There are three ways to lose the singer of the band: dispute, disillusion and death. I’ve yet to come across one singer experiencing all three simultaneously, but give it time. So, what do you do when your talismanic frontman/frontwoman doesn’t turn up for work? You get another one. Simple. End of blog.
But hang on, sometimes it doesn’t work out quite that way and over the last few years one example has had me flabbergasted and entranced in equal measure. Nightwish and the Tarja Turunen-Anette Olzen Polarisation.
The Tarja Turunen-Anette Olzen Polarisation might sound like an episode of the Big Bang Theory, but any glance of the Youtube comments section (or the InternetOpenSewer, as it should properly be known) has been in convulsions ever since Nightwish so graciously threw out their lead singer with that night’s rubbish.
For those who still don’t know, Tarja Turunen was the classically trained soprano fronting Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish. They released numerous albums, slowly building up a big fan base around Tuomas Holopainen’s arrangements and Tarja’s unmistakeable vocals. They then returned to Helsinki with a triumphant concert at the Hartwall Areena, went backstage after the show and handed Tarja her P45.
So far, so extraordinary, but what followed next was the kind of replacement that normally only happens in football. You know the one: manager looking for a midfielder is persuaded by an agent that the bloke who works in B&Q is actually a Ghanaian international. Cue a first team appearance and within fifteen minutes it’s obvious the player doesn’t know one end of a football from another in spite of the damned thing being round.
But let’s get one thing out of the way first. Annette Olzen is a bloody good singer. She just wasn’t Nightwish’s singer. Right vocalist, wrong band. I’m saying this here because WordPress hasn’t yet descended into the commentary filth that Youtube wades through. (And if you’re reading this with the intention of spewing your opinionated bile all over me, don’t bother; comments are moderated. I’m the only one allowed to spew forth on this blog, so fuck off.) If I were to say all this underneath the video for Amaranth I’d have every five year old from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego telling me that I’m not the man I used to be.
The fallout from Olzen’s replacement of Turunen made the Battle of Stalingrad look like a bowls match. I’ve racked my brains trying to think of a similar conflict. Bruce Dickinson replacing Paul Di’Anno in Iron Maiden went by in a whisper. Sammy Hagar replacing David Lee Roth bubbled a little but was pre-Youtube so we never saw the real toxicity of that switch. Brian Johnson replacing Bon Scott; bit of an odd one that seeing as ACDC were forced into it somewhat, though why they chose a cricket commentator is still beyond me, he seems to have done all right.
I suppose the lesson is beware. Being the singer with the band is fraught enough, but swapping sides comes with its own hazards. Rock fans are a conservative lot. They (we, I) like consistency, familiarity and waking up one morning and finding the vocalist is singing two octaves lower than normal can turn your world upside down. I often wonder what would have happened if Patty Smyth had replaced David Lee Roth when Eddie van Halen rang her up? Imagine Patty Smyth singing Jump!
For the record, Nightwish have now ‘let Anette Olzen go’ and replaced her with the monumental Floor Jansen who is too tall to be sacked. She’s on loan from Dutch band After Sunset (sorry After Forever, getting my Nightwishes mixed up with my Toten Herzens), but the signs are she’ll go to Nightwish permanently during the January transfer window. Listening to her she obviously knows her onions and appears to fit into the Nightwish jigsaw puzzle in a way her poor predecessor never did.
Word of advice: follow the Rolling Stones model and keep your singer until you’re all ready to drop dead at the same time.
PS – I’ve just been told that Brian Johnson is not the English cricket commentator. I’m getting him mixed up with Brian Johnston, which is simply unacceptable.