Not Getting the Band Back Together

We all know the rea$on$ band$ choo$e to reunite. For the camaraderie and joy of playing music with old friends, of course! Band reunions are all the rage these days: Arena-filling acts like Van Halen and the Police have joined the bandwagon, along with club acts like Superdrag and Dinosaur Jr. (at the Black Cat this evening), and even some formerly reliable holdouts like Led Zeppelin and My Bloody Valentine. There are some bands that buck the reunion trend. But why? What causes them to let the past remain the past? After the jump I'll take a look at some of the most common reasons bands don't reunite.

Hatred of Other Band Members
Time can heal many wounds, but not all of them. Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth made nice, but not even the guarantee of hundreds of millions of dollars can entice some other rockers to let bygones be bygones. Roger Waters and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd have cooled the sniping lately and they even managed to spend a half hour sharing the stage together at Live 8. But there's still enough bad blood to ensure no reunion. Part of that can be attributed to the lawsuit that Waters brought after he left the band in the '80s, claiming that Gilmour had no right to continue with the Pink Floyd name. Litigation is usually a good way to ensure hatred doesn't disappear. Mike Joyce, drummer for the Smiths, sued Morrissey and Johnny Marr for recording and performance royalties. That's certainly a big reason Morrissey didn't hesitate in turning down a reported $5 million for a single Smiths reunion gig at Coachella in 2006.

Band Member Becomes Too Famous
As has been established, the reason to reunite is money. Anybody saying otherwise is - at least partially - lying. When the Pixies reunited three years ago it was almost refreshing to hear band members be so straightforward about their motivations. "I have two step-kids and one of my own on the way. That's three college funds," Frank Black nee Black Francis nee Charles Thompson told Eric Brace. So what happens when a band breaks up but then a band member goes on to find greater success with his or her next project? No need for a reunion, at least for that person. Uncle Tupelo may have spearheaded the alt-country movement and got a magazine named after one of their albums but a reunion would be a clear step backwards for Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy. The Sugarcubes were college radio favorites back in the day, but that band is a mere footnote in the history of Bjork. For Tweedy or Guðmundsdóttir to agree to a reunion (and yes, the Sugarcubes played a single reunion gig last year) they'd have to be feeling mighty generous.

Actual Artistic Integrity
No litigation issues, no intra-band hatred, no financial or fame factors? What's the hold up? Sometimes a band won't get back together simply because there are a few folks who believe that once a band breaks up, well, they've broken up. It was a good run, some great music was made, but that time has come and gone and it's time for new artistic pursuits. How quaint, right? Every year or so in D.C., especially around Fort Reno schedule time, people start clamoring for a Fugazi reunion. In case you haven't noticed, Ian MacKaye isn't really a wishy-washy sort of guy. The band never officially broke up, but any sort of reunion at this point would seem far too nostalgic for any of the Fugazi guys to take part in. Sleater-Kinney is another band that took the "hiatus" route instead of announcing an official breakup. This only happened last year, so it's too early to give them too much credit for sticking to their guns, so maybe it's just wishful thinking. But to simply leave a legacy of seven great albums and being one of the best live acts of their time would be fitting.

Crazy Band Member
Sometimes the only thing standing in the way of a reunion is sanity. It only takes one crazy band member to hold things up. The Fugees, who haven't been heard from since 1996's "The Score," which remains one of the most revered and best-selling hip-hop albums ever, seem ripe for a reunion. You can be sure that Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel would be down. Jean takes about any paying gig he can get, and as for Michel, well, those "Ghetto Superstar" royalties have got to be running dry by this point. Of course, there's no Fugees without Lauryn Hill. For a while things seemed to be headed in the right direction - "Dave Chappelle's Block Party," a BET Awards performance, a brief and weird European tour - but all momentum seems to be lost now. Michel has said progress was halted because Hill had "some things she needs to deal with." Over the past few years she's taken up with a spiritual advisor, dissed the clergy at a concert at the Vatican and had a full-on freakout at Vibefest in 2005. Also on the not-quite-there tip is Jeff Mangum, main man for indie-folk legends Neutral Milk Hotel. The band's 1998 album "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" is rightfully seen as one of the best albums of the '90s, but Mangum hasn't been able to follow it up or really do much of anything. Rumors that he joined the circus are probably untrue, but they have more truth than anything relating to new Neutral Milk Hotel material.

Not Long Enough
Wondering what the hold up is with a Pavement reunion? Can't figure out why the Stone Temple Pilots, those elegant bachelors, still haven't reformed? It's probably just a simple matter of time. The Police and Led Zeppelin have proven that it can sometimes take decades for these things to happen. You have to give people a chance to miss you.

By David Malitz |  November 27, 2007; 12:05 PM ET Reunions
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Comments

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STP? Not likely unless Velvet Revolver breaks up to, and I think the money is too good for those guys to go their seperate ways at this point.

White Zombie will probably never get back together. Rob does too well on his own. I think we can toss in Soundgarden to. Chris couldn't even stay with Audioslave, so I the Garden will be staying apart.

Posted by: EricS | November 27, 2007 1:15 PM

Under "Crazy Band Member", don't forget Sly and the Family Stone. Any bets on whether Sly releases an album of new music and/or completes a full tour in his lifetime?

Would Husker Du fit under "Hatred of Other Band Members"? I don't know if Bob and Grant still dislike each other, or if they're just not interested in working together anymore. Plus, the whole SST legal debacle makes promoting the band difficult.

I wish Joe Strummer was still alive. Having said that, I'm glad The Clash did not reunite before he died. They kept their integrity intact (not counting the Cut the Crap fiasco) by avoiding the easy money reunion.

I also wish U2 and the Rolling Stones would break up, so we could speculate on why they haven't reunited :-)

Posted by: SSMD | November 27, 2007 2:43 PM

Talking Heads seem to fall under that category. David Byrne is clearly the band member who feels absolutely no need to reunite. And I'm sure the band could pack bigger venues than DB does as a solo artist, so money doesn't seem to be any sort of enticement.

Posted by: File under "Artistic Integrity" | November 27, 2007 3:09 PM

Yeah, Talking Heads could really go in either the Artistic Integrity of Hatred categories. It got ugly for a while, especially when The Heads happened.

Sly's a good one for Crazy but I don't know how I could have left out the most obvious one, that being Axl Rose/Guns 'n' Roses. Duh. I know that Grant Hart and Bob Mould played a few songs together at the Karl Mueller tribute show a couple years back, but I don't think they will be doing that again any time soon.

As for STP, Weiland basically told J. Freedom back in our Virgin Festival blog over the summer that he had unfinished business with STP and would be open to a reunion.

Posted by: David | November 27, 2007 3:35 PM

a reunion tour of Traffic with original members steve winwwod, jim capaldi and dave mason would be a welcome sound for boomers i guess but first winwood would have to apologize to mason for firing him way back when.

Posted by: jsm | November 27, 2007 3:49 PM

Good point Dave, though I just can't see him doing that unless VR broke up or at least took an "extended hiatus" of abotu 5 years. Eh, maybe they'll do some kind of real on-off and call it a day.

One could throw a bunch of the 80's hair metalers in there. The names still exist, but like GnR these days it's maybe one guy and a bunch of fill ins. Can anyone say Warrant? At least Axel brings a hell of a show with him.

Posted by: EricS | November 27, 2007 4:38 PM

Remember when J. Free predicted that Journey would get back together with original Steve after the Sopranos finale? Well that hasn't happened. It was a good guess, but wrong.

Posted by: Ronnie | November 28, 2007 4:09 PM

Unfortunately, Jim Capaldi died but it would be nice to see Steve Winwood and Dave Mason together again. Hatred also will keep John Fogerty from reuniting with the surviving CCR members. Of course, the brief Cream reunion was a huge surprise but tension between Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker may keep them from playing again. Mark Knofler seems to have left Dire Straits behind. The Kinks may or may not play again. Brian Wilson probably won't work with what's left of the Beach Boys again. Even with all these reunions, there are many bands that seem very unlikely to ever get back together.

Posted by: Rob | November 29, 2007 1:25 PM

R.E.M. needs to reunite with Bill Berry. The three albums without him were putrid and lacked rock-and-roll soul. There isn't big money luring him off the farm, just the thought of helping the band reclaim the throne.

Posted by: Slick Willie | November 29, 2007 1:35 PM

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