Are they a guest, special guest, mate of the bloke or auxiliary member? Featuring, with or and? Here’s a list of 15 obvious, obscure, known and unknown examples of benevolence, fortune or circumstance.
Sandy Denny The Battle of Evermore (Led Zeppelin).
Folk siren Denny (Fairport Convention, Fotheringay) does what she’s renowned for on this track (ethereal musings for Fantasia) from Led Zeppelin IV (aka Four Symbols). Like other Zeppelin songs it drew inspiration from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The song is a mystical and magical combination of Plant and Denny’s distinct voices and also displayed the band’s virtuosity. Denny died in 1978 at the age of 31 from what was diagnosed as a brain haemorrhage following a fall two weeks earlier.
Eric Clapton ‘While my guitar gently weeps’ (The Beatles)
Guitar ‘God’ Clapton played uncredited on this song from 1968’s ‘The White Album’. Having become firm friends with George Harrison the pair would forever be entwined (and their friendship undimmed) by their mutual passion for Harrison’s wife Patti Boyd. Putting the swinging into the 60s, Harrison’s wife became the long-standing object of a besotted Clapton later recorded in the songs, ‘Layla’ and ’Wonderful Tonight’
If any piece of guitar music can be termed onomatopoeic then arguably it is this. Clapton wrenches the sounds of wailing, bawling and (yes) weeping out of his instrument without sounding masturbatory.
George Harrison Badge (Cream)
The ‘Quiet Beatle’ (unless a-wooing, fnar fnar) co-wrote and played guitar on this 1969 album track and single from power-rock-trio Cream consisting of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and the notorious Ginger Baker. The title comes from the possibly apocryphal story about Clapton being unable to read Harrison’s writing; seeing ‘badge’ instead of ‘bridge’. Due to Harrison’s moonlighting from the Fabs he was credited as L’Angelo Misterioso.
Latetia Sadier To the End (Blur)
Breathy, sultry chanteuse Sadier provided the backing vocals on Blur’s second single from 1994’s career-changing ‘Parklife’. Sadier is more well-known for spearheading Franglo post-rock group Stereolab from 1992 to 2010 releasing ten albums in the process. The group frequently infused their work with intellectual and avant-garde ideas from the Situationist and Surrealist movements and frequently collaborated with bands such as Tortoise and Nurse with Wound. The song was re-recorded a year later with French ye-ye icon Francoise Hardy.
Robert Calvert ‘Stranger in a strange land’ (Adrian Wagner)
Erstwhile Hawkwind singer, poet, lyricist (co-writer of ‘Silver Machine’) and agent provocateur Calvert sang on Adrian (descendent of Richard) Wagner’s 1974 album ‘Distances between us’. A contemporary of science-fiction author Michael Moorcock Calvert was inspired by Robert Heinlein’s book of the same name, a tale of a Martian who arrives on Earth and his struggles in assimilation and indifference. Not a UKIP anthem.
Calvert also worked with Brian Eno, Arthur Brown and Vivian Stanshall; all iconoclastic British characters in their own right. He died from a heart attack in 1988 at the age of 43.
Johnny Marr ‘The Right Stuff’ (Bryan Ferry)
Possibly one of Marr’s extra-curricular contributions that so irked Morrissey. Released following The Smiths’ split in August 1987 Marr adapted B Side ‘Money Changes Everything’ for this track off Ferry’s album ‘Bete Noire’. Its production a louche, 80s-fied close-cousin of the Manchester band’s existential paean to loneliness and despair ‘How Soon is Now?’
Before forming Electronic with Bernard Sumner in 1988 Marr would also guest on recordings for The Pretenders and Talking Heads and also become a member of The The.
Nik Kershaw ‘Sometimes’ (Les Rythmes Digitales)
Eighties pop sensation and ‘teen idol’ Kershaw guested on this 1999 song by 80s fetishist Jacques Le Cont’s critically and commercially ignored ‘Darkdancer’ album (back when the 80s were still a derided decade). Inspired by the Human League’s ‘Love Action (I believe in love)’ Le Cont felt it would have been too obvious getting Phil Oakey to sing, preferring the wrongly perceived ‘naffness’ of Kershaw.
Kershaw also penned Chesney Hawkes’ hit ‘The one and only’ in 1991.
Laura Marling ‘Suspicious Eyes’ (The Rakes)
Prior to her Earth-bestriding success waif ingénue Marling guested on this song from The Rakes’ second album 2007’s ‘Ten New Messages’; the song brilliantly capturing the orchestrated and cynically fostered paranoia and unease following 9/11 and the subsequent ‘War on Terror’. Bush’s ‘Be fearful, distrust, especially if they look and talk differently’. The Orwellian ‘2+2=5’ here listed as ‘Black/Brown=Muslim=Terrorist. Divide and conquer perfectly encapsulated in less than 3 minutes.
Dusty Springfield ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ (Pet Shop Boys)
Arguably the epitome of the ‘blue-eyed soul singer’ Springfield sang on this cut from 1987’s ‘Actually’ resurrecting her career after two decades in the critical and commercial wilderness. This is a very different Dusty from her Memphis days, looking like Shirley Carter on ‘Date Night’ at The Vic she is hardened, more reflective, her kohl daubed eyes now a symbol of power not a mask hiding her heartache. She is back.
In 1989 the duo also wrote and produced ‘Nothing has been proved’ for her which featured on the Scandal soundtrack (about the Profumo affair) and ‘In Private’ her final chart hit.
Jean-Jacques Burnel ‘You better believe me’ (Celia and the Mutations)
The distinctive and pioneering bass line of Burnel graces this chugging punk track evocative of his parent group The Stranglers. Slightly cheating with this one as the ‘Mutations’ were actually The Men in Black moonlighting as Celia Gollin’s short lived backing band. Gollin had previously sung vocals on ‘Ensemble Pieces’ a classical music album released on Brian Eno’s label in 1975.
Burnel has consistently had input into numerous groups over the years whether playing or producing (e.g. Taxi Girl, Fool’s Dance)
John Lydon ‘Open Up’ (Leftfield)
Ex-Pistol and autonomous public image controller Lydon adds his idiosyncratic sneer to this Nostradamus-like attack on Hollywood, it’s ‘Burn Hollywood Burn’ refrain foreseeing the raging blazes that hit forests in California shortly after the single’s release in November 1993. The song and video achieved notoriety and censorship as if it was to blame; right up Lydon’s freeway, it might be said. ‘Leftism’ would signal a new era of dance music.
David Bowie ‘Neighbourhood Threat’ (Lust for Life)
Arch poly-math, Starman and Thin White Duke Bowie co-produced, co-wrote and played piano on all but one of the songs on Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ LP in 1977. Essentially a Bowie album with Pop on vocals, Carlos Alomar’s spirally guitar echoing Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Don’t fear the reaper’ creating an air of suffocation and the gloomy air of Berlin is latent. The song and album are emblematic of a time when both artists were struggling with serious addictions.
Bowie would later cover his own co-write on 1984’s ‘Tonight’. He was prone to doing this (possibly) as a way of supplementing Pop’s wayward lifestyle.
Michael Jackson ‘Somebody’s watching me’ (Rockwell)
Rockwell is the son of Berry Gordy, the Motown supremo, who originally dismissed the song until he heard the unmistakable voice of the late ‘King of Pop’ on the chorus thus seeing $galore in his midst. It’s a familiar and ever more prescient tale of paranoia, being watched ,followed and monitored by government institutions, the man next door even the postman and a precursor to Jackson’s ‘Leave me alone’ in 1989.
Rockwell’s subsequent releases missed pay dirt. The Man seemingly got him.
Donovan ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ (Alice Cooper)
Hurdy Gurdy Man Donovan, folk fellow and acoustic artisan swaps attempting to catch the wind and wooing Jennifer Juniper to guest on this song from Alice Cooper’s (as a band; ‘Cooper’ went solo following this release) final album in 1973. Donovan’s star had waned so this unlikely duet afforded him some cultural cache and stopped the Dylan comparisons for a short while at least. Eat that document, Zimmerman!
(Sir) Mick Jagger ‘You’re so vain’ (Carly Simon)
Who is Carly singing about? The easy money’s (still) on Warren Beatty, but the rumours persist 40 years on. Narcissistic, unashamed philanderer and close friend to MI5 employees, the thick plottens …
Come on, Carly no one’s THAT interested anymore. And who is that on background duties? Why, it’s none other than Knight of the Realm, former scourge of polite society with his Thames Estuary drawl throwing his hat into the ring, Rolling Stone Mick Jagger doing his best Stella Street impression of himself. Wow, meta.