‘Over my dead body’ is an expression you’ll be familiar with, and in entertainment sometimes everybody has to be dead before what seemed like a bad idea suddenly looks like a very good idea indeed. Freddie Mercury & Michael Jackson duets recorded over a six hour session at Neverland in 1983 are soon to get a release (after being brushed up by Roger Taylor and Brian May with the help of William Orbit). With both singers departed, who’s going to object? No matter that the pair saw no reason to release it in life or that Mercury was apparently terrified of the King of Pop’s llamas, it’s a curio that refuses to lay still in the ground.
The good will out – and so will the mediocre if there’s a buck to be made. So with that cheery thought in mind, here are the products of seven collaborations that didn’t or still haven’t seen the light of day…
It was during Oasis’ career purple patch that Evan Dando decided to put ‘Purple Parallelogram’ on his Lemonheads album ‘Car Button Cloth’, a track allegedly written by himself and one Mr. Noel Gallagher while the pair were partying at a festival in the Netherlands. Sony had other ideas and asked that the song be removed from the group’s new album, given that a fairly sozzled Gallagher had barely any recollection of his contribution. A source at Atlantic at the time put a different spin on it, telling MTV: “Noel and Evan just decided that they didn’t really like the song that much and that they wanted to re-work it a little and not release it yet.” The song has since seen the light of day, though with none of the white hot interest that would have threatened to set the world alight in 1995.
In 1985 Phil Collins was on top of the world – quite literally in fact – the Brit Award winning singer and one third of Genesis took a concorde from London to Philadelphia in order to perform at Live Aid on both sides of the Atlantic. In Philly, Collins was to perform with the remaining members of Led Zeppelin, who’d not played together publically since the death of John Bonham in 1980. No pressure then. Jimmy Page has since been critical of Collins claiming he was under-rehearsed and called the show itself ‘pretty shambolic’, and Led Zeppelin have never allowed footage of the charity event be shown again, despite it being, you know, a charity event. Phil has been known to fire off the odd barbed comment too. You can judge for yourself here (and judging by the quality, one assumes this was ripped straight from someone’s VHS.)
It may come as a surprise to some that Tupac Shakur and MC Hammer were tight, and that Hammer recorded an album ‘Too Tight’ for Death Row Records, though the record itself never came out in the year he was signed to Suge Knight’s label (or subsequently). Many of the tracks are said to feature Tupac, who it’s believed was trying to help Hammer revive his career after the former megastar’s 1995 album ‘Inside Out’ peaked at 119 in the Billboard Charts. ‘Unconditional Love’ – a track written for Hammer originally – came out posthumously as a 2Pac song from a demo he’d recorded previously. Hammer left Death Row soon after his pal Shakur’s death.
If it hadn’t been for The Travelling Wilburys then news of unreleased collaborations between Bob Dylan and a Beatle might have been bigger news. The tracks themselves actually predate the slightly fusty 80s supergroup, having been recorded by George Harrison and Dylan in 1970, presumably soon after the Fab Four split. It seems sessions between the pair were fairly intensive, with Dylan taking a writing credit on a few of the songs on George’s debut ‘All Things Must Pass’, including the title track. Further dalliances between them will soon appear on Bob’s forthcoming ‘The Bootleg Series Vol. 10’, which will include 35 rarities and previously unreleased material recorded by Dylan between 1969 and 1971.
As two of Northwest England’s brightest stars of the 80s, it made sense that Ian McCulloch of Echo and the Bunnymen and Johnny Marr of the Smiths worked together in the 90s. In fact serial collaborator Marr had already worked with Bernard Sumner, The Pretenders and The The so it was only a matter of time before he creatively bumped ugly with someone from the Bunnymen. So enamoured was McCulloch with the results that he brought his erstwhile guitarist Will Sergeant in on the sessions. Then, calamity. The masters were apparently stolen from a courier’s van during a roadside heist! McCulloch and Sergeant rekindled their working relationship – forming Electrafixion and then reforming the Bunnymen – though the product of Marr and McCulloch’s toils remain unreleased. Rumour has it one of the songs ended up becoming England’s 1998 World Cup song ‘Top of the World’ performed by McCulloch and the Spice Girls.
During a brief affair between the French crooner Serge Gainsbourg and the world’s most famous sex symbol at that time, Brigitte Bardot, the latter famously asked the former to write her “the most beautiful song you can imagine”. Rising to the challenge, Serge wrote not one song but two, ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and ‘Je T’Aime… mon non plus’, and swiftly recorded them with the actress and chanteuse. Bardot liked ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ , though she got cold feet where ‘Je T’Aime’ – a track with heavy breathing simulating you know what – was concerned, and asked that it not be released out of respect to her then husband, German playboy Gunter Sachs (the version didn’t see the light of day until 1986). The story goes that Gainsbourg then asked a number of people to record it with him, including his friend Marianne Faithfull, before he met Jane Birkin on the set of the movie Slogan. The pair’s rendition would scandalise Europe in ‘69 and precipitate an early 70’s baby boom.
Lady Gaga’s return will be one of the pop events of the year, and names involved that have been dropped so far include Azealia Banks (on two tracks apparently) and contemporary artists Jeff Koons and Marina Abramovic. One unlucky collaborator, Cher, didn’t make the cut. The song the 67-year-old recorded with Gaga – ‘The Greatest Thing’ – won’t be appearing either on ‘Artpop’ or Cher’s new album ‘Closer To The Truth’, leading one to suspect it’s not the greatest thing after all. “It’s done & she doesn’t like it or want it to come out,” Cher responded to a fan’s enquiry recently on Twitter. “She’s an artist, it’s up to her. I’m disappointed 2”. For those wondering, ‘I’m Disappointed 2’ isn’t a sequel, it’s just text speak. Which makes the whole sorry debacle just that little bit more tragic, don’t you think?