There are few phrases in the PR lexicon more filled with bathos than "working on their own projects". In any given band there are rarely more than two members, if any, who have the talent to do more than go down the pub or score some dope on their own (frequently they can't even do that). So their projects most often consist of scrabbling around the dowdier end of the music business for a few years before jacking it all in and becoming furniture salesmen.
It's possible, of course, that The Verve will realise this and reassemble at some future date - older, wiser and significantly poorer - for another crack at the big time. This is not, after all, the first time that they've split. Richard Ashcroft, the band's gaunt, big-lipped frontman walked out in 1994, came back, then departed again in 1995, splitting the band in the process.
But, just as Liz Taylor could never quite resist Richard Burton, just as Mick can never quite get rid of Keef, so Ashcroft returned to his old schoolmates, the band got back together, and made their biggest-ever album, the gazillion-selling Urban Hymns. Who knows, when the royalties have begun to run dry, they might re-unite once again.
So why do bands split in the first place? The most commonly cited reason is "musical differences", which roughly translates as "mutual loathing". This poisonous stew of internecine hatreds is often brought into the open by success, rather than failure. When the band starts out, it's just a bunch of lads crammed in the back of a Transit van, setting out to tear down the walls of the musical establishment (preferably while shagging as many birds as possible along the way).
But once the first hits have been made, it soon becomes apparent that the vast majority of all the money is going to the bloke (or at most two blokes) who wrote them. This causes profound resentment among the remaining members of the band, who can't see why the pretentious pillock at the front should be getting 75 per cent of the cash, 90 per cent of the birds and 100 per cent of the media attention. It also infuriates the front man. There he is, working his nuts off, writing, singing, talking to endless bloody journalists, and those ugly, bone-idle spuds behind him still have the nerve to resent his hard-earned pay.
The other perennial band-buster is, to put it frankly, sex. If you have men and women in the same band - I give you Abba and Fleetwood Mac as exhibits (a) and (b) - the following sequence can be guaranteed.
1) They will sleep together, marry and then divorce each other.
2) The resulting personal tension and pain will inspire a brief moment of supreme creativity.
3) This will swiftly be followed by hormonally-charged levels of mutual antagonism so intense that no amount of money can keep the band together. A split is inevitable.
In the more traditional case of an all-male band, girlfriends and wives have a devastating effect on the emotional ecology of the group. Bands are essentially schoolboy gangs (as, indeed, The Verve actually were), preserved in an advanced state of emotional retardation.
As an example of this, I give you the Rolling Stones, circa 1988. As our story begins, Mick and Keith are in the middle of a decade-long spat that has seen both of them attempt to pursue disastrous solo careers, write nasty songs about each other, and generally behave like cantankerous six-year-olds who are in need of a good smack.
Enter Ronnie Wood, who is (a) friendly with both Mick and Keith, and (b), in serious need of some cash. He therefore wants the Stones to get back in harness. "Mick and Keith were at each other's throats and they weren't talking," said Ronnie. "The band nearly split and I couldn't stand by and let that happen, so I did my bit and got them talking again. They were in different parts of the world. Mick rang me and said: `Keith just won't speak to me.' And I said: `Well, funnily enough, I've just spoken to him and I know where he is. If you ring him now, he's in a very good mood and he doesn't hate you.' Mick wasn't really sure, so I said: `Just do me a favour, ring him up and ring me back with the results.' Sure enough, 15 minutes later, Mick rang and said: `He doesn't hate me! We got on great!'.''
With this degree of emotional intensity between the male members of a band, there is little room for women as anything other than bed-mates. Loyalty to the lads comes first. Women, however, find it hard to accept this state of affairs. They want to re-prioritise their own importance in an upwards direction.
Thus, as any tear-stained Beatles fan could have told you in 1970, Linda drove Paul away from John, George and Ringo. Or was it that Yoko drove John away from Paul, George and Ringo? To this day, historians are split on this crucial issue. But one thing is certain... it was the wives' fault. Sometimes, bands are smart enough to see this problem coming. The members of Queen, for example, had a handful of university degrees between them. So when, in the early-Eighties, they were on the verge of splitting, they were able to remind themselves that, as Brian May recently told me, "the band was more enduring than any of our marriages". The straight band-members got divorced, but the band just kept on trucking.
In the end, Queen were torn asunder by the death of Freddie Mercury. The immediate commercial effect of his demise was that they sold enormous quantities of records, thus becoming even more outrageously wealthy than before. The long-term effect, however, was less salutary. Both Brian May and the band's drummer Roger Taylor are working on solo projects. They are fit, hard-working, and full of beans. In their time, they have both written massive worldwide hits. But can they get anyone to listen to, let alone give air-time to their current records?
Without their brand-name, they are nothing. Eventually, former band members recognise this. Years after they fell apart, having endured long years of fretful obscurity, they begin to forget what the problem ever was. They start thinking that it might be nice to see their mates again. They consider the benefits of playing to a packed stadium, rather than an empty pub.
And so, like Fleetwood Mac, Culture Club, Blondie and the Eagles, they get together again, and head out for the road. Who knows, one day The Verve might do the same thing. Until then, there are still those projects to be getting on with...Reuse content