Paul McCartney’s stands alone as one of the greatest songwriters of all time – but he’s also worked with tons of artists big and small. The musical legend’s just announced a brand new UK tour for 2015 – he’ll play shows at The O2, London and Birmingham – so to celebrate we’re taking a look at his most unexpected collaborations..
We all performed a double-take when Paul McCartney started popping up on Kanye West and Rihanna records this year, but like a suspiciously chestnut-haired Zelig, Macca has appeared everywhere. There have been some predictable guest spots, with The Rolling Stones, say, or larking about with Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller as The Smokin' Mojo Filters, but here are 10 less likely collaborations.
In 1993, McCartney revealed there had always been a dance element to his music when he hooked up with on-off Killing Joke bassist, producer and occasional Orb member Youth to record electronic album 'Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest'. In reality, the reveal was slow as identities were hidden behind shady pseudonym The Fireman, but beans eventually spilled. There have been two albums since.
Maybe not so unexpected because Costello shares traits with John Lennon – acerbic lyrical style, erm, glasses – but their work together in 1989 (on Macca's 'Flowers In The Dirt' and Costello's 'Spike') was the first real, equal partnership McCartney had indulged in since The Beatles. "A lot of his post-Beatles' work is not to my taste," Costello told NME, but they rubbed along just fine.
Jazztronica/D&B artist (yes, that's the kind of thing the 90s gave us) Nitin Sawhney conceived his 2008 album 'London Undersound' as a hymn to the cultural diversity of the capital. The cue, then, for Macca – who had benefited from some of Sawhney's remix work as a member of The Fireman – to swoop in and deliver soppy ballad 'My Soul'. Of negligible benefit all round, really.
Where pseudonym meets pseudonym. The Bloody Beetroots are, of course, Italian DJ/producer/diehard punk Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo, and in 2013 the good sir enlisted The Fireman (Macca and Youth) for techno-rawk banger 'Out Of Sight' on his second album 'HIDE'. Other tracks boasted appearances from Peter Frampton and Mötley Crüe's Tommy Lee, which all adds up to an appalling idea.
Beat poet Ginsberg was looking for musicians to accompany his 1995 poem 'The Ballad Of The Skeletons' for a performance at the Royal Albert Hall, mentioned it in passing to Macca and the game was on. "It's the closest I'm going to ever come to being in the Beatles," said Ginsberg as McCartney added guitar and drums. Oh, and minimalist composer Philip Glass mucked in on pianner.
Dead by this point of course, McCartney turned up on US blues rockers The Steve Miller Band's 1969 single 'My Dark Hour' under his old pseudonym Paul Ramon. Miller was hanging out at the 'Get Back' sessions one day and when George Harrison went home (Lennon and Ringo hadn't showed), he and Macca just jammed it up, the great man providing bass, drums and backing vocals.
At the height of Brian Wilson's Beatles paranoia, McCartney actually appeared on The Beach Boys' 'Smiley Smile' (1967), providing percussion by chewing celery on 'Vegetables'. Super Furry Animals got him to reprise the feat by munching a combo of celery and carrots for 'Receptacle For The Respectable' on 2001's 'Rings Around The World'. He was "jolly keen," Gruff Rhys told the Daily Mirror.
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".
So McCartney was the "experimental Beatle" after all. Consequently, it maybe wasn't such a surprise that he'd work with ex-10cc sonic innovators and New Pop progenitors Godley & Creme, but his guest spot on their 1979 track 'Get Well Soon' came as Wings were drifting into the doldrums and his star was low. Perhaps this is what inspired the deathless, boundary-smashing 'Wonderful Christmastime'.
Alongside comedy, Matt Berry's also a dab hand at prog-folk, with five albums to his name. McCartney contributed backing vocals for 'Rain Came Down' on 2009's 'Witchazel'. McCartney will play The O2, London on Saturday May 23 - O2 Priority Tickets will be available from 10am on Saturday March 7 to 10am Monday March 9. Search 'O2 Priority Tickets'.