Blur’s joyous reunion, swinging into gear this week with sold-out arena shows all over England, reminds us that not all band reunions are awkward money-grabs. But most are! We’ve seen such a deluge of rock-and-roll reunions over the last decade that it’s hard to keep them straight, so in order to help you figure out just who’s actually psyched to be sharing a stage again and who’s riding to the venue in separate limos, we’ve rated ten recent comebacks on Vulture’s one-and-only Band Reunion Hate-o-Meter.
My Bloody Valentine
The beef: When the band signed to Island after 1991’s universally acclaimed Loveless, lead Valentine Kevin Shields began receiving a 5,000 pound monthly stipend. According to Shields, “when you’re getting that much money a month for so long, it allows you to live in the la-la land that I was in.” In 1995, with Shields deep in the midst of the obsessive, interminable recording process for the (never-completed) follow-up, bassist Debbie Googe and drummer Colm Ó’Cíosóig took off, effectively breaking up the band.
Where they stand: Rapturous reviews of the reunion shows suggest that the bad blood has passed. Although, Googe was supposedly driving a cab for a while during all that downtime — surely she must be holding a grudge?
Last reunited: 2007
The beef: Zep broke up in 1980 when drummer John Bonham died, which was the only decent thing to do. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have toured and recorded as a duo but the band has technically only reunited four times, including the 1995 Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony when bassist John Paul Jones – feeling slighted by his exclusion from the Plant/Page team-ups – quipped “I'm glad my friends finally remembered my phone number." 2007’s much-praised Ahmet Ertegun-tribute show led to tour rumors: supposedly, Page and Jones were ready to go but Plant “doesn’t want to make loud music anymore.”
Where they stand: Jone’s brief testiness and Plant’s newfound wussiness aside, we’re still crediting the lack of a full-fledged reunion to the fact that — hello — John Bonham died.
The beef: Perpetually dour guitarist Graham Coxon left Blur in Marrakesh, Morrocco during the recording of 2003’s Think Tank, the band’s last album, after his band mates told him he was temporarily “no longer welcome in the studio.” There was speculation that Coxon had issues with the album’s producer (Fatboy Slim) and direction (weird electronic world music), but his alcoholism surely didn’t help (Coxon: “I think Blur thought I'd had enough chances and weren't willing to give me any more”).
Where they stand: The rare reunion that seems spurred by the band mates actually patching things up. Says Albarn: “The main thing is that it's really nice to know that I can call Graham and he'll pick up the phone, and it's all cool, you know?"
Rage Against the Machine
The beef: Bassist Tim Commerford climbing the stage during the 2000 MTV Movie awards was apparently the last straw for front man Zach de la Rocha — a month later, he broke up the band, explaining that RATM’s deteriorating decision-making process “has undermined our artistic and political ideal." When they reunited for Coachella in 2007, guitarist Tom Morello credited it to the “right-wing purgatory” the nation had slid into. The band has no plans to record. (Morello has also formed a new band, Street Sweeper Social Club, with Coup rapper Boots Riley. Their album just debuted at No. 37 on Billboard’s Top 200.) They’re clearly more interested in cashing big-festival checks than working on that communication breakdown.
Where they stand: There’s a slim possibility that de la Rocha altruistically reunited the band in order to save the world from more Audioslave music.
The beef: Guitarist/co-vocalist Tom Delonge quit the band right before a 2005 benefit show for South Asia tsunami survivors. According to drummer Travis Barker, “Tom didn't call, but his manager did, and he said that Tom couldn't contain his shit long enough to play a song for people who were suffering.” Delonge claimed he left the band to spend more time with his family but then immediately formed Angels & Airwaves, a wannabe arena-rock act that he declared was not only better than Blink but better than anything, ever. Barker and bassist/co-vocalist Mark Hoppus, as +44, addressed the split on “No It Isn’t”: “Please understand / This isn't just goodbye / This is I can't stand you.”
Where they stand: Barker’s 2008 plane crash made the guys see the big picture — life is too short to stay mad/not make more masturbation jokes.
The beef: Before breaking up in 1983 the band was notorious for the control clashes between drummer Stewart Copeland and Sting, which manifested themselves in “friendly tiffs” like the time Copeland accidentally broke one of Sting’s ribs with his knee. According to Copeland, after the breakup, “we discovered we can be good friends — as long as no one mentions music.” The 2007 reunion dredged up the old conflicts. In his memoir, Copeland recounts saying to Sting during an early rehearsal, “Do not even make eye contact with me, let alone make another suggestion about how I should play my drums … you fucking piece of shit!” The drummer also had to apologize to his band mates after writing a supposedly funny review of their second reunion show that included the line “The mighty Sting momentarily looks like a petulant pansy instead of the god of rock.”
Where they stand: Friendly as long as they don’t have to work together. According to Copeland, “Couple of days in the studio and one of us is going to have mallets sticking out of his neck.”
The beef: After years of tension with bassist Kim Deal, who was always struggling to get more of her songs on their records, front man Frank Black (then Black Francis) famously broke up the band via fax. Reunion offers were too generous to turn down, though — guitarist Joe Santiago once pleaded with Deal to go along by saying the few shows then scheduled would change “where I can put my daughter into school” — and they’ve toured on and off since. Despite rumors, there are no immediate plans to record -- according to Deal, a potential new Pixies’ album is “something to bring up whenever [Black] needs press.”
Where they stand: They haven’t exactly mended their rifts: On 2006 tour doc LoudQUIETloud, Black admitted, “We don’t talk to each other very much.”
The Jesus and Mary Chain
The beef: The legendarily contentious, drug-fueled relationship between brothers Jim and William Reid bottomed out during the recording of 1998’s Munki, when the two literally refused to be in the same room together; the subsequent tour lasted a few gigs before the bank broke up in Los Angeles. They supposedly didn’t speak after that disastrous L.A. show until 2006. But when Coachella “made them an offer they could not refuse,” the brothers reunited. Their first practice nearly ended in a fistfight.
Where they stand: Have made it clear that if it wasn’t thanks to the “persistence” of the Coachella folks, the reunion never would have happened. The current bond seems to rely on the brothers not speaking too much. Says Jim: “I know exactly how to get on his nerves and he does me because we used to take some sort of perverse pleasure doing that. But now you think, well what’s the fucking point? If I say this then I know there’ll be an explosion so let’s not say it and get on with the music.”
The beef: When he revived the Smashing Pumpkins name for 2007’s Zeitgeist, Billy Corgan was rebuffed by James Iha (who later said “I’m not really answering too many questions about the Pumpkins [reunion]… I just want to keep it positive as far as being proud of what we accomplished”), bassist D’arcy and even D’arcy replacement Melissa Auf der Maur. According to Corgan, “We put out the feelers that the door was open and we were sort of met with a dull thud.” Original drummer Jimmy Chamberlin did return, but not for long: earlier this year he quit, saying “I won’t pretend I’m into something I’m not … I can’t just, ‘cash the check’ so to speak.” Unsurprisingly, Corgan has said he will continue under the Pumpkins name.
Where they stand: There is no “they” — only Corgan.
Previously on Vulture...
- Michael Urie on Playing an Activist and Assistant on The Temperamentals and Ugly Betty
- Week in Review: The Rule of Threes
- Anderson on the Ultimate Summer Read