I’ve never really been one that would give much time and effort to bands who reform after an extended split. As the years pass it’s actually now hard to think of many bands who haven’t taken the chance to grab a final payout and pile into a tour bus one last time. From the 70′s and 80′s three of the bands who I was most attached to have never tried to emulate their halcyon days, The Clash, The Jam and The Smiths.
It’s a double edged sword, each of these bands have maintained a following that in many ways has grown if not in number then certainly in fervour. Another commonality is that each of these bands for different reasons didn’t seem to want to rewrite the history books. Sometimes the animosity when the band split was to bitter to bridge but more importantly it’s like a painter saying ‘there you go, that’s my best work, you better know how good it was’. It’s no more likely that John McEnroe could win Wimbledon tomorrow than Paul Weller getting the Jam back together and capturing that same energy that was theirs in years gone by.
I know people that before Joe Strummer passed would have given their left arm to see the Clash tour one last time. I’m not one of those people. Look at the example of the Sex Pistols, have their (repeated) cash grabs enhanced the legacy of a band that stand like Everest over the formative year(s) of English Punk? You can argue that it gave thousands of people a chance to see an historic act on stage that age/location or any number of conditions had restricted them from. It’s a bit harsh of me but I say too bad. We all have our chances to see different bands at the peak of their careers, every generation has it’s special wave I sincerely believe that need never end.
I’ve been very lucky, I saw early performances by The Specials, Madness, New Order, The Bunnymen, The Smiths, James, Supergrass, Blur, Oasis, REM, Big Audio Dynamite, Happy Mondays, The Wedding Present, Ride, Stone Roses and more recently Arcade Fire, Gene, Keane, The Decemberists and so on. My point is nobody pulled out a stanley knife and forced me to see these bands. I made the effort and I was in the right place at the right time. But every year brings chances that are unique to you. Do I wish I’d seen T Rex, David Bowie and The Velvet Underground in their brief careers or early days? To a small degree yes, but fundamentally I understand it just wasn’t my time.
I still enjoy many of the bands who have gone down the path of reforming, but I confess it always made me take an intake of breath and mutter ‘sellout’.
Bringing this all back to The Clash. I celebrate all they achieved in a short spell, still question if they could have avoided the eventual disintegration and explain to those who never saw them that what they have is what they were meant to have. A superb band that still had flaws and never that lingering memory of a band who were just in it for the money, doing that is pretty vacant if you ask me.
Thinking post 1990 – Would you have wanted to see The Clash reform? Were you able to see them? I’d love to see your comments.