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October 31st, 2009

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12:16 am - W.R.H.T.T.I.T.G.
Band split-ups interest me.

Usually when bands split up, you find out Who Really Had The Talent In The Group. It's not always a surprise, either: does anyone really remember Andy Summers' or Stewart Copeland's post-Police work? Thought not. And while Genesis did put out some decent songs after Peter Gabriel departed, and almost certainly sold more records than he did, it's pretty clear who's the stronger artist. Bauhaus' split made it obvious that Everyone Who Wasn't Peter Murphy Had The Talent In The Band: I'm not a huge Love & Rockets fan, but comparing them to Murphy's solo work, I think it's pretty clear who won in that particular squabble. Other examples, off the top of my head: Billy Idol vs. anyone else who was in Gen X; Don Henley vs. anyone else who was in The Eagles; Simon vs. Garfunkel; George Michael vs.... um... y'know... wossname*.

(Mind you, I'm not arguing that Billy Idol, just fr'instance, is necessarily a huge artistic talent. But you almost certainly know who he is, and you might just possibly now be humming one of his songs only because I mentioned his name, and you'd need to be fairly hard-core to know the name of any of the other members of Gen X. Same thing for Henley and the Eagles — okay, Glenn Frey had *one* relatively dire solo hit, but Henley put a lot of songs in the charts, and some of them were pretty good.)

Somewhat less often, but still pretty commonly, you find out that in fact Nobody Really H.T.T.I.T.G. — that there was something synergistic about that specific line-up which allowed them to achieve heights well beyond the capabilities of the individuals involved. Without too much overstatement, I think it's fair to say that none of the four ex-Beatles ever even got close to the level of their work as a group. Once Roger Waters left Pink Floyd, neither he nor they managed to make an even half-decent album in more than a quarter-century of trying. Ultravox goes in this bucket, as do Tears For Fears, Led Zeppelin, The Cars, Pixies — all great together, all pretty insignificant once the band-members separated. Duran Duran weren't even that great together, but the drop in quality once they fractured is still noticeable (though I admit to a guilty enjoyment of the two Power Station singles). For that matter, I'm not even all that crazy about the work of Marr or Mozza outside of the Smiths.

But then very rarely you get those unusual bands in which it turns out that Practically Everybody Really H.T.T.I.T.G. I'm thinking of Wire here (Colin Newman, Graham Lewis and Bruce Gilbert have all done sterling solo work), and the Depeche Mode -> Yazoo -> Erasure/Alison Moyet family tree is a pretty good illustration, too, but there's an even more striking example which I often forget: The Beat (or "The English Beat" in the USA) were an obscure but great ska-pop band who fissioned into two higher-profile great pop bands, General Public and Fine Young Cannibals. I'm not sure I can name any other group that did so well (artistically or financially) by splitting.

*...Andrew Ridgeley, damnit.

(5 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:October 31st, 2009 05:43 am (UTC)
Stewart Copeland did the theme from The Equalizer! :)
[User Picture]
Date:October 31st, 2009 01:54 pm (UTC)
And Andy Summers did two albums with Robert Fripp, I Advance Masked and Bewitched. Which were every bit as high-profile as Sting's work... except, well, not.  :-)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:October 31st, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
Yeah, "the talent" is definitely shorthand here -- I think Summers and Copeland, for instance, are both better players than Sting is, but I think he's the better writer. And there's no doubt about which of those three has had the most overall impact on his own.

Maybe I should have said "the spark" instead. But "Who Really Had The Talent In The Group" is funnier.  :-)
[User Picture]
Date:November 1st, 2009 12:46 am (UTC)
I fully expected you to name New Order in the "Nobody" category. (I'm pretty sure I would, even if I do kind of like the third Electronic disc... that's one out of, what, four?) Byrne fans might look at me funny for saying so, but I'd say the same about Talking Heads.
[User Picture]
Date:November 1st, 2009 04:37 pm (UTC)
Joe Walsh has also put out some really good music since the Eagles broke up. Unfortunately, it's never been an entire album's worth at once. However, dig up the song "The Confessor" for a magnificent example of one of his that gets virtually no radio play.

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