The Greatest Classic Rock Collaborations Ever!
The Traveling Wilburys in their music video for Handle With Care - Traveling Wilburys / Youtube
Because why not?
While rock stars and bands on their own are all too capable to keep fans sleepless with their material and tours, one cannot deny the impact collaborations can do. Imagine your favorite band getting together with other bands and artists. Imagine the possibilities. In all seriousness though, you don’t even have to. Countless collaborations have taken place in the rock n’ roll scene, some in attempts to reignite a dimming career, or some just for the heck of it. Let’s revisit the most memorable collaborations in rock n’ roll history!
The Traveling Wilburys
This classic rock supergroup was comprised of no other than Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. The folk/country rock oriented group was established and made public by Harrison in 1988 when he was asked for his plans regarding his next project. He was friends with everybody in the band which made it easy for the project to materialize. After recording a bonus song for Harrison’s new European release, the members deemed it to good to be a one shot affair. The closely-knit group eventually churned out two studio albums in the course of a three-year activity period.
Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, and Sting
A fitting tribute and soundtrack to the movie The Three Musketeers, it involved the rock industry’s most prominent vocalists for a one-shot collaboration that still sends chills up one’s spine. The power ballad features the driving husky vocals of Stewart and Adams, while Sting provides bass and backup vocals support, making for an emotional song with emphasis on camaraderie.
Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen
While many people think MJ’s “Beat It” is a rock bangin’ track, not a lot know who was behind the fiery licks and solos. No other than the Eddie Van Halen presented himself to do the epic solo, who first thought he was being pranked when he was contacted initially. After confirming it, he hurried to borrow an amp and recorded his solo free of charge. While his management and friends admonished him for foolishly handing out free material, Eddie claims he did it out of enthusiasm.
Queen and David Bowie
The epic collaboration between two English rockstars wasn’t really planned all along. David Bowie was just asked to sing backup vocals for one of their tracks on the Hot Space album, “Cool Cat“, but eventually asked his parts to be binned because of dissatisfaction. He sat down with the band and eventually came up with “Under Pressure“, after a series of improvisations, which are evident with the scat singing portions the song. The track caused conflict between the band members on which mixing approach to employ, with the album not sitting well with the others. Most known for its iconic bass line, Deacon takes credit for the progression. The simple yet funky bass line came down as one of the most famous ones to ever be created in rock history.
Rock Aid Armenia
Nothing beats humanitarian efforts that artists voluntarily commit themselves to help those in need. When Armenia was hit by a 6.8 Magnitude earthquake that left 130,000 injured and 38,000 casualties, international charity campaigner Jon Dee gathered the biggest names in rock for the ambitious humanitarian project. Personnel from Deep Purple, Queen, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Yes, Led Zeppelin, and free, among solo acts such as Bryan Adams. The collaboration revived the 1972 Deep Purple Staple, “Smoke On The Water“. Imagine Gilmour, Iommi and May lending out guitar parts for the song. It doesn’t get better than this.
The Beatles and Eric Clapton
George Harrison was just finding his bearings in songwriting when he proposed “While My Guitar Gently Weeps“, because Lennon and McCartney were so dominant in pitching in their ideas that nothing substantial was ever done. When Harrison was out with Clapton, he asked him if he wanted to play on the record, to which Clapton initially declined out of respect for the other members. He was finally brought in after some amount of coaxing, and helped a lot in finishing the track since the other members were slightly intimidated by the presence of a legend in their studio. Clapton is the only artist whose guitar work was featured in a Beatle record.
Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty
With Tom Petty and his band The Heartbreakers originally intending “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” to be their recording, it was handed on to Stevie Nicks when producer Jimmy Iovine, who worked for both artists, suggested to have Nicks sing with him. It was featured in Stevie Nicks’ solo debut album Bella Donna, and ranked 3rd on the Hot 100 charts. This paved the way for Nicks’ solo career after Fleetwood Mac.
Aerosmith and Run-DMC
With Aerosmith’s waning career in the spotlight by the late 1980’s was revitalized with hip-hop group Run-DMC’s cover of the 1975 Aerosmith hit “Walk This Way“. Run-DMC’s members did not even know who Aerosmith were at the time. While they didn’t like the concept of the remake initially, they eventually agreed. The revival of the track reached massive success, even doing better than that of the original composition, with it ranking higher on the charts. While purists may hate hip-hop and rap altogether, one cannot deny the image boost Aerosmith gained from this unlikely collaboration.
David Bowie and Mick Jagger
Another charity cause that allowed one of the most epic collaborations of rock history. Bowie and Jagger decided to record the hit cover of Martha and The Vandellas’ original recording, which was composed by Marvin Gaye with other known songwriters. This was due to the original plan of performing it at Live Aid, but with Bowie at Wembley and Jagger at Philadelphia, the satellite link would induce a delay for a live performance to successfully come through. Instead, the two studio recorded the song with a fun, energetic video of the two literally dancing down the street.
Another effect of the Live Aid phenomenon, Band Aid is a collaboration of artists like Bono, Phil Collins, George Michael, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, and Culture Club, among others. Headed by the Live Aid organizer and musician Bob Geldof, it became the most successful musical charity event to ever happen. The star-studded lineup is best known for their recording of the Christmas song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” The live performance of the song at the conclusion of the Live Aid concert featured most of the artists and bands that performed at the event.