With the recent news that Black Sabbath have decided to dust down their matching crucifixes and hit the road again, it now seems likely that any disbanded group could suddenly pull the rug from under their fans by announcing a reformation. This comes not long after the overwhelmingly surprising reform of the Stone Roses, with all the band members performing some of the biggest volte-faces in music history (Mani once famously saying that the band would only reform when Man City won the Champions League). After these announcements, it wouldn’t be ridiculous to think that maybe Morrissey and Johnny Marr could patch things up after nearly 25 years of resentment and make the fantasy of a Smiths 30th Anniversary Tour a reality. In fact, so frequently are bands reforming these days that even after the sad break-up of R.E.M. a few months ago, many people saw it as a given that they’d be getting back together in a few years for a globe-trotting reunion tour.
It’s not hard to see why these bands, or any other broken up ones, would reform, especially considering the lucrative financial incentives from a world tour. Black Sabbath are set to make over £100 million from their 2012 reunion tour, while the Stone Roses are reportedly making £10 million just from their three Heaton Park gigs in July with an additional £1 million for every one of their many festival appearances in the summer. More astonishingly, ten years ago ABBA were reportedly offered $1 billion for a 100-date tour. Bands are often open about their fiscal motivations for getting back together – John Lydon admitted that he only reformed The Sex Pistols so he could afford to do the same for PiL, while Bob Nastanovich revealed one of the main reasons that Pavement extended their gloriously ramshackle reunion tour was to pay off his gambling debts. Thank God for that man’s crippling addiction.
However, it would take a real cynic to agree with Shaun Ryder’s assertion that the only reasons bands ever reform is ‘for the money’. It doesn’t take a massive stretch of the imagination to suggest that maybe these groups are reforming for the reasons they began in the first place: the joy of playing music together. Blink 182 were encouraged towards reconciliation in 2009 after Travis Barker’s tragic plane crash, along with the sudden death of long-time producer and friend Jeremy Finn. Similarly, Blur’s incredible Hyde Park shows and Glastonbury appearance seemed definitely to be more the result of two old friends (in this case, Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn) finally burying the hatchet than it was a bitter pursuit of a quick pay check (and the same can perhaps be said of the Stone Roses reunion).
Although, there’s still the question of what these reunions have done for the legacy of said bands. The criticism that’s often lobbied against reformed bands is that their performances, both on record and on stage, sully the group’s reputation or a fan’s memory of them since their comebacks are rarely going to match what they did in their prime. Eric Avery even left Jane’s Addiction in early 2010 because he disagreed with the band’s decision to head back into studio to make a new album (the first as a full band since 1991’s phenomenal Ritual de lo Habitual), and in a way he has good reason to. Since it’s virtually impossible for a band to fully recreate what they did five, ten maybe twenty years ago, any music they make now is going to be different. Call me romantic, but the music we have from bands that will never reform (usually through a member’s death) hold a certain significance and value, since we know that this is all that we will ever have from them. There’s a fascinatingly conflicted sense of wonder and anger that we’ll never be able to see the Velvet Underground, Nirvana, N.W.A., Pantera or the Beatles (to name just a few of many) in their original form again, and one that should be preserved. However, having said that, I’ve still got my fingers crossed for that Smith’s reunion.