Once more for the road: Pop acts that tricky second time around

Fans of Wham! will be delighted that the Eighties duo are the latest band to stage a reunion tour. But not all musical magic can be rekindled
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Wham!

It has been 20 years since former schoolmates George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley disbanded one of the best-selling good-time bands in pop history. During their four-year reign, the duo notched up four No 1 hits, became the first Western pop group to tour China and created a unique place for the shuttlecock in the story of pop video. Of course, there were those ungenerous detractors who suggested that it was Michael rather than Ridgeley who was the true creative force behind Wham! The comparisons grew ever more unfavourable in the intervening years when the singer went on to sell 65 million records while his former "guitarist" settled down to the quiet life in the West Country after an ill-fated career as a racing driver. But, if reports are to be believed, the long-standing rift between the two men is to be healed. The reunion will make diverting news for Michael, who has been the subject of recent speculation about his private life after reports of late-night brushes with traffic police and a caution for cannabis possession. The duo are expected to be joined on stage by their old backing singers Pepsi and Shirlie for a Christmas concert.

Take That

The 1996 announcement, at the height of their fame, that Take That were to go their separate ways signalled the end of one of the most commercially successful British bands since the Beatles. The nation's youth sobbed and the Samaritans set up a telephone helpline to counsel distraught youngsters. Founded as a UK record industry response to the US boyband New Kids on the Block, Take That sold 15 million records during their five-year lifespan and paved the way for a rash of soundalikes, from East 17 to Westlife. With the exception of Robbie Williams sustained solo success proved elusive for the band members, but the band continued to sell records by the lorryload and a 2005 television documentary rekindled interest in them. The result was an album, Never Forget: The Ultimate Collection, which reached No 2 in the UK, and the "Ultimate Tour". With stadium venues selling out in just 30 minutes, the tour grew into a 30-date extravaganza. A 20ft hologram of Robbie Williams was projected on to the stage after he declined the opportunity to rejoin the band. A new studio album and single is eagerly awaited, with mounting speculation that Williams may be on it.

Pink Floyd

In a strictly legal sense, Pink Floyd have survived the departure of not one but two creative geniuses in the course of a 40-year history. During the late 1960s, Floyd were pre-eminent on the London psychedelic scene, largely thanks to the influence of co-founder Syd Barrett. But his mental decline, fuelled by copious amounts of LSD, led to the recruitment of Dave Gilmour and Barrett's departure. One of the original members, Roger Waters, left in 1985, declaring the band a spent force creatively, although Gilmour and others continued to write and perform. The rift between Waters and the rest of the band continued unresolved until last year, when he joined them on stage for Live8. A group hug after the show raised fans' hopes that a full reconciliation was on the cards, especially when it was reported they had been offered a $250m deal to return to the road. Statements since then have in turn excited and then quashed talk of a full-blown reunion. Barrett died this year, a virtual recluse, and Waters is currently touring the US billed as the "creative genius of Pink Floyd".

All Saints

The year was 1997 and a delirious nation basked in the glow of Cool Britannia. Keeping the girls' end up amidthe excitement surrounding the testosterone-fuelled Blur-Oasis rivalry were All Saints, who unleashed a string of uncomplicated pop hits until an acrimonious split in 2001. The band, who met indirectly through the Sylvia Young Theatre School, scored five number ones, notably the compellingly catchy "Never Ever". After the schism, the sisters Natalie and Nicole Appleton recorded together while Melanie Blatt and Shaznay Lewis went solo. The band reformed this year and a album is scheduled for November, while a single, "Rock Steady", is out and a UK tour is planned for 2007.

The Who

With a new album out any day now and a world tour earning rave reviews from fans old and new, 2006 has been a vintage year for The Who. The band have weathered many storms - not least the deaths of two of its four members - drummer Keith Moon in 1978 and bassist John Entwistle in 2002. The band's artistic powerhouse Pete Townshend quit in 1983, after finding himself unable to write new material. But he rejoined for a one-off performance at the original Live Aid concert at Wembley in 1985, and four years later for a sell-out reunion tour. Townshend again lined up with his former bandmates in 1996 to bring their seminal 1973 Quadrophenia album to a live audience. The band's high-octane performance at last year's Live8 concert was a critical success, while the release of their album Endless Wire this month marks the end of a 24-year recording hiatus.

The Smiths

For the legions of incurable miserablists for whom the break-up of the Smiths was the coup de grâce in a world already haunted by sadness, hope never fully died. So it was that the rumour mill went into overdrive when Johnny Marr announced he was to play the Manchester vs Cancer benefit show with his band the Healers earlier this year, an event organised by ex-Smith Andy Rourke. Fans - perhaps more in hope than true expectation - believed the concert would turn out to be a full reunion with Morrissey. But guitarist Marr was quick to dispel the rumours on his website - even before the offer of money could persuade the Smiths to perform together one last time. In March, Morrissey revealed that they had turned down $5m to play at the Coachella Music Festival in California. He later told an interviewer, with characteristic style, that he would "rather eat [his] own testicles" than share a stage with his former bandmates.

The Police

It took no less an occasion than induction in the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 for the British three-piece to reform. But the guitarist Andy Summers quickly talked down prospects of a lasting reunion. With nine multi-platinum albums to their name, The Police were one of the biggest acts of the 1980s, emerging on the heels of punk to achieve global fame. Although there was no official split, they recorded their last studio album together, Synchronicity, in 1983. The frontman, Sting, has enjoyed a successful solo career, also becoming a spokesman for causes including preservation of the Amazon rainforest, indigenous peoples and the drive to combat poverty. The band continued to play the occasional gig together in the late 1980s, mainly for political causes, plus an impromptu performance at Sting's wedding in 1992.

Spandau Ballet

Having traded in their theatrical Cossack outfits for straight-edge suits and moody love songs as the New Romantic movement died, Spandau Ballet became one of the most formidable pop acts of the 1980s, but their run of success came to an abrupt halt when their 1989 album Heart Like a Sky failed to sell. But the story didn't end there. Tony Hadley, Steve Norman and John Keeble sued Gary Kemp to try to secure a share of songwriting royalties, but lost. In a further twist of the knife they were forced to sell their shares in the band's company to their courtroom opponent in order to meet legal costs. There is still no sign of rapprochement. Hadley reportedly turned down Kemp's request to reform the band for Live 8 last year. The singer is said to be happy pursuing his own music career, which received a boost after he appeared on the reality show Reborn in the USA.

Abba

Anyone holding out for one last twirl to "Dancing Queen" sung live by the original members of the Swedish pop phenomenon had to think again last year. The end of the dream came at the 50th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest, when not a single band member turned up to collect the award for "Waterloo" when it was named the best Eurovision song of all time. Fans' hopes had been raised that year when Benny and Bjorn, Agnetha and Frida arrived at the Stockholm premiere of the Abba musical Mamma Mia! - the first time they had appeared together at a public event since 1986. Although the band never formally announced a split, Björn has ruled out a reunion on artistic grounds. They have always insisted that the breakdown of the couples' marriages (Agnetha was married to Bjorn and Benny to Frida) was not responsible for the end of the group, which had merely reached the end of its creative life.

The Jam

Paul Weller explained this year the likelihood of his former band The Jam reforming. He told the BBC that he and his children "would have to be destitute and starving in the gutter" before he would even consider it. The Jam went out at the summit of their acclaim, after the release of their 1982 album The Gift, which included the number one hit "Town Called Malice". Weller believed the band had achieved as much as it could, and went on to form the Style Council before embarking on a prolific solo career. The singer poured scorn on the whole concept of band reunions, telling Uncut magazine that the return of The Jam would be "a sad cabaret". After the split the band's bassist, Bruce Foxton, played with Stiff Little Fingers for 15 years. The drummer, Rick Buckler, combines music with a furniture restoration business.

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