Classic Rock Songs Sung by the Other Guy: Gimme Five

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Other than a few notable exceptions, most rock ‘n’ roll bands have one person whom everyone acknowledges to be the lead singer. There’s a simple enough explanation for that: for most people, the identity of any particular human voice is generally easier to establish than the identity of any particular instrumentalist.

Consequently, it’s always interesting when someone else in the band steps up to the microphone to warble a tune. When it’s not a totally left field effort — the Who’s “Waspman” with Keith Moon on lead “vocals” comes to mind — it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that the substitute singer is usually pretty decent, and sometimes even really quite good. A few examples:

“I DON’T WANNA FIGHT,” TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS (ECHO, 1999): Guitar wizard Mike Campbell often seems so mild mannered and — well — quiet, it’s a bit of a surprise to discover that he has a voice at all.

“I’M IN LOVE WITH MY CAR,” QUEEN (A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, 1975): If your band already has a great lead singer like Freddie Mercury, why bother? Fortunately, it turns out that Queen’s drummer Roger Taylor is no slouch in the pipes department either, and nails this vocal tighter than … a drum, of course.

“HAPPY,” THE ROLLING STONES (EXILE ON MAIN STREET, 1972): By the late 1960s, Keith Richards’ lead vocal would turn up here and there on Rolling Stones’ album tracks, but “Happy” was the first time his voice piloted a single. Maybe Mick Jagger wasn’t so vain after all.

“CLOSE TO YOU,” THE DOORS (ABSOLUTELY LIVE, 1970: Keyboardist Ray Manzarek got to sing occasionally during Doors’ studio sessions, once in a while in concert, and even entire concerts when Jim Morrison was “indisposed.” It turned out to be good practice: after Jim left his job as vocalist so he could smuggle guns in Africa, Manzarek became the primary lead singer in the Doors’ trio before they finally closed up shop a couple of years later.

“OOH LA LA,” THE FACES (OOH LA LA, 1973): Near the end of the band’s career, relationships within the band were so strained that neither Rod Stewart nor the other occasional lead vocalist Ronnie Lane would volunteer to sing the title track of their final album, so the honors went to … guitar player Ron Wood, soon to jump ship and become the Rolling Stones’ permanent “new guy.”

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito spends most of his day keeping the wolves from the door. When he's not occupied with this pastime, he's interested in all things rock and roll -- which may or may not have died back in the late 1950s, the late 1970s, or the early '90s, depending on who you believe. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
JC Mosquito
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