Whatever Happened to Random Duets?
Whatever happened to random duets? Back in the day they were par for the course. In the 80s we were accustomed to such sights as Mick Jagger bouncing around the streets with David Bowie, as well as the unholy union of Janet Jackson and Cliff Richard. The 90s saw the oddity of Glasgow pop rockers Texas teaming up with the Wu-Tang’s Method Man, and other such mismatched showings, but recently apart from the head-scratching pairing of Sting & Shaggy, random duets have been few and far between.
It was also a trend at the movies too, whether it was Danny DeVito and Arnie or Danny Glover rocking around with Mel Gibson in the Lethal Weapon series, teaming up a couple of big stars was big business once upon a time. That being said we’ve put the focus on duets from down the years, that on paper look like madness, but can often be the epitome of radness.
Morrissey and Siouxie Sioux – Interlude (1994)
We start with a genuine hidden gem in the random duets cannon. The perma-quiffed singer Morrissey teamed up with the alt-rock goddess, and Banshees lead singer Siouxsie Sioux for this gorgeous 1994 ballad. The pair fell out soon after the recording session over content for the single’s music video, so they only ever collaborated once, which is a genuine shame as if Interlude is anything to go by this duo could have made lots of sweet music together.
Eddie Vedder & Chris Cornell (Temple of the Dog) – Hunger Strike (1991)
Although it doesn’t seem too crazy to pair together a couple of future grunge icons we still wouldn’t have expected Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell to blast out a 90s classic if we hadn’t heard it ourselves. Grunge supergroup Temple of the Dog was made up of members of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Mother Love Bone as a tribute to MLB’s late lead singer Andrew Wood. The band recorded one lone fantastic album and in the song Hunger Strike they created a duet for the ages with Cornell’s high notes and Vedder’s lows making for a memorable duet.
Nick Cave & Kylie – Where the Wild Roses Grow (1995)
Eyebrows were raised when dark Aussie rocker Nick Cave and his band the Bad Seeds joined forces with fellow antipodean and all-round perfect pop princess Kylie on the 1995 lovesick ballad Where the Wild Roses Grow. But in our eyes and ears at least we think it’s a match made in heaven. You’d have thought a musical conversation between a murderer and his victim might be a hard sell but the song charted highly, reaching the top 20 in the UK. You can’t force chemistry between artists, an essential element to a successful duet and this pair happen to have plenty of it, randomly.
Bone Thugs N Harmony and Phil Collins – Home (2002)
Now, this is definitely one even Nostradamus couldn’t have seen coming. In 2002 rap unit Bone Thugs-N-Harmony of Crossroads fame reworked Phil Collins’ 1985 song Take Me Home to create Home, sampling the former Genesis man. He even appeared in the music vid for it filmed in Geneva where he plays a spiritual guide to the Bone Thugs boys. There wasn’t much love for the song stateside, but it was a different story in the UK leading the band dubbing Phil ‘Chrome Bone’ and making the star an honorary member of the rap group.
The Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield – What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1987)
Legendary 60s singer Dusty Springfield hadn’t had a sniff of chart success in fifteen years till super fan and Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant asked her to duet with him on What Have I Done To Deserve This? The rest was history with a no.2 position in the UK & US which reignited the public’s interest in Dusty, reinvigorating her career. Despite the song’s odd structure and lyrics recounting a gloomy lost love affair, this stands as one of the greatest duets of all time.
Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash – Girl From the North Country (1969)
Two of the greatest musicians ever to have walked the earth, one a folk god, the other a country legend, but you wouldn’t necessarily expect a duet between Dylan and Cash to be musical magic, yet Girl From the North Country is just that. The pair only recorded together on one occasion, a two-day session that began on Feb. 17, 1969, where they taped 15 songs. The session was said to be fairly loose and unrehearsed with not all the songs gelling in the right way, apart that is from Dylan’s song originally released on his 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, which he performed with Cash turning it into an instant classic.
Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé – Barcelona (1987)
Queen star Freddie was a big fan of opera, especially Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé. When she was tasked with recording an anthem to the 1992 Olympics in her hometown of Barcelona she reached out to Mercury who was delighted to work with the singer he admired so much. The collaboration spawned one of the most rousing anthems ever recorded, a song that helped those particular Olympics go down in the annals of history as truly great.
Happy Mondays and Karl Denver – Lazyitis (1990)
On paper, this should never have worked and in fact, it didn’t. Lazyitis is the very definition when talking random duets. A jumbled mess featuring a mature Scottish yodeler and a narcotics fueled Happy Monday’s frontman, the song was a reworking of The Beatles’ Ticket To Ride and made the top fifty, but that may have been benevolent work from the general public. Another sign that some people shouldn’t collaborate, Denver got pneumonia while recording the video on the soaking wet set.
What are your favourite random duets? Let us know in the comments.