Second time lucky: Does the restructuring or reformation of bands actually work?

As the Spice Girls announce a reunion without Victoria Beckham, Ben takes a look at the problems of band reformations

The story of a group is always something of a roller coaster, but one day it has to end. For various reasons band members leave, either by choice or not, perhaps calling time on the band as a whole. Some artists however, don’t seem to acknowledge when their time is up, and don’t seem to care about the impact this would have in terms of legacy.

On 5 November 2018, the world woke up to the announcement that iconic British girl-band The Spice Girls were reforming for a 2019 UK tour, their first tour since 2007, and nineteen years after the group’s initial breakup in 2000. One key difference however to the 2019 tour is that Victoria Beckham (aka “Posh Spice”) would not be rejoining her four band members. While Beckham’s decision to stay away from the reunion was put down to business commitments for her successful fashion brand, many fans have questioned the decision of the group to tour without one of the integral members. Although a recent topic in society’s conversation, this has been a trend spanning music for the last fifty years.

Performing as a band is a life-affirming experience. But what do you do if one member no longer wants to continue the artistic journey? On 25 March 2015, Zayn Malik left One Direction, at a time when the band had reached unimaginable heights. The same issue occurred with Manchester pop group Take That, who have undergone various transitions in their career, with Robbie Williams and Jason Orange leaving the final three members to continue the journey alone.

The musicians, fans, and record labels face huge dilemmas over what to feel and ultimately do in the immediate future. Bands grow as a unit, and to have part of that unit vanish leaves the rest of the group in a vulnerable state. On the other hand, once you’ve reached the highest point possible, who’d want to give it all up in a highly-fluctuating industry. Fans have a similar conflict; having grown up with a group, the prospect of a band breaking up for good can be heartbreaking.

However, the prospect of a group that is not at its full strength is disheartening for people who look back on happier times. Take That recently announced a 30th anniversary greatest hits tour, in which two of its five founding members won’t be participating. For fans, it could pose a struggle to watch a career-spanning show in which two members aren’t even onstage.

“The prospect of a group not at full strength is disheartening for people reminiscing back towards happier times”

We are then faced with the issues of replacement band members. Fleetwood Mac recently announced the sacking of guitarist and song-writer Lindsey Buckingham, ahead of their world tour next year. The legendary UK-American band swiftly recruited Crowded House’s Neil Finn and Mike Campbell, formally from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, to the band. Whilst both musicians are well-respected, watching the Mac with new members brings some discomfort. Fleetwood Mac’s history tells us that anything is possible, even retirement. If so, to see the band one last time is not an opportunity many will pass up.

However, fans have argued that they would rather not spoil their past memories of the band with memories of a different live set up. Lindsey Buckingham, for many, is the creative spark in the group, and to then be asked to pay a substantial amount of money to see the band perform without him has left many people questioning themselves.

Whilst musicians leave for one reason or another, something that can’t be swiftly dealt with is if the inevitable happens and an artist dies.

Freddie Mercury’s death brought the end to one of music’s greatest ever bands. An icon in every sense of the word, Mercury was a performer who couldn’t be replaced and whilst the remaining members of Queen have continued performing, it will never truly feel like the band the world grew to love.

A selection of singer’s came and went following Mercury’s death in 1991, with the band settling down in 2011 with former American Idol winner Adam Lambert as their lead man.

The Who’s continuation has raised eyebrows as well, given that two founding members, the legendary drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle are both dead. With just half of its original line-up, The Who have headlined legendary festivals Glastonbury and Isle of Wight Festival in the last few years. To see such legends is always a pleasure, but to pay £70 a ticket for just half of the band seems almost farcical. Whilst Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend both deserve to have the careers they deserve, some elements of cynicism creep in regarding issues with money. Questions have to be asked about how long can a group can continue without key members before it seems like a money grab.

The continuous turnaround in members of former girl-band the Sugababes further highlights the record labels’ greed. Over their career, the trio had six different members from 1998 to 2013. In 2006, the group’s identity was made up of three completely non-original members, and this continued until 2013’s disbandment. It is in my opinion shambolic to continue a band for seven years in which not one member was present for the recording of the debut album.

The recent announcement of the Spice Girls’ reunion has been plagued with accusations that the quartet are only in it for the money. Whatever the reason for the reunion, it’s a trend apparent throughout the music industry. Band dynamics change, affecting a great amount of people.

“The second time around is never quite as good as the original”

Whether it’s right to try and continue to make a career is a dilemma faced by some of music’s most revered bands, whether that’s The Who, Queen, AC/DC, Take That, Pixies, One Direction, or The Spice Girls. Looking at these artists perform now can always bring a glint to the eye, but if we really think about it, the second time around is never quite as good as the original.

Ben Standring

Featured image courtesy of Sarah & Austin Houghton-Bird via Flickr. Image license found here.

Article images courtesy of Fraser Mummery, and Luiyo, via Flickr.

Image use licence here.

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