In early September, fans of the Swedish pop group ABBA were treated to an announcement that they never thought would come. A full 40 years after their very bitter split, the group was reuniting and would release a new album, Voyage, in November.
After being gone that long, fans could be forgiven for thinking this would never happen. But the Swedish supergroup is not the only one to break up and then reunite, even decades later.
The reasons for the reunions vary. In some cases, artists who had worked together successfully before wanted to see if they could recapture the magic. Also, in the Spotify age, when artists earn as little as a third of a cent per stream, reuniting to go back out on tour is the only way to make any money.
Whatever their reasons, here’s a look at some of the artists who got back together years after saying “never again.”
If you’re wondering where fans of rock music learned big words like “acrimonious,” it most likely came from stories of the 1960s British supergroup Cream. While guitarist Eric Clapton was the biggest name in this influential group, infighting between bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker was so bad that they broke up after just two years together. Apart from a performance at their 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the group’s 2005 reunion concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall marked the first time they had played together in 37 years.
2. The Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead was the ultimate cult band, and in 30 years together their fans, the Deadheads, would follow them from concert to concert to the very ends of the earth. However, when founding guitarist Jerry Garcia passed away in 1995, the idea of continuing without him seemed like heresy. While the surviving members had performed sporadically in the intervening years, the group mounted a full-scale farewell tour in 2015, 20 years after Garcia’s death. The tour made $52 million, proving that the Deadheads were as strong a force as ever.
3. Led Zeppelin
In 1980, when Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died, the group decided that they couldn’t go on without him and disbanded. Apart from short and poorly-received sets at Live Aid in 1985 and the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Celebration in 1988, the group resisted doing a full reunion until 2007, when they performed at London’s O2 Arena, 27 years after Bonham’s death. His son Jason Bonham, a drummer in his own right, filled in for his father.
4. The Eagles
When they all got along, the Eagles were one of the biggest hit-making bands of the 1970s. Unfortunately, they frequently sparred, and in 1980 they broke up after less than a decade together. In 1994, they reunited and released a live album, but waited another 13 years before releasing a new album of studio material, Long Road Out of Eden. Despite the 2016 death of founding member Glenn Frey, the band continues to be a touring entity, his place taken by his son Deacon and country musician Vince Gill.
If there were a dictionary entry for the term “not replaceable,” it could easily be just a photo of Queen singer Freddie Mercury. When he passed away in 1991, the notion of finding a replacement was laughable, but when guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor decided to return to the concert stage 14 years later in 2005, they didn’t replace him, technically. Rather, Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers was drafted to front the band on tour under the name “Queen + Paul Rodgers.” American Idol contestant Adam Lambert took over vocal duties in 2012 and still tours with the band today.
6. Fleetwood Mac
Like ABBA, Fleetwood Mac was a group whose monumental commercial success was at odds with the fact that the lineup contained two couples whose relationships had hit the skids. One of the couples included guitarist Lindsay Buckingham, who left the group in 1987. This lineup of the group was its most successful, but with the exception of a 1993 performance at former president Bill Clinton’s inauguration, they did not perform together again until 1997. Then, keyboard player Christine McVie quit. She returned in 2014, almost two decades later.
7. The Sex Pistols
The British punk band the Sex Pistols were only active for a few years in the 1970s, and they only managed one tour of the United States before collapsing in 1978. The idea of this band reuniting seemed highly improbable, but 18 years later, in 1996, they did exactly that for their “Filthy Lucre” tour, which went on for six months.
8. Van Halen
Fans of the group Van Halen are split into two very distinct camps – those who favor the era with David Lee Roth as lead singer, and those who prefer his replacement, Sammy Hagar. The group went on hiatus in 1999 and returned in 2004 with Hagar, who left the following year. This opened the door for Roth to return, and he rejoined the band to record 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth, his first album with them in 28 years.
Along with Talking Heads and Television, Blondie was one of the earliest bands to be associated with the New York City new wave scene of the 1970s, as well as one of the most successful. They recorded six albums before disbanding in 1982, so that singer Deborah Harry could both pursue a solo career and care for her husband, guitarist Chris Stein, who was ill at the time. They reformed in 1997 and had a U.K. hit with the single “Maria” in 1999, which coincidentally was 20 years after their single “Heart of Glass” had become a U.K. hit.
10. The Police
The Police was one of the most commercially successful groups of the new wave era, but they flamed out spectacularly amid personal conflicts and broke up in 1986. The band members pursued solo projects, with bassist and vocalist Sting being the most successful, then surprised everyone in 2007 by announcing that they were reuniting for a world tour. Fans had not forgotten about them in the intervening years, and when it was all over the tour had made $358 million.
11. The Go-Go’s
Along with the Police, the Go-Go’s were omnipresent on the radio during the early 1980s. Their 1981 album Beauty and the Beat was hugely successful thanks to such hits as “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “We Got the Beat.” They managed two more albums before breaking up in 1985, but nine years later they recorded three new songs for a career retrospective album and went out on tour. Since then the band has endured, weathering everything from changing commercial tastes to lawsuits from its own band members.
The debonair sounds of ABC made them a big hit in the early days of MTV, but like a lot of bands that had great commercial success in the 1980s, it didn’t carry over into the next decade, and the group officially disbanded in 1991. Lead singer Martin Fry tried to resurrect the group numerous times, but it didn’t really stick until 2004, when he reunited with drummer David Palmer, who played on the group’s breakthrough 1982 album The Lexicon of Love. The group has remained active ever since.
13. The Alarm
The Welsh band the Alarm were most successful during the 1980s, thanks to their single “Sixty-Eight Guns.” At the height of their fame they opened for Bob Dylan, but in 1991, front man Mike Peters decided he’d had enough and announced that he was leaving the group while still onstage at Brixton Academy with his bandmates, who learned he was leaving at the same time the audience did. Peters used the Alarm name over the next few years, but in 2004 the original lineup returned to take part in the VH1 show Bands Reunited.
The American new wave band Berlin racked up multiple hits during the 1980s, including “Take My Breath Away,” which has been the awkward slow-dance selection of high school proms ever since. The group disbanded in 1987 due to that old chestnut, creative differences, but 12 years later, singer Terri Nunn was back onstage under the Berlin banner (she bought the ‘Berlin’ name and performed under it, which qualifies as a reunion to many.), opening for the Go-Go’s on their reunion tour. On Dec. 31, 2020, she performed at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve Party, alongside Vanilla Ice.
Squeeze is a British band who emerged during the new wave era and distinguished themselves with such classic songs as “Tempted” and “Black Coffee in Bed.” They broke up and reformed numerous times, but in 1999 they broke up for what was supposed to be the last time. In 2007, a mere eight years later, the group got back together for a full tour of the United States. Since then, songwriters Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have enlisted an ever-changing lineup of musicians to keep Squeeze alive and on the road.
16. Mercyful Fate
In 1985, fans of heavy metal were crestfallen to learn that Mercyful Fate – yes, they spell their name that way – was to lose the services of facepaint-wearing singer King Diamond, who was taking his cape and operatic falsetto and going solo. This state of affairs persisted until the group got back together in 1993, but the reunion only lasted until 1999. Since then, they reunited for one-off shows and recordings, but in 2019 they announced a full reunion, with tour dates and a new album to come.
Soundgarden hailed from Seattle and were contemporaries of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. As the 1990s drew to a close, everything associated with “grunge” became passé, and Soundgarden closed up shop in 1997. After 15 years, the group released 2012’s King Animal album and returned to the road, and it seemed that the band was going to continue making music. Sadly, lead singer Chris Cornell killed himself in 2017, bringing the group’s story to a close.
18. The Stone Roses
Manchester’s Stone Roses released their self-titled debut album in 1989. The follow-up, Second Coming, was not released until 1994 due to legal wrangling, and then the band broke up in 1996. They were still the subject of speculation that they might return, and in 2011 the fans’ patience was rewarded with the announcement that they would be performing a reunion tour. A few studio tracks materialized but there was no third Stone Roses album, and in 2019 guitarist John Squire confirmed that the band had broken up.
19. The Pixies
The Pixies was an alternative rock band before the word “alternative” was used to denote a genre, and in the early 1990s a slew of bands emerged who had been influenced by them. They broke up in 1993 when front man Black Francis informed the rest of the group that he was leaving via fax, which is as 1990s as it gets. The group returned to the stage in 2004 and a sixth album, Indie Cindy, emerged in 2014.
20. My Bloody Valentine
Dublin’s My Bloody Valentine won legions of fans with their wash of guitars, a sound credited with inspiring the shoegaze movement. They released two albums, 1988’s Isn’t Anything and 1991’s Loveless, but when the time came to make a third album, bandleader Kevin Shields was unable to come up with the goods. What followed was a long period in which he was said to be alternately working on new material or succumbing to his own perfectionism. This ended when the band returned to live performing in 2008, and in 2013, the third My Bloody Valentine album, m b v, was released.
21. The Black Crowes
The Black Crowes’ first studio album, Shake Your Money Maker, was released in 1990 and the group’s sound, which recalled bands like Humble Pie and the Rolling Stones, made them instant favorites. They have broken up and reunited numerous times, such as from 2001 to 2005, but when guitarist Rich Robertson announced their breakup in 2015, there seemed to be a finality to it that hadn’t been there previously. That also ended up being a false alarm, and the group reunited yet again in 2019.
Boston’s Extreme hit their commercial peak during the hair metal power ballad days with the song “More Than Words.” By 1996, that was as unhip as it was possible to be, and the band broke up, with singer Gary Cherone going on to do an ill-advised stint fronting Van Halen. The group returned with a new album and tour in 2008, and while they have said several times since then that they’re working on a new album, it has yet to materialize.
23. New Kids on the Block
New Kids on the Block was a boy band from Boston who predated the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC by a decade. They were hugely, massively popular until they weren’t, and in the face of declining album sales and dwindling throngs of shrieking tweens, they disbanded in 1994. In 2008, Donnie Wahlberg announced that the group was reuniting for an album and tour, which were both successful. The group is still together today, perhaps because they are in possession of the right stuff.
24. The Fugees
The Fugees formed in the early 1990s and their second album, 1996’s The Score, made them a household name, thanks in part to their take on “Killing Me Softly.” Ironically, it went so well that it unofficially ended the group, as all three members went on to pursue very successful solo careers. They reformed a handful of times for one-off performances but in 2005 they embarked on a full European tour. To date, a much-rumored third Fugees album has yet to come to fruition.
25. The Spice Girls
For a brief moment in the 1990s, the Spice Girls were hugely popular. Their 1996 album Spice sold over seven million copies in the United States alone, and its popularity gave way to a movie, toys, and a body spray – anything you could slap the logo on, basically. Sadly, there was trouble in paradise and after Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell left the group, they released 2000’s Forever, which sold a fraction of the copies that its predecessor did. At that point they went on hiatus for seven years, which was a smart move – when they announced their 2007 reunion concert, tickets sold out in 38 seconds.