9 of the worst pop culture comebacks ever
Axl Rose

We’re currently basking in the glow of the Kate Bush comeback tour, but let’s face it – there are some famous faces that went away for a reason.

Axl Rose
[There have been farts that have made more welcome returns than Axl Rose – picture: Getty]

The art of the comeback is a complex one to master. It’s a triple-faceted equation that requires being out of the public eye long enough to be missed, having been good enough in the first place, and then getting the tone of your return just right.

The master and textbook example that all other pretenders look to follow is the Elvis Presley ’68 Comeback Special. The King roared back into the public eye with a TV special,  where he performed a number of his songs on a tiny square stage in a black leather number – laughing, joking and performing hit singles with ‘cool dad’ levels of assuredness.

If Elvis is the high end goal that all those looking to poke their heads back into the world of fame hope to attain, then the examples listed below are surely the calamitous horror stories which should have all those considering a comeback locking the front door, unplugging their broadband and lying down in a darkened room.

 Guns N’ Roses

The red-headed rock icon Axl Rose was once the baddest man on the planet, and Guns N’ Roses were one of the defining bands of the late-eighties – Appetite For Destruction is up there with a list of albums that define the genre. The trouble is that after a generation of rocking, Rose decided to turn the band into a Sugababes-style ‘replace-any-member’ outfit, before taking the copyrighted name into a deep dungeon with promises of a new album titled Chinese Democracy since the late-nineties.

The idea of Chinese Democracy ever actually surfacing became a bit of an ongoing joke amongst fans, before it actually did surface and the whole thing really became a joke. If you’re wondering if Axl is still the slender-build snake-hipped frontman he used to be…well…check the video above.



The rapper had apparently packed in his music career and sold off his entire back catalogue (including ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’) in order to fund his career as a chef. The culinary calling didn’t last long for Coolio though, and soon enough he announced that he would be returning to his music – with a track released through adult website Pornhub.

Naturally, the result, ‘Welcome to the Hub’, featured a fairly adult-themed video. It’s also hard to recreate the mystique and critical acclaim of ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ when you’re surrounded by scantily-clad pornstars.

Star Wars

phantom menace queue

Fans queued in their millions, light-sabers in hand for the start of a new Star Wars saga. They had waited their entire lives for the return of Obi-Wan and the rest of the gang to the silver screen and anticipation was at peak levels for Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

The issue was that after the initial burst of John Williams, the general verdict was that the whole thing went from ‘crappy’ to ‘extra crappy’ with only light Darth Maul relief in the middle. There were many tears shed behind storm trooper helmets and ceremonial burnings of Jar Jar Binks action figures.

• War of the words: Guardians Of The Galaxy vs Phantom Menace

Joey Tribbiani

Let it be known, the general public bloody loves Friends. Repeats of the nineties sitcom will run on some TV channel somewhere, from now until the end of time. When the show reached a natural conclusion back in 2004, NBC weren’t quite ready to say goodbye. The network’s idea to breathe some life into the sitcom cadaver was to take much-loved Italian American actor Joey Tribbiani and transfer him to Los Angeles.

Matt Le Blanc’s character spent one season in sunny new surroundings before a brief hiatus, time slot change and the inevitable cancellation. NBC attempted to vaporise any memory of Joey from our minds, but people don’t forget NBC.

• 9 Nineties comedies that were better than Friends

 Elvis Presley

‘What’s this?‘ I hear you cry ‘You literally just said that Elvis was the comeback King, you total utter moron.’ Well, just hold your horses. Although the ’68 comeback was the pinnacle, it didn’t stop the King taking another bash at it over a decade later. The Elvis in Concert release is a challenging watch for even the most fervent of Presley fans – the special was filmed during one of the singer’s final tours and weight concerns and substance abuse had caught up with him. Elvis is clearly overweight and forgets the lyrics to hits such as ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’. The special itself was never commercially released on video or DVD, but footage had been used in the This Is Elvis documentary.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


Michael Bay continued his onslaught on popular 1980s cartoons with a production credit on an adaptation of the pizza-eating karate-chopping turtles. Although not directing, Bay brought in Megan Fox to attempt to rekindle some of that Transformers financial voodoo, but even Fox and ‘turtle power’ could not save TMNT from a heavy old panning from the critics and a box-office total which didn’t quite justify its $125 million budget. According to reports, there will be sequels. Totally blows, dude.

 Joss Stone

The Brit Awards are now a fairly drab affair to behold, but perhaps the last of its unpredictable live moments was the bizarre return of Joss Stone to British TV.

Stone had been a Radio 2 favourite back in 2005 for her ability to channel an amazing vocal range into the most bland soul covers imaginable. In 2007, she appeared at the Brit Awards to reveal the nominations in the Best British Male category. The Kent-born singer seemed to be channeling the soul of Tina Turner and strutted around the stage, ranting on in a fake American accent and occasionally bursting into random bits of song. The British press went to town on Stone’s new accent choice to which the singer’s reply was: “At the end of the day, I don’t give a fuck if people have a problem with my accent.” That’s us told then.

Limp Bizkit

worst band names

In a comeback that literally no one asked for and millions would have signed a petition to prevent, 2011 saw Fred Durst get the Bizkit boys back together for another round of frat-boy nu-metal. The only conclusion to be drawn from  Limp Bizkit’s comeback is that Durst is clearly some sort of avenging angel, here to punish us all for mankind’s previous sins.

Willy Wonka

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

What’s that, Tim Burton? You’re planning to turn a much-loved children’s film into a drab, creepily-toned remake with (shock horror) Johnny Depp in the starring role? We’d really rather you didn’t.

What terrible comebacks would make your list?

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