GETTING MORE TALE #813: Ringers
There’s a sports phrase in the parlance of the profession: a “ringer”. It means boosting your team with a player who who’s above your league, usually with accusations of dishonesty or bad sportsmanship. If you had a beer league hockey team, and your friend’s son happens to be Connor McDavid, and he substitutes for your usual center Big Jim McBob, then you have a ringer.
I was watching some live music on YouTube and wondered if there is a rock band equivalent.
Though it’s not considered cheating, did Queensryche pull a ringer when they got Todd La Torre to sing? Todd is a fine vocalist who enables Queensryche to perform the old material properly; stuff with notes so high that only a young singer can really pull it off. Journey did something similar with Arnel Pineda. They wanted to play the original songs in the original keys, not tune them down for an older singer.
Original Queensryche singer Geoff Tate’s voice has changed over the decades. That’s nature. He can be hit or miss when singing the high stuff, so he tends not to anymore. He’s able to steer around difficult notes and still play the song. La Lorre has no issues with them however, adding some of his own grit to the screams. Todd La Torre is 45 years old. Geoff Tate is closer to his old bandmates at age 61. If Queensryche were to look for another singer in his 60s, they wouldn’t be able to find one able to scream the opening to “Queen of the Reich”.
Go back in time further, to the early 1990s. One band that absolutely hired a ringer was Poison when they acquired Richie Kotzen to replace C.C. Deville.
Without being too unkind, C.C. and Richie are not playing the same sport when it comes to guitar. C.C. is a WWF wrestler, hammering you over the head with loud sloppy moves and tricks. Richie is like a light boxer with heart, a fast contender with a feel for it.
When Poison picked up Kotzen, they plucked someone from the upper echelons to replace somebody who was basically still in the garage. While it failed to win fans in the “get serious 90s”, it did give them an album that they never would have been able to create otherwise. Eventually they were forced to bring C.C. back, but they can never perform material from the Kotzen album. They’d sound ridiculous.
It could be argued that Kiss hired ringers with almost every replacement member in their band, from Eric Carr to Vinnie Vincent to Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick. All of these guys are, on a technical level at least, lightyears better players than the original members. But on the other hand, none of those replacements could capture the sheer vibe of the original band either.
Think about it. When a veteran band loses an original member, do they ever replace them with a peer? Very rarely. Deep Purple replaced Jon Lord (age 61 at retirement) with Don Airey (54 at hiring). But Black Sabbath replaced Bill Ward (age 71 today) with Tommy Clufetos (40 today). No matter what Bill claims, Clufetos is simply in better physical condition. He’s a ringer.
What is your take on this subject? Are these guys ringers, or just regular hired guns? Is there really a difference?