I was 16 years old when the Police announced their break-up. Their 1983 album Synchronicity was a smash success that lingered on rock radio for years. It was a little slick and poppy for my tastes; I preferred the rougher-edged early recordings. Give me a B-side track off of Regatta de Blanc and Outlandos d'Amour any day.
I remember being very upset at the news of the band's split. It meant I'd never get to see them live in concert. During the Police's final tours, the performances were still full of fire, and the sets were full of deep cuts. I won't forget the painful feeling. I thought, "Damn, why did they disband all of a sudden? They were on top of the world." I eventually got over their break-up. I barely think of it when I dig up their old recordings and blast my favorite tracks.
Rock groups break up all the time. It's part of the grit and the grind within the ongoing adventure of rock 'n' roll. Some musicians deal with it more gracefully and respectfully than others, of course, but it's rarely easy and painless.
When I heard the news about Charleston rock trio Leslie's break-up last week, I felt that familiar tinge. While Leslie's riff-rock style barely resembled the Police, they shared attributes. Both bands were dynamic power trios with the classic guitar-bass-drums instrumentation. Both had singers with distinctively soulful and occasionally high-pitched voices. Both released raw music early in their careers before getting a polish in fancy studios later on. Both split up with little warning.
Singer-guitarist Sadler Vaden, drummer Jonathan Carman, and bassist Jason Fox broke the news to friends and fans via Facebook with a gracious announcement: "We regret to inform you that after seven years as a band we are calling it quits," read the post. "The split is due to personal and creative differences. We have had some great experiences and great opportunities, but we are no longer able to continue."
I knew Leslie as a tight band with plenty of skill, talent, and determination. They were all underage the first time I saw them on stage in 2005, but they played like seasoned hard-rock veterans with a keen sense of showmanship and fine technique. Their hair got longer and their amp stacks and drum kits grew bigger with every passing year.
After surviving a few disruptions (studio delays, burglaries, etc.) in 2009 and 2010, Leslie had loads of momentum this year. In January, they launched a Kickstarter account in order to help raise funds to independently release their latest album, Lord, Have Mercy. The disc hit the streets in April, and the band promoted it heavily online and on the road.
Despite the attention and buzz, Leslie wasn't operating at full-throttle for some reason. It appears that Vaden made the decision to pull the plug on band activity this month. He also revealed plans to relocate to Nashville. Working as songwriting partner and sideman over the last few years, Vaden is already acquainted with the studio and band scene in the Music City. It's an impressive move and a bold step toward new adventures.
There's no specific news on what Fox and Carman might do this fall, but both will surely tangle with cool musical projects before too long. Carman says he felt blindsided and hurt by the unexpected break, but he pledges that he will continue to play music. They're both too talented to idle.
I enjoyed watching Leslie as they pushed ahead, accomplished goals, rocked like superstars, and ventured beyond the Charleston scene. I wanted to see them achieve great success behind Lord, Have Mercy. As an admirer, fan, and critic, their sudden halt hurts. But I'll get over it. And I'll keep their discs next to those old Police collections for easy access.