The Odd Couples: 11 Weird Musical Collaborations
Some musical collaborations seem written in the stars, and some don’t even make sense if you factor in rock star-level drug budgets. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have their own kind of magic. When two mismatched artists try to make history for an entire album, the results can mean a struggling singer’s rebirth, or they can be a gloriously weird, career-ending disaster. (Although a lot of the time it’s the latter.) Here are 11 of the strangest.
1. Sting and Shaggy
Sting obviously knows a hit when he hears one, and he apparently heard one when Jamaican rap artist Shaggy brought him an early version of “Don’t Make Me Wait,” the first single off the duo’s upcoming album, 44/876. Combining Shaggy’s distinctive reggae-rap voice with Sting’s A-list songwriting skills for an entire album is a surprising choice, and also cause for skepticism, given the way odd artist collaborations can end in musical tragedy. Good thing it drops on 4/20, when people will hopefully be too stoned to notice if it’s terrible.
2. Meat Loaf and Stoney Murphy
Stoney and Meatloaf (1971)
Before 1977’s Bat Out Of Hell established him as a symphonic-glam rock singer, Meat Loaf was in an LA production of Hair where he met powerhouse singer Stoney Murphy. In 1971, Motown Records released this little-known soul-tinged album collaboration. After the duo broke up, Motown kept Murphy, but dropped Meat Loaf and gave their song “Who Is the Leader of the People” to Edwin Starr.
3. Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone
Rhinestone Soundtrack (1984)
In 1984, Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone teamed up for Rhinestone, a movie in which Jake (Parton), stuck at a seedy NYC country-themed nightclub, seeks to get out of her singing contract by winning a bet with the owner: Parton has to turn annoying cabbie Nick (Stallone) into a country music star in the span of two weeks. The movie was nominated for five Golden Raspberry Awards, winning the top honor of worst original song for Stallone’s country-pop ode to Budweiser, “Drinkinstein,” written by Dolly. Stallone turned down roles in Romancing the Stone and Beverly Hills Cop to make this nightmare.
4. Shaun Cassidy and Todd Rundgren
Todd Rundgren had a huge hit with “Hello It’s Me” in 1972, and since then has produced and engineered albums for Patti Smith, Meat Loaf, New York Dolls, Psychedelic Furs, and Bad Religion, among others. Among his lesser-known works is this 1980 album he produced for actor, singer and teen idol Shaun Cassidy (David Cassidy’s little half-brother). Anchored by attempts at covering the Talking Heads and Pete Townshend–and a warped, synth-heavy take on Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel”–Wasp was Cassidy’s last solo album.
5. Wendy James and Elvis Costello
Now Ain’t the Time For Your Tears (1993)
Wendy James’ career as the singer for Transvision Vamp was foundering when she sought out Elvis Costello’s help for a solo album. Their 1993 pop-rock collaboration Now Ain’t The Time For Your Tears melds Costello’s quirky style and James’ copycat-Blondie vocals, but the results were often misguided and over the top, and the album failed to restart James’ career.
6. Jay-Z and Linkin Park
Collision Course (2004)
Jay-Z spearheaded this collaboration with Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda for an MTV show in 2004. Music critic Robert Christgau gave the six-song mash-up EP that followed a bomb emoji as review–no words, just a tiny illustration of a cartoon bomb.
7. Various Artists
Judgement Night Soundtrack (1993)
The Judgment Night soundtrack is like the Jay-Z/Linkin Park mash-up, just with way more hip-hop artists and rock artists in the mix. Pearl Jam and Cypress Hill, Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul, Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot, and Helmet and House of Pain are among 11 collaborations brought together to spice up this 1993 action movie starring Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Jeremy Piven.
8. Kelley Deal and Sebastian Bach
The Last Hard Men (1998)
In the mid-90s, after reading a story that looked down on hair bands, The Breeders’ Kelley Deal was inspired to reach out to Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach–along with Smashing Pumpkins’ drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and Jimmy Flemion of The Frogs–to form the bizarre supergroup the Last Hard Men. Atlantic Records never released their album, but Deal put 1,000 copies on her label in 1998 and it somehow reached number 22 on the Japanese Top 50 albums list.
9. Metallica and Lou Reed
Recorded in 2011, two years before Reed’s death, the nearly 90-minute concept album is based on “Erdgeist” and “Pandora’s Box” by German playwright Frank Wedekind, partly inspired by Jack the Ripper, and every bit as bizarre as you might expect. On “The View,” Reed intones, “I wanna have you doubting every meaning you’ve amassed, like a fortune,” while James Hetfield retorts, “I am the table,” and claims to be a 10-story building.
10. William Shatner and Ben Folds
Has Been (2004)
Three decades after The Transformed Man established the original Capt. Kirk as an eccentric (if easily mocked) spoken-word musician, Shatner teamed up with pianist/songwriter Ben Folds on Has Been. While Transformed was lousy with overworked, butchered covers of “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds,” and ‘Mr. Tambourine Man,” Has Been is a more honest approach and a look inward toward Shatner’s fears of failure and growing old. The album includes a cover of Pulp’s “Common People,” that enjoyed a brief 15 minutes of fame. Watch Shatner talk about how Ben Folds brought in Adrian Belew, Joe Jackson, and spoken-word general Henry Rollins for “I Can’t Get Behind That.”
11. Elton John and RuPaul
Elton John will go down in history as one of rock’s most prolific and respected musicians, but on this 1993 album–featuring guest vocalists Kiki Dee, P.M. Dawn and Don Henley–the legendary singer/pianist hits a sour note, like the plasticized, RuPaul-fronted dance version of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” the duet originally sung by Kiki Dee that was both artists’ first UK number one. John didn’t top the charts again until “Candle In the Wind” in 1997–the effect of the so-called “Kiki jinx.”