If the idea of Shane McGowan, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker and Pete Doherty singing Disney classics together sounds like an acid-fried fever dream, trust us, the reality was even weirder

A photo of Nick Cave, Shane MacGowan, Jarvis Cocker and Pete Doherty on stage at Meltdown Festival in 2007
(Image credit: Music Like Dirt, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic)

Jarvis Cocker has a beautiful mind. How else could you explain the fact that, when invited to curate the Southbank Centre's prestigious Meltdown festival in 2007, he gathered a selection of some of alternative music's finest minds together to perform a showcase of wildly-adapted Disney classics? Exactly. A visionary indeed.

A little background: since 1993, London's Southbank Centre has been hosting Meltdown – a festival where contemporary and avant garde musicians are invited to direct a bill designed to showcase their own tastes and artistic interests. With hosts including Patti Smith, David Bowie, Nick Cave and Robert Smith roping in their famous friends and fans, the line-ups have become known as both star-studded and essential programming, if you like that sort of thing. A trend that arose from this annual meeting of alternative music's sharpest minds was the advent of the festival's slightly shambolic themed variety nights, which always promised plenty of guest appearances both surprising and delighting. Enter: Cocker's Disney plan.

The story has it that while watching Dumbo with his son one night, Cocker was so moved by the original score, finding the music in it so powerful, he decided it was time for the early Disney classics to have a contemporary reappraisal. Recalling a 1988 Disney tribute album recorded by US music producer Hal Willner – someone with whom Cocker had worked in the past – he drafted Willner in to oversee the evening. All they needed now was the all-star line-up. But that was never going to be too hard for Jarvis Cocker.

The event itself was, by all accounts, a complete spectacle, in ways both good and not so good. Disney show tunes were reimagined as shuddering, bassy club anthems, contemporary cabaret and everything in between. A 25-piece orchestra sat on stage. Grace Jones performed Jungle Book snake anthem Trust In Me. Sun Ra Arkestra went for Dumbo's Pink Elephants On Parade. Pete Doherty gave a rendition of Chim Chim Cheree which would've made Dick Van Dyke himself beam with pride. Shane MacGowan delivered a weirdly life-affirming version of Zip-a-dee Doo Dah, described as one audience member as "awful in every imaginable manner, but truly a once-in-a-lifetime event". Nick Cave opted for Hey Diddle Dee and a droning version of Off To Work We Go, while Cocker went all out with Jungle Book classic I Wanna Be Like You.

And this is how we arrive at the shaky, fan-filmed footage of Nick Cave, Shane MacGowan and Jarvis Cocker, eventually joined by Pete Doherty, howling at the moon together to the tune of Lady And The Tramp standard Home Sweet Home. Is it weird? Yes. Was it meant to be? Also yes. Was it exactly the sort of ramshackle nonsense the audience were hoping they'd get to see that night? Absolutely. 

Check out the video of Cave, MacGowan, Cocker and Doherty below, as well as a short clip of Doherty's plucky Mary Poppins rendition.

Header image by Music Like Dirt. Republished via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license

Briony Edwards

Briony is the Editor in Chief of Louder and is in charge of sorting out who and what you see covered on the site. She started working with Metal Hammer, Classic Rock and Prog magazines back in 2015 and has been writing about music and entertainment in many guises since 2009. She is a big fan of cats, Husker Du and pizza.