Covid regulations are inconsistent. Whilst people are barred from visiting loved ones, professional footballers are allowed to continue playing their game, a game that has a “transfer window” this month. There must be many managers who would ponder who they might buy if they had the funds necessary to create their dream team.
Dream gatherings are the sort of conversation one might have had at dinner party: who would your ideal set of dinner guests be? Never knowing anyone famous, let alone knowing what anyone famous might be like at a dinner party, it was the sort of question that I could never have answered.
There were similar such conversations in student days, except it was not dinner guests, it was musicians for the perfect gig. People would suggest the ’27s’ – Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin, but it would be hard to imagine the four on one stage. Attending Glastonbury Festival (or “fayre” as it was then called) in 1979, there had been such an experience, on the final night Peter Gabriel, Nona Hendrix, Steve Hillage, Phil Collins, John Martyn and Alex Harvey took to the stage together. In the memory it seemed a gathering of individuals rather than a band, maybe at the time it was more coherent.
The Traveling Wilburys were a group far more unlikely than any that might have appeared at Glastonbury. Charlie T. Wilbury Jr. was the alias of Tom Petty, Nelson Wilbury was George Harrison, Otis Wilbury was Jeff Lynne, Lefty Wilbury was Roy Orbison, and Lucky Wilbury was Bob Dylan. The band produced two albums between 1988 and 1990 which enjoyed success, but nothing like the success those artists had enjoyed as individuals.
It seems that the whole is rarely greater than the sum of the parts, and more often is less. It is not just a musical phenomenon. There are those Agatha Christie mysteries with all star casts where one spends more time trying to remember what other parts the actors have played, or wondering how they came to accept such a brief cameo role; a famous name or two would have been sufficient.
The perfect dinner party is not an assemblage of notionally perfect guests, it is a gathering of friends; the perfect band is not a group of disparate egos, it is people who have played together for years.
For as long as I can remember England has had talented footballers who week by week play excellent football for their clubs, players whose skills should combine to produce a team to take on the world, but when the white shirt is pulled on they become like a rock band with two drummers. Players who are brilliant with one club will sometimes go to another and fail to have an impact.
As football managers open the cheque books this January and tens or hundreds of millions are spent, the last night at Glastonbury ’79 comes to mind.