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BLOG: Live & let die - the road goes on forever

Why the future of rock is tribute bands and franchises

Last week saw the 10th anniversary Blu-Ray reissue of Metallica’s Some Kind of Monster. As we probably don’t need to tell you, this is one of the all-time great rock documentaries. Focusing on the making of their less-than-classic album St Anger, it has all the tantrums and passive aggression you could ask for plus the welcome bonus of a live-in psychologist in atrocious knitwear who wants to help with the lyrics. Viewed a decade on, though, what’s most striking is that the paradox at its heart – that the band will go to any lengths to remain in the situation that makes them miserable and angry – is more relevant than ever. Why can’t they just break up the band?

The answer, of course, is that bands don’t break up anymore, and no one retires. They may take time out or go “on hiatus” but if they ever did make the mistake of going their separate ways, you can be sure they’ll reform pretty sharpish. This has become so ingrained that it’s hard to believe that in the 80s, before Live Aid rebooted the stadium gig, rock musicians worried about how long they could keep going. It’s only recently that they all decided the answer was “as long as we can”. 

This year a couple of the big players have started saying they might be reaching that point. Pink Floyd declared that their new (well, new-ish) album The Endless River will be their last. Ozzy Osbourne said that he’d be doing “one more Black Sabbath tour, one more Black Sabbath album, and then we’re disbanding the name, I believe”. That “I believe” is the point, though – it makes it about as definitive as a Frank Sinatra farewell tour. Ozzy knows he has to keep his options open because if he doesn’t fancy it, they’ll simply get Ronnie James Dio back in hologram form. If that doesn't work, it’ll have to be Tony Martin. Or David Donato.

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