Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye

Musical comebacks that are worth the wait.

Musical reunions have taken centre stage in recent showbiz news, from The Cure to The Stone Roses, with the comeback gigs for the latter selling out in just 14 minutes. Here are other acts who are making an exciting return:

Leonard Cohen

Next year, the 77-year-old Canadian poet, novelist and singer-songwriter will release his first new album since 2004's Dear Heather. It will be called Old Ideas and will consist of ten previously unpublished songs, he told journalists in the town of Oviedo in northern Spain. In Oviedo, Cohen collected Spain's most esteemed prize for non-Spanish writers. Will there be a tour to accompany Old Ideas? Cohen replied: "God willing, I never quite know whether there's going to be a tour or not."

Mazzy Star

Longing romantic lyrics sung serenely by Hope Sandoval and David Roback on guitar, keyboard and piano is Mazzy Star. The dreamy and mysterious Californian group have digitally released Common Burn 15 years since their last single. It is accompanied by the B-side Lay Myself Down and a vinyl release will follow. The alternative rock band was formed in 1989 in Santa Monica and is best-known for the hit Fade Into You.

Garbage

The rock group has announced that their first album since 2005's Bleed Like Me should be released in spring next year. Singer Shirley Manson told Spin.com: "The overriding themes [of the record] are pretty much about being a misfit, a geek, a nerd, a forgotten-about, in a way." Manson, drummer Butch Vig and guitarists Duke Erikson and Steve Marker are working on the album, which is currently untitled. The group was formed in in 1994 in Wisconsin and their debut album, Garbage, was astoundingly successful, as were their singles of the mid-1990s, such as Stupid Girl and Only Happy When It Rains.

Kate Bush

The eccentric singer-songwriter's first album of original material for six years - 50 Words For Snow - will be released on 21 November 2011. Now aged 53, Kate Bush's rise to fame began when her debut single Wuthering Heights made her the first woman to have a UK number one with a self-written song. 50 Words For Snow will feature seven new tracks, an exciting prospect after Bush's album Director's Cut, released on 16 May 2011, divided fans with its new versions of songs originally on The Sensual World (1989) and The Red Shoes (1993).

The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys' 50th anniversary will be commemorated by a world tour next year and follows years of legal battles between band members. Al Jardine announced the news to Rolling Stone magazine and said that "We'll do maybe 50 amphitheaters [in the US] and 50 or 60 overseas." There are archival releases on the way, including the Smile Sessions, which will come out on 1 November. However, only Jardine, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston are regrouping; Brian Wilson said that he would not in a solo interview with Q Magazine. Back in May, Wilson said that he was considering rejoining the group.

Splits and a departure

It's not all glorious reunions though...

Bloc Party

The band responsible for the stunning debut album Silent Alarm has not split, but its lead singer and rhythm guitarist Kele Okereke has left, according to NME. In September, the band confirmed that they would audition new singers and claimed that they were on good terms with Kele. Losing Kele's distinctive vocals would undoubtedly be a great loss to the band. Kele's band membership seemed unsure after his release of the electronic solo album The Boxer last year. Publicly, this did not appear to be seen as a betrayal by the rest of the band, given that the record was advertised on Bloc Party's official website. Currently, this website states that "Bloc Party is still Bloc Party- See you soon" and features a picture of The Simpson's version of the band, including Kele.

Sonic Youth

Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon's separation after 27 years of marriage has cast doubt on Sonic Youth's future, according to their record label's parent company. The rock group will still carry out their their South American tour in November. "Plans beyond that tour are uncertain. The couple has requested respect for their personal privacy and does not wish to issue further comment" said Catherine Herrick, a spokeswoman for Beggars Group, the owner of the band's Matador label. The band has made albums roughly every 2 to 3 years since their heyday in the late-1980s and early 1990s, the most recent of which is The Eternal, 2009.

Westlife

Kian, Mark, Nicky and Shane have finally done it. In a statement, the Irish pop group announced that their split was "wholeheartedly a united decision."

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Conjuring the ghost: the "shape-shifting, queer, violent, hippie genuis" of David Litvinoff

A new biography tracks down the elusive Kray confidant who became a friend of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

David Litvinoff is a mythic character to anyone with an interest in London during the Sixties. An intimate of the Krays, he was a tough and violent Jew from the East End. He was also a musical genius with an unrivalled knowledge of jazz, the blues and rock that made him a valued friend of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. It was his ability to move from the East End to Chelsea, from the dives of Soho to Notting Hill, that was the critical factor in the extraordinary vision of London that Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg conjured into the film Performance, for which Litvinoff is credited as dialogue coach. And yet, even though all this is known and recorded, he remains a ghost, a figure who wrote nothing and who systematically destroyed all the records of his life he could lay his hands on. Even his exact role in Performance is shrouded in mystery. He is said to have dictated much of the script to Cammell. This biography claims that Jagger’s mesmerising song on the soundtrack, “Memo from Turner”, was in fact a memo from Litvinoff.

Multiple reports describe him as the most brilliant talker London had known since Coleridge, but although there are rumours of tapes they have always been just rumours. I’d have thought he was a figure who would defeat any biographer – a shape-shifting, queer, violent, hippie genius lost in a mist of hallucinogens – but Keiron Pim’s account of this extraordinary character is a magisterial work of scholarship. He tracks down all the living witnesses; he has also unearthed letters, and even some of those long-lost tapes.

The story that emerges is even harder to believe than the legend. Litvinoff came out of the Jewish East End but he was from one of its most talented families. His name was not even Litvinoff: his mother’s first husband went by that name but David was the son of her second, Solomon Levy. Long before he met the Krays or the Stones, he was a gossip columnist on the Daily Express, practically inventing the Chelsea set that shocked the prim Fifties. By that time he had met Lucian Freud, who painted him in an astonishing study, the working title of which was Portrait of a Jew. Litvinoff was furious when Freud exhibited it with the new description of The Procurer, and the bad blood between these two men, both of whom inhabited the drinking clubs of Soho and the Krays’ gambling joints, remained for the rest of their lives. In fact, it is Freud who comes over as the villain of the book, fingered by Pim as the man behind the most violent assault on Litvinoff: he was knocked unconscious at the door to his own flat, on the top floor, and awoke to find himself naked and tied to a chair suspended from the balcony, nose broken and head shaved bald.

I learned much from this book: a period working for Peter Rachman before he became involved with the Krays; sojourns in Wales and Australia when he was fleeing threats of violence. The big discovery for me, however, was Litvinoff’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the jazz and blues traditions that gave birth to rock’n’roll. He taught the Stones a lot but he taught Eric Clapton even more – they were both living at the Pheasantry building on the King’s Road, and Litvinoff seems to have had unlimited access to the most recherché back catalogues and the most recent unreleased recordings. The book traces, but does not comment on, a transformation from an amphetamine-fuelled hard man in the Fifties and early Sixties to the oddest of hallucinogen hippies by the Summer of Love in 1967.

But, for all Litvinoff’s knowledge, wit and gift for friendship, his tale is a tragedy. A man who could talk but couldn’t write; an out gay man long before it was acceptable, who seems never to have been at ease with his sexuality; a proud Jew without any tradition of Judaism to which he could affiliate. Above all, this was a man who lived to the full the extraordinary moment when London dreamed, in Harold Wilson’s Sixties, that class was a thing of the past. Back from Australia in the early Seventies, Litvinoff awoke again to find that it had indeed been a dream. His suicide in 1975 was cold and deliberate. He had outlived his time. 

Colin MacCabe edits Critical Quarterly

Jumpin’ Jack Flash: David Litvinoff and the Rock’n’Roll Underworld by Keiron Pim is publisyhed by Jonathan Cape (416pp, £16.99)

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser