As summer 2021 wound down, rock continued to rev up — for the most part.
The Rolling Stones went ahead with their scheduled No Filter Tour, a little more than a month after the passing of founding drummer Charlie Watts. Metallica, Kiss and Lindsey Buckingham also hit the stage again for the first time in months. Elsewhere, however, Judas Priest were forced to postpone their long-awaited 50th anniversary tour after guitarist Richie Faulkner battled cardiac issues. Elton John also pushed back tour dates to accommodate a hip surgery.
Former Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” anchor Norm Macdonald died at age 61, prompting an outpouring of condolences from the TV and comedy community. Macdonald had quietly dealt with health problems for nearly a decade.
Yhrough it all, there was new music: Eddie Vedder, ABBA, Radiohead and several others announced that new albums were on the way, releasing singles to whet fans’ appetites. Revisit the biggest stories from September 2021 below:
Rolling Stones Return to the Road, Pay Tribute to Charlie Watts
On Sept. 20, the Stones performed live for the first time since Watts’ death (which had occurred a few weeks prior) at a private event at Massachusetts’ Gillette Stadium, hosted by Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots. “This is our first tour in 59 years that we’ve done without our lovely Charlie Watts,” Mick Jagger said from the stage, flanked by Keith Richards and Ron Wood. “We all miss Charlie so much, we miss him as a band, we miss him as friends, on and off the stage.” The tour launched a few days later in St. Louis, where once again, Watts was acknowledged as photos and videos of him were displayed on the arena’s big screens. Watts had been previously slated to sit out the No Filter shows due to health issues, but was expected to return at an undetermined later date. Replacement drummer Steve Jordan finished out the tour instead.
Former ‘Saturday Night Live’ Star Norm Macdonald Dies
Comedian Norm Macdonald, best known for his role as a Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” anchor, died at age 61 in September. Macdonald had quietly battled cancer for nine years, but never revealed his health issues to the public. “He was most proud of his comedy,” said his producing partner and friend Lori Jo Hoekstra, who was with Macdonald when he died. “He never wanted the diagnosis to affect the way the audience or any of his loved ones saw him. Norm was a pure comic. He once wrote that ‘a joke should catch someone by surprise; it should never pander.’ He certainly never pandered. Norm will be missed terribly.” Macdonald joined the cast of SNL in 1993. A year later, he began appearing on the “Weekend Update” segment, offering impressions of stars like David Letterman, Burt Reynolds, Larry King, Quentin Tarantino and more.
New Music Announcements from Elton John, ABBA, Radiohead and Others
As the pandemic proceeded, musicians continued to unveil lockdown projects. ABBA returned to announce their first studio album in 40 years, Voyage, while Steve Perry unveiled a Christmas album, The Season. Elton John announced the aptly titled The Lockdown Sessions, a collaborative endeavor that featured several of John’s fellow songwriters like Stevie Nicks, Brandi Carlile, Dua Lipa, Stevie Wonder and others. More collaborations arrived with the release of “Wasted Days,” a duet featuring John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen, who worked together on Mellencamp’s forthcoming album. Radiohead shared the news that they would be releasing a combined reissue of Kid A and Amnesiac. The estate of David Bowie announced that a lost album, Toy, was arriving soon. Still more new music announcements came from Sting (The Bridge), Eddie Vedder (Earthling), Guns N’ Roses (“Hard Skool”), Rod Stewart (he Tears of Hercules) and Eric Clapton (The Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions).
Judas Priest Postpone Tour Again Due to Richie Faulkner’s Health Issues
Judas Priest were forced to postpone their highly anticipated 50th anniversary tour due to health obstacles with guitarist Richie Faulkner. “[Faulkner] has major medical heart condition issues which have landed him in the hospital where he is being treated,” the band said. “In the meantime, we are all sending love to our falcon to wish him a speedy recovery.” It was later revealed that Faulkner had to undergo emergency heart surgery – his aorta ruptured onstage during a Judas Priest concert – but was recovering well. “If you know him, you know how tough and strong he is,” said Faulkner’s girlfriend, Mariah Lynch, who also happens to be the daughter of former Dokken guitarist George Lynch. “So tough that he finished the show and kept the hair flips coming. There’s no one like him. We’d be lost without him.”
Todd Rundgren Offers ‘Something Live’ for Rock Hall Induction
Pending inductee Todd Rundgren spoke exclusively with UCR in September, stating that discussions with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame had been complicated but that he recognized what the honor meant for his fans. “My relationship with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, quite obviously, it’s not copacetic,” he said. “I have offered to do something live for them from my venue. I will stop my show and acknowledge the award and mostly acknowledge my fans, because it’s for them.” Rundgren clarified that while he was not personally inclined to make a big deal of the award, he understood that others felt differently. “A lot of artists take this seriously,” he continued. “Just because I don’t, doesn’t mean I should try and spoil it for them. So, you know, I haven’t really had much to say about it. I would just like it to elapse without any kind of bad vibes or anything being a result of it. I’d just like it to happen and be over with.”
Top 15 Reissues of 2021
The year’s best archival releases include deluxe box sets, expanded anniversary editions and long-lost recordings from the vault.