How to Best Ruin Your Band’s Legacy
Apr 4 2012
Let’s begin a little thought experiment. You’ve decided to go against all the sensible advice of your well-meaning friends and relatives and chosen to express yourself creatively. That’s all well and good, but rather than choose a respectable artistic enterprise, such as sculpting, abstract expressionism, or looming, you seem to have set your sights a little lower. Perhaps too low, for you are venturing into the world of music and consciously choosing to throw yourself in league with the grand and somewhat dubious tradition of guitar-based rock.
Of course you could take the path that is now frequently more traveled: you could buy yourself a Macbook and a device resembling a set of turntables, call yourself a DJ, and become one of the many anonymous white faces in a plaid shirt standing behind a more talented black artist (also, curiously, in a plaid shirt). And while this would most certainly be the preferable option for us all, as it would keep your artistic input to a minimum, you see yourself as carrying on in some sort of grand tradition, or something like that.
The thrust of the problem is that you have somehow failed to reach the conclusion that this particular form of musical expression has long faded into irrelevancy and in fact may be well on its way to obscurity. But all right! Have it your way! However, if you want to do this thing, you may as well do it like a pro and get your priorities in order. If you’re one of those true believers you may be under the impression that the first thing you should do is write a few songs, or, if you’re a real asshole, a couple of loose ideas that you can jam around with, man. ANATHEMA! If you want to think like a pro, you’re going to have to start thinking with your bank account balance, and there’s only one real way to get those big time paydays. So before you start your rock band, you’re going to have to start planning your reunion tour.
Yes, before you do a thing that would make someone actually want to see your currently hypothetical band, concentrate more on how to best generate nostalgia that would make someone want to see your band at a later date in the distant future and presumably pay more for the pleasure of doing so. Think of your band as less of a band in any musical sense of the word, but more of an investment opportunity.
Luckily for you, your fellow rock brethren have had nothing but nostalgia to offer for quite a few years now, so you have plenty of examples of recently reunited, and far-too-long reunited bands to take your cues from.
Let us consider a band that, by most merits, has had what some might consider a respectable reunion. Dinosaur Jr., in their original lineup, have released two albums of new material since burying the hatchet. Material that in most estimations doesn’t make their old albums sound any worse (the highest goal a recording reunion band could hope to achieve). The reunion has also succeeded in doing us all a service by keeping the amount of Lou Barlow solo output to a minimum. Murph showed up too, but one has to wonder if that has made any discernible difference.
The Pixies have been on their “Joey Santiago Needs to Move His Kids to a Better School District” tour off and on for eight years now, about a year longer than their original run, when quite frankly, a whole lot fewer people noticed their minute and a half “songs.” Fortunately for them, Kurt Cobain (a man who should be more cherished for his record collection than for his recorded output) said he really really liked them and they’ve watched their payouts increase in proportion to Kim Deal’s and Frank Black’s bra sizes.
Guided By Voices surprised virtually no one by getting back together and releasing two albums so far in 2012, as if there were a lack of Robert Pollard material in the world. However, considering the absence of that nice catchy number off either album that you can hear in a Volkswagen or Citibank ad they have all but guaranteed no increase in audience. And considering the ever-increasing age of their original generation of fans, GBV can expect to see their revenues fall steadily throughout their tour.
My Bloody Valentine has fallen back into perfect form by promising new material and never getting around to releasing it. We should probably consider this situation ideal, as it spares us from having to listen to any of it.
John Lydon hoped to cash in on the gullibility of people who structure their rock history from new issues of Rolling Stone by reuniting The Sex Pistols, then got bored with that and reassembled his slightly less lucrative PiL, in between filming new butter commercials. However, we can only assume that these plans are short term, as Lydon has no doubt realized by now that no one in their right mind would willingly pay to see him more than once.
Even The Stone Roses have decided to go ahead and give it another go, but perhaps it comes about ten years too late for anyone to really care much at all, significantly lowering the potential of their reunion cash cow. But it looks as if they may decide to make up for that loss by recording new material for anyone who didn’t listen to their last album, specifically those who bought it.
Both Blur and Pavement inevitably joined the fray and chose to simply tour and release a new best of compilation. Since then it’s been kind of hard to tell them apart from one another, which may leave them open to the suggestion of a joint reunion in the style of NKOTBSB.
Hey, look! The surviving members of The Who are doing their thing! Well, that’s depressing.
Jeff Mangum has recently reunited with himself, which is a remarkable feat.
As we go further and further down the list, the entries become all the more perplexing. The Monks? Death? Teenage Jesus and the Jerks? Here we enter the quite dangerous territory of bands that have no prospect of making any money off their tours and may simply be old people who think they’re making art. Quite an embarrassing situation to be in. Yet, all hope is not lost as you can still hold out for another Led Zeppelin one-off performance, where they’ll yet again drop down another key until they become the most famous sludge metal band or run out of members. And you can still be sure that someone out there will willingly spend their hard earned money on you and your mates recapturing that magic and giving it another go.
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