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Lead Singer Disease ( Rockers' LSD affliction )

Lead Singer Disease  ( Rockers' LSD affliction )

This gallery is dedicated to exploring a disease that has gone too long undiagnosed. It is the affliction that changes otherwise reasonable men and women who sing into microphones into egomaniacal freaks wearing all kinds of silly clothing, talking all kinds of outrageous nonsense and alienating bandmates, fans and friends alike with their deplorable behavior. What makes lead singers into such ludicrous figures? Is it the attention? The money? The sex? The drugs? The rock? The roll? Hmmm . . . we may be on to something.

Axl Rose

When you read, you begin with ABC. When you sing, you begin with do-re-mi. But when it comes to lead singer disease,you really need to look no further than the front man, visionary and credit-taker par excellence for Guns N' Roses. Though Guns began as a band, midway through the campaign for its legendary debut album, "Appetite for Destruction," Rose's megalomania was well on its way to rendering it a solo project. Next came the onslaught of lineup changes, the egregious wardrobe choices and, of course, the ultimate LSD symptom: the 10-minute power ballad. In Rose's case, "November Rain." Relegated by his own impossible standards to an exile with session players and collaborators who have to sign nondisclosure agreements, Rose is also that rare LSD victim who has taken the disease to its furthest extent: He almost never performs or releases music anymore. Depending on your attitude, this is either a happy or a sad eventuality.

One of the surefire gateways to LSD comes when the singer is the only thing anyone notices about a given band. In the case of U2, it's not hard to see why people always focused on Bono: He was always a peacock with a powerful voice and a knack for drawing attention. And up to a decade or so ago, he was good-looking, too. But how that resulted in him being consulted on matters involving international medical and economic crises by dignitaries of world government -- well, that's a little puzzling. The messianic gleam in his eye, however, is unmistakable. Every time he stands two paces in front of his bandmates and makes a weird face or cocks his head at a strange angle in a photograph, you can see plainly: Bono has got the disease, and he knows it. And the fact that he also loves having it is either his saving grace or his ultimate downfall.

And then there are those lead singers whose charisma is so powerful that it simply dwarfs their band, making the move to a solo career seem inevitable or, worse, making the band's output feel retroactively like a solo project with a band name and a couple of other players to back him up. Such is the case with one Gordon Sumner, who fronted the Police under the nom de guerre Sting, which has served him ever since as a one-word signifier of blinding beauty, soaring voice, courtly love, jazz affectations and, as years advance, the odd lute-based project. It's hard to say what one thing about Sting diagnoses LSD, but really, just look at him: Everything does! From the arrogance of his good looks, the clear ambition of his songcraft, his love of the rain forests and, of course, the transformation of "Every Breath You Take" from a creepy stalker song into a ubiquitous wedding march. But one thing's clear: He still knows his audience. If I ever lose my faith in Sting, at some point in one of his shows, no matter how dire the situation in the world may be, he will almost certainly remove his shirt onstage. And the crowd will love it.
Robert Plant

While we're on the subject of open-shirted skin displays, let us turn our attention to one of the single most ridiculous men in the history of rock. Was he talented? He most surely was. Was he popular? He remains about as popular now as he has ever been, as does his band, Led Zeppelin. But where guitarist Jimmy Page led the Led Zep charge with a visionary bluster of blues and noise-rock guitar that still provides a template for music today, Plant could have wound up being just the face, or at least the voice. And in a band with at least two rock geniuses running the tracks,and one ungodly monster pounding the drums, Plant knew he had to be more than all this. He had to be the front man. And that meant screaming. It meant long curly hair. It meant tight trousers and no shirts. It even meant lyrics about hobbits, if need be. And need was. And Plant stepped up and killed it, with the kind of commitment that you simply don't see every day, every decade. It's why Led Zeppelin became legendary. But it's also why Robert Plant caught LSD. It may, however, be in remission. See his Grammy-winning "Raising Sand" collaboration with Alison Krauss, and the equally rootsy "Band of Joy" successor, for details. Meanwhile, consider what he means when he promises to show you every inch of his love.
Steven Tyler

There were two Aerosmiths, really: the wasted one with all the good songs, and the sober one with all the crossover hits. In both cases, the public centerpiece was Steven Tyler and his boundless self-love. Though Joe Perry's riffs were the heart of the band's greatness, Tyler's Mick Jagger-manqué vibe, his slithery posture, his mic-stand scarves, his seductive bluster, were always in the middle of the spotlight. And by the time the band made its big late-'80s comeback, Tyler's time in recovery had equipped him with all the necessary tools to talk incessantly about himself. As Aerosmith grew older, Tyler's skimpy clothes and leering persona became slightly uncomfortable to behold. But he never changed. LSD wouldn't let him. And when he improbably popped up on "American Idol" during the band's hiatus, it was LSD that helped him steal the spotlight there, too.
Gwen Stefani

No Doubt was once a band. They came from Orange County, Calif. They were kind of ska. They worked hard, rode around in vans, played to small clubs. People didn't really notice. Then they made a big hit album ,and everyone noticed that the lead singer was really skinny and kind of sexy. Her name was Gwen Stefani. After a period of resisting, Stefani surrendered to LSD before the follow-up album was done. Granted, she was a natural focal point for an otherwise unremarkable-looking bunch of dudes. But Stefani got the full-blown glamour treatment, which didn't quite suit her band's rough-edged image. So away went the rough edges. Then she made a solo album, full of pop hits, multimillion-dollar videos and fashion spreads. Couture and pop hits couldn't keep her from reuniting with the band in 2008 for live dates and new studio sessions, but the long-awaited full-length album has yet to get a confirmed title or release date. But it's safe to predict that Gwen's ideally positioned to pass LSD on to future generations -- with her DNA entwined with another LSD survivor, Gavin Rossdale, the statistical probability is high, especially with stage-ready monikers Kingston and Zuma Nesta.
Roger Daltrey

The problem with Roger Daltrey is that he never let go of his conception of the Who as his band. Which it may have been for a couple of months before Pete Townshend, a far greater talent, started writing songs, at which time Daltrey became "the singer." He didn't even write the words. He fought for primacy and eventually lost. They had a genius.They had a wizard.They even had a freak show.So Daltrey had to plug himself into the only role left: lead singer. This meant a massive mop of curly locks. It meant mega-fringed leather jackets. It meant foot-pounding dance moves. Above all, it meant a special rig for his microphone that would allow him to swing it around and around and around like a combination bullwhip and lasso while the other guys in the band played their little songs. Daltrey entered a whole other zone, and he never came back, even when -- especially when -- "sing-acting" the role of Tommy.
Mick Jagger

At some point, the face of the Rolling Stones transformed himself from a singer/figurehead into a being who, as novelist Martin Amis wrote, "does not really dance anymore: it's simply that his head, his shoulders, his pelvis, both his arms, both his legs, both his huge feet and both his buttocks are wriggling, at great speed, independently, all the time." Such a transformation can only be the result of LSD. Where Jagger was once a riveting performer whose undeniable sexual attraction was just the tip of the Stones' knife, at a certain point -- was it Brian Jones' death? Altamont? The birth of the lips-and-tongue logo? -- he clearly became convinced that he was not just the star of the show but indeed the show itself. Watch the Stones today,and it's kind of impressive that he never stops moving, but you can't help wondering why. It's that movement that's been lionized by Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera in "Moves Like Jagger," while the man himself can't resist being the natural center of attention for his new would-be super group, SuperHeavy.
Jim Morrison

On their best days, the Doors can be described as three jazz dorks and the handsome guy who twirls around in front of them, so it's not hard to see why Jim Morrison, who always got all the attention and acclaim the band generated, might let it go to his head. Nonetheless, yhis is one of the legendary cases from the LSD files. To wit: posing shirtless in photographs, leather trousers, written and published books of horrible poetry, self-conception as an "artist" rather than "rock star," death in Paris, burial in Père Lachaise cemetery, beard. Case closed.
Chris Cornell

Normally, it takes a while for the singer to acquire a really bad case of LSD, at least until the band he fronts has had a bit of success. But look at the early pictures of Soundgarden, playing in front of 10 people at a Seattle bar, and there's Chris Cornell, shirtless and posturing as though he can see 10,000. Granted, you might argue that's a quality that makes someone a star. And you may be right. But it also makes him an unbearable person to be around. Soundgarden was very successful, and Cornell's voice, and maybe even his lyrics, were key ingredients in the recipe. Still, it was unmistakably a band -- unmistakably to everyone except the singer, whose on-and-offstage demeanor could easily have been mistaken for that of someone who thought of his bandmates as sidemen. Cornell's lukewarm solo albums proved him wrong, making the band's initially tentative reunion all the more welcome.

Sometimes a case of LSD is not only warranted but beneficial. Without Morrissey's flamboyant self-inventions, his swanning TV and stage appearances and his expert combination of self-aggrandizement and self-deprecation in interviews, would the Smiths have ever amounted to a hill of vegetarian beans? Doubtful. But that still didn't make it easy for fellow Smiths Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce to suffer their front man's irrepressible ego. Though, to his credit, Morrissey always credited the Smiths, and especially Marr, as a band of equal collaborators, to the public he was the band, and the band got over that after four brilliant albums and an unmatched run of impeccable singles. Then Morrissey went solo and became far more popular than his old band had ever been. Not without a hint of melancholy, however.

Technically, it's a bit unfair to describe Destiny's Child as a "band," or Beyoncé Knowles as a "lead singer." But only technically. This female vocal group, which also featured Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, as well as three other singers who couldn't hang in there, had big hits and maximum exposure, which led to legal wrangling and internal friction. But let no one question the fact that this was Knowles' show long before she dropped her last name and went solo. There can be no doubt about whose booty is being extolled in "Bootylicious," nor about who exactly is doing all the surviving in "Survivor." From diva behavior to infighting over who stands where and who wears what in what video, Destiny's Child was, by many accounts, a ship that was tossed about on tempestuous seas. But Beyoncé was always its captain.
Ozzy Osbourne

Though you may know him best as the lovably incoherent paterfamilias of a charmingly tasteless family of too-rich-for-their-own-good half-Brit L.A. transplants on reality TV, Ozzy Osbourne used to be the singer in a proto-metal band called Black Sabbath. And it was good. But then Ozzy acquired an acute case of LSD, brought on by drug and alcohol abuse and other people telling him he was bigger than the band. He believed them and started throwing his weight around. Then he went solo, making a series of albums that weren't as good as Black Sabbath's but which sold more copies. Thus Ozzy's worst habits -- campy outrageousness, substance abuse, the whole Satan thing -- were encouraged, leading to the eventual Ozzy industry that gave us "The Osbournes." Sure, it's a good show, but it's no Black Sabbath.
Bret Michaels

It's a little ironic to single out one member of any glitter rock band for having LSD -- in a group like Poison, even the drummer probably had it. But there can be only one lead singer, and in this case, that man is Bret Michaels. Also known for his reality-TV exploits (in his case, deciding which groupie to have sex with), Michaels can't lay claim to a glorious past as a bona fide rock 'n' roll genius being tarnished by his current incarnation. No, Michaels was always a tool, as anyone who has ever seen a Poison video can happily attest. "Talk Dirty to Me," "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," "Fallen Angel," etc.: Horrible hair? Check. Abominable sounds? Check. Embarrassing moves? Double check. Again, it's unfair to pin it all on Michaels. In a genre defined by self-parody, how can you choose just one fall guy? I'll tell you how: He's the one standing in front.
David Lee Roth

The patron saint, if there is such a thing, of LSD is the original lead singer of the band Van Halen, whose ego was so visibly out of control when the band was at the peak of its success that his departure led to an international scandal. Roth was always kind of silly, but when you look back now at the first few years of Van Halen -- the hair, the pursed lips, the high kicks -- it's hard to believe just how famous they were. Famous enough that Roth started talking publicly about how he was the reason for the band's success, the real star, the straw that stirred the drink. Mr. Van Halen disputed this notion. So Roth became Diamond Dave, made some solo records and can now be seen, uh, still talking about how he was the real star of Van Halen . . . 25 years ago.
Sammy Hagar

As ridiculous as David Lee Roth was, he was a model of taste compared with his Van Halen replacement. Sammy Hagar represents an interesting corollary to LSD: a performer who is at heart a company man and who still displayed many of the classic symptoms of a hopeless lead singer Since his time in the band, Hagar has pillaged the Mexican town of Cabo San Lucas for tourist dollars and was recently seen brandishing a confetti cannon in an advertisement. The disease lingers.
Rod Stewart

You may be shocked to discover that there was a time when Rod Stewart had taste. His work as the singer of the Faces and his early solo releases were fantastic showcases not just for his signature grainy voice but also for the blunt force of his working-class-rock prowess. Then someone told him he was a sex symbol, and the disease blossomed. His pants got tighter, his bandmates became backing musicians and, lo and behold, he became capable of throwing himself into songs like "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" A hit, to be sure. But at what cost?
Freddie Mercury

OK, if anyone ever deserved a case of LSD, it was Freddie Mercury, whose flamboyance transcended not just the stadiums he headlined as the frontman of Queen, but possibly even planet Earth itself. It's a little hard to imagine Queen starting out playing in clubs and theaters -- mainly because it's hard to picture Mercury on any but the world's biggest stages. It's also hard to imagine Freddie Mercury ever not having Lead Singer Disease. He had to have been born with it in order to achieve the things he did. By all accounts an alternately charming and insufferable man whose gargantuan talent always redeemed him in the end, Mercury died comparatively young. If he were still around, he would almost certainly be demonstrating the positive effects of LSD in later life.
Chris Martin

An interesting strain of LSD affects the front man of Coldplay. Chris Martin's variation of the disease presents as false humility. Sure, he pretends it's a band. Sure, he acts as if he's just a normal guy. Sure, he would have you believe he's all about issues and just happens to be a millionaire pop star married to a movie star. But there's something about the keening tone of his voice, the heroic faraway look in his eye, the fact that his big songs all sound basically the same and the fact that you can't name anyone else in his band, and it makes you wonder . . . Yeah, Chris Martin has it. He has it bad.
David Gahan

In the early days, Depeche Mode looked like a little gay scooter club or something, the brush-cut, leather-jacketed band members as indistinguishable from one another as clones. The image suited their synthy, Eurobeat music. But then came "Personal Jesus," and suddenly Gahan is playing it very straight. Like Jim Morrison straight. Hair long, leering into the camera, making out with an underwear model -- you know the drill. Gahan apparently embraced this new persona so fully that he wound up an actual junkie and took to making public appearances in leather pants, a cowboy hat and no shirt,mounting the Depeche Mode stage like a real rock star. Fair point: They were headlining stadiums. But still, it's Depeche Mode. Gahan even made a solo album! But no one seemed to notice, so he's back with the band.
Liam Gallagher

In England, they still pay attention to what rock stars say. Which may have been the whole problem with Liam Gallagher, lead singer of Oasis, in the first place. Gallagher and his brother Noel are world-champion bigmouths, and the British press loves — even now, many years past their days as the U.K.'s biggest band — to transcribe every word. Talking smack about other bands, heaving praise at their own or merely bloviating about TV, soccer and politics, the brothers Gallagher have had a lot to say, all of it informed by monstrous egoism. But where Noel has both musical talent and wit, Liam is just a vain blowhard, as evidenced by such textbook LSD shenanigans as walking out on live shows,punching out paparazzi, demanding that his songs get included on albums, marrying a model-actress, marrying a fellow pop star, saying his band is the best in the world, saying he's the only good thing about his band. . . . One could hope for an LSD quarantine in effect for Great Britain, but post-breakup, Liam's returned with another band, Beady Eye. Bet you can't guess who's the lead singer.
Scott Weiland

Though Stone Temple Pilots aren't likely to end up in anyone's rock 'n' roll pantheon, they deserve a special mention here for the contribution of Scott Weiland to the annals of LSD research. Once a scruffy-headed Eddie Vedder impersonator, Weiland used the first blush of STP's success to get rock-star skinny, go a little bit glam and develop a serious drug habit. These developments served him well, as the band's steady rise to the top of the alternative-rock charts became a mere backdrop to the sideshow of Weiland's constant arrests for drug use and possession, leaving the rest of the band high and dry, so to speak, more often than not. Narcotics addiction isn't funny, to be sure. But when it's the accoutrement that allows an otherwise medium-talent singer to become a media mainstay, it's worth noticing. Plus, after a failed solo record, Weiland joined Velvet Revolver, a band of fellow drug casualties from the hard-rock battlefield, whose songs, videos and iconography celebrate the very decadence its members supposedly work so hard to conquer. Weiland appeared to dive right into that contradiction. Addiction is a disease, but LSD is a curse.
Brandon Flowers

And speaking of medium talent . . .
Ian McCulloch

Mac the Mouth, they call the lead singer of Echo & the Bunnymen, who is in some ways a direct precursor to Liam Gallagher in the "I will say anything to a reporter" sweepstakes.At the height of Echo's '80s fame, it was no big deal for him to declare their album "Ocean Rain" "the greatest album ever made," or himself "the king of rock 'n' roll," or indeed, "the son of God." It takes a certain amount of brio to be a rock band singer, to be sure. But Mac's ego, which always contained at least a scintilla of irony, went so far beyond the call of duty that his bandmates became exasperated. Who wouldn't? McCulloch began making solo albums but always came back to Echo, as that was where he could truly be the lead singer that LSD demanded he be. When news broke recently that their "Ocean Rain" would be played by NASA astronauts in space, the response was classic McCulloch."Now it's official. We are the coolest band in the universe."
Courtney Love

People are alternately terrified of and disgusted by her. Her ego is legendary. Her tantrums make news all over the world. Her bandmates and collaborators drop like flies, not that it matterw -- she takes all the credit for everything anyway. She is Courtney Love, formerly of Hole, now a solo artist, with three albums to her name, and several careers' worth of animosity — public and private — from fellow musicians and rivals. We began this list with one Axl Rose, himself a very public hater of Ms. Love from way back. It seems only fitting to end with Courtney, who, in a certain way, is both the opposite of Rose and his female doppelganger. Both take a long time between records. Both alienate their collaborators by imposing a standard that can be neither defined nor achieved. Both are loved and hated with equal degrees of passion. Both are locked away from any kind of life you could call real by wealth and fame. Both believe every word they say is important, even essential. Both are kind of gross. Both are kind of fascinating. And guess what else: Both are world-champion LSD sufferers.