As you likely are aware Axl Rose, currently in the midst of a revival of the original Guns N’ Roses, recently offered to help hard rock band AC/DC finish their world tour. Frontman Brian Johnson abruptly had to pull out of the tour based on doctor’s orders or risk permanent and total hearing loss. This brought about Axl’s involvement with completing the tour. This pretty unlikely association of Rock Gods got us thinking about unlikely collaborations from the past, so here are five that come to mind which totally kick ass!
05. Deftones feat. Maynard James Keenan – “The Passenger” (2000)
– Perhaps not the most well-known rock collaboration of all time, but a classic in its own right. “The Passenger” wasn’t even a very well-known track upon the release of the Deftones’ 2001 epic White Pony. Maynard James Keenan has never been one for collaborations so seeing him on a Deftones track was without a doubt a huge treat.
The song sounds like typical Deftones at first with lead singer Chino Moreno’s soothing, dramatic vocals before you hear Maynard quietly interject. Things get quiet right before the chorus before the guitars and vocals absolutely explode with Maynard delivering some of his best vocals ever. The chorus is absolutely electrifying and will have you yelling along “roll the window down, this cool night air is curious.” This honestly is one of the sickest choruses I’ve ever heard.
04. Filter feat. The Crystal Method – “Can’t You Trip Like I Do” (1997)
– The hard rock band Filter with an electronica duo? Not necessarily the most expected collaboration, but the results were quite splendid. “Can’t You Trip Like I Do” is the opening song on the 1997 film Spawn’s soundtrack and was a reworked version of “Trip Like I Do” from The Crystal Method’s debut record Vegas.
What’s great about this song is that it doesn’t even sound like two different artists blending their sounds and styles. Filter lead singer Richard Patrick’s vocals sound so fitting over the electronic sounds of the Crystal Method that you would think this was a band. The track also features some awesome lyrics from Patrick including “I’ve got the understanding of a four year old,” and “I’ve got the rationale of a New York cop.” Are New York cops really that irrational?
03. Public Enemy feat. Anthrax – “Bring The Noise” (1991)
– Back when this version of “Bring The Noise” came out in 1991, it was bordering on revolutionary to see a collaboration between a metal and a hip-hop artist. Today we don’t even react when we hear about yet another rap and rock artist getting together, but in these days this was groundbreaking stuff. The song was originally a Public Enemy track released in 1987 and while it’s a solid song in its own right, you’ll probably never want to listen to that version after hearing the thrash metal prowess of Anthrax backing up Chuck D.
The guitars just fit so well with Chuck D’s infectious rhymes, backed up as per usual by Flava Flav. Not only is “Bring The Noise” a great song in its own right, but it meant a lot for the emergence of hard rock and nu metal bands that would come along a decade later. It showed how two completely different artists could collaborate and deliver something that mainstream radio stations would put into regular rotation, something that happens all the time in this day and age.
02. David Bowie feat. Trent Reznor- “I’m Afraid of Americans (V1) Remix” (1997)
– While David Bowie will always be remembered for his legendary contributions to glam rock and popular music in general, his 1997 album Earthling perhaps best illustrated his ability to evolve and embrace new musical influences. Earthling leaned towards industrial rock and drum n’ bass influences which had become so popular in the mid to late 1990s in Britain and parts of the U.S. Trent Reznor had become an international rock sensation after the success of 1994’s industrial masterpiece The Downward Spiral which helped bring about a collaboration on a remix of the Earthling track “I’m Afraid of Americans.”
It’s little wonder why the V1 remix became more popular than the original album version since it’s a signature Reznor production complete with chainsaw guitars and an eeriness that only Reznor could create. What’s more is that the song’s music video matches its oddness with Bowie being stalked through New York City by a hostile American played by Reznor. Total perfection all around.
01. Temple of the Dog feat. Eddie Vedder- “Hunger Strike” (1991)
– This one just goes without saying. It’s a bit of a slower, more melodic song, but hearing Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder on the same track would make any grunge fan want to cream his own pants. Now 25 years past its original release, the song stands out as something of a precious gem of ‘90s alternative rock. It’s the only song that ever brought Cornell and Vedder together at the same time and it makes you wonder what it would have been like if these two legends ever got the chance to collaborate again.
What’s great about “Hunger Strike” is how well the two singers feed off of each other and how their different singing styles complement one another’s voice. If only we could have heard more duets like this back in the heyday of ’90s alternative. Layne and Kurt? We can always dream…