Paul McCartney: His 10 most unexpected collaborations

The legendary Beatle surprised the music world in 2015 by teaming up with hip-hop enfant terrible Kanye West. Maybe we shouldn’t have been so taken back by their pairing however – Macca’s got previous when it comes to collaborations few fans saw coming…

10 Kanye West – ‘Only One’ featuring Paul McCartney

If this time last year you told us that the gentle, grinning McCartney – now in his autumn years – would be soon pairing with an abrasive hip-hop antagonist who’s last album was a lean and loud dive into the darkness of corporate America, we’d have told you to get outta town. Which is why a lot of people struggled to compute the lullaby-like Rhodes ballad that emerged on NYE 2014 – an unabashedly saccharine charmer inspired by ‘Let It Be’ and sung by Yeezy from the ghostly perspective of his dead mother, passing her love onto his infant daughter.

9 Allen Ginsberg with Paul McCartney – ‘The Ballad Of The Skeleton’


At 70 years old and declining in health, revered beat poet Ginsberg sought out the Beatle to accompany him at the Royal Albert Hall for a recital of his chilling and thrilling ‘Ballad Of The Skeletons’. Macca dutifully stepped up, lending drums and guitar to Ginsberg’s telling of skeleton homophobes, Buddhas, governors and politicans. Satisfied with the collaboration, the New Yorker beamed afterwards: “It’s the closest I’m ever going to come to being in the Beatles.”

8 Super Furry Animals – ‘Receptacle For The Respectable’

You’ve got one of the great instrumentalists of a generation in the studio. Do you stick him on the piano with which he wrote ‘Hey Jude’? Or do you get him to orchestrate you a choir of sweeping vocal harmonies, like the one that lit up ‘Eleanor Rigby’? Maybe you simply pass him the bass with which he made his name and let him work his wonders? Welsh wizards SFA went another direction: enlisting Macca to chew celery and carrots percussively into a microphone. He’d done a similar job on the Beach Boys’ ‘Smiley Smile’ back in 1967, to which this was supposed to be a loving nod.

7 Linkin Park, Jay Z and Paul McCartney – ‘Encore / Numb / Yesterday’

At the 2006 Grammy Awards, Macca dropped in on Jay Z and Linkin Park as they plugged their strange-in-reflection mash-up album, emerging from backstage mid-song with his hand in his pocket and his shirt untucked, like a boss, to turn the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ into a clunky rap-metal curio. Not his most memorable moment of experimentation, put it that way.

6 Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear and Paul McCartney – ‘Cut Me Some Slack’


McCartney made history in 2012 when he brought back together the surviving members of Nirvana, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic plus part-time backing guitarist Pat Smear. Assembled by Grohl to record a song for his 2012 Sound City film, ‘Cut Me Some Slack’ was a breathless throwback both to the grunge pioneers’ searing best and rockier moments of Macca’s past like ‘Helter Skelter’, premiered at a Hurricane Sandy benefit in December 2012. The only person not impressed, seemingly, was Courtney Love, who balked at Macca’s description of it as a “Nirvana reunion.”

5 The Bloody Beetroots – ‘Out Of Sight’

When one Sir met another. In 2013 The Bloody Beetroots, aka Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo, enlisted The Fireman, made up of Macca and Killing Joke founder Youth, for a stadium-electro banger, featured on the Italian supremos’ second album ‘HIDE.’ The Beatle wasn’t the only collaborator on the album though: Rifo also enlisted Peter Frampton and Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee on a starry listen.

4 The Rolling Stones – ‘We Love You’

We’d all heard the rumours, bought into the rivalry. The Beatles disliked the Rolling Stones and vice versa, or so we were meant to be believe. But in 1967 the two legendary British bands proved reports of animosity wrong. McCartney and John Lennon both appeared on this Stones’ track, lending backing vocals. A week after the track was recorded Mick Jagger and Keith Richards attended the first live telecast of ‘All Your Need Is Love’ and sat at the feet of the Beatles singing along. Ain’t that nice.

3 Matt Berry – ‘Rain Came Down’ featuring Paul McCartney

Matt Berry, probably best known for his role as eccentric boss Douglas Reynholm in 2000s TV comedy The IT Crowd, is also a dab hand at prog and folk. McCartney joined Berry in 2009 to provide preposterous backing vocals for the baritoned actor’s ‘The Rain Came Down’, from his album ‘Witchazel.’ The result is so trippy you can almost taste the hallucinogens. Berry had previously recorded jams with fellow IT Crowder Richard Ayoade, and written music for Steve Coogan and Charlie Brooker.

2 Nitin Sawhney – ‘My Soul’

In 2008 McCartney threw cult British-Asian jazztronica sophisticate Nitin Sawhney into the spotlight with a loungey, lolling collaboration called ‘My Soul’ that arrived on the heels of a bitter divorce from Heather Mills. There was no sign of that bitterness here, however, as Macca wrapped his dulcet tones around lyrics about being “awakened by magic.” The former Beatle’s The Fireman material had been influenced by Sawhney’s remixes so naturally he was happy to team with the composer.

1 Eddie Murphy – ‘Yeah’

Eddie Murphy hasn’t always been an overweening egomaniac, playing every character in the room. For his third(!) album – 1993’s ‘Love’s Alright’ – he assembled a huge cast of guests to take the weight on hopeless opening slow jam ‘Yeah’, including Michael Jackson, Jon Bon Jovi, Stevie Wonder and our very own Paul McCartney. He also covered The Beatles’ ‘Good Day Sunshine’ to return the favour.

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