Can you imagine Dame Vera Lynn duetting with Marilyn Manson? Or Tom Cruise doing a monologue on a Slayer album? No, nor can we. But while these collaborations might be in the realm of fantasy, there are some surprising ones which have happened. Metal bands have recorded songs featuring an American president, a highly respected scientist and a bona fide horror icon.
Here are a 10 instances when some surprising personalities have guested on albums. Who knows? Maybe Vera Lynn is being lined up right now…
Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful (with Professor Richard Dawkins)
Last year, the Finnish symphonic metalheads got in the distinguished evolutionary biologist Prof. Richard Dawkins to do two spoken work pieces on the tracks Shudder Before The Beautiful and The Greatest Show On Earth. Dawkins, the author of the acclaimed book The Selfish Gene, is a hero for Nightwish leader Tuomas Holopainen, and much of the album was inspired by his views on nature. Dawkins himself admits he’s an avowed classical music fan, and had never heard of Nightwish before being asked to appear on the album, but he seemed to have enjoyed the experience enough to agree to do a guest spot with the band at Wembley Arena in 2015.
Twisted Sister - Come Out And Play (with Billy Joel)
Listen to Be Chrool to Your Scuel. The man siddling through the piano part is none other than Billy Joel. Yes, the man who has spent the last few decades building up his image as a squeaky clean MOR master, someone who appeals to housewives in the way that Barry Manilow does. But he does have a deep, dark secret. Because in his early days, before his marriage to supermodel Christie Brinkley, he was in a metal band called Attila. So, guesting with the Twisted ones was really a return to his roots. “We knew him from Long Island,” Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Snider said at the time. “So, we just asked him if he’d do it, and you know what? Billy loved the session!”
Korn – Follow The Leader (with Cheech Marin)
It’s hard to believe that a band would team up with an actor known these days for his roles in The Lion King and Beverly Hills Chihuahua, but that’s what Korn did as Cheech Marin appeared on the hidden track Earache My Eye. Actually, Cheech came to prominence in the ‘70s as part of the comedy duo Cheech & Chong, who were viewed as cult heroes of the counter culture at the time; inevitably, they were very closely associated with rock’n’roll. This track was originally recorded by the pair in 1974, when it caused outrage because of its alleged celebration of drug culture and rebellious behaviour. So maybe it was a logical song for Korn to cover, with Marin guesting.
Cradle Of Filth – Cruelty And The Beast (with Ingrid Pitt)
In 1998, Cradle Of Filth made a concept album based on the life of the infamous Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who slaughtered virgins and bathed in their blood. The story of this 16th century Hungarian killer was filmed in 1971 as Countess Dracula, with scream queen Ingrid Pitt in the title role. So, obviously, Cradle Of Filth asked her to guest on this album, reprising her most celebrated role. The amusing thing is that, not only had she never heard of the band before, but Pitt actually didn’t hear any of the music before recording her parts. What’s more, several years later she still hadn’t listened to it. “I don’t think I ever shall!”, the actress declared. “I gather it’s very noisy. Not what I like. But the band seemed like nice boys.”
Manowar – Battle Hymns (with Orson Welles)
Who else but Orson Welles could possibly have done the portentous narration on Dark Avenger? The legendary movie maker who made the incomparable Citizen Kane, as well as creating havoc in LA with his radio adaptation of The War Of The Worlds, (and once did a commercial for frozen peas), was invited by Manowar to come into the studio while they were recording Battle Hymns in 1982. And he did a quite brilliant job, bringing an extra gravitas to the track. At the same time, Welles also recorded a spoken word piece for Defender, which was used on the song when the band repurposed it for the Fighting The World album. Welles was certainly a true metal master.
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Saxon - Rock The Nations (with Sir Elton John)
You cannot really believe that the NWOBHM heroes ever had much in common with the flamboyant Elton John, but he was happy to lend his ivory tinkling talents to two songs on this 1986 album. You can hear him flexing the fingers on Party ‘Til You Puke and Northern Lady. Apparently, Sir Elton was recording an album in the same Dutch studio as Saxon at the time, and as Gary Lyons, who was producing Saxon, had worked with Elton in the past, he asked him to pop in and do a guest spot. “We thought it would be funny having him play on a song called Party ‘Til You Puke,” Biff said a few years ago. “But he had fun doing it, and it came out well.”
Metallica – ReLoad (with Marianne Faithfull)
For the song The Memory Remains from their 1997 album, Metallica got in Marianne Faithfull for the female vocals. Of course, she had a strong rock’n’roll history, especially through her connections with The Rolling Stones, but even so, it was a surprise they persuaded her to appear. Apparently, it was the ever resourceful Lars Ulrich tracked down her phone number, called and asked la Faithfull to do this guest slot. She agreed, and as a result became good friends with the band – so much so that not only did she then appear in the video for the song, but also performed it live on stage with them at the Fillmore in San Francisco, on December 7, 2011.
Motörhead – Rock’N’Roll (Michael Palin)
A Monty Python connection with Motörhead, eh? Actually, it’s perhaps not too surprising that Palin is featured on the track Blessing because part of the album was recorded at Redwood Studios in London (which he co-owns). Besides, the whole band were huge Monty Python fans, with Lemmy being able to quote whole sketches verbatim. Palin recorded his ‘sermon’ on a Sunday, and came straight from playing cricket, so he was in his full regalia. Lemmy later recalled that he was a delight to work with, very professional and thoroughly nice. “We thought our fans would enjoy the humour of having Michael Palin on the album,” Lemmy later said. “And I think they loved it.”
Gene Simmons - Gene Simmons (with Donna Summer)
For his 1978 solo album, the Kiss man got in a whole battery of top names to lend their talents. Among them was Donna Summer, who at that time was regarded as the queen of disco. Mind you, it helped that she was on the same label as Kiss at the time, namely Casablanca. But even so, it’s a surprise to hear her on Burning Up With Fever and Tunnel Of Love. Maybe this helps explains why, only a year later, Kiss recorded the disco-oriented hit single I Was Made For Loving You.
Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies (with Donovan)
Everyone knows that Alice persuaded horror icon Vincent Price to appear on his album Welcome To My Nightmare. But two years earlier, Donovan guested on the title track of this album. Now, let’s be clear about this. The whole notion of Alice, with his shock rock status, working with Donovan is utterly incongruous. Because the latter has a reputation as a sensitive singer-songwriter, who belongs to the hippy end of folk music, with songs like Catch The Wind and Hurdy Gurdy Man, wherein he espouses positivity and love. So, the idea of him duetting here with Alice… well, it takes some believing. Nevertheless, the falsetto voice you hear is from Donovan.