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Posted at 2:06 PM ET, 03/ 9/2011

Riffs: The rock star's guide to quitting the business

By Allison Stewart

abbaAbba walked away and never looked back.

If Phil Collins' recent, will-he-or-won't-he retirement contremps has taught us anything, it's that walking away from rock and roll stardom is more difficult, and more unusual, than it seems. Almost no one ever does it, and those who do often don't stay away for long.

For any musician planning to leave rock and roll behind for a life of goat herding or bed and breakfast-running, Click Track has assembled a brief guide to get you started:

1. The most famous ones almost never quit, especially not at the top of their game

Collins attributes his impending retirement to a desire to spend more time with his children; his best sales years were likely in his rearview mirror, anyway. Abba broke up just past their peak as well, and its members have shown a surprising lack of interest in re-grouping for one-off shows or lucrative reunion albums. One member, Björn Ulvaeus, hasn't performed live since. Other examples of truly famous escapees are hard to come by (and troubled drop-outs like Sly Stone and Lauryn Hill don't count).

2. If you're thinking of quitting, it helps to be British

Brits tend to have a more complicated relationship with fame than Americans -- they're often more embarrassed about having it and more willing to give it up, which might explain why any list of famous musical quitters will likely be eighty percent British. Members of Oasis, the Pogues (who formed in England) and Pulp have all quit their successful bands at their peak, often dropping out of the business entirely. British musicians also seem more inclined toward academia: Queen's Brian May became an astrophysicist; Elastica's Justin Frischmann married a college professor, which is almost the same thing.

3. Those most in danger of quitting are often second-in-command to an egomaniacal frontman

Call it D'arcy Wretzky Syndrome: When a band member abandons his or her post for a life spent making organic cheese in the Cotswolds, a swollen-headed frontman is often at least partly to blame. In a 2009 British newspaper interview, former Pulp guitarist Russell Senior described his difficult life with Jarvis Cocker after the band became famous: "[There would be nights when] somebody's coke dealer has nicked your limo and you have to walk home because the record company are looking after Jarvis. We had become his backing band." Senior is now a novelist.

4. Finding religion can be a one-way ticket out.

Cat Stevens quit for years after converting to Islam. Rappers do this all the time: Ma$e quit hip-hop to serve God (he came back, though); Loon left for Islam; Kurtis Blow left secular music and founded the probably-awesome Hip-Hop Church.

5. Threatening to quit is almost as good as actually quitting

Artists like to do this a lot: Threaten to quit, and watch the praise, the entreaties to stick with it, roll in: Lily Allen has been threatening to quit for virtually as long as she's been making albums. So has Kid Cudi, who reneged on his promise to only make one solo album, ever. Pop singer Duffy, according to the ever-reliable British tabloids, is in the most enviable position of all: She says she can afford to never make another one.

By Allison Stewart  | March 9, 2011; 2:06 PM ET
Categories:  Riffs  | Tags:  Abba, Duffy, Kid Cudi, Pulp  
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Comments

I'm in total agreement with you Duffy, please never make an album again!

Posted by: M__N | March 11, 2011 10:39 AM | Report abuse

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