Over the weekend, British tabloid the Mirror claimed that after playing the Glastonbury Festival next year, the Rolling Stones were going to call it quits. They even had quotes! Anonymous quotes! Such as, “All four members have agreed that next year is the right time to have one final hurrah and put on the gig of their lives.” In case the “hurrah” wasn’t enough of a tip-off, the Mirror’s report was quickly refuted, with Glastonbury and band representatives telling the Guardian that there’s no truth to the claim. So, the Rolling Stones will continue to live another year, as the members of the band get that much closer to death.
There’s obviously no “right” time for a band to call it quits. Music nerds love for groups to bow out before they release their inevitable bad album -- the fact that My Bloody Valentine only put out Isn’t Anything and Loveless feels like it means something, when, in fact, it’s just pointless romanticism for this idea of perfection. If that were true, Liz Phair would have stopped after Exile on Guyville.
But for successful bands, even if they're past their creative peak, why WOULDN’T you want to keep the paychecks rolling in? After all, the last time the Stones hit the road, from August 2005-August 2007, they earned over $625 million (adjusted for inflation), a figure good enough to be considered the second highest grossing tour of all-time, behind only U2’s 360º Tour.
However, instead of continuing to complain, I want to play "Let's Revise History." I picked six long-active bands that probably should have retired by now, including the Stones, and chose the moment in their history that they should have called it quits. I invite you to do the same – should the Red Hot Chili Peppers have stopped after Californication or Stadium Arcadium?
Some have suggested that the Stones should have retired after the tragedy at Altamont, out of some show of respect or something. That’s just dumb. Their not existing wouldn’t bring Meredith Hunter back to life, so let’s dismiss that idea.
Others have said that everything’s been downhill since 1978’s Some Girls, so THAT’S when it should have happened. Only half of that is true: Some Girls is their best album released after 1972, when they put out their best album overall, Exile on Main Street, but stopping then would rob the world of Tattoo You, an underappreciated near-masterpiece.
My perfect world suggestion is Mick saying no more after 1997’s Bridges to Babylon – it would be eight years before the Stones’ next album came out (A Bigger Bang), so clearly, they were in a creative funk, staying together only to rake in the $$$.
And that cold, hard truth is sad.
Hating on U2, and Bono in particular, is such a Thing now that it’s easy to forget the band has made some great albums. But it’s been awhile.
Boy, released in 1980, is an incredibly strong debut, and the Dublin-foursome kept putting out solid album (October) after solid album (War) after solid album (The Unforgettable Fire) after...well, you get the point. Discounting the messy, sprawling Rattle and Hum, which is more of live and covers album than anything (though it does have “All I Want Is You,” quite possibly their best song), U2 didn’t release a dud until Pop. Some people swear by that album, though (I think it’s too long and tries to blend too many genres), so I’ll expand their life expectancy then, all the way up to 2002, when the band finished touring behind 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind, the favorite album of hacky sportswriters everywhere. I’ve never understood the critical praise that was heaped on Behind, but it is SO much better than 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Band, which is just about the time that Bono became insufferable.
U2 will always be one of the biggest bands of all-time – it’s just that they’ve somewhat dented their legacy by continuing to exist and being, well, U2.
This one’s tough. I’ve written at length at my adoration, bordering on obsession, with Bob Dylan, so I might be bias when I say this: Bob Dylan shouldn’t retire. Not yet, at least.
I didn’t much care for the breezy Together Through Life, but before that, Dylan had released five good-to-great albums in a row, from 1992’s Good As I Been to You to 2006’s Modern Times, his first record to debut at number-one on Billboard since Desire, 30 years prior. So, we’ll write that one off (and the Christmas album was a fun goof).
As for his live abilities: look, when you go to see a 71-year-old Dylan sing, you’re not going to hear the same voice as you do on Highway 61 Revisited, especially at a large venue. But if you catch him on a good night, he, and his spitfire band, are as sharp, dedicated, and electric as any live act out there. Plus, Dylan’s the kind of guy who needs to be on the road to survive – not financially, but literally. This isn’t a man who’d be content staying home all day, playing bocce ball and watching His Stories. It wouldn’t surprise me if Dylan’s still out there when he’s 90. Here's hoping.
Too easy: after 1997’s ReLoad, which would avoid the whole Napster thing and St. Anger (great movie, unsure album) and Lulu and Lars Ulrich’s anxiety seizure and Jason Newsted leaving the band. Oh man, imagine how awesome it would be if Metallica HAD retired 15 years ago and did a one-off reunion tour in 2013. You’d scream for them to play, “Phantom Lord,” AND THEY WOULD.
On August 19, 1978, the Who released the bloated Who Are You — roughly three weeks later, drummer Keith Moon passed away from an overdose (his last words, "If you don't like it, you can just f*ck off!"). Though they'd continue as a reliably good live band, with Kenney Jones on drums throughout the 1980s, the Who have yet to release a good album since (ugh, Endless Wire, why do you exist?). Ending in, say, 1982 wouldn’t rob the world of any amazing Who material, and even if you wanted to extend their lifespan a bit further and have Daltrey and Townshend go their separate ways in the mid-2000s, after the death of John Entwistle, you’d still be left with a band that, quite frankly, hates being a band and having to play “Pinball Wizard” constantly.
So, let’s go with the early 1980s.
I wanted to include at least one contemporary band, and after listening to both Weezer’s Hurley and Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown, the most recent albums from two groups that probably have stopped by now, it’s obvious that Rivers Cuomo has less left in the creativity tank than Billie Joe Armstrong. I mean, holy sh*t, Hurley is AWFUL. Rivers still knows how to write a decent pop hook, but his lyrics have become increasingly cringe-worthy and I’m not sure who decided that their production should be so shiny, but they should be fired immediately.
It didn’t have to be this way, either; if Weezer had stopped recording and touring after 2002’s Maladroit, a wonderful power-pop album that people often overlook, they would have gone four-for-four. Ending on “December” would have been PERFECT. Instead, three years later, we got “Beverly Hills”...