As it turns out, breaking up isn’t hard to do. It’s the reuniting that’s the tricky bit. Still it seems that more old acts are getting back together than there are new ones forming. Why? Financial rewards, of course! When they say, “the timing is just right,” it really means the money is just right. “It’s all about the rock & roll” = money. “We want to introduce the band to a new generation of fans” = money. “VH1 approached us” = money, and not even a lot of it.
The Police reunion is different. When the Police open the 49th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday on CBS, they’re doing it for you: The fan. They’re doing it for the sole purpose of making it OK for you to like Sting again. Face it, recording adult contemporary hits in his Tuscan villa, constantly saving rainforests and droning on about his many consecutive hours of tantric sex, somewhere along the line Sting became too pretentious to be cool.
But the long nightmare of your shame and Sting’s mediocrity will come to an end Sunday. Erase the mental picture of his “Dune” codpiece. From now on, there’s only one thing you have to remember: “ROXANNE!”
Tours and moneyOK. Maybe warming up to Sting is just a fringe benefit and not really the motivating factor for the band. Sting doesn’t care if you like him, or admit to liking him in public, or not. And he doesn’t need the cash. The man can buy and sell small nations. He’s just that rich.
Who’s not that rich? As rich as Sting anyway: Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland (i.e. the rest of the Police), for whom the post-“Synchronicity” days haven’t been as kind. Sure, Summers released several non-epic solo albums and tried his hand at film scores (remember the smooth sounds of “Weekend at Bernie’s?”). Copeland did the soundtrack thing, too, and had very brief success, with Summers in the band Animal Logic. With résumés like that, it’s doubtful that either of them would turn down a big payday.
Where’s all the dough going to come from? The tour, which will no doubt follow the momentous Grammy reunion. And in a world where it costs $300 to see Madonna, tickets are not going to be cheap. See, nothing’s free. You’ll have to pay for the ability to like Sting again, and pay through the nose. Will it be worth it? Will they even stay together long enough to make it to your town?
Here’s the thing about relationships, and this is as true for lovers as it is for that more intense of unions — band mates. If it didn’t work out the first time around, odds are it ain’t gonna work on the next try. And those who don’t remember history are destined to repeat it.
History showsOutside of death, all bands break up for the same reason: artistic differences. That’s code speak for “clash of the enormous egos.” That’s why reunions hardly ever stick. Fortune and fame may wane, but egos are forever. And as history shows, awards shows and benefit concert appearances are no guarantee.
Look at the mess that is Van Halen. The band was at the top of its game in the 1980s. But singer David Lee Roth thought genius guitarist Eddie Van Halen had too many side projects. Eddie thought Dave was too much of a clown. So it’s out with Dave and in with Sammy Hagar, and it ends much the same. The band tests the waters again with Dave and they can’t even make it through the 1996 MTV Video Music Award. So, it’s back with Sammy for, like, a minute. Now the plan is a 40-date amphitheater tour with Dave for Summer 2007. Let’s just see if they even make it through the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in March.
Then there’s the dream reunion that’s guaranteed to never take place. When Pink Floyd members parted ways in 1985 following a spate of the dreaded “solo pursuits.” Roger Waters said the band was played out, and even sued the remaining members to get them to drop the name. The David Gilmour-led Floyd went on to succeed but fans constantly clamored for an old-school reunion. Waters joined Floyd for the June 2005 Live 8 concert in London. Fans crossed their fingers for a following tour. The band members were offered wads of cash. It hasn’t happened yet.
Still there’s hope. Take, for example, one of the most ego-charged bands ever: The Pixies. After the usual tensions between members tore them apart, leader Frank Black spent years denying rumors of a reunion. But in 2003, it seemed the people in hell were drinking ice cold H20. The Pixies launched an international tour than ran through 2004, and continued to make appearances at huge musical festivals such as Lollapalooza and the Newport Folk Festival throughout 2005. And, wonder upon wonders, the Pixies started recording a new LP in January 2007.
So maybe it will work, and the Police tour will last long enough to make it to your town. The band did managed two reunion performances in the past without tearing out what’s left of their hair. The Police played at Sting’s 1992 wedding to Trudie Styler, and again made it work for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.
But if this whole Police thing does fall apart, take heart. This summer, Genesis hits the road for a massive 12-country tour! (Though don’t count on original singer Peter Gabriel to show up).
New York-based writer Helen A.S. Popkin is just glad Flock of Seagulls is still making it work.