Where are you, Meg White?
Listening to the White Stripes’ feisty The Complete John Peel Sessions — long-bootlegged 2001 BBC radio performances that were officially released this April — makes me wonder what White, the garage-rock duo’s former drummer, is up to now. Like, right now. Is the famously shy Meg sipping whiskey in some dark, gritty Detroit bar? Has she taken up sewing? When was the last time she played drums? Is she smiling her easy, Mona Lisa smile this very second?
We haven’t heard a peep from Meg since the White Stripes’ 2009 performance of “We’re Going to Be Friends” on Conan O’Brien’s farewell episode of “Late Night.” As a musician and celebrity, she's pretty much gone off the grid. After the White Stripes announced their breakup via a 2011 press release, frontman Jack White went on to solo superstardom. Meg was never Stewart Copeland behind the kit. But her innocent, minimalist drumming helped give the band its understated élan and a childlike appeal.
It would be cool and interesting to hear Meg’s drumming again, outside the White Stripes context.
While we’re at it, here are nine other reclusive musicians we’d like to hear from again.
9. Zack de la Rocha
Hey, I enjoy the formation of a new supergroup as much as the next rock nerd. And three-quarters of Rage Against the Machine teaming with Public Enemy's Chuck D and Cypress Hill's B-Real to go on tour as Prophets of Rage is legitimately exciting.
But why is Zack de la Rocha, Rage’s frontman, reluctant to crank things up again with his old group (especially amid the 2016 presidential campaign, since Rage was/is such a politically minded ensemble and de la Rocha’s lyrics tend to be so topical)? The erstwhile bandmates seem to be on solid terms, at least judging by recent interviews with the other Rage dudes. Reportedly, de la Rocha is making a new record. And bassist Tim Commerford has been quoted as saying he obtained de la Rocha’s blessing for the Prophets of Rage project.
Maybe de la Rocha’s new project is the better creative outlet for him at this point. Maybe he doesn't want to spend the summer rapping “Bulls on Parade” every night, even though fans would love to hear his venomous flow again over Rage’s orca-sized grooves. He sounded killer on the incendiary 2014 Run the Jewels cut “Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck).”
8. Izzy Stradlin
People like to say Izzy Stradlin was “the heart and soul” of Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction lineup. To me, that shortchanges the heart and soul Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler also brought to GNR's ferocious music. That said, Stradlin is one hell of a songwriter who penned or co-wrote many of the band's most epic tracks, including “Sweet Child O’Mine,” “Patience” and “Paradise City.” And he's an effortlessly cool, Keef-esque rhythm guitarist.
Axl, Slash and Duff have joined forces for the group’s Not in This Lifetime tour. As thrilling as that is for the band’s millions of longtime fans, many hardcore GNR enthusiasts are disappointed Stradlin has not been involved thus far. Since departing from Guns N’ Roses in 1991, Stradlin has occasionally performed live with the band but mostly remained out of the public eye, outside of the low-key release of his bluesy solo albums.
Will Stradlin come on as a special guest, à la Mick Taylor with The Rolling Stones a couple years back, for Guns N’ Roses’ summer stadium dates? Maybe. But on the positive side, the press-averse Stradlin has at least joined Twitter. And GNR recluses don’t always stay that hidden. Axl Rose was known for years as “the Howard Hughes of rock,” but now the banshee-voiced singer is fronting not one but two of 2016’s biggest tours: Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC.
The Irish singer-songwriter known as Enya is seared forever into pop-culture memory, thanks to her classically tinged 1988 hit “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away).” The ability to sing in 10 languages has been very good to Enya. She’s sold around 75 million albums worldwide. And purchased a castle.
However, in recent years the Grammy winner has performed less frequently, and her last LP was 2012’s Dark Sky Island. When your music is as ornate and dense as Enya’s, choirs and orchestras are needed to properly replicate that sound live. That’s a costly way to tour. And Enya has endured some disturbing stalker incidents in the past, so maybe that’s played a role in her shying away from the public eye, too.
But she performed in March on BBC TV and in April at Germany’s Echo Awards, and her fans would be psyched to hear her lush music again live.
6. Steve Perry
A Journey reunion tour with Steve Perry would make the sky rain money — no offense to current Journey throat (and sonic doppelganger) Arnel Pineda, who was discovered by the classic-rock hit-makers through YouTube. The velvet-voiced Perry departed for a solo tour in the mid-'80s and returned to the Journey fold for another stint in the mid-'90s for the platinum-selling Trial by Fire. But a degenerative bone condition sidelined Perry from touring, and the band moved on.
There are some emotional wounds there. Although Perry later successfully underwent hip replacement surgery, the band reportedly gave him an ultimatum to do so after its members became frustrated with his inability to tour behind their reunion disc more than a year after its release. Perry also has reportedly dealt with a couple of cancer scares.
But in late 2015, the singer told a Los Angeles radio station he was finally working on his first solo LP since 1994 and that he hopes to have it completed in early 2016. So “Don’t Stop Believin,’ ” longtime Perry fans.
5. Ginger Baker
Do yourself a favor. If you haven’t seen the fascinating 2012 documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, do so soon. It’s a fascinating portrait of Ginger Baker, the cantankerous drummer who brought jazz virtuosity to rock percussion with Cream and, later, with Blind Faith and Masters of Reality. Besides the doc, the troubled skinsman last resurfaced to larger audiences with the 2005 Cream reunion shows. This past October, Baker appeared at a tribute to late Cream bassist (and Baker’s frequent nemesis) Jack Bruce in London, and he also performed there in January.
Unfortunately, a spring tour, which would’ve brought Baker back to the United States, was canceled “due to diagnosis of serious heart problems,” according to his Facebook page. Here’s hoping he recovers soon so we might get to hear his octopuslike drumming once again. Four words for Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton: Blind Faith reunion tour.
4. John Deacon
Former Queen bassist John Deacon must have invested wisely. And royalties from the band's hits, such as “You're My Best Friend” and the disco-licious “Another One Bites the Dust,” both of which Deacon wrote, probably don’t hurt, either, nor does the income from the jukebox musical We Are the Champions. Perhaps that's why Deacon has declined to tour with the other surviving Queen members, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, who’ve brought in Paul Rodgers and Adam Lambert in recent years to fill in for dearly departed Freddie Mercury.
Deacon’s been retired from music since the late '90s. But his slinky “Another One Bites the Dust” bassline will live forever.
3. Grace Slick
Psychedelic siren Grace Slick sang two songs often used to conjure a '60s vibe in TV and film: Jefferson Airplane classics “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit.” That makes her later involvement with the horrible Starship single “We Built This City” forgivable.
By the early '90s, Slick had retired (except for a couple brief appearances) from further Airplane and Starship flights and in interviews noted her disdain for aging rockers still on the stage. She became a visual artist, her paintings and drawings often focusing on fellow Haight-Ashbury era heroes such as Jerry Garcia.
Aside from singing on a 1996 Linda Perry cut, “Knock Me Out,” Slick, who reportedly has endured serious health issues in the last decade, has remained publicly silent as a singer. Her powerful, counterculture wail is missed.
2. Vito Bratta
I'm going to go ahead and say it: White Lion’s power ballad “Wait” is the most criminally underrated song of the hair-metal era. And Vito Bratta’s brilliant guitar solo on the 1987 track is a big reason why. (The song also benefits from a deceptively clever, power pop–like arrangement.) “Wait” contains one of the few examples of non–Eddie Van Halen finger-tapping guitar technique that’s truly moving and beautiful. It's 26 seconds of emotive sound-bending and soaring, lyrical melody that transcends flash.
Bratta left White Lion — and the music business as a whole — around 1992. From the outside, one might think that was entirely due to the fact that grunge was in the midst of decapitating poodle-rock. But in a rare 2007 interview, Bratta revealed to radio host Eddie Trunk that his father had been in bad health at that time; Bratta needed to commit time and financial resources to helping with that. And in 1997, he injured his wrist, tragically leaving one of the most gifted lead guitarists of his time unable to play electric guitar without pain.
However, Bratta said he could still play classical guitar without excessive pain. And he hasn’t ruled out an eventual White Lion reunion. Perhaps Bratta’s wrist will improve enough for audiences to hear his “Wait” solo take flight once again someday.
1. D'arcy Wretzky
Mysteriously alluring bassist D'arcy Wretzky was in Smashing Pumpkins during its glory-days troika of Gish, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (though Pumpkins mastermind Billy Corgan recorded the Siamese bass lines himself). But she was fired from the band in 1991. Corgan has said this was due to her substance-abuse issues.
Besides a brief stint in Chicago band Catherine and contributing guest vocals on songs by Filter and another Pumpkin refugee, James Iha, Wretzky has remained out of the musical spotlight. She now lives on a horse farm in Michigan.
Wretzky recently resurfaced for a rare interview in which she said she was working on new music and would be open to a Pumpkins reunion under the right circumstances. Corgan recently said he was glad to see GNR’s Axl, Slash and Duff reunite; surely many Smashing Pumpkins fans would feel the same way if that band were to regroup with its classic lineup.
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