With Steve Perry and Neutral Milk Hotel both performing again after a long absence, it's time to remember pop's great recluses. Who are the other great mysteries in music?
Whether troubled by mental-health problems, overwhelmed by drug addiction or generally uninterested in public exposure, here are some of music's most famous recluses.
1. Syd Barrett – born Roger Keith Barrett
Band: Pink Floyd
In 2006, Pink Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett died at the Cambridgeshire home he had retreated to. On the brink of the band's global notoriety in 1968, Barrett famously left and went to live in the basement of his mother's semi-detached house, with reports saying he was so intent on keeping out fans and the press that he boarded up its windows. Although he recorded two solo albums – The Madcap Laughs and Barrett – he channelled most of his creativity into painting, but neither exhibited nor sold any work. "Like many other questing spirits who came to age in the mid-60s, he was inspired by taking LSD to create truly daring, otherworldly music," wrote Nick Kent for the Guardian following Barrett's death. "But the drug ended up fatally fracturing his psyche and turning him into a solitary recluse unable to function within the music industry and society in general."
2. Meg White – born Megan Martha White
Band: the White Stripes
It's been over seven years since the White Stripes last performed on stage. Meg White, the pale-faced drummer from Detroit, Michigan, married Jack in 2000 and went on to release six albums with him under the White Stripe moniker. Their official split – "mostly" attributable to their desire to "preserve what is beautiful and special about the band" – followed a succession of scrapped gigs. The duo cancelled their entire 2007 tour dates due to Meg White's acute anxiety, and although she appeared during an encore set at a show with the Raconteurs in June 2008, there's since been no sign of rejuvenation in the White Stripes camp, with Jack recently telling Rolling Stone: "I don't think anyone talks to Meg. She's always been a hermit. When we lived in Detroit, I'd have to drive over to her house if I wanted to talk to her, so now it's almost never."
3. Sly Stone – born Sylvester Stewart
Band: Sly and the Family Stone
Frontman of one of the greatest funk bands of all time, Stone struggled with drugs throughout much of the 1970s (he missed 27 out of 80 shows during this decade) before vanishing from public view in the early 80s (apart from when he was arrested for cocaine possession). Since then, he's appeared sporadically in public – turning up at Sly and the Family Stone's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1993 and appearing at performances by bands featuring former Family Stone members, or at the 48th Grammy awards (he left the stage before the song had finished – perhaps something to do with Joss Stone's presence). And then there was the bizarre 2010 Coachella set, which involved an ill-looking Stone lying on stage and ranting about his ex-manager, which followed reports he was living in a camper van in east LA. Facetime with Sly is not easily obtained, as Alexis Petridis found out last year, when he spent the best part of his summer holiday i
n Newquay trying to get through to the musician: "Have I talked to you enough now?” Stone asked at the end of their interview. “I've got to go to the bathroom. You asked me about regrets. If I don't take a big shit now, I'll regret that."
4. Madlib – born Otis Jackson Jr
Performing under: Madlib, Quasimoto, Yesterdays New Quintet, Beat Konducta and more
The pioneering DJ, rapper and hip-hop producer Madlib is perhaps best-known for the critically acclaimed Madvillainy, an album that features a contender for the crown of most secretive character in hip-hop: MF Doom. Since the 90s, Madlib has spent a varied career working with the likes of J Dilla and Erykah Badu and inspiring everyone from Thom Yorke to Odd Future with his jazz-inflected production and veil of mystery. Rather than disappear completely, the California-bred musician operates in a state of anonymity, rarely giving interviews despite having released roughly 50 records now via different guises. "Some people think I’m crazy, but I’m just a normal dude that loves music,” he told Dazed and Confused. "I’m quiet, so people might think I’m a mute. I’m a hermit. People rarely see me. People can rarely get in contact with me. I barely answer my phone. I’m not tweeting much. I’m not hashtagging and all
that. I don’t do selfies. J Dilla and Common called me an alien. We used to call each other aliens because we’re weird.”
5. Kate Bush
The internet ground to a halt in March when Kate Bush announced that she would be performing her first live shows in 35 years. “I hope you will be able to join us and I look forward to seeing you there,” she wrote modestly – before tickets to her shows sold out quicker than you could say WAA-AAGGH Babooshka. Despite releasing new material, she hasn't performed since a six-week tour around Britain and Europe in 1979. So what happened? People have pegged her dismissal of the live scene on a fear of flying, on grief following the death of her lighting director, Bill Duffield, and on a disregard for celebrity. “By the end,” she once recalled, “I felt a terrific need to retreat as a person, because I felt that my sexuality – which in a way I hadn’t really had a chance to explore myself – was being given to the world in a way which I found impersonal.” A wild show combining music, dance, poetry, mi
me, burlesque, magic and theatre, the tour was certainly a spectacle – something, she admitted in an interview with Mojo magazine in 2011, that may simply have tired her out. “It was enormously enjoyable. But physically it was absolutely exhausting,” she said.
Syd is my absolute favourite artist (and the fractured-mind-due-to-LSD is such a simplistic take on things) and Kate is quite simply a queen.
Other elusive / eccentric musicians you can think of, ONTD?