GETTING MORE TALE #460: Appetite for Reunions
Unless you have been living under a pile of rock (and roll), then you know that the hype machine for a 2016 Guns N’ Roses “reunion” has already begun.
But this is not a reunion. This is not Axl, Slash, Duff, Izzy, and Steven. Matt Sorum is not involved, nor is Gilby Clarke. The new lineup is supposed to consist of: W. Axl Rose, Slash, Duff “Rose” McKagan, Richard Fortus, Frank Ferrer, Dizzy Reed, and Chris Pittman, with new member Dave Kushner (Velvet Revolver) in the third guitar slot.
Of course, many lineups labelled as “reunions” in the past were not. Van Halen’s current “reunited” lineup consists of three classic members and one new guy, Wolfgang Van Halen. Any time The Who go out there for a tour, there are only two original members. Not much can be done about that, with Keith and John both gone. Not that it matters since both bands have made millions on these tours, and both bands even managed to put out new albums, without the full original lineups. New music always trumps a tour.
Few bands seem to reunite with all the beloved members intact, either due to death or stubbornness. There are exceptions, obviously. The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac came together with their most beloved lineups, and a tremendous amount of success, but even they couldn’t make it last. Don Felder was fired from the Eagles years ago. Christine McVie only recently returned to the Mac after being gone for ages, and meanwhile the band did a new album without her. And Black Sabbath? Their farewell tour only has ¾ of the original lineup! Meanwhile Bill Ward sits at home, having alienated the band and Sharon Osbourne. The chances of Ward ever playing drums again in the band he co-founded are slim to none. One does not piss off the Osbourne camp without consequences. Regardless of his reasons, justified or not, a Black Sabbath farewell tour without its still capable original drummer is a hollow thing indeed.
Even when you do get the full original lineup of a band that you wanted, that doesn’t necessarily mean the band is returning to full functionality. When Kiss reunited in 1996 with the full original band, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss were hired hands. They didn’t get a say, they didn’t get a vote. They got a contract stating their responsibilities and compensation. As if Paul and Gene would ever give up any control in their band, now! So what we saw live was Kiss, but what we got behind the scenes and on the album Psycho-Circus was just “more of the same”. Ace and Peter didn’t even appear on many of the songs, even though they were on the album cover. But that’s nothing new for Kiss!
What band has had the most successful reunion? I’m not talking in terms of numbers; then we would probably have to include Spice Girls and New Kids on the Block. Who has had the most success in terms of quality? That would have to be Iron Maiden.
Steve Harris did something very creative when he reunited with Bruce Dickinson. Instead of just bringing Bruce back into the band, he also brought in Bruce’s guitarist and former Maiden member Adrian Smith. But Adrian was not cool with coming in to replace somebody else. “What about Janick Gers?” he asked. Janick had been in Maiden for a successful decade, and Adrian didn’t want him out of a job. Steve always envisioned a three-guitar Iron Maiden, and Adrian Smith coming back gave him that opportunity. It worked out brilliantly, especially live, when it could have been a train wreck. Technically, what Iron Maiden did is the same thing Guns N’ Roses are said to be doing: a new version of the band, with both classic and current members. Maiden made it last, too. Harris was very clear with Bruce: nobody was coming back to Maiden just to hang around a while and leave again. Anybody coming back to Maiden was coming back for life, and that is exactly what happened. Five more studio albums later, Maiden rule absolutely.
What will happen with Guns N’ Roses? That is harder to predict. It is unlikely their most talented member, Izzy Stradlin, would want to return to the circus of insanity that is a GN’R tour. As for Slash, he has always preferred a stripped down band. It’s hard to imagine how he will be happy playing in a band with two keyboardists, but that’s what they say is happening. How long will it last? A few shows? Coachella and gone? Much like Ace Frehley, Slash will probably be a contracted musician.
A band of Guns’ stature all but had to reunite. The fans have been loudly demanding something like this for over a decade. The fans hoped Izzy and Steven Adler or Matt Sorum would be a part of it, but that has always seemed unlikely. Slash couldn’t even get Izzy into Velvet Revolver. What they are doing is probably the closest to a reunion that is likely. Perhaps Izzy will show up to guest as he has in the past, but fans shouldn’t get their hopes up of seeing Adler on stage.
Perhaps this, the most anticipated “reunion” since Led Zeppelin (also a new lineup with Jason Bonham), will stop the constant questions from the media and fans. “Will you ever get back together?” It must be tiring answering that question daily, when you have new music out there to play. Sometimes a band just has to give in and take a step backwards. Sometimes, as in the case of Iron Maiden, the way forward is to go backwards.
Will it work? The only way to find out is to stay tuned. You know where you are? You in the jungle, baby.
Let’s see if the bad boys of rock and roll can still survive the jungle.