And Finally Artist News Beef Of The Week

Beef Of The Week #413: Alex James v Reunions

By | Published on Friday 20 July 2018

Roughly every three years Alex James does something that makes him eligible for inclusion in the Beef Of The Week column. It is always a delight when it happens.

There was that time he wished that a Greggs would replace the independent bakery in his village. And more recently his claim that ‘independence’ in music was dead and had instead transferred to independent food makers (a claim he made while promoting a major supermarket chain).

Now he’s turned his attention to band reunions, which he reckons are “grotesque”. Unless someone in the reunited band can knock together a good meal. Then it might be OK. Basically, Alex James never strays too far away from talking about food these days. Anyone would think he had a festival to promote that combines music and foodie nonsense.

To be fair – which I always am – I do agree with him somewhat on the reunions thing. I’m not a fan of band reunions myself and would rather they were banned outright if I’m being honest. Yes, even if that means we miss out on the very occasional good one. But I’m not sure I agree with all the food stuff. Then again, I’m not sure I entirely understand what he’s banging on about, so who knows? Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Speaking to The Mirror ahead of that music and foodie nonsense combining Big Feastival thing he has to promote each year, James said: “There are rumours of Led Zeppelin getting back together again and nobody really wants to hear their fucking new record, do they? They want to listen to ‘Stairway To Heaven’. How old were they when they did ‘Stairway To Heaven’? Like 20 or something? And how old are they now, they are fucking 70. It’s insane”.

Yes, insane. Imagine people aging that much over the course of 50 years. James may not have aged quite that much since he was 20 years old but – you might remember – he was a member of a band called Blur and that very Blur has reunited on a number of occasions. And on one of those occasions they even recorded a new album.

So isn’t James’s Led Zep dissing just a bit hypocritical? No. What you forgetting is that James has more to offer his audience when his band gets back together. Because as well as all the old hits from the past, he’s got lots of cheese from the present day. “At least people want to come in and try my cheese as well as listen to ‘Parklife'”, he says. “That is really important. I think it’s really good that I’ve got something else to talk about”.

So musicians can reform their old bands and perform their old hits, but only providing they know how to make cheese. Or they are at least able to talk about some cheese. I don’t know, perhaps other non-musical interests are also permissible. Especially if food related.

“You have to do it”, James explains, still insisting that old pop stars need another string to their bow in order to credibly milk the nostalgia circuit. “Otherwise you become this weird, grotesque caricature of yourself by the time you get old” he adds, “like Mick Jagger. I’ve been listening to the Rolling Stones recently, but I wouldn’t fucking go and listen to them live, fucking hell. You can’t be Jumping Jack when you are 70 fucking eight”.

Oh hang on there. Not only do aging artists need something non-musical to chat about between playing the old hits, they should also be wary of playing said old hits. Right.

Oh, except James then recalls booking Kelis to play the Big Feastival. “Kelis retrained as a cordon bleu chef and released a cookery book”, he notes. “So great, we’ll have her. [But] she didn’t do fucking ‘Milkshake’. She’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t do that anymore'”.

James’s response? “It’s like, for fuck’s sake, it’s not like you’ve got that many hits, darling, you need to do that one. So I wouldn’t have her back”.

So you should only get back on stage with your old hits if you’ve got cheese to sell or a cookery book to flog, but you shouldn’t insist on singing all your old hits once you’re there, except make sure you perform all your old hits, because that’s why he booked you. Simple.

Asked last month about the possibility of a new Blur album, guitarist Graham Coxon said: “I really don’t see why not”. Although in April he then said: “I really don’t know why there would be”. So it’s not clear whether James will need to hone his ‘reunions are OK providing there is cheese’ argument anytime soon in order to avoid new accusations of hypocrisy.

Anyway, the Big Feastival takes place next month. Among the acts performing are The Sugarhill Gang. I look forward to finding out more about their food-based exploits – something very sweet I’d imagine – which I assume is how they got booked.