Beethoven and David Bowie. Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson. Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young and Pitbull. Who hasn't dreamed of their favorite musicians teaming up and making the greatest music mankind has ever paid $1.99 for in the iTunes store? Alas, most of these supergroups will never actually exist -- but some have gotten closer than others. The history of music is filled with legendary musicians almost coming together only to fall at the last hurdle, usually because one of them was just feeling super lazy. For example...
There are supergroups and then there are could-actually-rule-the-galaxy-groups. In 1969, three of the greatest musicians who have ever wandered the earth were poised to come together and make mythical music. But cruel fate would stop them from actually reaching groovy critical mass, taking the form of an overly long vacation in Scotland.
In 1969, Miles Davis (the legendary jazz musician) and Jimi Hendrix (the legendary Jimi Hendrix) had plans to record an album together. For over a year, Davis and Hendrix had been jamming together in an apartment before getting serious about forming a group.
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They already had a drummer in jazz genius (and Davis' bandmate) Tony Williams, so all they needed was a bassist. Hendrix proposed asking Paul McCartney to join them -- because if you're Jimi Hendrix, you have the power to snap your fingers and summon a Beatle like he's a genie in a submarine-shaped bottle.
In order to get McCartney on board, the trio sent out a telegram asking Paul if he might be gracious enough to put in an appearance in the recording studio.
Hendrix and Davis received a swift answer from The Beatles' personal assistant regretfully informing the duo that Paul was on vacation in Scotland. And that was it. They never heard from McCartney or anyone in his camp after that. Though Hendrix and Davis were still serious about logging some studio time, the project hit a lull after McCartney's snub. Hendrix died not soon after in September of 1970, forever robbing the world of a bunch of awkward looks between him and McCartney as the latter tried to pretend he never got his message at some red carpet event.
Sometime around 1969, producer Glyn Johns had the ambitiously ill-fated idea of having The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan on the same album -- because the late '60s was a period when all of those people famously had a lot of time to kill. Johns had the whole thing planned out, too. He would take all the best material from each group, have them compete for best rhythm section, and then have the winners perform that song on the album -- which makes us wonder why The Hunger Games couldn't just have been that?
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According to Johns, quite a few members were down with the elaborate project/musical death match, but in the end bigger egos prevailed:
"Keith and George thought it was fantastic. But they would, since they were both huge Dylan fans. Ringo, Charlie, and Bill were amicable to the idea as long as everyone else was interested. John didn't say a flat no, but he wasn't that interested. Paul and Mick both said absolutely not."
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And that was that. Three of the world's most intensely popular bands wound up not changing history for the same reason no one has ever managed to organize a successful Doodle event.
Hey, did you know Madonna and Michael Jackson used to date?
In 1991, Michael and Madonna had been wanting to collaborate on an album for a short while, so they did what any sane performer would do and started pseudo-dating. The couple would arrange dinner dates, watch movies together, and at one point even attended the Oscars as each other's dates. They were just "being silly," as Madge puts it -- "silly" being what famous artists think of conventional relationships.
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Madonna claimed that their sort-of romance was necessary for the two artists to get to know each other before they jumped into recording an album. According to her, "To write songs together is a very intimate experience," and apparently after you have survived the Darwinian slaughter that is early relationships you are strong enough as two people to sit in a booth together and sing into a microphone.
Ironically, it seemed that Madonna's intensity was exactly why the whole thing fell apart. According to Jackson, Madonna was too demanding and would attempt to dictate where they would go on dates, which would lead to a debate over whether or not the couple would visit Disneyland together, which was absolutely a deal-breaker for Jackson. Then, when the collaboration had finally started, Jackson balked at Madge's risque lyrics, preferring a love song or ballad over her traditionally sexy tunes, and ducked out of the project after a meeting with the pop star left him feeling anxious. Michael admitted that Madonna scared him, and the album was scrapped completely.
But there was another performer whose collaboration with Madonna would have arguably been just as amazing -- Prince. And you can bet your ass the bendy sex-gnome wasn't afraid of some risque lyrics. After joining forces on a couple of songs, Madonna's manager had the brilliant idea to send the pair on a world tour. But after being approached with the idea, Prince graciously turned it down citing concern for the world's mental health, claiming that the planet just wasn't ready to cope with their simultaneous greatness. You may recognize this as being both Prince-Speak for "I don't feel like doing that," and a thing that he earnestly believed.
Metallica have enjoyed a storied career of playing amazing metal that graduated into boring dad rock, and part of the reason for their success is that they have always been very business-minded. Too business-minded for the crazy antics of iconic Primus bassist (and the guy who sings the South Park theme) Les Claypool, at least, who once upon a time was a hair's breadth away from becoming the band's newest member.
When Metallica was looking for a new bassist after the tragic death of Cliff Burton, guitarist Kirk Hammett suggested his old high school buddy Claypool try out for the vacant position.
But when Claypool was approached, he wasn't really all that interested. Claypool later claimed to have had no idea just how big Metallica actually was, despite the fact that this took place in 1986, the year Metallica's album Master Of Puppets was released (AKA the year that everyone knew who Metallica was). But to the legendary bassist, the group was simply his "buddy Kirk's band," which might be why he showed up to the audition dressed like an at-risk teen, strolling in wearing skater pants and two different-colored shoes, and sporting a blond mohawk. Although for Claypool, this was a conservative "job interview" outfit.
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While Claypool showed up looking like he was really into Pac-Man and NOFX, Metallica's boys were decked out in black and taking this session as seriously as an anti-piracy lawsuit. Claypool claimed that vibe was too much for him, and that he just didn't gel with the band. However, Metallica's frontman James Hetfield gave a much kinder reason for Claypool's failed audition: Claypool was just too good. Either way, Claypool's style certainly didn't mesh with Metallica's, and we were forever robbed of one of the most bizarre metal albums ever recorded.
Most rock bands have a higher member turnover rate than your local McDonald's. Sometimes they hire new members and soldier on, but other times they break up, either out of respect or because they can't find enough warm bodies to shove into the back of a van. When both Yes and Led Zeppelin suffered this problem at about the same time, band members from both sides decided to do something radical: take the remaining members of both bands and form a new Frankensteinian supergroup.
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Though a seminal band in the '70s, Yes had fallen apart by the '80s, mainly due to the departures of frontman Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman. One day, Yes bassist Chris Squire bumped into the legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page at a Christmas party. Squire quickly found himself consoling a grieving Page over the death of his drummer John Bonham. Both of them missed the glory days, so he suggested that the remaining members of the two bands ought to come together and write an album. Page not only agreed, but went one step further and proposed that the collaboration would spawn a whole new band, called XYZ -- which is short for Ex-Yes/Zeppelin, and a terrible name.
The band did actually get as far as writing and jamming out to a few songs, and even got a few demos under their belt, but as so frequently happens with young musicians, reality got in the way of their dream. First, Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant backed out of the collaboration because he thought the music was too "complicated." Then, the managers of the respective groups started bickering over who should become head honcho of the new band. With that, the whole project simply petered out. Eventually, Squire did reunite with some of his former Yes bandmates (not Wakeman or Anderson, though) in a new band called Cinema, but nobody cared.
In 1997, country star and occasional actor Dwight Yoakam met David Bowie, and the pair got to talking about their mutual love for Elvis Presley, which, despite being a music legend, is generally not a person you expect to find yourself talking about while locked in conversation with David Bowie. As Yoakam tells it, Bowie related a story from 20 years prior, when Elvis had approached him to produce his upcoming album. This happened in 1976, when Bowie had just released "Golden Years," a song he'd originally intended to ask Elvis to record. But legend has it that when Bowie asked his then-wife Angie to deliver the request, Angie got so nervous about meeting the rock 'n' roll legend that she chickened out and never delivered the message.
However, dreams can still come true, especially when you're David Bowie. In the winter of '77, Bowie received a phone call from Elvis himself. He had heard Bowie's latest hit, "Golden Years," and was apparently so blown away by it he wanted the pop icon to produce his next album. However, because the universe was not satisfied by the current level of irony present in this interaction, Elvis died of a toilet-induced heart attack that same summer, and the two never got to work together.
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However, many critics have speculated that the Duke's last album, Black Star, was a tribute to Presley, who had a little-known song of the same name. So maybe they'll do some kind of ghost collaboration, which would be an absolute treat to listen to.
For decades after they had hung up their guitars and lopped off those moptops, fans would continue to beg The Beatles to reunite. The Brits would come close on multiple occasions, but the reunion would always fall through for one reason or another (looking at you, McCartney). But on a fateful Saturday night in 1976, John Lennon and Paul McCartney let an opportunity pass them by that would have shredded the minds of music fans everywhere, for no other reason than they decided to call it an early night.
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Lennon and McCartney were hanging out in New York City when, serendipitously, they turned on the TV to see Lorne Michaels addressing them directly during an episode of Saturday Night Live. Michaels offered the Beatles $3,000 if they would come down to the studio and perform together one last time. Lennon was immediately taken with the idea and began to pressure McCartney into the reunion, trying to persuade him with the possibility of earning $1,500 -- which was about as much money as McCartney was earning in royalties just by sitting there on Lennon's couch. According to both band members, they were less than two miles away from the studio and could have easily walked down to the biggest reunion in music history.
But it was pretty late, and they were both kind of tired, so they eventually decided against it for no other reason than they ultimately just felt like staying in (and hey, we've all been there). They wound up just hanging out at John's house, and the world missed out on the most iconic musical moment/mediocre comedy improv scene ever.
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Behind every awful movie is the idea for a good one. Old man Indiana Jones discovers aliens. Good in theory, bad in practice. Batman fights Superman. So simple, but so bad. Are there good translations of these movies hidden within the stinking turds that saw the light of day? Jack O'Brien hosts Soren Bowie, Daniel O'Brien, and Katie Willert of 'After Hours' on our next live podcast to find an answer as they discuss their ideal versions of flops, reboots, and remakes. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased here!
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