Music History

Weekly survey question: Which bands broke up at EXACTLY the right time?

All groups, whether they want to admit it or not, have a best-before date. Many of them struggle beyond that day with varying degrees of success and failure. But then there are the groups who knew exactly when to call it a day. In other words, they went out on top.

In your opinion, which bands fall into that category?

I’ll start: The Beatles. They had seven glorious years, from 1963 to 1970. And then that was it. As harrowing as their breakup was to fans, in retrospect, the timing was brilliant. They left everyone wanting more and steadfastly refused to reunite, which is why we’re still talking about the Beatles almost 50 years after they broke up.

Another one: The Smiths. Five brilliants years–1982-87–and then that was it. Things were starting to slip towards the end, but circumstances led to a breakup. Fans wailed, but again in retrospect, this is what needed to happen for the legend of the Smiths to take hold. Again, no reunion. Wise.

The Clash came close. They should have folded when Mick Jones left the group, but Joe insisted on carrying on with the awful Cut the Crap album. Had they stopped after Combat Rock, it would have been perfect. But at least they refused all overtures to reunite before Joe died.

Who else falls into this category? Let me know and I’ll report back on my radio show on 102.1 the Edge tomorrow.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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13 thoughts on “Weekly survey question: Which bands broke up at EXACTLY the right time?

  • The Jam. Weller needed to prove he was capable and the Jam finished at there Peak.

  • Also, La’s. Was there another LP in there waiting to come out? We’ll likely never know.

  • Blink 182. They showed up and dominated the pop punk funny guy scene with killer tunes but left (for good reasons) before it got stale. Now the resurgence of ” Dad punk” is making rounds and they can return with huge ticket prices we can afford to be nostalgic and pay.

  • It’s a bit ghoulish, but Nirvana. No crap albums, no need to butt up against the fading embers of grunge, and the dissolution of the band allowed Dave Grohl to spread his wings and help shape the next 20 years of music.

  • ISIS (the metal band) definitely left at the top of their game. Arguably some would say that it was too early. They certainly have left fans wanting more.

  • An easy example would be the Sex Pistols, with one incredible studio album. It was lighting in a bottle and I think a follow up would have been a complete mess. The songs that John Lydon was writing, as least the lyrics seem to fit better with Public Image Ltd rather than another Sex Pistols album.

  • R.E.M.
    A plethora of classic and amazing albums that defined a genre…then they released a couple of minor duds…then they released two more classic and amazing albums proving that they still had the magic. Then they were gone. Too bad, but the perfect time.

  • I agree completely on The Beatles. I don’t have many Smiths albums, and I only liked a couple of what the Clash did. Some bands left us too soon. Drugs and other things got in the way, and that’s a shame.

  • Cream. Partly because Ginger Baker might have killed Jack Bruce, or vice versa.

  • Led Zeppelin comes to mind; in retrospect they were right not to carry on after Bonham’s death..

  • Husker Du. All of their studio albums are great & they never tainted their legacy with a reunion.


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