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Ginger Baker And 9 Other Musicians Who Were Cooler Than The Singer

by Simon Martin
10 February 2014 29 Comments

All too often the singers take all the plaudits for a band's success, well here's our list of alternative ace band members, proving it's not all about the frontmen.

John Cale – Velvet Underground

Lou Reed could write a song we all know that, but Cale was the cool Welsh guy in the background who’s spoken word rendition of The Gift captivated me as a know-nowt student in the 80’s. At this point I was not going to lectures and working my way through the record collection at Preston Library. A lot of Cale’s solo stuff is a bit avant-garde for me but he’s worked with some great artists along the way and remains an iconic figure to this day.

Clem Burke – Blondie

Elvis Ramone, Mr Noo Joisey. Sat at the back driving the beat in his target T-Shirt and square shades, Burke was every inch the Anglophile. As a young whippersnapper I was into the best of British and so it seems was Clem. It really turned me on to Blondie in about 1980, granted Debs helped with that too. They are one of those bands who are highly regarded but still probably not highly enough if you know what I mean. History will rectify that I suspect.

Ginger Baker – Cream

Let’s face it, Eric Clapton is a great guitarist but he never really looked the part. Baker did, all hair, beard, bad teeth and foppish outfits. An accomplished Jazz drummer he was like a big red Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) gurning whilst he played. Look at this picture. Who are those two boring bastards with him?

Ronnie Lane – Small Faces

He was no looker that’s for sure and I know Marriot was cool too but I loved Ronnie Lane. Possibly because I thought what he did post Small Faces / Faces with stuff like Slim Chance was more to my taste. He was taken from us far too early and remains one of the biggest influencers from that era. It’s a sad loss even now.

John Entwistle – The Who

Calm, quiet, methodical. Old thunderfingers was a stationary rock aside Daltrey’s leaping livewire, dependable and perfectly timed. Just what you want in a bass player. He also died with two tarts in his Las Vegas hotel bed. Fucking get in there Ox, that’s how rocks stars go out, even the quiet ones.

I thought punk was shit on the whole with all its spitting and spiky hair but I will be eternally thankful for what came after it.

George Harrison – The Travelling Wilburys

Had some success early in his career and wore a great beard but was always overlooked as the two main songwriters of his band hogged the limelight a tad. People forget he wrote a lot of their more thoughtful and melodic stuff. In my view a very talented man who then got all spiritual and tried to fuck off a burglar by yelling Hare Krishna at him. Good luck with that, I recommend a bat of some kind. Although maybe not a vampire or fruit bat, I was thinking more cricket or rounders.

Jean Jacques Burnel – The Stranglers

Another fucking bass player? Yes another fucking bass player but one with a black belt 6th dan in Karate too so watch what you say around him, he’ll kick your teeth in as soon as look at you. I thought The Stranglers were one of those bands that was labelled punk but were just a good band so their publicity sought to attach them to something of a movement. I thought punk was shit on the whole with all its spitting and spiky hair but I will be eternally thankful for what came after it. Burnel was a bit of an Ian McCulloch-a-like come to think of it. How shit is that, you are the spit of someone else but they are kind of equally famous so no real benefit can come of it.

Viv Stanshall – Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band

The Dog band were largely shit if we are honest and Urban Spaceman aside were like a footlights version of the Barron Knights who were also shit. Stanshall though, is and was a proper mad get with eyes and hair to match. Singer Neil Innes was a grey junior bank clerk by comparison. If you ever get the chance to watch the film of Stanshall’s book and LP “Sir Henry at Rawlinson’s End” – 1980, do because there is genuinely nothing to compare it to.

Ron Mael – Sparks

I have no idea what the Hitler thing was all about but if his aim was to draw the eye from his brother Russell on stage it worked. Swivel eyed bonkers-ness was the name of the game and they made some great tunes too. “Beat the Clock” and “This town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us” are standouts but they’ve stuck around and still sell out today. Russell also had a parallel career as ex Sports Minister Kate Howey. Not a lot of people know that.

Clint Boon – Inspiral Carpets

Swirling Hammond organ, that’s how their music was always synopsised and it still fits. The lead singer when they had all their success was Tom Hingley who had a powerful enough voice but looked more like a kid off the back seat of every Citroen Saxo VTR in every car park in every town. Boony sported a cracking Purdey haircut and his organ was what set them aside from others. In a similar way to The Stranglers I think they would have made it regardless of the “Madchester” invention. They were good, I still listen to tracks like “Move”, “She Comes in the Fall” and “This is how it feels”. I also once sold a white label of Planecrash for £40, the 24 minute version don’t you know.

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

stanbowles 7:16 am, 13-Feb-2012

Animal from the Muppets.

AnalOrganMan 7:27 am, 13-Feb-2012

Clint Boon played a Farfisa Compact Duo, not a Hammond.

John-Paul 9:02 am, 13-Feb-2012

"Who" Were Cooler Than The Singer... This is the Internet, people, let's get it right! God knows what happens if this final bastion of grammar should fall. And, Brian Eno.

Simon Martin 11:10 am, 13-Feb-2012

Animal absolutely. A fine addition tot he list. Not guilty John-Paul. You really should give up trying to correct the internet though mate, you'll get no thanks for it.

Simon Martin 12:06 pm, 13-Feb-2012

Swirling Farfisa Compact Duo then.

logicalthought 12:46 pm, 13-Feb-2012

Some of this is just nonsense. First of all, the real front man for Cream was Jack Bruce, who sang and wrote far more of their great songs than Clapton. As great a drummer was Baker was, Bruce was far more indispensable to that band. And as for the Who, you can form your version of the band with Entwistle but you'll have to swap out Townshend while I'll form mine with Townshend and a no-name on bass, and let's see which band sells more records and makes more impactful music.

Simon Martin 12:53 pm, 13-Feb-2012

logicalthought. I never mentioned anything about being indispensable or replacing or removing any members of bands. I always though Townshend, whilst undoubtedly a huge talent, was a bit odd and I don't think I'm wrong.

Simon Martin 12:54 pm, 13-Feb-2012

Jean-Paul - Brian Eno = yes.

John-Paul 11:07 pm, 13-Feb-2012

Pete Townsend is/was definitely odd and wrong in some way I can't define. John Entwistle was a vastly talented bassist, playing lead bass over Townsend's backing chords. Keith Moon was hardly a slacker either; another virtuoso "side"man. Good article, made me think on and off all day. And James Burton; cooler than Elvis - admittedly less "sex personified".

Rob 4:31 am, 14-Feb-2012

Charlie Watts, if only for the fact that he (allegedly) once lamped Jagger for calling him "my drummer''.

ad 2:03 pm, 14-Feb-2012

yeh planecrach ep fucking hell! sought after shit! is it worth anything these days? like 400 quid? or 40 pence. any idea?

Simon Martin 3:26 pm, 14-Feb-2012

I've heard that story Rob but I'm not sure he punched him. He wore some great gear Watts. ad, probably fcuk all mate but at the time it was worth a few beans basicallt because DJ's could go for a pint whilst it was on.

ad 3:38 pm, 14-Feb-2012

i see! i think the best thing to come from all this is i've got she comes in the fall going round on a loop in my head instead of the we buy any car advert on talksport. great tune, and i know it perfectly, right down to the swirly organ/Farfisa Compact Duo riffs. basically if i'd listened to learn chinese records back then i'd speak like a native mandarin by now.

JR 12:57 pm, 15-Feb-2012

clint boon looks nothing like that now, he is a 50 odd year old father of 4 who very obviously dies his hair.

Mr Snotter 1:43 am, 16-Feb-2012

When I started reading this list,first thought was J.J.Burnel.Good Shout and always thought the Uninspirial Craperts sounded like them.

HardcorePrawn 1:23 pm, 16-Feb-2012

I always thought that Izzy Stradlin was pretty cool, especially when you consider how entirely uncool the rest of his band was.

Andyevs 5:49 pm, 17-Feb-2012

Wilco Johnson, Dr Feelgood were never the same after he left. Proper nutter..

TedMan 4:01 pm, 16-Feb-2013

Ridgley was cooler than Michael of course

Dan 11:44 am, 10-Feb-2014

Johnny Marr, Steve Jones, The Edge, Johnny Thunders (circa NY Dolls). Must be loads more. I'll have a think.

Dan 12:19 pm, 10-Feb-2014


Dan 12:35 pm, 10-Feb-2014

Mark Collins from The Charlatans (easily beats Burgess since he started having those preposterous hair do's)

Gra 7:57 pm, 10-Feb-2014

Peter Hook - New Order

CoolJerk 9:38 pm, 10-Feb-2014

John Paul Jones, Wilko Johnson, Cliff Burton, Peter Tosh.

chris 11:01 pm, 10-Feb-2014

What about Jason Becker and Marty Friedman from Cacophony? Waaaaaaay cooler than the lead singer.

CA Jones 11:16 pm, 10-Feb-2014

Wayne Kramer MC5 - he could bust some moves and make the guitar howl - gotta feel sorry for poor porky Rob Tyler (RIP). From the intro & about 2 mins in & 3.40ish - revolution NOW!!

joemack 3:54 am, 11-Feb-2014

absolutely brilliant putting ol ginge in there, and I mean Viv not baker, also Bonzos were not that bad, 'let's make up and be friendly' has some good stuff on it, including Henry, and Rusty. have a listen.

BenJohn 11:21 pm, 23-Feb-2014

There are more Keith Moon posters on teenager's walls than John Entwistle, he's not a better musician, but he is cooler. Captain Sensible, definitely cooler than the front man (who's name escapes me and I can't be arsed to look up)

Doesn't matter 9:41 pm, 13-Feb-2015

Dave Vanion or something like that, not bothered to look it up. Looks a bit like Johnny Depp in Sweeny Todd although the 5p version. And a twat in penny specs and a Beret looking cooler? Best just call it quits and go top yourself Dave. It amazes me that Angus Young hasn't been mentioned yet. Bon was far cooler but he's been dead 35 years but even Malcom is cooler than Brian.

Doesn't matter 9:47 pm, 13-Feb-2015

Also Slash over the monumental Bellend that is Axel Rose. The less said of Slash's output since G'n' R the better though.

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