There have been plenty of sensational lead singers over the years, but some are more electric than others. Here’s our own rundown of the most charismatic and magnetic band leaders ever – starting with Number 50, The Heartbreakers’ Richard Hell.
49 – Josh Homme Queens Of The Stone Age’s lynchpin was a frontman frontrunner for his domineering stage presence, that trademark caterwaul, and his ability to pull off ginger locks with aplomb.
48 – Suggs Massive 80s ska band and current wedding playlist favourites Madness wouldn’t be half the band they are without chief maniac Suggs. And Suggs wouldn’t be half the frontman he is if he used his real name Graham McPherson.
47 – Ray Davies The Kinks’ Ray Davies is a captivating presence on stage, especially when he’s belting out some of our era’s defining songs, from ‘You Really Got Me’ to ‘Waterloo Sunset’.
46 – Johnny Thunders Johnny Thunders proved his mettle in two bands: The New York Dolls and The Heartbreakers. The latter were such an amazing live proposition they were asked by the Sex Pistols to open the latter’s Anarchy tour.
45 – Ian Dury Dury was an unpredictable and immensely watchable frontman. The songwriter behind the legendary song ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll’ was the subject of a documentary of the same name starring Andy Serkis. Dury sadly died in 2000.
44 – Kim Deal As frontwoman of The Breeders and sidekick in the Pixies, Kim Deal has spent her fair share of time on the stage, inspiring countless hopefuls to pick up the guitar.
42 – Lemmy Mötorhead’s Lemmy was renowned for many things: his enormous sideburns and boils, his glycerine-soaked growl, his love of strong whiskey and for living far longer than anyone thought he would. Oh, and ‘Ace Of Spades’.
41 – Captain Beefheart Beefheart, who sadly passed away last year, was a true individual, a bizarre and talented songwriter beloved of most musicians. Shortly after his death, everyone from Tom Waits to Matt Groening paid tribute online.
40 – Roger Daltrey The swagger, the hair, the tight trousers, and of course that howl – few are as iconic as The Who’s Roger Daltrey.
39 – Siouxsie Sioux Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Siouxsie Sioux not only dominated the stage during her day job, but wowed crowds when she joined the likes of John Cale and Morrissey. TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek is also a big fan.
38 – Lou Reed While some frontmen swagger and others howl, The Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed just quietly oozed cool.
37 – David Byrne From his early days in Talking Heads to his recent shows involving synchronised dancing with office chairs, David Byrne has always known how to put on a show. Vote for your favourite frontmen and women now.
36 – Stevie Nicks Forget the fact that Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks allegedly liked cocaine blown up her ass, the singer was mostly legendary for her wispy capes and gravelly, heartwrenching vocal chords.
34 – Courtney Love Her legendary performance at last year’s Shockwaves NME Awards reminded everyone in the room what a set of pipes the old girl has.
33 – Thom Yorke Radiohead’s Thom Yorke is a captivating performer, whether alone onstage at Glastonbury 2010 during sunset or busting moves for the new video to ‘Lotus Flower’.
32 – Paul Weller From his early days in The Jam to his solo career and recent status as a Godlike Genius, the sharp-suited Paul Weller is the quintessential English frontman.
30 – Ian Brown The swagger, the stage frights, and the sound bites – King Monkey Ian Brown has been running a masterclass in how to be a frontman since his Stone Roses days.
29 – Robert Plant Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant pulls off a feat that even some of the greatest frontmen can’t do – making the ridiculous look cool. Bare chests, horsey haircuts, and flares with stars and planets on – who knew such things were cool?
28 – Chuck D Champion of socially concious rap and main man for Public Enemy, Chuck D has a remarkable career. He was even in Anchorman. Although the scene got cut. Vote for your favourite frontmen and women now.
27 – Tom Petty Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ Tom Petty has had US radio in the palm of his hand for three decades, and his rule extended as far as the Superbowl three years ago. Big league stuff. Vote for your favourite frontmen and women now.
26 – Bon Scott Forget Angus Young. He’s alright, but the finest asset AC/DC ever had was one Mr Bon Scott, who helped shape the rockers into the band they are now during six short years between 1974 and 1980. You don’t get Marcus Mumford posing like this.
25 – Brett Anderson No wacky arse-smacking dummy in Britpop’s museum, the Suede singer’s thin, white, tortured convulsions lit up the dark days of the early ’90s like a magnesium flare. Brett Anderson’s depraved delicacy and hinted thuggery was pan-gender magnetic, that ugly-lovely Sussex yowl as sharp as his cheekbones.
24 – Matt Bellamy Muse’s leader plays the guitar as though it were a part of his body, and he gabbles in a voice like Pavarotti’s. And the best thing of all? If he walked down the street in a pair of jeans, you would barely notice. He is living the ultimate bedroom geek fantasy, and for that he is to be celebrated.
23 – Nick Cave Grinderman tourmate Anna Calvi says of Nick Cave: “The way he just enters a room and electrifies everybody – such a presence! It’s that persona which is exactly what I saw onstage night after night. He’s someone who does exactly what he wants to, and as a result of that he gets this strange power that makes his performances incredible.”
22 – Joey Ramone Initially, Joey Ramone played drums while Dee Dee handled vocals. The switch changed everything, as the way Joey looked and carried himself epitomised what was being said in ‘Rock’N’Roll High School’ and ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’.
21 – Ian Curtis Deathly pale, staring into the middle distance (or future?), in the eyes of Ian Curtis is an absolute primal terror that’s utterly chilling. This was a guy who really did mean it. Suicide wasn’t necessary to get that message across, it was already plain to see.
20 – Karen O Sure, anyone can throw a mic around and scream like a larynx-jabbed banshee. But sheer force of energy – no matter how unhinged you are – does not a frontwoman make. Karen O may well be one of the most shoe-scorchingly kinetic singers around, but what elevates her to superhuman status is how her jabber-whirl antics intertwine with YYY’s music.
19 – Damon Albarn His Blur bandmate Graham Coxon said of the singer: “He’s always been a frontman because he’s just that sort of bloke. He was like that when I first met him at school at 12 – there’s just something in his nature where he has to be a constant performer.”
18 – Jack White Jimmy page calls him a hero. He’s the frontman of not one but three successful bands. He is, quite simply, a true rock’n’roll great, able to reach out with a tortured howl or an erratic guitar solo deep into the broken heart of his performance. It’s his unique ability to channel a century of blues into every performance that marks him out as a modern legend.
17 – Lux Interior The frontman of The Cramps was the living (dead) embodiment of rock’n’roll, its wild and free spirit, its anarchy and humour, its lunacy and self-destruction, all made flesh and reanimated into a Sex Frankenstein.
16 – Bobby Gillespie “I’m a frontman,” says Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie. “I’ve gotta lead the band. The band draws the energy off of me. When I’m on form I know my band will play better.”
15 – Mark Bolan Taking his cues from early rockers such as Little Richard, Marc Bolan invented the idea of the alien megastar beamed down from space. Of course, he could write incredible songs, but his true genius was in simply being a star, a beautiful thing of his own creation.
14 – Joe Strummer Strummer wasn’t the most technically competent guitarist, and he was far from being the world’s best singer, but it really didn’t matter. What you got from The Clash frontman was a passion, energy and total commitment to the cause that very few have been able to match. He was a brash, intense, Elvis-leg-twitching punk-rock superstar.
13 – Jarvis Cocker No one could copy Jarvis. It would be simply impossible. The retro yet stylish clothes, his lyrics, the sleaze and the ability to always write in a way that made you wonder how no-one else had done it before. He’s the last true eccentric genius we have left in British pop music.
12 – Mark E Smith After 35 years of being in the business, Mark E Smith told NME, “I get very nervous before I go onstage. I drink two bottles of whiskey. Haha, no, not really. I do an anti-clockwise walk though. It’s what boxers used to do in Victorian times. No one knows that.”
11 – Jim Morrison Carl Barat says of the Doors frontman: “Everything Jim did, he was the first of his kind. He wrote what was arguably A-level poetry , but he was the first to do so and the bravery that that took exonerates anything else. He was a showman in the classic sense.”
10 – Kurt Cobain “Kurt Cobain was the best rock star of all time,” says Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil. “Why? Because he was so honest in his songs. That kind of honesty is how real connections are made with people.”
9 – Shaun Ryder She’s has been banned from C4, been ravaged by drugs, and conquered reality TV, and he’s still going strong. How would Mr. Ryder rate himself in the pantheon of frontmen? “I don’t really,” he says. “I just know I did the job.”
8 – Patti Smith She invented the rock singer as a lost-in-a-trance-but-still-focused-as-hell believer. Nobody has yet managed to better her for intensity or sheer force of nature.
7 – Liam Gallagher Fellow great frontman Bobby Gillespie says: “There’s not many good ones left – but Liam Gallagher is one. The guy is unmarketable because he’s confrontational and he doesn’t give a fuck. And that’s the attitude you’ve gotta have if you wanna be a frontman.”
6 – Freddie Mercury Freddie Mercury’s life was one long act of rock’n’roll theatre. That he was able to drag every ounce of his extroverted lifestyle into his stage performance was what marked him out as a unique talent.
5 – Morrissey “What made Morrissey really interesting was that he inverted all of the traditional concepts of what it was to be a rock star,” says Brett Anderson. “He made it possible that you could be a sexually inadequate loser. And he championed qualities such as depression and illness, all of those things that were so far away from what a rock star was supposed to be.”
4 – Debbie Harry The Blondie lynchpin was much more than a mere sex symbol. Here was someone who had the intellect, the swagger, the grace and the sheer coolness to match the Monroe-like outer persona. Before Harry, women in mainstream music were rarely allowed to be anything other than one-dimensional.
3 – John Lydon What makes a great frontman? “Honesty,” says punk’s numero uno. “And telling it exactly like is. Not how you want it to be. The thing people don’t get about me is that the things I’m angry with are not human beings. It’s the shit-stem itself, and I think my songs express that. I’m not about angst, you know? I do this because I really want the world to be a better place.”
2 – Jimi Hendrix “I don’t actually think you can separate Hendrix as a singer from Hendrix the guitar player,” Slash says of the legend. “The two things were inseperable. He was completely unique.”
1 – Iggy Pop Iggy is a half-dressed whirlwind who defines the word ‘wild’ and thinks nothing of picking fights with armed biker gangs. Vote for your own top frontmen now.