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When old bands do new songs

A few years ago I heard a new song by the Beach Boys. I was never a great fan of their, though I did listen to a whole album by theirs on the way to a chess tournament (as you can imagine that was really wild), and I think Good Vibrations is a great song. However this new song left me distinctly underwhelmed. "That sounds like the Beach Boys", I thought, "what more would you expect?".

I watched a programme on BBC4 recently about how these days there are so many bands that are getting back together, going on tour and sometimes releasing new singles.


On that programme Stewart Copeland, the drummer with the Police, captured my thoughts about why new songs by old bands are rarely that good. He said that old songs have emotional baggage, like those crazy times on the chess tournament tour bus, and the new stuff doesn't evoke that emotion when you first hear it. So when the Police did a reunion tour there were no new songs.

In particular:

  • I heard a new OMD song on Radio 2. Like with the Beach Boys, I'm not really a fan, yet Electricity is so evocative.
  • Geoff Lynne came back with his version of ELO and did a single which was something about radio, which was pretty good, but not the same as when I heard the album Time, and that's a story for another time.
  • Madness never really went away. Their songs would get played on Radio 2, they still perform live, but they never really made much dent on the charts. I heard those more recent songs, but I can't remember much about them.
The exception to this is Blondie. Maybe it's because the single Maria, released in 1999, evokes life before the millennium. Do you think there are there any bands which came back and did new songs which were as good as the old ones?

As a footnote, I read recently (but can't find it) of someone who correlated people's favourite songs with their ages and concluded that the songs that you like most are from when you were 14 years old. I certainly heard a while ago that when someone wants to put music on an advert they work out how old their target age is, and pick a song from when those people were 16.

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