It’s not us, it’s them. Bands are saying goodbye at quite a rate right now. Already this year we’ve seen the demise of three of the most era-defining of them – The White Stripes, The Streets and LCD Soundsystem. While Jack’n'Meg have gone out with a whimper – most of us assumed the duo had retired quite some time ago – Mike Skinner and James Murphy refuse to turn in their badges without a bit of fanfare. Skinner’s given us a meaningful final song: Close The Book‘s title nods to the first track off his debut album, Turn The Page, and is a fittingly string-drenched, manly-tear-in-the-eye farewell. Murphy, meanwhile, is throwing fans an epic three hour goodbye concert at Madison Square Garden in April, asking everyone who goes to dress in black and white in a pointed bid to give the shindig some pop historical significance.
This is how it should be. It’s all too rare for bands to mark the occasion of their demise in style. Perhaps the first instance of a group making a big deal over their imminent non-existence was Cream, who recorded a final album, unequivocally titled Goodbye, before they curdled – but they’d been long gone by the time it was actually released in 1969.
It’s not until the ’80s, when the music business was churning out life-changing pop phenomena on a monthly basis, that artists began to take real care over pissing off out of our lives. The Jam set the tone, announcing their split to an outraged music press, before releasing glorious last blast Beat Surrender – guaranteeing a number one smash in the process. Yet to reform, they remain perhaps the only example in pop of a band who drew the line and stayed on its right side.
Wham! took notes, and when George Michael decided he wanted to devour America and might not be able to do it with Andrew Ridgeley by his side, the group split (scream! sob! etc!) and released their own final statement, Edge Of Heaven – a song that is, appropriately enough, not a million miles away from Beat Surrender.
Madness also had their own swansong, (Waiting For) The Ghost Train, but spoilt it all by reforming in the ’90s. Reforming should really disqualify you from the pantheon of Bands Who’ve Buggered Off Definitively, of course, but since reforming is now integral to the ‘career path’ of any artist, we have to show some leeway. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to include the Spice Girls – although calling your farewell song Goodbye represents a huge failure of imagination (perhaps Posh was a Cream fan?) The kiss-off number should, as we’ve already discovered, be titled something portentous. “See ya!” just won’t do.
So even if this is just au revoir, Skinner is to be applauded for making the dark end of The Streets as interesting as its entrance. He’s in rare company.