As a teen, actor-comedian Denis Leary learned about rock’n’roll drama firsthand. “A bunch of Boston friends became rockers, so I was always backstage or hanging out at their rehearsals,” he recalls. “Their arguments were always hilarious to me.” Those experiences inspired Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, his FX show that debuted July 16, which follows the up-and-down exploits of an aging frontman (played by Leary) reuniting with his former band. The 57-year-old appraises real-life musical reunions, from the euphoric to the cringe-worthy.
Best Reunion: The Who
“I went to see the [recent] Quadrophenia tour, and they projected [late members] Keith Moon and John Entwistle from an old live performance onto two screens — they played bass and drums while Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend sang. For everybody that wants to see these guys again, this was as close as you’re going to get.”
Most Spiteful Reunion: The Police
“When they reunited and did a tour, they started to hate each other about 10 gigs in and weren’t speaking to each other 20 gigs in. At the last show they basically said ‘F– you’ to each other.”
Best Non-Reunion: The Clash
“The best reunion that never happened was The Clash. I was a huge fan of that band and was fine when they walked away. I thought that band was over when Mick Jones left; when ‘Rock the Casbah’ came out, The Clash was already dead. Right before Joe Strummer died, they were talking about getting together again, but they never did. I was angry just hearing about it.”
Band That Should Reunite: The Kinks
“I would love to see The Kinks reunite and then see Ray and Dave [Davies] get into a huge fistfight onstage. I would pay extra money for that.”
Best Reunion Fashion: The Replacements
“When they were on tour, [lead singer Paul] Westerberg had these T-shirts — each night his shirt had a different letter on it. It started to dawn on the rest of the band that he was spelling out ‘I have always loved you, now I must whore my past.’ That just sums it all up: It’s never going to be as good as it was.”
Listen to some classic rock, and more music from artists from this issue, in the Spotify playlist below:
This story originally appeared in the Aug. 29 issue of Billboard.