Notable Recluses: Five Musicians Who Almost Never Tour

Categories: On the Road

Jandek Jason Wolter.jpg
Photo by Jason Wolter
Jandek in a rare performance at Big Star Bar in April 2012.
Some musicians are just road rats. They can't get enough of life on tour. For others, it wears down on them to a breaking point.

Many have been very vocal about how much they despise touring, especially as they've gotten older. Some, like Trent Reznor, have expressed fears of being a KISS-esque nostalgia act if he continues to tour. Eric Clapton just recently said he'll quit touring when he turns 70 because he's sick of losing money trying to make touring comfortable.

But there are those who take this to the extreme. Everyone knows it's hard to get your music noticed and keep interest going if you don't tour, but some very big names have somehow managed to circumvent that and work from home for such a long period there might be a whole generation who will never get the chance to see their favorite recluse.

Who is, or was, your favorite of these notable names who have avoided the road?

5. Jeff Mangum
In 1998 Jeff Mangum could have ruled the world with his band Neutral Milk Hotel, whose inestimable legacy has only grown over time thanks to a little album called In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Instead, he went home, quit music, and quit touring for years to come.


Last Night: Jeff Mangum at Wortham Center

Slowly though he began to come out of retirement in 2008, participating in one off performances and recordings. Those began to become more frequent until finally Mangum launched a full comeback tour this year, including an acclaimed performance in Houston.

4. Leonard Cohen
Once an acclaimed live performer, Leonard Cohen went on a Buddhist spiritual journey for the majority of the '90s and left the road to younger men. He didn't return to recording music until 2001, but he still decided not to tour in support of his newer albums. That is, until some unfortunate circumstances occurred, including his former manager embezzling much of his money.

With a renewed reason to tour ($$$), Cohen jumped back into the fray in 2008. Instead of being a simple cash grab, though, his tours appeared to be a labor of love with the once-dour Cohen singing and dancing in his seventies with the verve of a much younger performer. He hasn't quit since, and your author had the opportunity to see him perform last year in Austin, where he gave fans a truly amazing experience.

3. Michael Jackson
Following a massive world tour in support of Michael Jackson's HIStory project, the King of Pop went dormant to write and record his new record Invincible. In the intervening time, his only performances were for a 30th-anniversary special celebrating his career and some charity shows in 1999. As it turned out, fans would never see MJ on the road again.

Invincible was met with less than satisfactory reception and soon after a renewed scandal over Jackson's sexual conduct erupted. The pop star had always been agitated by the public's interest in his private life and took even more extreme measures to go into hiding in the next few years.

Just before his death, he was in the process of staging a massive concert comeback. Instead, all we have is the rehearsal footage, where we can see that he was most definitely still the king and hadn't missed a step in his feet or his enormous vocals.

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I know why Michael Jackson never tours.


The Geto Boys hasn't toured since 1991. I would pay $500 and let the Gangster of Love, Willie D have my girlfriend to see them live.


How about Tom Waits? Cohen tours more often than him.

Ryan Mach
Ryan Mach

Aimee Mann. Maybe not a recluse but I do wish she'd venture out of California more often.

Dallas Hölmes
Dallas Hölmes

its not that they dont hit the road, they just seldom cross the atlantic to play the states....

Rad McRad
Rad McRad

I saw Jandek at the Menil a year or so ago. It was more art than music. He's worth checking out though because you never know what you're going to get or if he'll ever do it again.

Corey Deiterman
Corey Deiterman

What makes it useless? It's interesting to think about who never gets out there and it makes you think about who you might have seen from the list and if you might ever get to see them. It's not vitally important to life, but what in the ongoing discussion of music and entertainment is? If you want to read about important events happening in the world, there's a news section for that. If you want to listen to some songs and think about the time you were at a show by one of these artists, there's this. Lighten up though. It's just entertainment, it's not aiming to be "useful" to your life.

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