A big fan of the feat., Bryget Chrisfield throws down five of her all-time fave examples of icons sprinkling their unique magic on tracks by banging artists. We’re sure you’ll agree that these collabs bring out the best of both worlds.
Leftfield feat. John Lydon, Open Up (1993)
“This is the record that people have always wanted Lydon to do,” is how the Sex Pistols/PiL lead singer’s collaboration with Leftfield was described around the time of this song’s release. But then in a cruel twist of fate, forest fires tore through Southern California – over 1,000 houses were destroyed (according to Lydon, his own LA home was at risk) and three people lost their lives – which resulted in Open Up receiving virtually no radioplay and the film clip effectively being banned from TV due to the song’s recurring “Burn Hollywood, burn” lyrics. Still, Open Up went on to become one of Leftfield’s biggest hit singles.
Lydon addressed the enforced censorship of Open Up during an interview: “The song in no way bears any relation to the catastrophe in California. It’s nothing to do with that. We worked hard putting this video together. We cared about the product. It’s damn upsetting to see things like that going on… Who are they to be purveyors of good taste? They’ve overstepped their mark. I find that bloody offensive. That’s what is offensive in this country. Not a song like this…”
Leftfield’s Neil Barnes recalls Lydon arriving at the studio with all of the lyrics penned – partly inspired by the punk icon missing out on a role he desired in a Hollywood film – and praised his professionalism.
“Open up! Make room for meeeeee!” Lydon’s delivery, complete with rolling ‘r’s, is perfection.
Lydon has always had issues with his sinuses. At age 7, he contracted meningitis from rat-infested Finsbury Park water and fell into a coma for seven months (he was hospitalised for a year). (Prioritise reading both of Lydon’s captivating memoirs: 1994’s Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs and 2014’s Anger Is An Energy: My Life Uncensored.) So while Leftfield’s studio engineer Adam Wren was grossed-out about the bucket Lydon had set up next to him in the studio (to spit into), excess phlegm is a hangover from this childhood illness. However we can totally sympathise with Wren, whose job it was to empty said bucket of loogies.
Be sure to wrap your ears around The Dust Brothers (Chemical Brothers before they were forced to change their name) remix. It would make the perfect soundtrack for Godzilla rampaging through the streets of Tokyo! Even though a version exists that’s over nine minutes long, as soon as it finishes, you’ll be like, “NOOOOOOooooooo!” Well, what are waiting for? Just hit repeat already!
And how are we only just discovering the cowbell-heavy, irate slice of musical genius that is Afrika Bambaata meets bassist/producer Bill Laswell feat. Lydon: World Destruction by Time Zone (1984)!? According to Bambaataa, they also recorded “a version where [Lydon] also cussed the Queen something terrible, which was never released.” No one comes close to Lydon in the batshit-crazy delivery stakes.
Propellerheads feat. Miss Shirley Bassey, History Repeating (1997)
Released just before Propellerheads put out their one and only album Decksanddrumsandrockandroll, this single hit #1 on the UK Dance Chart and also peaked at #10 on the US Dance Club Chart (Shirley Bassey’s first top ten appearance on any US chart since 1973).
The sneaky bass synth that opens this track is joined by what sounds like relentless egg shaker before jaunty drums, piano and bass join the (probably cocktail-dress-coded) party. Bassey’s powerhouse vocal absolutely dominates this track, which oozes class and drips with retro brass suave. Alex Gifford of Propellerheads wrote History Repeating with the Welsh legend in mind, about which Bassey hilariously shared during an interview: “He said he was asleep, and he thought about me, and these words came out. And I asked, what’s a 35-year-old man doing thinking about a grandmother? I couldn’t imagine.”
When Bassey heard the demo, she loved the song but thought it was a bit too rock’n’roll for her so suggested it might be better suited to Tina Turner. But The Propellerheads wouldn’t entertain the idea. Acknowledging that their “Bath hovel” would be unsuitable for Bassey, The Propellerheads “booked a London studio, got the champagne and roses in and wore [their] best shirts.” Within an hour, her brilliant vocal was captured and Bassey now performs this song in concert due to popular demand.
From the Decksanddrumsandrockandroll liner notes: “We would like to extend our maximum respect to Shirley Bassey for honouring us with her performance. We are still in shock…”
History Repeating also features on There’s Something About Mary‘s OST.
Gorillaz feat. Shaun Ryder, Dare (2005)
“It’s comin’ up, it’s comin’ up, it’s comin’ up, it’s comin’ up, it’s comin’ up, it’s comin’ up, it’s dare.”
According to Ryder, Dare‘s chorus lyrics came about while he was trying to get the correct volume through his cans during the studio session, with “dare” his Mancunian pronunciation of ‘there’ signalling his satisfaction. The track – written as a tribute to Madchester dance culture, featuring irresistible throbbing bass and euphoric synths – didn’t contain any lyrics at the time, so Damon Albarn instructed Ryder to freestyle. After ten minutes riffing what the Happy Mondays vocalist described during an interview as “a right load of gibberish bollocks”, Ryder concluded with “I never did no ‘arm,” and viola!
Taking over from Miho Hatori (Cibo Matto’s vocalist) – the voice of Nu-doru (the Japanese pronunciation for “Noodle”) on the band’s debut, self-titled set – Rosie Wilson (AKA Roses Gabor) sings the “You’ve got to press it on you…” parts, with 2D (Albarn’s blue-haired cartoon Gorillaz incarnation) also on BV duty.
Dare was the second single to be lifted from Gorillaz’ second studio album Demon Days, and peaked at #1 on the UK Singles Chart (the band’s only UK #1 to date). Do yourself a favour and check out the Soulwax remix as well, which expertly emphasises the chiptune-esque bleeps and will make you wish you could dance like Noodle does in the Dare film clip. Best news ever: we found a Noodle dance move tutorial on YouTube (see below)!
Fans of classic horror films will notice references littered throughout Dare‘s music video, in which Ryder’s ginormous noggin stars as a Frankenstein-esque dismembered head that’s powered to life by machinery inside Noodle’s wardrobe.
Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith, Not In Love (2010)
The version of Not In Love that appears on this emo Canadian electronic duo’s aptly titled second album, Crystal Castles (II), does not feature The Cure’s Robert Smith but rather what sounds like Alice Glass in full fembot mode (these vocals remain on the Smith version, twisted into taunting BVs that sound like voices in his head).
When CC released this song as the album’s third single, fans were surprised by the addition of Smith’s quivering vocal with its unparalleled emotive power. The added nostalgia of Smith’s contribution masterfully transports the listener back to their own version of first-love heartbreak hell – his delivery sounds so crestfallen you’d actually swear he walked in on this song’s ‘love interest’ in a post-coital embrace with his bestie/sibling: “‘Cause we were lovers/Now we can’t be friends/Fascination ends…” – Smith delivery of the word “fascination” sending a chill of recognition up our spines as well ’cause, you know, he led The Cure down Fascination Street (geek alert).
Have you ever felt so completely distraught that you just need to run, tears streaming down your face all the while? Smith repeatedly trying to convince himself “I’m NOT in lo-ove,” reflects similar-level devastation during choruses atop galloping synth lines that would perfectly soundtrack intergalactic warfare. Not In Love‘s arrangement also features beats that shatter like footsteps on ice.
This song is actually a cover version, but Crystal Castles’ version of Not In Love is waaaaaaay better than the OG (have you heard the original, released as a single in 1983 by Canadian new wavers Platinum Blonde? OOF!).
(Fun fact: Not In Love, performed by Lee Min-ki, appears on the OST for South Korean TV series Shut Up Flower Boy Band.)
Mark Ronson & The Business Intl. feat. Boy George, Somebody To Love Me (2010)
“I don’t wanna see you go, I want somebody to love me.
Why’d it take so long to know?
I want somebody to love me.
I want somebody to be nice, see the boy I once was in my eyes.
Nobody’s gonna save my life.”
Apart from Boy George’s trademark husky timbre, what makes this song so incredibly moving is how true the subject matter seems for George O’Dowd, whose life is punctuated by a couple of well-publicised, long-term secret love affairs. “It’s like when you hear Edith Piaf singing [Non] Je Ne Regrette Rien,” Ronson said of this song during an interview with Elizabeth Day back in 2010. “It’s knowing someone’s story as an outsider, knowing what they’ve been through and seeing that they’ve come out on top.”
The third single to be lifted from Mark Ronson’s third studio album Record Collection, Somebody To Love Me also features exquisitely compatible vocal contributions by Andrew Wyatt (Miike Snow). Instrumentation sounds like carnivale throughout; all Afrobeat rhythms and steel drums.
Diane Kruger does a cracking job starring as a young Boy George in the Saam Farahmand-directed film clip, which is shot in home-movie style complete with a date stamp at the beginning (“14.6.1982” – Boy George’s 21st birthday!).
Ronson’s aim going into the Somebody To Love Me sessions was to create a song along the lines of Culture Club’s Do You Really Want To Hurt Me, and one thing’s for sure: both of these stunning examples of Boy George’s wistful interpretive wizardry will get you up and dancing with tears in your eyes.