Bands usually call it a day for a reason, and after years of spending every last moment with one another, they need to move onto pastures new for the sake of sanity, if nothing else. However, after a few years of reduced earnings, the harsh memories often fade away, and a reunion tour often appears irresistible to many.
The objectives for reunions can vary, but mostly money is the primary or, more commonly, the sole objective. While it is hard to blame the iconic bands who chase a final pay packet, one last chance to play live to adoring fans across the world is another reason that makes the opportunity so alluring.
For bands that haven’t squandered their money up the wall or earned plentiful amounts in their heyday, charity is frequently another reason they put their differences aside. While the intentions are admirable in this case, the execution can often be more difficult when you still hate the guts of your bandmate.
Reunions need to come from a genuine place and the desire to get stuck into unfinished business. There are plentiful examples of bands who’ve successfully managed to enhance their legacies, such as Sleater Kinney, Pulp and Blur. However, here we are, focusing on the reunions that didn’t end on such glowing terms.
The 10 worst reunions of all time:
10. Sex Pistols
When The Sex Pistols made their comeback and embarked on their highly lucrative Filthy Lucre Tour in 1996, a string of shows took them around the world playing obscenely large venues that even the band themselves would have been taken aback by. Despite the truly un-punk notion of a cash grab reunion tour, the chance to fill up their duffle bags was too good to turn down.
“We still hate each other with a vengeance,” Johnny Rotten romantically said at the press conference announcing the tour. “But we’ve found a common cause, and that’s your money. These are the people that wrote the songs, and now we’d like to be paid for it. Over the years every fucker has lived off us, and we haven’t seen penny one.”
In truth, that comment sadly set the tone for the reunion.
INXS were nothing without Michael Hutchence, and the late frontman was truly irreplaceable. However, that small factor didn’t stop his bandmates from attempting it when they recruited Jon Stevens in 2000. Hutchence had died three years before, and they since toured with several guest singers before adding Stevens permanently.
Stevens lasted three years before JD Fortune stole his place. He fronted the Australian band for two albums before leaving in 2011. INXS then brought in Ciaran Gribbin between 2011 and 2012 before deciding it was probably a wise idea to call it a day. Just fifteen years too late.
Outkast’s BigBoi and Andre 3000 aren’t short of a penny or two, but in 2014 they got back together to headline California’s Coachella for a pair of lacklustre performances. They then brought their show around America and Europe across 40 festivals that year, with Outkast looking like shadows of their former selves.
Even if they didn’t rediscover their initial magic, the arsenal of tunes that Outkast’s has in their cannon still makes for a spectacular show even if their hearts weren’t fully in it. Following a New Orleans performance in October, the band resumed their hiatus and have stayed radio silent since.
7. Van Halen
Six years after an ill-fated reunion tour without Sammy Hagar, Van Halen managed to convince him to get on board in 2004 for a run of 80 dates. However, somehow, the run of dates were even less spectacular than their previous attempted reunion without Hager. Eddie Van Halen‘s addiction troubles would make the run of dates a miserable experience for everybody involved. Eddie finally got sober for good in 2008, but Hagar would never play with the group again.
“What happened on that reunion tour in ’04,” Hagar recalled the Sally Steele eight years later, “Was some of the most miserable, back-stabbing dark crap I’ve ever been involved with my whole life.”
6. The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground remains one of the most crucial acts that helped determine alternative music’s landscape. Although the Velvet Underground’s sales and billboard numbers were not astonishingly high during their tenure — in fact, they were pretty embarrassing — their impact on rock music planted a foundation during the 1960s, inadvertently inspiring others and eventually becoming one of the most influential rock bands of all time. With such a wealth of talent following in the band’s footsteps, the calls for reunion tours were deafening and, eventually, they gave in.
They set sail on a European trip commencing activities with a date in Edinburgh in June 1993, and the excursion even saw the band perform on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.
The tour of Europe was designed as a road test to see if The Velvet Underground could take it around the States and perform in vast venues on a lucrative payday. Sadly, tensions between the band soured throughout the run, and it saw them disperse once again when they returned to America.
They not only had a US tour lined up but also an MTV Unplugged session, and there was even talk of the band heading back to the studio. However, Cale and Reed fell out in a dramatic fashion, which brought the Velvet Underground journey to an end, bar a one-off appearance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
5. The Doors of the 21st Century
There’s no doubt that Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger played a crucial role in The Doors, but reuniting when they were both in their sixties seemed like it was all done for a final payday. The reunion got off to a bad start when they announced at the first concert that original drummer John Densmore couldn’t take part because he had tinnitus.
When Densmore got wind of the reason, he was furious and revealed they didn’t even ask him to join. Densmore teamed up with Jim Morrison’s family to prevent the duo from using The Doors’ name, and they won their case, leaving them to change their name to D21C. The whole reunion became a soap opera, there were no winners, and it only tainted their legacy.
4. The Stone Roses
When The Stone Roses first got back together in 2012 for a series of shows at Manchester’s Heaton Park it was a beautiful celebration of their iconic collection of songs. They then took their nostalgic show across the world and made sure everybody had a chance to tick The Stone Roses off their live bucket list.
Even in 2016, when they announced a series of shows at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium, fans were simply thrilled that they were still together. Then they released new music, ‘All For One’, in what is a project dismal enough to make you question their genius.
The second single, ‘Beautiful Thing,’ was improved, but they hadn’t learnt it for their shows at the Etihad and played it out of the PA as they left the stage. Their long-awaited third album never saw the light of day, and Ian Brown continues to ruin their legacy on his Twitter feed.
3. Led Zeppelin
The band infamously reunited for the first time since John Bonham‘s untimely passing for Live Aid in 1985. John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant opted to perform at the groundbreaking event’s Philadelphia leg. In a disappointing turn of events, the reunion was marred with a catalogue of errors. The band played for 20 minutes, performing rusty versions of ‘Rock and Roll’, ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’.
Tony Thompson and Phil Collins deputised for Bonham on drums, who both hadn’t been given ample time to rehearse, with Collins playing at the London leg of Live Aid merely hours before. The blame wasn’t solely on the newly acquired members’ shoulders, with Robert Plant confessing to Rolling Stone in 1988: “Emotionally, I was eating every word that I had uttered. And I was hoarse. I’d done three gigs on the trot before I got to Live Aid. We rehearsed in the afternoon, and by the time I got on stage, my voice was long gone.”
2. Jefferson Airplane
Jefferson’s Airplane reunion took everybody by surprise in 1989 as there were numerous lawsuits that the band were fighting among themselves before remarkably getting the band back together. They wanted to make sure their reunion was different from other reunions, so the Airplane recorded a disappointing album to accompany the tour.
Speaking about the album, Jorma Kaukonen from the group said the recording “was not the way we used to do it in the old days. It was very much the modular, sequenced L.A. way of recording,” he told the Orlando Sentinel in 1991. “It works for some people but not me. It just wasn’t even fun. It was well done but not very passionate.”
1. Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd attempted to bury the hatchet for Live 8 in 2005. Even though their show was nothing short of sublime, it somehow managed to worsen David Gilmour and Roger Waters‘ relationship even further.
Artists were only granted a 20-minute set, making it difficult for the band to select their setlist for Hyde Park. The problematic choices led to further clashes between Gilmour and Waters. Gilmour even downright refused to play ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ as he didn’t believe the message was appropriate for the event.
“Anyway, I don’t like it much. It’s all right but not part of the great emotional oeuvre,” Gilmour said in a 2006 interview. “The songs that Roger wanted were not the ones I thought we should do. The arrangements of the songs were not the way Roger wanted to do them. But I kind of insisted.”