This page has been archived and is no longer updated.Find out more about page archiving.

Reunions have been all the rage for so long now that some of them are outlasting the act in question's original careers. We all grow older and wiser, and for many musicians, those creative differences that seemed so insurmountable in a cabin-fever riddled tourbus back in 1982 suddenly seem quite petty.

The comeback is especially tantalising when you've got an original fanbase who now have bags of nostalgia in one hand and sacks of disposable income in the other. Not to mention a new generation of kids dying to see the legends in the flesh.

No wonder so many bands just can't quit their comeback.

1. Pixies

[LISTEN] Black Francis chats about Pixies' new album Head Carrier

First time round: 1986-93 - 7 years
Comeback: 2004-present - 12 years to date

Given the toxic nature of their breakup, a Pixies reunion didn't seem likely for many years. Singer Black Francis found it so difficult to coexist with bassist Kim Deal that the band were barely speaking by the early-90s. When they finally broke up, Francis announced the split live on radio without consulting anyone else, later calling guitarist Joey Santiago and informing Deal and drummer David Lovering by fax.

Francis announced their reunion live on the radio, too, and again without speaking to the rest of the band first; he'd grown so bored of being asked about it he told an interviewer they were getting back together as a joke. As he told the Daily Beast in 2013: "Literally, it was on CNN the next day, and I had Joey and Dave going, like, 'Hey Charles, what the hell? What's up with the reunion?'" The little gag broke the ice, and with Deal also back on board, the band's 2004 tour sold out within minutes.

After several years of successful reunion shows, Deal - who'd also revived her old band The Breeders, and was reluctant to make a new Pixies album - left the group before they began recording 2011's Indie Cindy. Her old bandmates hired A Perfect Circle and Zwan member Paz Lenchantin as a permanent replacement; she features on their new album Head Carrier.

2. Dinosaur Jr.

[WATCH] Dinosaur Jr. Glastonbury highlights, 2013

First time round: 1984-89 - 5 years
Comeback: 2005-present - 11 years to date

Dinosaur Jr. guitarist/singer J Mascis and bassist/singer Lou Barlow's painful relationship was at breaking point by the time they recorded their third album Bug. Mascis wrote and sang almost everything; on final track Don't, the only one left to him, Barlow just screamed, "Why don't you like me!?" over a reverberating guitar dirge. Mascis fired Barlow, who went on to focus on his side-project Sebadoh; their song The Freed Pig picks at the scabs of Barlow and Mascis's broken friendship: "Now you will be free / With no sick people tugging on your sleeve / Your big head has that more room to grow."

After 1997, Mascis retired the Dinosaur Jr. band name, performing and recording as J Mascis + The Fog. When Mascis started attending Sebadoh shows in the mid-90s, Barlow had an epiphany: perhaps Mascis didn't hate him after all, but was just terrible at communicating. In 2005, with Dinosaur Jr.'s early SST albums being remastered, Barlow and Mascis performed together onstage at an autism benefit in Massachussetts as Deep Wound. In 2007, they released new album Beyond, and went on to release three more, most recently this year's Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not.

3. Blondie

[LISTEN] Blondie chat to Jo Wiley

First time round: 1974-82 - 8 years
Comeback: 1997-present - 19 years to date

New wave icons Blondie originally split in 1982 after guitarist Chris Stein contracted pemphigus, a rare autoimmune skin disease, at a time when the band was also suffering from poor ticket sales and money and drug troubles. But dance remixes of Atomic and Heart of Glass brought them back to the charts in the mid-90s, while the inclusion of an Atomic cover by Sleeper on the ultra-cool, hugely successful Trainspotting soundtrack and namechecks from younger bands brought them back into the music press.

In 1997, shaking off legal action from former members over the use of the Blondie name, they reformed and played three US festival performances, followed by international tours in 1998 and 1999. In February 1999, they scored their sixth UK No.1 with the then ubiquitous Maria, and a No.3 album, No Exit. "I always make the comparison to James Dean," Stein told the LA Times in 1998. "If he had done 20 movies, he might have ended up as some old guy being interviewed by Johnny Carson. He certainly wouldn't have been as romantic a figure... I mean, it's not even like we quit while we were ahead. We quit before we were ahead, I think."

4. Take That

[LISTEN] Gary Barlow and Tim Firth tell Steve Wright about their musical, The Girls

First time round: 1990-96 - 6 years
Comeback: 2005-present - 11 years to date

There ain't no breakup like a boyband breakup, and Take That's set a high-drama template for all those that followed. Robbie Williams was failing to meet the group's heavy commitments by 1995. The rest of the band gave him a choice: shape up or ship out. Williams chose ship out, and though Take That went on to complete a world tour, the writing was on the wall; they split in December of that year.

In 2005, after the band announced their plans for a reunion, a meeting was set up with Williams at the Chelsea hotel, but the atmosphere was frosty - hardly surprising, given Williams's frequent jabs at his old bandmates in the press.

In 2006, Take That released the album Beautiful World as a four-piece instead, topping the UK singles charts with Patience and Shine. Another meeting with Williams in 2008 eventually led to a reconciliation, with Robbie returning to record the album Progress before leaving again the following year (this time amicably) to focus on his own career. In 2014, the band also lost Jason Orange, and Gary, Mark and Howard forged on as a three-piece. They're currently working on the eighth Take That album.

5. ESG

[WATCH] ESG's Glastonbury highlights, 2014

First time round: 1978-1985 - 7 years
First comeback: 1991-2007 - 16 years
Second comeback: 2008-present - 8 years to date

Originally formed by South Bronx siblings Renee, Valerie, Deborah and Marie Scroggins in 1978 (their mother had scrimped and saved to buy them instruments to keep them out of trouble, demanding weekly performances), ESG were spotted at a talent show by the boss of no-wave label 99 Records. Their first eponymous EP featured tracks produced by Factory Records sonic wizard Martin Hannett, but the minimal, irresistible funky sound was all their own. The pared-down intensity of their early works made them must-have records for hip hop artists hunting for samples after they disbanded in 1985. Everyone from the Wu-Tang Clan, Kool Moe Dee, Big Daddy Kane, Beastie Boys, TLC and Tricky borrowing from their tracks.

Soon after making a comeback with a self-titled album in 1991, the Scroggins sisters addressed their new-found influence pithily with the 1992 EP Sample Credits Don't Pay Our Bills. Excluding a year-long hiatus from 2007-2008, they've never stopped since, with Renee's daughter Nicole Nicholas and Valerie's daughter Chistelle Polite joining on vocals. Their influence, too, has only grown, though now they're getting more than just sample credits.

6. Echo & The Bunnymen

[LISTEN] Ian McCulloch: Key of Life interview with Mary Anne (extended cut)

First time round: 1978–1993 - 15 years
Comeback: 1996-present - 20 years to date

The unabashedly egotistical Bunnymen singer Ian McCulloch left in 1988, following muted reviews for the band's self-titled fifth album. Not long after his departure, original drummer Pete de Freitas died in a motorbike accident. Despite this, and to McCulloch's surprise, the rest of the band carried on with new singer Noel Burke (McCulloch termed the new lineup "Echo & The Bogusmen"). Both the new Bunnymen's 1990 album Reverberation and McCulloch's solo albums Candleland (1989) and Mysterio (1992) failed to set the world alight, and the Bunnymen split in 1993.

A year later, guitarist Will Sergeant and McCulloch got back together as Electrafixion, but sales were poor, and they were dropped by their label. The Bunnymen's myth, meanwhile, lived on, not least in McCulloch's own head (he once termed their 1984 classic Ocean Rain "the greatest album ever made") and in 1997, the reunited band scored a Top 10 hit with Nothing Lasts Forever and a No.8 album in Evergreen. Original bassist Les Pattinson left in 1998, but McCulloch and Sergeant have continued to tour and release new albums under the Bunnymen name.

7. Death from Above 1979

[WATCH] Death from Above 1979's Glastonbury highlights, 2014

First time round: 2001-2006 - 5 years
Comeback: 2011-present - 5 years to date

The Canadian noise-merchants were so poor before the release of their debut album You're a Woman, I'm a Machine, they found themselves saying yes to everything, and confused, crabby burnout soon followed. They fell prey to classic creative differences in 2006, the split confirmed months after the fact in a grumpy post on their website.

A few years not speaking to each other did the trick, and in 2010, Grainger sent Keeler an email noting the band's 10th anniversary. A year later, he went back to the website for a more upbeat post. "It's been five years since Death from Above 1979 played a show, 10 years since Jesse played me the first demos and 11 years since we sat in his parents' basement and played so loud we knocked the china off the shelves upstairs. Eleven seems to be a YES number for me... So why not say YES?"

In 2014, exactly 10 years You're a Woman, I'm a Machine, they released their second album, The Physical World, and, with a US tour coming up this autumn, are just about to surpass their first incarnation.

8. Stiff Little Fingers

[LISTEN] Jake Burns speaks to Stuart Maconie

First time round: 1977-1982 - 5 years
Comeback: 1987-present - 29 years to date

Many punk bands burned hot and briefly, and Belfast's Stiff Little Fingers were no exception. Support from John Peel meant their first single, Suspect Device (which one record label threw it in a bucket of water, fearing it was a real bomb) sold 30,000 copies, but dwindling gig attendance and sales by the early-80s led to their breakup.

"Instead of talking we would argue and fight," singer Jake Burns told the Mancunion in 2013. "Looking back on it if someone had said don't see each other for six months and re-assess, we might have weathered the storm." Absence made the heart grow similarly fonder in the case of SLF’s audience, and though the band expected no one to turn up to their 1987 reunion tour, the shows sold out weeks in advance. "The numbers on that tour astonished us, we didn't think that anybody would even remember us and we ended up playing in two thousand seat theatres every night," Burns told 100 Percent Rock magazine in 2016. "The warmth and affection really blew me away."

That loving feeling has stayed true; the band still tour the UK every year.

9. The Buggles

First time round: 1977-1981 - 4 years
Comeback: 1998-present - 18 years to date

Post-punk art-pop oddities The Buggles hit No.1 in 16 countries with Video Killed the Radio Star, the first song played on MTV. Though they're often referred to as one-hit wonders, Trevor Horn and Geoffrey Downes's debut album, The Age of Plastic, and three subsequent singles also performed well in the UK charts. When their second record, Adventures in Recording (finished by Trevor Horn alone after his bandmate Geoffrey Downes went off to form prog supergroup Asia) failed to drawn much attention, The Buggles crumpled. Horn went on to huge success as a producer for Spandau Ballet and ABC, as a label boss with ZTT label and later in avant pop act Art of Noise.

The Buggles had never toured; they were very much a studio band, named after recording "bugs" - gremlins in the sound mix. From 1998 onwards, however, Downes and Horn would occasionally perform Buggles songs live, playing together for the first time at a London showcase for ZTT records in 1998, and doing their first full show in 2010. In early 2016, Downes tweeted about being back in the studio with Horn, and confirmed to website blastecho that as well as planned re-releases: "There's the option of maybe putting some more stuff out… you never know, next year we might do some gigs. We'll take it as it comes, really."

10. The Specials

[LISTEN] Terry Hall chats with Shaun Keaveny

First time round: 1978-1984 - 6 years
First comeback: 1996-2001 - 5 years
Second comeback: 2008-present - 8 years to date

Hold tight, this one gets complicated. Lynval Golding, Neville Staple and Terry Hall first left 2 Tone originators The Specials in 1981 to form Fun Boy Three, craving more musical freedom. The Specials carried on as The Special A.K.A. until 1984, with Rhoda Dakar on vocals. After the role that their song Free Nelson Mandela played in bringing attention to the anti-apartheid cause in the UK, Jerry Dammers split the band and focused more fully on musical activism. Fun Boy Three, meanwhile, split in 1983 when Hall suddenly left the band; he and Staple didn’t speak for 15 years.

There was a partial Specials reunion in the 90s, but the big moment came in 2007, after Terry Hall and Lynval Golding performed Blank Expression and Gangster onstage at Glastonbury. A year later, proper 30th anniversary reunion gigs were announced. "I've never had so much fun as I've been having since the Specials reformed," said late drummer John Bradbury in 2008.

Not everyone was enjoying the party, though, as Jerry Dammers's press statement revealed. "A recent press release concerning a proposed tour by what has been described as 'The Specials'," he fumed, "failed to clarify the actual lineup of the band. Not surprisingly therefore, many people are under the impression it is the original Specials. As was common knowledge at the time of their success, Jerry Dammers was the founder, main songwriter and driving force of The Specials. He recruited every member individually, and the musical and style direction was guided by him."

The war of words between Dammers, who claimed to have been frozen out, and his bandmates, who insisted he'd been welcome to join them, didn't stop thousands of fans enjoying the new live shows. Staple left the band again in 2013, citing health concerns, followed by Roddy Radiation in 2014. John Bradbury died in 2015. The Specials are still touring, though; you can catch them around the UK in November.

Related links

Added item image
Added, go to My Music to see full list.
More from