Who Will Reunite Next? We Place Odds on 18 Groups, From Led Zeppelin to One Direction
The 2022 calendar is packed with long-awaited reunion tours by the likes of Fugees, Rage Against the Machine, Bauhaus, Pavement, Mötley Crüe, Swedish House Mafia, and even ABBA, if you count their digital-avatar show heading to London. Some of these acts swore they’d never play together again, and one even supposedly signed a “cessation of touring activities” agreement that would have made a reunion impossible.
But there’s still a large pool of groups that are stubbornly clinging to their breakups. Some of them have more cash than they’ll ever need, while others are content with their solo projects. There are also, of course, many groups whose members simply despise each other more than they like money. Here’s a look at 18 groups that have all sorts of reasons for staying apart, and our 100% unscientific odds that they’ll reunite some day.
Why They Split: Band relations hit a real low on the band’s 1980–81 Wall tour, but after Roger Waters left in the early 1980s, the remaining trio of David Gilmour, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason got along quite well and turned into a functioning unit. They also played many enormous stadium gigs, but by the end of 1994’s massive Division Bell tour, David Gilmour had had enough. They quietly went on an indefinite hiatus when the tour wrapped after a long run of shows at London’s Earls Court in October 1994.
Last Performance: The classic line-up of Gilmour, Wright, Mason, and Waters did a four-song set at Live 8 in the summer of 2005. Three years later Richard Wright died of cancer — forever ruling out a complete reunion. In May 2011, David Gilmour performed “Comfortably Numb” with Roger Waters at London’s 02 Arena, and Mason (playing tambourine) came out with Gilmour for “Outside the Wall.” David Gilmour and Nick Mason linked up in the studio in 2014 to complete some unfinished Richard Wright tracks on the largely instrumental album The Endless River, but they didn’t support it with any live work
Odds of a Reunion: The Pink Floyd detente that culminated with a handful mini reunions between 2005 and 2011 is long over. In recent years, Roger Waters has gone public with the fact that he’s been locked out of Floyd’s social-media channels. They had a band meeting a couple of years back to try and sort everything out, but it resulted in nothing more than even more bitterness and public acrimony. Even simple matters like an Animals box set devolved into a year-long civil war between Waters and Gilmour. “I actually get along with both of them,” an exasperated Mason told Rolling Stone in 2019, “and I think it’s really disappointing that these rather elderly gentlemen are still at loggerheads.” These “elderly gentlemen” have been at loggerheads for the past 50 years, and it’s not likely to resolve itself anytime soon. We put the odds of a reunion at 5%.
Genesis With Peter Gabriel
Why They Split: There’s a certain type of artist that simply cannot handle life in a band where creative decisions are shared even somewhat equally among the members, especially after they achieve some degree of success. It’s a situation that can result in the group becoming a dictatorship (Pink Floyd, Talking Heads) or a band-in-name-only where most of the members are jettisoned (pre-reunion Guns N’ Roses, pre reunion-Smashing Pumpkins). There’s also the Genesis route where the leader steps aside for a solo career and allows the group to continue in their absence. This took place in 1975 after the band’s Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour. In an almost unique outcome in the history of rock, both Genesis and Peter Gabriel fared far better commercially in the aftermath.
Last Performance: On Oct. 2, 1982, Genesis reunited with Gabriel and guitarist Steve Hackett for the Six of the Best concert at Milton Keynes Bowl in England. It was hastily put together to help Gabriel pay off the enormous bills he accumulated in the aftermath of the inaugural WOMAD Festival that year. In the years that followed, Gabriel became a superstar thanks to hits like “In Your Eyes” and “Sledgehammer,” and he no longer needed his old bandmates to bail him out of financial jams.
Odds of a Reunion: The Phil Collins incarnation of Genesis was more successful than the Gabriel one by an enormous magnitude. They’re in the middle of a big-money reunion tour at the moment where Nicholas Collins is handling all the drum duties since his father is no longer physically able to play his old parts. It’s a situation that would make it impossible for Phil to perform in any meaningful way on a reunion tour with Gabriel, but one that would allow Nicholas to take over for him. Could a tour happen in a couple of years with Gabriel, Nicholas Collins, Steve Hackett, Michael Rutherford, and Tony Banks? It’s far from impossible, but we’re still saying just a 30% chance.
Why They Split: To simplify a rather complex story, the other members of the band got sick of the public seeing them as David Byrne’s backing band. At the same time, Byrne grew increasingly uneasy about having to share creative responsibilities. The result was a very dysfunctional band. They didn’t officially split until 1991, but their last time on the road was the legendary Speaking in Tongues tour of 1983–84.
Last Performance: The group shocked many when they agreed to perform at their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. “It had been a long time since we’d had much of a conversation,” Chris Frantz said in 2009. “We’d bump into David at Lou Reed’s house or something like that. But that was the first time we’d sat down and talked.” Unlike with many sloppy Rock Hall reunions, the four members put aside their differences and carefully rehearsed a killer three-song set of “Psycho Killer,” “Life During Wartime,” and “Burning Down the House.”
Odds of a Reunion: David Byrne is pretty stubborn fellow and he’s made it absolutely clear that he has no interest in ever doing this even though he just began an encore run of American Utopia, his acclaimed Broadway show that’s anchored around Talking Heads classics. Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz hasn’t seen the show, but he told Rolling Stone in 2020 that he wasn’t thrilled about the whole thing. “I wasn’t going to just drop in uninvited,” he said. “[But] I think it’s highly unlikely that without Talking Heads songs he would have even had a Broadway show.” Around the same time, Byrne explained his reluctance to Rolling Stone. “I’m trying to think of any reunions I might have seen where I felt, ‘This needed to happen,’ where it allows a band to move on to the next step,” he said.“With the Pixies, I thought it was terribly justified because the public caught up with what they were doing. So they finally got the audience that they deserved early on, whereas we did OK.” Sadly, this is probably about 10%.
Why They Split: If the Everly Brothers invented sibling rivalry in rock & roll, the Kinks perfected it. Ray and Dave Davies were at each other’s throats from nearly the moment the band burst onto the rock scene with “You Really Got Me” in 1964. Somehow or another, they stuck together until 1996 when they split in the face of lagging record sales and declining attendance at their concerts. Much like the Ramones, who split up the exact same year, they’d been around so long that people began to take them for granted.
Last Performance: Ray and Dave Davies (along with various former Kinks) have appeared in public at numerous award shows and functions during the past two decades, but the group hasn’t done a concert since 1996. Ray and Dave Davies did perform “You Really Got Me” at a Dave solo concert in 2015.
Odds of a Reunion: The brothers have already reunited in the studio during the past couple of years. Nobody has heard what they’ve done, but Ray and Dave say they hope to get some sort of Kinks release out in the near future. (We’ll believe it when we hear it, though.) A tour is another question. Ray hasn’t even gone on a solo tour in seven years. It’s possible they’ve just waited too long and gotten too old, but a single concert or a limited run in the next couple of years feels very possible. We’re putting it at 70%.
Why They Split: Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died in 1980, causing the band to split. The remaining trio re-formed at Live Aid in 1985, an Atlantic Records anniversary concert in 1988, and their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. Despite pleas from his bandmates and fans, Robert Plant has refused all offers of a reunion tour.
Last Performance: In December of 2007 Led Zeppelin performed their first full concert since Bonham died in 1980 at London’s 02 Arena in honor of the late Ahmet Ertegun. They spent months rehearsing a stellar two-hour show, but nothing more came of it. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were so frustrated with the situation that they auditioned a bunch of singers in 2008 and even looked seriously into a tour without Plant, but wisely canceled the whole thing before it got off the ground.
Odds of a Reunion: Robert Plant has been extremely clear that he has absolutely no interest in ever fronting Led Zeppelin again, and that he viewed the 02 Arena show as a perfect way to end the band. They could play every stadium in the world and make a billion dollars, but Robert Plant is rich enough and this is almost certainly never going to happen. 10%.
Why They Split: Sometimes a band just runs its course. R.E.M. had an incredible 30-year run, but in 2011 they mutually decided it was time to move on. “There is sadness because I will never play on the same stage as Peter and Michael again,” Mike Mills told Rolling Stone that year. “We’re doing this for good reasons, and we end up looking back at all the fun, the joy and the incredible opportunities we had. … We needed to prove, not only to our fans and critics but to ourselves, that we could still make great records. And we made two. We thought, ‘We’ve done it. Now let’s do something no other band has done: Shake hands and walk away as friends.'”
Last Performance: The band wrapped up their 2008 world tour in Mexico City on November 18th, 2008. The following March they played “E-Bow the Letter” with Patti Smith at their own tribute concert at Carnegie Hall. The only reunion since then took place on July 13th, 2016 when Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, and Mike Mills played “Losing My Religion” at a private birthday party for their manager Bertis Downs in France.
Odds of a Reunion: The band says it’s never going to happen, but they all say that at first. Let’s see how they all feel in 10 years. Of course, they’ll be in their seventies by then. We’re going to say 30%.
Fleetwood Mac With Lindsey Buckingham
Why They Split: Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham split as a couple before Fleetwood Mac cut Rumours in 1976, but they somehow managed to spend the next few decades, off and on, in the band together. Their fraught history created fantastic sparks of onstage tension that kept fans coming back tour after tour, but by 2018, Nicks had had enough and made it clear she wouldn’t continue in the band if Buckingham remained.
Last Performance: On January 26th, 2018, just as Fleetwood Mac were gearing up for a world tour, the Grammys honored the band with a tribute show at Radio City Music Hall. They played a mini set that ended, appropriately enough, with “Go Your Own Way.” Behind the scenes, Nicks was fuming because she felt that Buckingham had been disrespectful during her speech. When it was done, Nicks pledged never to work with him again.
Odds of a Reunion: Buckingham sued the band shortly after he was kicked out. They settled out of court, and Mick Fleetwood initially said a reunion would be impossible. But they got back in touch after Mac co-founder Peter Green died in July 2020 and repaired their friendship. The drummer says today he’s willing to take Buckingham back, but the decision will come down to Nicks. Things weren’t helped when Buckingham compared her to Donald Trump in a 2021 Rolling Stone interview. But this is a band that has come back from far worse, and fans everywhere are praying for a farewell tour that unites the complete Rumours lineup. It feels possible, so we’re going to say 35%.
The White Stripes
Why They Split: The White Stripes toured in 2007 behind their new album Icky Thump, but the final dates were called off due to drummer Meg White’s “acute anxiety problem.” They announced their split in February of 2011. “The reason is not due to artistic differences or lack of wanting to continue,” they said. “Nor any health issues as both Meg and Jack are feeling fine and in good health. It is for a myriad of reasons, but mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way. Both Meg and Jack hope this decision isn’t met with sorrow by their fans but that it is seen as a positive move done out of respect for the music that the band has created. It is also done with the utmost respect to those fans who’ve shared in those creations, with their feelings considered greatly.”
Last Performance: On February 20th, 2009, the White Stripes performed their 2002 song “We’re Going to Be Friends” on Conan O’Brien’s final Late Night show before his disastrous takeover of The Tonight Show.
Odds of a Reunion: They’re young enough that it seems likely their paths will cross again at some point down the road. Maybe they’ll headline Coachella in 2030. We’re going to put the odds of an eventual reunion at 60%.
Why They Split: In 2002, Justin Timberlake realized that the boy-band craze was quickly coming to an end. He called for a group hiatus and began to focus on his solo career. The others thought about carrying on as a four-piece, but wisely decided against it. Meanwhile, Justin went on to a huge solo career and never looked back.
Last Performance: The full five-piece hasn’t performed since a brief reunion with Timberlake in 2013 when MTV gave him the Video Vanguard award. The non-Justin members, however, played “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” with Ariana Grande at Coachella in 2019.
Odds of a Reunion: It seems like everyone in ‘NSync not named Justin Timberlake is thinking quite hard about a reunion tour these days. Even without their leader, the group could probably play very large venues and make quite a bit of money. So, the odds of a four-man reunion are probably somewhere around 80% and the odds a full reunion down at 40%.
Why They Split: The Smiths accomplished a lot during their five-year run, but when guitarist Johnny Marr quit the band in the summer of 1987 they simply couldn’t continue — despite a very brief attempt to soldier on with guitarist Ivor Perry.
Last Performance: The Smiths’ final show to date was at London’s Brixton Academy on December 12th, 1986. They finished the set with “Hand in Glove,” which was their first single just four years earlier.
Odds of a Reunion: Relations within the Smiths have been extremely poor for quite some time, especially after drummer Mike Joyce sued Morrissey for royalties. Morrissey hates even being asked about the possibility of a reunion, famously saying that he’d rather “eat his own testicles” than perform with the band. Amazingly, Johnny Marr revealed in his 2016 memoir that he met with Morrissey in 2008 and talked about re-forming the band minus Joyce. It never went anywhere, but the mere fact that Morrissey was willing to think about makes us put this at 10%.
Why They Split: Years of tension within Oasis finally reached a boiling point backstage at a Paris festival in August of 2009. Reports vary wildly about what happened, but the Gallagher brothers got into some sort of physical altercation and then refused to take the stage. The rest of the tour was canceled. “With some sadness and great relief I quit Oasis tonight,” Noel Gallagher said in a statement. “People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.”
Last Performance: The final gig took place August 22nd, 2009, at the V Festival in Weston England. The Paris fight was six days later.
Odds of a Reunion: Unsurprisingly, the Gallagher brothers have varying takes on the prospect of coming back together. Liam would happily do it tomorrow, but Noel says he has little interest in ever seeing it happen. They’re both doing quite well touring on their own, but a reunion would pack stadiums around the world and net them a small fortune. It may take another decade or so, but odds of them doing it at some point down the line feel pretty likely. 80%.
Why They Split: This one is simple: Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon ended their marriage in 2011 and that was it for the band.
Last performance: Sonic Youth last played live on November 12th, 2011, at the Parque Brasil 500, Paulínia, Brazil. The final song they did was their 1988 classic “Teen Age Riot.”
Odds of a Reunion: Sonny and Cher still managed to do their variety shows years after they legally divorced. They probably didn’t love the idea, but money makes people do strange things. Moore and Gordon stand to make a ton should they ever decide to make the band happen again. We’ll say 25%.
Why They Split: The band re-formed with Ozzy Osbourne in 2012 for a reunion tour minus drummer Bill Ward. That led to the new LP 13 in 2013 and another tour. The only other move in the veteran-band playbook after that was a farewell tour.
Last Performance: They called it quits after a hometown show in Birmingham, England, on February 4th, 2017.
Odds of a Reunion: Ozzy Osbourne has gone through a series of horrific health issues in recent years that have derailed his solo farewell tour again and again, but he plans on returning to the road next year. More Sabbath gigs felt pretty iffy for a long time, but Ozzy has said he’s open to it if Bill Ward can find his way back into the fold. “Those final gigs in Birmingham were bittersweet because you think of how far we came, and how much we did, and it would have been good to have shared that together,” Osbourne said in 2019. “Maybe one day there’ll be one last gig, I don’t know.” He seems to be setting the stage for one final Sabbath blowout presuming everyone stays healthy. We’d say odds are 25% it’ll happen.
Simon and Garfunkel
Why They Split: Simon and Garfunkel somehow managed to get over their hatred of each other from 2003 to 2010, touring all over the world in that time and pulling in millions. But when Garfunkel’s vocal issues caused them to cancel a series of dates in 2010, old tensions flared up and they again went their separate ways.
Last Performance: They played “Mrs. Robinson” at the AFI Tribute to Mike Nichols on June 10th, 2010. It was the song that made them true pop superstars and Nichols made that happen, so it’s somewhat appropriate if that is indeed the last time they perform.
Odds of a Reunion: Paul Simon wrapped up his Homeward Bound farewell tour last year with a hometown show in Queens. He grew up with his buddy Artie not far from the concert grounds, but Garfunkel wasn’t onstage that night. We asked Simon about a possible reunion in 2016 and he gave a very blunt answer. “No, out of the question,” he said. “We don’t even talk.” As long as they are both alive, it is possible they’ll be a “How Terribly Strange to Be 80” tour at some point, but we’re putting the odds at 15%.
Why They Split: One Direction started as five random contestants on the U.K. X Factor in 2010, but they quickly became one of the biggest acts in the world. They released five albums and played just about every stadium on the planet, but Zayn Malik quit the band in 2015, citing a desire to be a “normal 22-year-old.” Much like the defections of Ginger Spice and Jordan Knight before him, his exit marked the beginning of the end of the group.
Last Performance: They wrapped up their On the Road tour on October 31st, 2015, at Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, England. But in the weeks that followed, they played a handful of awards show and Christmas concerts. The last performance took place in Times Square on December 31st, 2015, as part of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special. The final song was “History,” and they were history once it was over.
Odds of a Reunion: Harry Styles has pulled a Justin Timberlake by transforming himself into a solo star who also takes the time to appear in an occasional movie. He’s also about to join the Marvel Universe as Thanos’ brother Eros. To put it another way, he’s doing quite fine on his own. That said, he’s just 27 and gravity will eventually hit his career. It might take another couple of decades, but we think its quite likely that the five-man lineup of One Direction will tour again someday. This one is an 85%.
Why They Split: The original Sex Pistols was a highly combustible unit even before they found any success, and manager Malcolm McLaren seemed to take an almost perverse delight in driving them apart. Founding bassist Glen Matlock was sacked in 1977 even though he was a gifted musician and a key songwriting voice. He was replaced by Sid Vicious, who looked the part, but couldn’t play a note on the bass and was helplessly addicted to heroin. The band imploded shortly after their inaugural U.S. tour in early 1978.
Last Performance: Johnny Rotten, Steve Jones, Paul Cook, and Glen Matlock reunited in 1996 for the Filthy Lucre tour, where they became the first band in history to admit that the motivation behind their reformation was 100% financial. They still put on incredible shows, and they continued with more live activity in 2002, 2003, 2007, and 2008. The last run was a series of European festivals. Steve Jones described the time period in his memoir Lonely Boy as an endless nightmare marked by fights with Rotten, and paydays that were way less than they expected due to the global recession. “I was in hell,” he wrote. The last show took place on September 5th, 2008, in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.
Odds of a Reunion: Relations between Johnny Rotten and his fellow Sex Pistols have been pretty poor during the past few years, but they reached an all-time low when production began on the Danny Boyle limited FX series Pistol. It’s based on Steve Jones’ memoir, and Rotten is so livid about the whole thing that he took the band to court to stop it. He lost the battle, and he’s beyond pissed. “I am the lead singer and songwriter, frontman, image, the lot, you name it,” he said after the defeat. “I put it there. How is that not relevant?” This isn’t a man that’s going to be belting out “God Save the Queen” on the same stage as his former bandmates anytime soon. This one is a 20%, and even that feels generous.
Why They Split: The original 1984 breakup happened because the three members of the Police were sick of fighting with each other and Sting was itching to go solo. They split again after their 2007–08 reunion tour since they played 151 shows, grossed $362 million, and realized the enthusiasm behind their return would diminish if they kept at it much longer. Besides, Sting was only willing to live in the past for so long and wanted to return to his solo career.
Last Performance: They wrapped things up on August 7th, 2009, at Madison Square Garden with an epic concert that opened with a cover of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” and culminated with Sting shaving off his long beard onstage and belting out “Next to You” to end the night. They walked offstage to the Looney Tunes music and Porky Pig announcing, “That’s all folks.”
Odds of a Reunion: The last reunion worked because they hadn’t toured in 23 years and there was a huge demand to see them live again. At this point, all their OG fans have had to chance to pony up big bucks to relive their youth. The have the T-shirt, the live album, the concert film, and very good memories. “The First Tour Since 2008!” wouldn’t have the same kick as “The First Tour Since Synchronicity!” Sting remains a very large draw on the road and plays a Police-heavy set. He did the reunion thing and has no desire to go there again. Besides, Andy Summers turns 80 next year. This one is at 15%.
Why They Split: The French electronic-music duo of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter are so mysterious that they’ve spent much of their career hiding behind enormous helmets, rarely speaking to the press. The gambit has worked since they only grew more popular with each album and tour. Their 2006–07 Alive tour saw them playing on a giant pyramid-like stage, and the reviews were ecstatic all across the globe. They burst through to true mainstream success with their 2013 LP Random Access Memories and the hit “Get Lucky,” but in 2021 they quietly announced their split via a YouTube video they simply called “Epilogue.” It showed one robot blowing up and another walking away.
Last Performance: They could have taken Random Access Memories on the road in 2013 and played just about every stadium on the planet. For reasons they never explained, no such tour happened. But they did occasionally show up at the Grammys to play a song or two. The last time took place on February 12th, 2017, when they did “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming” with the Weeknd. Nobody knew it at the time, but they were witnessing the end of an era. It was their final public appearance.
Odds of a Reunion: If Daft Punk were motivated mainly by money, we would have gotten a lot more live shows out of them over the past 15 years. The cash they left on the table by not doing that is hard to calculate, but it’s a very hefty sum. Despite that, their sheer unpredictability makes it very hard to look into their future. The guys are only in their mid-forties, and who can say what they might decide to do in 2030 or even 2040? We’re going to put the reunion odds at 33%.