The recent retirements of Richie McGaw and Dan Carter, together with the anniversary of George Best’s death got me musing about the phrase ‘going out at the top’, and how this seems to be more difficult in music than sport. Best’s CV (in)famously included Fulham and several US soccer teams in a long tail. Surely today he would have been a shoe-in as a pundit and walked away at the top in the early seventies.
In music – where age does not tap you in the shoulder in the same way as sport – it seems to be extra-ordinarily difficult to go out at the top never to announce a comeback tour or have that 3-star ‘return to form’ review after a decade away. So, your bands or solo artists who have done exactly that. No reforming, no comeback albums. And you have to have some kind of ‘top’ to get out of. This doesn’t mean that your last album was your best, but a clear sense that your powers are undimmed. Here’s my three for starters, or starters for three:
ABBA – surely the ultimate ‘going out at the top’ , as the tide of music and their own lives took them away from the group. Yes, The Visitors did not shift as many units as Arrival, but The Day Before You Came was their last single. Powers undimmed I say.
THE JAM – The Gift is rather unloved, but the late singles as good as anything they did, and its lead single was the Billy Elliott-soundtracking Town Called Malice. One final tour then gone.
THE SMITHS – Strangeways… is by no means their worst album, and the legacy is unblemished.
So your ‘Getting Out At The Top’ artists please. We can of course then endlessly debate whether they got to ‘the top’ wherever that is and if indeed they did get out at it. The Top being the stop on the Northern Line before Finchley.