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Top 10 Controversial Band Member Replacements in Rock

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Being in a rock band isn’t always easy. We know this because there’s a long and rich history of feuds, lineup changes and breakups in the music industry. For this list, we’re including cases where a band replaced a deceased member, but only if it really was a questionable decision or led to a lot of contentious debating amongst fans. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 controversial band member replacements in rock. Special thanks to our user Emily Carlstrom for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Being in a rock band isn’t always easy. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 controversial band member replacements in rock.

For this list, we’re including cases where a band replaced a deceased member, but only if it really was a questionable decision or led to a lot of contentious debating amongst fans.

#10: Doug Yule for Lou Reed
The Velvet Underground

As The Velvet Underground’s co-founder, Lou Reed was the band’s main singer-songwriter and guitarist for almost a decade before he called it quits. And though Doug Yule had already been recruited as John Cale’s replacement by this point, fans were caught unaware when he became frontman. To top things off, the new version of the band, which included Deep Purple’s Ian Paice and several session players, resulted in the less-than-stellar Squeeze, which was essentially a Yule solo project.

#9: Vivian Campbell for Steve Clark
Def Leppard

Def Leppard decided to replace Pete Willis with Phil Collen in the early 1980s because of the guitarist's drinking. However, co-lead guitarist Steve Clark was also plagued with drinking problems. So, following his 1991 death, Vivian Campbell was brought in. But this led to a change in musical direction that caused fans to discount Campbell’s talent, and they continued to hold onto to the memory of Clark’s greatness.

#8: Ian Astbury for Jim Morrison
The Doors

The death of a band member is always tough. For AC/DC, Brian Johnson was chosen to fill Bon Scott's shoes. Following Jim Morrison’s death, The Doors used surviving members on vocals but eventually disbanded in 1973. Almost three decades later, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger formed The Doors of the 21st Century with The Cult's Ian Astbury. Not only did this cause an uproar among fans, it also led to legal battles with The Doors’ John Densmore and Morrison’s family due to the use of the band’s name.

#7: Blaze Bayley for Bruce Dickinson
Iron Maiden

In the early ‘80s, Iron Maiden replaced coke-addicted Paul Di’Anno with Bruce Dickinson, which wasn’t welcomed by early fans and die-hard purists. Over time, however, most came to love, appreciate and respect Dickinson. So by the time he quit to go solo, Blaze Bayley didn’t stand a chance; his two albums were the two lowest charting of the band’s career – Dickinson eventually returned.

#6: Tim “Ripper” Owens for Rob Halford
Judas Priest

Tim “Ripper” Owens went from being in a Judas Priest tribute band to being Judas Priest’s frontman. After Rob Halford left, the band discovered Owens through a taped performance of his time in British Steel. But because fans couldn’t forget Halford, the replacement stirred up much public outcry and mixed to poor reviews. After years of pushing for a reunion, it finally came to fruition in 2003.

#5: Arnel Pineda for Steve Perry

He wasn’t Journey’s first singer, but Steve Perry is still linked to the band’s most commercially successful periods. He’s since had a string of replacements, starting with Steve Augeri, Talisman’s Jeff Scott Soto and most recently, Arnel Pineda. Despite Pineda’s obvious talent, there are those who don’t think he’s on par with Perry, while others have made racist remarks regarding his Filipino culture.

#4: Multiple

After Metallica kicked out guitarist Dave Mustaine for his drug abuse, they replaced him with Kirk Hammett, which brought on the Megadeth versus Metallica debate. Next, Flotsam Jetsam’s Jason Newsted was hired to replace the late Cliff Burton on bass. But many fans felt Newsted couldn’t fill Burton’s shoes. When Newstead left, Robert Trujillo was hired. With so many line-up changes, it’s not surprising Metallica still triggers debate and discussion.

#3: Ronnie James Dio for Ozzy Osbourne
Black Sabbath

Ozzy Osbourne wasn’t the only Black Sabbath member to have indulged in drugs and alcohol. However, his substance abuse soon put him in a league of his own. This, combined with creative differences with Tony Iommi, led to Osbourne’s replacement with Rainbow’s Ronnie James Dio. Though Dio’s vocal prowess and musical contributions are undeniable, fans still have trouble agreeing who was the better Sabbath frontman.

#2: Everybody But Axl Rose for Somebody Else
Guns N' Roses

Along with Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler are considered the classic Guns N’ Roses line-up. However, artistic differences and Rose’s inability to get along with pretty much everyone, soon led to all members leaving or being fired. Since Axl had the rights to the band’s name, he continued making music under Guns N’ Roses – but the fact that he’s the only remaining original member still gets under the skin of most hardcore fans today.

Honorable Mentions

- Brian Johnson for Bon Scott, AC/DC
- Phil Anselmo for Terry Glaze, Pantera
- John Corabi for Vince Neil, Motley Crue
- David Gilmour for Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd
- John Bush for Joey Belladonna, Anthrax

#1: Sammy Hagar for David Lee Roth
Van Halen

Thanks to an unstable lineup of lead singers, Van Halen stirred up a helluva lot of controversy. They rose to fame with David Lee Roth, but he couldn’t get along with Eddie Van Halen. And though a change of style was accompanied by a change of frontman with Sammy Hagar, the band briefly reunited with Roth. Their problems continued following a commercially disappointing stint with Extreme’s Gary Cherone and separate reunions with Hagar and Roth, which succeeded to varying degrees.

Do you agree with our list? What do you think is the most contentious band replacement? For more entertaining top 10s, be sure to subscribe to

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