We have all fantasised about the bands that have come back together at a key point in our lives. We’ve all hoped and prayed that the band might try and re-capture their past glories, in the expectancy that it might transport us back to that point of interest.
But as much as we appoint glory onto these groups, they are only human at the end of the day. And in their efforts to recapture the image that audiences have put on them, they sometimes find themselves unable to achieve that point of power, or worse, they fall far short of the mark.
It’s those that have fallen from the mark that interests us here because they are the ones that show us how important the moment in question is, especially when it comes on the back of a grand catalogue of music. It shows us how human we are.
Humanity funnels great music and creates a new perspective on how unique the music in question was, especially since it comes from a place of great stress and creativity.
10 failed band reunions:
10: Black Sabbath
Ozzy Osbourne’s solo career had long dwarfed Black Sabbath’s, so he must have felt charitable when he rejoined the band at Live Aid, a concert done in an effort to compile millions for the disadvantaged in Ethiopia. As it happens, Osbourne regretted how uncharitably he behaved towards his bandmates, and this sense of arrogance, apathy and general disinterest entered into the performance, showcasing the band’s moronicism and mania at a festival that was searching for something grander and more engaging.
It didn’t help that Osbourne was in terrible shape, but guitarist Tony Iommi did little to help the cause, dressing up as the fading middle-aged rockstar he had become. He wears the gauche glasses that were becoming commonplace in American serials, and he looks like a pimp, parading with a guitar. Mercifully, Black Sabbath pulled themselves together in time for their much worthier reunion in 1997.
9. Led Zeppelin
On the topic of Live Aid, it really is a coin toss of a difference between Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin as to who embarrassed themselves more. Ultimately, Zeppelin came across a tiny bit better, largely because Robert Plant sings as if his life depended on it. It’s just a shame that the other members – including Genesis superstar Phil Collins, filling in for John Bonham – couldn’t match the vocalist in question.
Collins took the brunt of the blame for the concert. He shouldn’t have, as Jimmy Page blew every chance to deliver a killer solo, and John Paul Jones positioned himself on keyboards, letting someone else play the bass that was rightfully his to play. Watching the footage now, one sympathises with Plant, who was reluctant to reunite with the band, and only did so in 2007 when he saw how committed Page and Jones were for the event.
Guitarist Pete Ham died tragically by his own hand in 1975. He was a deeply gifted man, who built up an entire back-catalogue of music before he was 27. In many ways, he was Badfinger, as he tended to write the hits, and he produced many of the more hummable guitar licks that made it onto the radios. Bandmates Joey Molland and Tom Evans were both talented, but there was no denying the impact Ham held on the band, which the group discovered when they reformed following his death.
True, the duo produced ‘Love Is Gonna Come At Last’, a frothy, bubble-gum piece that was as enjoyable as anything Wings issued during the late 1970s, but the sparkle could scarcely snowball into something bigger and more fulfilling, and the pair soon found themselves squabbling over past grievances. Sadly, Evans died in 1983 by his own hand, leaving Molland standing as the only surviving member of Badfinger.
7. My Chemical Romance
My Chemical Romance have followed half-hearted effort after half-hearted effort for years, which is why their decision to reform is a questionable one. My Chemical Romance are quite simply the worst band to make this list – they’re blander than Muse, and write worse lyrics too – but they have maintained a popularity that emanates from a desire to pander to the teenage market, and the emotions they supposedly hold. It would be cynical of us to accuse My Chemical Romance as a group that corners a vacant market, but we wouldn’t disagree with someone who made that comment elsewhere.
Ultimately, their attempts to drum up support for the new generation has been mixed, as they’ve become the very thing a teenager actively despises: a heritage act. Yet they seem to hold a certain level of acclaim in their efforts to re-capture the treasures of the past. Maybe this time they’ll write something more befitting our time, but the concert footage shows a group more interested in going over past motions than plunging headfirst into more interesting territories.
6. The Doors
Jim Morrison’s death left a gaping hole in the world of rock, but for his bandmates in The Doors, the death left a grander chasm, and one even they couldn’t fill by themselves. Ultimately, the trio realised that Morrison was pivotal to the band, and the group pieced together a collection of his poetry put to music. An American Prayer was their way of peeling back the edges of their mythology, from which the band then packed up their instruments and went their separate ways. The band collectively chose to put the brakes on the band, feeling that it pointed to the past as a whole.
The band reformed for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this time with Eddie Vedder as frontman. Vedder’s enthusiasm was very different to Morrison’s more lethargic approach to singing, replacing stoicism with frenzy, fury and rage. If there was anger, it wasn’t heard in the performance, which stands as one of the most misguided performances heard at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
5. The Byrds
The Byrds were one of the most important bands of the 1960s, heralding a new form of guitar performance that inspired everyone from The Rolling Stones to The Beatles. They were led by Roger McGuinn, but David Crosby was also influential in carving out the band’s legacy. By the time they reunited in 1989, The Byrds were a memory of an era that shared little in common with the 1960s, and the band’s decision to reform was one many of the presses disagreed with. Crosby was in agreement.
“First Gene went around with a very, very bad band, calling it the Byrds,” Crosby complained.”Well, OK. Gene was one of the original writer/singer guys. But when it gets to be Michael Clarke the drummer — who never wrote anything or sang anything – going out there with an even worse band, and claiming to be the Byrds … and they can’t play the stuff. It was dragging the name in the dirt.”
4. Small Faces
Small Faces morphed into two different factions following the release of Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake: Vocalist Steve Marriott formed the harder-edged Humble Pie with Peter Frampton, the hot-shot guitarist he invited into the orbit, leaving the other three bandmates to form The Faces with the decidedly taller Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart. By the late 1970s, Wood was very much planted in The Rolling Stones and Stewart was a solo artist, leading the other three to reform with Marriott. Bassist Ronnie Lane had to bow out, owing to ill health, so Rick Wills stepped in on bass.
Former Wings guitarist Jimmy McCulloch also toured with the rebooted outfit. McCulloch needn’t have bothered: The new rendition of Small Faces was awful, reducing themselves to the type of pub singalongs that their band were supposed to do away with, carrying on a legacy based on shoddy performances and hackneyed singing styles that dated the youthful band quickly and mercilessly.
Although Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart were functional in their dealings, cracks had begun to emerge between the two after the latter nearly perished in a car crash. Things were a little better in the 1990s, despite the involvement of former bandmates Kevin Godley and Lol Creme during the recording of …Meanwhile. Gouldman found the recording process disappointing, especially since the band were forced to delegate the majority of the instrumentation to the session musicians Gary Katz brought in to polish up the album.
Things improved on Mirror Mirror, an album Gouldman and Stewart recorded almost entirely separately from one another. Even the inclusion of Paul McCartney – who contributed to anthems ‘Code of Silence’ and ‘Yvonne’s The One’ – couldn’t salvage the album from the barrels of the mediocre. Stewart left 10cc during the 1990s, leaving Gouldman as the only one who still tours with the outfit.
Bassist Jim Lea was philosophical when he talked about Slade’s decision to continue touring without him. He likened their decision to Queen touring without Freddie Mercury. “I knew all of them in Queen, even before they were famous,” Lea said. “My son brought me to the Queen + Adam Lambert show, terrific show. I had a conversation with Brian about continuing, he said that he and Roger still want to carry on and people want to hear the songs, so give it to them. A bit like Slade, two of the band continued on, you take your cards, I guess”.
He doesn’t need to be so polite, because the two members that carried on weren’t the ones who wrote the songs. Instead, Dave Hill and Powell made a concerted effort to try and recapture Lea’s melodiousness and Noddy Holder’s penchant for bawdry brilliance, albeit lacking either the acumen or the charm to make it the audience’s time or energy. The rest really is too awful to write about.
1. The Beatles
Take those rose-tinted glasses off: Those reunion singles cut during the 1990s were awful. Of the two ‘Real Love’ is the more complete, but it still sounds like little more than a cheaply produced track destined for karaoke parties, and then there’s the embarrassingly twee ‘Free As A Bird’, featuring a hackneyed solo that sounds like George Harrison was barely able to hide his boredom. Considering some reports from the era – Harrison was in need of some cash, following the collapse of Handmade Films – he probably wasn’t interested in contributing, and returned to the tried and tested slide patterns that had serviced him in the 1970s. Even Paul McCartney felt it sounded too ‘My Sweet Lord’ for The Beatles.
It didn’t help that The Beatles were one man short, so they were forced to work with a collection of outtakes John Lennon cobbled together in a last-ditch effort to save face. It’s a shame that neither McCartney nor Harrison were committed enough to the project to create music that was new, but the two men weren’t at a point of unity in life, so they compromised by sounding divided on ‘Free As A Bird’ and ‘Real Love’.