And before you say Green Day and American Idiot or U2 and Actung Baby, I think we need some criteria ...
The comebackee's first public success must have been pretty major - the music must have ingrained itself into the some kind of national or international consciousness for a fair period. Not merely have been a one hit wonder, they should have a body of work or range of songs that are still popular on the radio or being raided from some mum's old record collection..
Then they must have goneaway and been forgotten by way of not being able to write a d side, releasing shite music or gone on a drugs binge that would have made a line of coke blush.
The comeback - the success must have been the same all over again or bigger. The public (and probably a new generation of young fans) takes note of the new music with a fervour. Charts are topped and grammies won. It can not be a happy reunion tour like Kiss or Led Zeppelin.
Thus having written this criteria according to my pre determined choices ;) here are my three best rock comebacks ever.
Meat Loaf - Marvin Lee Aday
At the time of Bat out of Hell's onslaught it was the biggest debut of all time. Meatloaf's album was an instant rock classic. It had the hard rock of its time in the title track, it had sex mixed it into songs about baseball. It had the ballads. It brought the balls to rock.
And then he stopped being friends with Jim Steinman, hung out with Cher and made dire films like Roadie. He may have had some trouble with alcohol..
20 years pass with a couple of minor hits and a bankruptcy but the Meat had eaten his cake and couldn't have it twice...
...Until he became friends with Jim Steinman again and they re wrote the first album and Meatloaf stormed the charts to number one in twenty odd countries with the biggest hit of his career, I'd Do Anything for Love (BIWDT) from Bat out of Hell II, hell he even got a pre world famous everywhere Angelina Jolie to appear in the video for Rock and Roll Dreams. People that kant listen good listened to the song and asked what he would not do (screw around !). Probably had the best coda to a song ever. This sucess also means that Jim Steinman qualifies for one of the greatest comebacks ever too.
John Frusciante (Guitarist for Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Joined the RHCP when they were well into their career and made Mother's Milk with them. Soul to Squeeze showed he had the deft tones. Then he pulled out Under the Bridge and his place in rock history was assured.
And then he discovered herion, was booted from the band, lost his teeth and infamously gave a royalty cheque to a cabbie.
And then Kiedis and co realised Dave Navaro was acutally a fucking pussy and asked Flea asked a newly sober JF back to the band. Fruciante gave them the licks from Scar Tissue and the album, Californication went on to be the Red Hot Chili Peppers' biggest album and the comeback was complete.
Bono thinks that Elvis would have been as sissy without Johnny Cash. If you believe the stories about the drugs and the purdy ladies then it was ok for The King to hook up with a 14 year old (hey, if there's grass on the wicket).
Mr Cash was huge in the late 50s and 60s with his boy called Sue, songs about flags and guns, discussions about how high the water was and how his ring burnt somewhat.
And then he didn't sell so much, appeared to find Jesus, write the odd biography, and had a TV show.
Had a minor comeback in the 80s with the Highway Men... but then he met Rick Rubin in the mid 90s and his career went interstellar. His serious of American Recordings took songs of others and gave them a new heart and soul. When he sang Tom Petty's Wont Back down you believed it. When he said he was Hurt, you wanted to take him to the doctor. He became the Man in Black.
There you have it, three great come backs of rock. Four if you count Jim Steinman but he does get points off for that Air Supply song.