Why Band Break-Ups Should Be Forever

06 March 2019
The Beatles
Getty Images
So many groups have ruined their legacies by reuniting. Like the Beatles almost five decades ago, they should've just let it be.

Forty-nine years ago today, the Beatles released arguably their most poignant song of all, "Let it Be". Two months later, the album of the same name would become their last original work.

The four wouldn’t be seen together in the same room ever again, never mind reunite. And just as well.

Sure,  there will always be overly sentimental fans who regret that John, Paul, Ringo and George did not grow old together playing dominos and singing "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" in their back gardens, but the acrimonious break-up did ensure one thing we should all be grateful for; the Beatles’ untouchable musical legacy.

No mediocre comeback albums. No money-spinning reunion tours. No forced smiles for publicity shots.

If only the same could be said for so many other bands. There really is something to be said for staying broken up. It’s better to burnout than to fade away, says an old Rock ‘N’ Roll adage that few aging rock stars ever adhere to.

Some groups, tastelessly, decide to carry on or reunite after a leading member had passed away. The Doors, after Jim Morrison’s death, and INXS, after Michael Hutchence’s, returned karaoke versions of former selves, while Queen went even further by attempting to replace the quite frankly irreplaceable Freddie Mercury with Paul Rodgers and then Adam Lambert. That’s no way to guard a legacy.

Guns N’ Roses, meanwhile, went through every phase a dysfunctional rock band could conceivably experience.

A wild early line-up that tore through the book of rock clichés. A gradual departure of the founding members, except Axl Rose. A 21st-century reincarnation with new members (one who went by the name of Buckethead). A comeback album, Chinese Democracy, so past its release date (10 years) it was in danger of being superseded by actual Chinese democracy. And finally a truimphant reunion of the original line-up of Axl, Slash and co.

Boy bands, manufactured, at least at the start, and not necessarily oozing with God-given talent for song-writing, often reunite once fame and fortune, and the music public’s memory, begin to fade. And, with the right dance routines, it seems to work.

Nostalgia junkies lapped up reunions by Take That (with or without Robbie Williams), N Sync (with or without Justin Timberlake) and Backstreet Boys (with or without good songs).

Most shameless of all where the The Sex Pistols, whose punk credentials were damaged beyond repair after their 1996 reunion tour “Filthy Lucre”, an admission their reunion was nothing more than a moneymaking exercise.

“We still hate each other,” frontman Johnny Rotten said. At least they had more honesty than talent.

The Beatles apart, no other great band comes close to guarding their legacy the way Led Zeppelin have done over the last four decades.
Ironically, it was a one-of reunion concert cemented their status, an exception that highlighted their glorious rule.

On December 10, 2007, the got back together for the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at the O2 Arena in London, having spent months getting in shape and practicing a peerless list of songs. They even called on Jason Bonham, son of their legendary drummer John Bonham, who died in 1980, to sit in for his father.

The result was a barnstorming, no-compromise show that gave the lucky ones who managed to score tickets - some for thousands of dollars – a once-in-life-time glimpse of probably the second greatest band in rock history.

And the greatest? We’ll never know; they, thankfully, let it be 49 years ago.