Bands and When They Should Have Quit

(Article and photos reprinted from NME)

By Mark Beaumont

Like many of us in the rock community, I was shocked and dumbstruck to hear the news that INXS have split after 35 years in rock. INXS were still going?! For 35 years?!? Christ, someone’ll be telling me Chaucer’s only just hung up his dodo quill next, or that Pope Urban II has finally blessed his last crusade.

The Twitterati are of the opinion that INXS should really have called it a day in 1998, on the asphyxi-wank demise of their singer Michael Hutchence. But I’d go further. They should’ve thrown in the towel a good seven years earlier, bowing out at their peak – announcing their retirement at Wembley Stadium on the ‘X’ tour in 1991, touting ‘Suicide Blonde’ and ‘Bitter Tears’ as their grand swansongs. That way we’d have been spared the experimental sitar album (‘Welcome To Wherever You Are’), the agonising 90s decline and the desperate scramble for replacement singers culminating in a cheesy reality TV search that put them on a cultural level with Mary Poppins.

But which other acts should’ve called it a day yonks ago? And when, exactly?

Queen – 1991

Like INXS, Queen had made quite enough money by the time their singer carked it to spare us the last twenty-odd years of (primarily) May and Taylor dragging their legend through the dirt. Let’s face it, Freddie’s beyond-the-grave contributions to ‘Made In Heaven’ in 1995 only damaged his memory and the idea that Paul Rodgers, George Michael or – and this actually happened – Wyclef Jean might be able to step into Mercury’s frontless leotard was laughable in the extreme. Their theatrical legacy quickly found its rightful place in the West End; for dignity’s sake they should’ve quietly retired the band at Freddie’s wake.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – 2003

After much pub debate with some real-life RHCP fans who were adamant they lost it after ‘Mother’s Milk’ in 1989 and should’ve packed it in before dumping the “atrocious” ‘Give It Away’ on the world, I’ve decided RHCP deserve more grace than that. ‘Californication’ produced some notable singles and even the title track of 2002’s ‘By The Way’ was worth releasing. But how we wish they’d thrown in the towel before ‘Stadium Arcadium’ and jam-funking us into a coma at Reading 2007.

U2 – 1997

As soft a spot as I have for ‘Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of’, U2’s last decent contribution to rock culture was getting stuck in a massive lemon on the ‘Popmart’ tour in 1997. The dramatic image-shift of ‘Achtung Baby’ had long since lost its novelty and they were on the cusp of fifteen years of MOR albums with pictures of them looking bored in airports on the front, videos featuring Boyzone cameos and near toxic levels of global smugness. Sniiiiip!

Gomez – 1999

Are you lot still here? Despite nobody noticing or caring since the end of the Mercury Music Prize broadcast in 1998, Gomez have plodded relentlessly on making consistently ignored albums on iPhones and the like and facing up to their fundamental irrelevance by supporting Pearl Jam and The Dave Matthews Band on tour. We’ll give them their biggest album hit – Number 2 for 1999’s ‘Liquid Skin’ – but they really shoulda took the money and run.

Manic Street Preachers – 1997

Sure they’ve clawed back a hint of their sub-culture credibility with recent albums and have always managed to surprise us with firebrand classics like ‘Masses Against The Classes’ every now and then, but the Manics have never really recovered from whacking on the plain white trousers and going uber-mainstream on ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’ in 1998. How perfect and faultless a band they would have remained if they’d bowed out with the graceful orchestral elegies of ‘Everything Must Go’, or even sold 16 million copies of ‘Generation Terrorists’ and split in 1992.

The Levellers – 1998

And we’re being generous. Culturally, The Levellers – amazingly still fucking going – never topped their 1994 Glastonbury appearance when, thanks to a massive flyering campaign and an enormous invasion of fence-smashing grebos, they played to the biggest Pyramid Stage crowd in the festival’s history. But we can’t begrudge them the cash-in. While the sentient world was distracted by this little thing called Britpop, The Levellers spent the mid-90s enjoying a commercial heyday, releasing number one albums and greatest hits records and putting out the actually-quite-jolly ‘What A Beautiful Day’. But as of 1998 they’ve been a steaming arse-nugget floating in the lavvy bowl of popular music, and they should’ve been flushed with your foot there and then.

Metallica – 1991

Post-‘Black Album’, Metallica have been little more than a stodgy, overblown embarrassment of self-indulgent double albums, hideous Lou Reed collaborations and films that made them look like wankers. For the good of all rock, they should’ve been subjected to an enforced ‘group therapy’ session at Dignitas in 1991.

Madonna – 1998

The pop-friendly corners of the NME office are crying out in defense of later Madonna revivals – ‘Music’, ‘American Life’ and ‘Confessions On A Dance Floor’ – but to these ears the Madginator’s been phoning it in since ’98’s ‘Ray Of Light’. Surely she should have retired into the lucrative world of work-out vids by now?

Limp Bizkit – 1994

Having failed to contribute a single worthy note to the benefit of popular culture in their entire recorded history, Limp Bizkit should’ve split up just before their first rehearsal in 1994. And then killed themselves, and each other.

Celine Dion – 1968

Three words. ‘Strangled’. ‘At’. And ‘birth’.

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