Sunday 11 December 2016

Come together: Rock's weirdest studio hook-ups

Ed Power on how worlds have collided in pop music history

Published 24/08/2010 | 05:00

Speaking to an underground music website, Vernon revealed West had whisked him off to the Hawaii studio where he's working on his next record. Stranger yet -- if possible -- Vernon says that he and West bonded over their love for the movie Avatar.

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The new LP is a big deal for West, who has become something of a public hate figure after crashing the podium and nearly reducing 19-year-old Taylor Swift to tears at a 2009 MTV award show (even Barack Obama weighed in, condemning West as a 'jackass').

"He was like... 'It'd be awesome if you could come out to Hawaii'," said Vernon. "I was just like, 'Yeah, cool man!' I surprised myself by not being nervous or apprehensive. I said, 'When should I come out?' And he was like, 'How about tomorrow?'"

Will this be the oddest musical collaboration ever? Perhaps not. If you think the idea of a blinged-to-the-eyeballs rapper getting together with a sensitive plaid-shirted rocker is strange, cast an eye over this list of the oddest match-ups in rock history.

David Bowie and Bing Crosby (1977)

Just out of his glam-bam-thank-you-man phase, Bowie (30) initially turned down the opportunity to sing with Crosby (73) on the crooner's Merrie Olde Christmas special, claiming the pair-up was "all wrong". He relented at the last minute after the producers re-worked 'Little Drummer Boy' so that it sounded less jolly and twee.

To this day, it remains unclear if Crosby had any idea who Bowie actually was.

However, their duet has become a Christmas staple, rendered all the more poignant by Crosby's death a month later.

Clannad and Bono (1985)

Before Enya and Riverdance, there was Clannad, whose ethereal trad did much to internationalise Irish folk music.

Fresh from soundtracking Robin of Sherwood, the Donegal band went into the studio with a mullet-sporting young man from an up-and-coming Dublin post-punk outfit.

A quarter-century on 'In A Lifetime' stands up surprisingly well, though whoever decided it needed 'more sax' should be tied to a dolmen and left in the rain overnight.

Two years later, U2 released The Joshua Tree, Bono became rock's pre-eminent messiah figure and the idea of him lending vocals to a trad cross-over project started to seem utterly absurd.

Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave (1995)

She was pop's squeaky-voiced princess; he the demon king of scary goth-rock. Put them together and you get . . . a softcore murder ballad about a guy who dispatches his wife with a cosh to the noggin and buries her in the duck pond.

However, the really strange thing about this duet, from Cave's Murder Ballads LP, was that Kylie's vocals sounded so much scarier than his.

Weirder yet was the video in which a corpse-blue Minogue floated amongst a bed of lilies.

The Cardigans and Tom Jones (1999)

They were an ultra-cool Swedish pop machine. He was Wales' answer to Joe Dolan. Lock them in a studio together with a soggy old Talking Heads quasi-hit and you got . . . one of the biggest smashes of the year.

The song propelled Jones' Reload album to six million sales, making it one of his biggest hits. However, in the aftermath of 9/11 'Burning Down The House' was temporarily banned from US radio for its 'inappropriate' lyrics.

Eminem and Elton John (2001)

Nowadays he's just another cautionary lesson on the perils of mega fame. But in 2001, rapper Eminem was regarded as a threat to public decency. Particularly controversial were his lyrics, which gay-rights groups described as "soaked with violence and full of negative comments about many groups, including lesbians and gay men".

The Detroit rhymer thus arranged for Elton John -- the world's most out-of-the-closet pop star -- to sing along to his hit 'Stan' at the Grammy awards.

Michael Jackson and Will.i.am (2007)

Of itself, there is nothing particularly controversial about Jackson and the Black Eyed Peas frontman working together. What was strange was where it took place: in a converted barn in the depths of Westmeath.

Fleeing the media, Jacko fetched up at Grouse Lodge recording studio, 10 miles from Moate, in 2007. It was there he and Will.i.am put together his would-be comeback record, that may be released as soon as this November.

David Sitek and Scarlett Johansson (2008)

Sitek's day job is playing guitar with New York's answer to Radiohead, TV On The Radio. Johansson is go-to gal for off-the-scale sultriness.

On their 2008 collection of Tom Waits covers, Anywhere I Lay My Head, Sitek sugar-coated Johansson's vocals in Cocteau Twins-style production. Critics rolled their eyes.

Johansson wasn't put off. Twelve months on she was back in the studio with songwriter Pete Yorn for a collection inspired by Serge Gainsbourg's duets with Brigitte Bardot.

Janelle Monae and Of Montreal (2010)

Championed by P. Diddy and OutKast's Big Boi, new r'n'b star Monae is capital-Q quirky. She sings like James Brown, wears tuxedos and, judging by her lyrics, thinks she is in fact a robot from the year 2050.

On her album, The Archandroid, the true 'what the hell?' moment is her hook-up with Bowie revivalists Of Montreal. Led by singer Kevin Barnes, they are renowned for their freakish live shows -- their last Dublin performance featured quasi-nudity and men dressed as ants.

Irish Independent

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