-1991). So singer Vince Neil’s 1992 departure was unusually traumatic for devotees who strongly identified with each member’s cartoonish metal persona. Neil’s replacement John Corabi could’ve turned this negative to a positive, as a more versatile vocalist and more prolific songwriter than Neil, who also played guitar. The revamped band’s only album was eponymous, suggesting a definitive career statement, but fans rejected it as anything but. Instead, it was the overly-earnest pandering of a party metal band to the surging popularity of grunge and alt-rock. The record tanked and Corabi himself suggested a reunion with Neil, which duly transpired in 1997.
7. Queen + Paul Rodgers
In fairness, it was never implied that Paul Rodgers was a replacement for the late, legendary Freddy Mercury as Queen’s singer, but rather “Queen + Paul Rodgers” was billed strictly as a collaboration between two classic rock powerhouses. And what an intriguing coming-together it was, with Queen’s prodigious catalogue married to the bluesy, lived-in pipes of Rodgers who — having formerly fronted Free, Bad Company, and The Firm — boasts one of the most impressive résumés in rock ‘n’ roll (and was a favorite of Mercury’s). But Rodgers’ soulful yet aggressive approach sometimes juxtaposed uneasily against the ornate pomp of Queen’s material on stage, and the sole Queen + Paul Rodgers album, 2008’s The Cosmos Rocks, brings a once soaring band deflatingly down to earth.
8. Kristen May, Flyleaf
To some of the Texas quintet’s followers, elfin vocalist Lacey Sturm’s soaring, tremulous range and passionate faith almost was Flyleaf. So it was little surprise that her 2012 replacement Kristen May was an uncomfortable fit for many — including herself. Wisely, Flyleaf didn’t even attempt to recreate their Platinum-selling Sturm-era sound with May on their sole album together, 2014’s Between the Stars, instead trading grunge/metal for a pop/rock approach well suited to their technically deft new singer. Critics admired the effort, but ultimately weren’t convinced (“[May] is no Lacey Sturm, but she is serviceable as a vocalist,” said a Sputnikmusic review). “I never truly felt like I was part of the team … like the band was mine,” admitted May upon leaving Flyleaf in 2016.
9. Kenney Jones, The Who
Former Small Faces/Faces drummer Kenney Jones was on some levels a predictable 1978 replacement for the late Keith Moon in the Who. For while few could replicate Moon’s borderline deranged flamboyance, Jones boasted appropriate musical pedigree and was already a drinking mate of Who guitarist Pete Townsend. The band initially welcomed his very different drumming style, but Jones stumbled into a turbulent chapter for the Who, as they struggled with shifting musical fashions and Townsend’s descent into heroin dependence. Within five years they’d imploded, their reunion for 1985’s Live Aid being Jones’ final contribution. “It’s like having a wheel off a Cadillac stuck onto a Rolls Royce,” vocalist Roger Daltrey recalled of Jones’ tenure in 1994. “It’s a great wheel but it’s the wrong one.”
10. Ronnie James Dio Hologram
The late, beloved Ronnie James Dio is the only musician on this list rejected for replacing himself — kind of. See, six years after the former Black Sabbath/Dio singer’s 2010 passing, a hologram RJD “performed” at a German festival, and an “improved” version has been touring since last year. Ethics aside, the first issue with the Dio hologram is that it isn’t magically beamed alongside some of his former collaborators (who perform live) like an actual 3-D bandmate, but rather onto a screen that dominates center stage. More crucially, the hologram lacks the endearing at-one-with-my-fans passion of the (utterly) human Ronnie James Dio. “Creepy, freakish, and totally unnecessary, the Dio hologram is a cartoon cash-grab that entertains the unhealthiest aspects of rock nostalgia,” proclaimed Kerrang! in April.