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Four Eighties Bands That I Will Never Get to See
by Solomon Philbrick
This may be in some ways similar to last week’s column, but this time around the method (as well as the decade) is a bit more refined. I knew what I would write about yesterday and had some examples at hand, but as I waited for the bus this morning the idea kind of morphed. This column is about bands primarily associated with the eighties who broke up in either the eighties or nineties, but as I compiled the list another common element appeared: each band on the list suffered from the horror known as a difficult lead singer. Once again, I really can’t stand the idea of reunion tours, so I probably would not see any of these groups even if they did reform. However, the antics or personalities of each band’s singer makes it unlikely that any sort of reunion is likely to come about. Since I am a rigorous researcher, all facts and quotes can be attributed either to Wikipedia or my own foggy memory.
1. Dean Wareham and Galaxie 500 - I should start the list with the least offensive of the bunch. In 1991 Dean Wareham left Galaxie 500 right at the end of a tour where the band opened for the Cocteau Twins. He just sort of left his two college buddies in the dust at the prospect of forming Luna and achieving Elektra status. Naomi Yang and Damon Krukowski, the bass player and drummer respectively, eventually started playing again, appropriately enough as “Damon and Naomi” and now Dean Wareham plays in Dean & Britta after Luna’s split-up. The details on Galaxie 500's split are a bit fuzzy, but the fact that the three haven’t gotten back together while the rhythm section has formed their own group and continues to play is somewhat telling.
2. Bob Mould, Grant Hart and Husker Du - I read an interview with Sugar years ago in Rolling Stone and I remember one of the members saying that Bob Mould needed a lot of “personal space.” There was also a sort of tone to the whole article that suggested that Sugar was really nothing more than the Bob Mould Band. Thus, I had always assumed that Mould was the difficult member of Husker Du and the reason the band broke up. Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that I was only half right. Bob Mould was a pain in the ass, as well as a speed and alcohol abuser, but it turns out that Grant Hart was also a junkie. This lead to “creative and personal tensions,” which is always a nice way of saying that the two were at each others’ throats. The band collapsed after their manager committed suicide and Mould became the de facto manager. Bass player Greg Norton, clearly the most sensible member of the group, now owns a restaurant with his wife. This entry alone pretty much destroys my introductory paragraph, but thankfully I really don’t care. I mean, technically they both sang, so I guess I could say that in this case the singers broke up the band.
3. Shane MacGowan and The Pogues - This is not technically fair, since The Pogues didn’t actually break up until 1996, but I needed to throw in another band to make it five. Also, in my opinion, The Pogues were over by 1989, the year that Peace and Love came out. That particular album had, if memory serves me correctly, exactly two songs with Shane MacGowan on lead vocals. And his singing was terrible. It sounded like someone torturing a bullfrog, even though the songs themselves were quite good. The irony of The Pogues is that the better the band learned to play the worse their original singer sounded until they finally got rid of him. Still, no matter how much they improved musically, they were never the same without him. (Addendum: apparently MacGowan did reunite with The Pogues in 2006. The above comments still stand.)
4. Morrissey and The Smiths - Wikipedia once again cites “personal differences” between Morrissey and Johnny Marr as the reason for the breakup of The Smiths, but this time I call bullshit. Can you honestly imagine what it must be like working in a creative capacity with Morrissey? Can you imagine doing a high school chemistry project with Morrissey? Can you even imagine having dinner with Morrissey? “Please make sure there’s no beef broth in the soup, because that’s muuuuuuuurderrrrr...” It seems as though the other members of The Smiths have managed to work well with others in subsequent years. Johnny Marr even managed to work with Neil Tennant of The Pet Shop Boys, and I’ll bet Tennant’s not exactly an easy fellow to get along with. Morrissey continues to do solo work and it’s gone steadily downhill since Viva Hate, which really wasn’t all that good to begin with. Here’s a quote from Morrissey when two of his former bandmates took him to court: “The court case was a potted history of the life of The Smiths. Mike, talking constantly and saying nothing. Andy, unable to remember his own name. Johnny, trying to please everyone and consequently pleasing no one. And Morrissey under the scorching spotlight in the dock, being drilled. ‘How dare you be successful?’ ‘How dare you move on?’ To me, The Smiths were a beautiful thing and Johnny left it, and Mike has destroyed it.” Can you blame Johnny Marr for getting away from that?
Who am I missing?