Puzzling breakups and peace deals
We’ve all been there. We’ve all gone through terrible break-ups.
You know the kind — where both parties scream and yell and say the most bilious, hate-filled things to one another before finally vowing to never, ever speak with one another again.
But then, usually, two or three years later, at a bar or, say, a barbecue at the house of a mutual friend who, for no reason, we’ll call Gary, you see each other again from across the yard, and several gin and tonics, raspberry coolers and vodka Jell-O shots later, all of those bad things once said are forgotten and you wind up slurring apologies in the kitchen, before ultimately winding up embarrassing yourselves on the basement couch together in a sweaty, passionate …
Um, you get the idea.
It’s the same kind of thing in the world of music.
The only real difference being that in most cases you need to replace those alcoholic beverages with the promise of gobs and gobs of cash fed by a public hunger for nostalgia, and the basement couch with a tour of (hopefully) sold-out arenas and stadiums.
As for the embarrassment, well, that’s a case-by-case scenario, with the best case being a great show that captures the essence of the band during its original run and the worst case usually being a new studio album.
Over the years, the scenarios have been put to fans of such acts as the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Motley Crue, Led Zeppelin, The Who, KISS and even lesser lights such as Soft Cell, Duran Duran and (gak!) Hall & Oates.
Even a Beatles reunion was speculated on and drooled over until it was eventually put to rest with the body of John Lennon.
One of the most recent examples of the rock ‘n’ roll reunion is ’80s alternative legends the Pixies, who announced earlier this year they were putting past differences aside to hit the road for one more kick at the cat (or maybe taco, would be more appropriate).
The band — featuring Frank Black (a.k.a. Black Francis), Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering — formed in the mid-’80s in Boston and went on to have a career that paved the way for the alternative revolution of the ’90s.
Unfortunately, before they finally split in 1993 — Black informed the rest of the members via a faxed statement after already announcing it during an interview — the relationships were so sour they curdled.
Most of that tension was between frontman Black and Deal over his refusal to record her material, and her refusal to accept that.
In the years since the split, any mention of a reunion has been rebuffed by all parties — if they acknowledged the existence of the Pixies at all — with Black only warming to it slightly in the most recent past, even playing old Pixies tunes during his solo shows.
The questions were finally put to rest when it was announced that yes, indeed, the four were holed up in L.A. to rehearse for a tour that would, after a brief round of warm-up dates, begin with a headlining appearance at the Coachella Festival May 1 before heading overseas.
As to how embarrassing the patched-up Pixies are, Calgarians will get their opportunity to decide for themselves tomorrow night when the quartet plays a sold-out warm-up show at the U of C’s MacEwan Hall.
The following are some other reunions from over the years and how they fared:
EAGLES — Country soft-rock kings split up in 1982 after a not-so long run of a decade, with member Don Henley stating they would reunite when “hell freezes over.”
Jump to 1994, when that phrase is used as an “ironic” and “clever” name for a reunion album and tour, which had lumpy middle-aged music lovers everywhere leaping — figuratively speaking, of course — at the chance to pay an exorbitant sum to see barely mobile musicians robotically deliver the hits of their wasted — literally speaking, of course — youth.
Ten years later, they’re still going, having somehow evaded the cynicism radar of most of their fans and having siphoned not quite enough money out of the economy yet.
How embarrassing: It’s hard to be embarrassed for anyone when they’re billionaires and you’re fast asleep.
THE GUESS WHO
Canadian classic rock icons conquered the world with their hit American Woman, before principals Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings parted company in 1970.
It was a timeless story: Bachman was a Mormon from Winnipeg who shunned the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle; Cummings was a moustachioed party machine who embraced it to its fullest — however could it succeed?
In 1983, they got back together to see if it could work again. It didn’t.
It took the 1999 Pan Am Games in their hometown — and a hefty paycheck — to finally get them back for a lengthy period of time, with a cross-Canada tour that won over even the most hardened of critics.
Subsequent tours and appearances, including a much ballyhooed set at Sars-stock, have gone over just as well.
How embarrassing: Surprisingly not at all.
SIMON & GARFUNKEL
Forever known as the talented little fella and that other guy what’shisname, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel have been an on-again, off-again duo for most of their lives.
Their two biggest splits came in the early ’70s, when Simon went onto a popular solo career and Garfunkel … um, didn’t.
A brief reunion did occur halfway through the decade and then a full-blown one came about in 1981 with their famous concert in Central Park.
A planned new studio album never materialized due to artistic differences — presumably due to Simon being an artist and Garfunkel being not.
Finally, they were brought back one more time for 2003’s Grammy Awards, looking and sounding like two people who hadn’t spoken in more than 20 years.
Still, Art oddly had enough free time to fit in a full tour late last year.
How embarrassing: Charity, especially among friends or acquaintances, is never embarrassing.
The original KISS lineup — Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss — was responsible for some of the most memorable theatrical arena rock of the ’70s.
Criss left in 1980 and Frehley left soon after, with the band going downhill steadily from there and Simmons and Stanley pretty much bad mouthing the departed pair as merely hired hands.
However, those hired hands were more than helpful in refilling the KISS coffers when they put the makeup back on and reunited in 1996.
Since then, the band has embarked on a farewell tour that has lasted longer than most childhoods, with Frehley and Criss alternately quitting or being punted from the band at regular intervals.
How embarrassing: They’re 50 years old, wearing wigs, makeup, moon boots and spandex — what could possibly be embarrassing about that?
They burned brief and bright for a couple of years in the ’70s, but it was enough to push punk rock into the frightened mainstream.
A reunion seemed like an entirely unlikely thing considering the death of bassist Sid Vicious, but completely likely considering they were a well marketed and better managed cash grab from the beginning.
With frontman Johnny Rotten’s (a.k.a. John Lydon) career in the dumper — even after producing several superb albums with his new band Public Image Limited — it didn’t take much to get him to agree to a 1996 reunion with the other members and original bassist Glen Matlock to celebrate the Pistols’ 20th anniversary.
What followed was the Filthy Lucre Tour and, since then, a few less successful dates and tours.
How embarrassing: Punk’s not dead, it’s hiding.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND
More than a decade apart proved to be just the tonic for The Boss and his legendary backup band.
In 1999, they put all differences aside for a successful reunion tour, which paved the way for a studio reunion with the 9/11-inspired The Rising.
That then gave way to a full world tour which, for many, captured the essence of their shows together in the ’70s that are the stuff of rock legend.
Here’s hoping more is on the way.
How embarrassing: How brilliant.
BANDS ON THE RUN
* Pink Floyd
* The Smiths
Suppose They Had a Reunion and No One Cared:
* Men Without Hats
* Guns N’ Roses
Rock reunions – Hello Cleveland!!!
Puzzling breakups and peace deals