The 11 most WTF collaborations in rock history

Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, Mr Bean, James Hetfield of Metallica and Ja Rule
(Image credit: Comic Relief/Comic Relief/Gie Knaeps/Getty Image/Lalo Yasky/WireImage/Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

From Led Zeppelin teaming up with Sandy Denny on The Battle Of Evermore to Aerosmith and Run DMC’s groundbreaking update of Walk This Way, rock is littered with killer collaborations. But not every combination is golden - there are plenty of collabs that stink worse than a rancid sock drawer full of out-of-date Stilton. From big name rock stars teaming with furry puppets to A-list metal bands ill-advisedly trying their hand at hip hop, these are the most genuinely head-scratching, WTF collaborations ever.

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Ozzy Osbourne & Miss Piggy – Born To Be Wild (1994)

Ozzy Osbourne’s love of the hard stuff has led to some questionable decisions in his time, but it’s hard to imagine a drug strong enough to convince the Prince Of Darkness that teaming up with a Muppet was a good idea. But that‘s what happened in 1994, when Ozzy and Miss Piggy united for a cover of Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild for a Muppets compilation. It remains one of the most WTF? moments in a career full of WTF? moments.

Bruce Dickinson & Mr Bean – Elected (1992)

This laughter-free cover of the Alice Cooper chestnut was recorded to raise money for Comic Relief. The concept, such as it was, found Rowan Atkinson’s comedy cretin running through a political manifesto while the Iron Maiden frontman bellowed along. Within a year, Bruce had left Maiden. You can blame this.

Lemmy & The Nolans – Don’t Do That (1981)

The Nolans were a group of sisters who had spent the 70s singing benign pop ballads on TV variety shows. Lemmy was a speed-fuelled greaser whose death-stare could strip wallpaper. In any sane universe, the two of them should never have been in the same postcode, let alone a studio. But that‘s exactly what happened in 1981, when Lemmy and sisters Linda and Colleen Nolan played bass and added backing vocals respectively on the 1981 single Don’t Do That by The Young And Moody Band, a one-off project put together by Whitesnake guitarist Micky Moody and Status Quo lyricist Bob Young, and also featuring Cozy Powell on drums. “We were in awe,” Lemmy later said, with no irony whatsoever. “You couldn’t mess with the Nolan sisters.”

The Sex Pistols & Ronnie Biggs – No One Is Innocent (1978)

When Johnny Rotten stormed out of the Sex Pistols in 1978, guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook wasted little time in finding a new frontman. Nothing wrong with that, except that they probably could have made a better choice than Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs, then on the run and living in Brazil. Their brief union produced just this song from the soundtrack to The Great Rock’N’Roll Swindle movie, which found the 51-year-old Biggs giving it his best tuneless punk snarl, before returning to his day job of sunning it up on Copacabana beach.

Ann & Nancy Wilson & Lisa Simpson – Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves (1998)

Yes, yes, it was done in the right spirit – and Heart’s Wilson sisters must have been full of some sort of spirit when they agreed to record a cover of the Eurythmics/Aretha Franklin collaboration Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves with Lisa Simpson for The Simpsons’ The Yellow Album. Like many things that may have seemed ‘fun’ at the time, the result is embarrassingly dire. How could Ann and Nancy do such a thing to little Lisa?!

Judas Priest & Stock Aitken & Waterman – You Are Everything

Stock, Aitken & Waterman were behind many of the biggest pop hits of the late 80s, including Rick Astley’s seemingly inescapable Never Gonna Give You Up. They seemed an unlikely candidate to write songs for leather-encased Brummies Judas Priest, but that didn’t stop the two parties teaming together in 1989 to record two original tracks, Runaround and I Will Return, plus a cover of The Stylistics’ 70s soul hit You Are Everything. Rob Halford later dismissed it as an “experiment”, albeit one that has never seen the light of day.

Marc Bolan & Cilla Black - Life’s A Gas (1973)

In a horrendous mismatch that any decent press officer would have nipped in the bud, this 1973 collaboration saw the glam elf Bolan gamble his credibility via this televised duet with Scouse pop belter-turned-cheesy-TV light entertainment linchpin Cilla Black on a cover of T.Rex’s 1971 track Life A Gas. A lorra, lorra laughs at all it wasn’t.

Lindisfarne & Paul Gascoigne – Fog On The Tyne (1990)

Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne was the loveable footballing genius whose tearful exit from the 1990 World Cup won him the nation’s hearts. Any goodwill was swiftly undone later year, when he teamed up with fellow Geordies and folk-rock linchpins Lindisfarne for this updated version of their 1971 hit Fog On The Tyne, which found Gazza in full-on buffoon mode, mumbling something about sausage rolls over a moronic dance beat.

Hawkwind & Samantha Fox – Gimme Shelter (1993)

Former glamour model turned pop star Samantha Fox was perhaps the last person fans of British space rock legends Hawkwind might have expected to see squawking her way through Master Of The Universe and Silver Machine at the band’s Brixton gig in 2000. But it wasn’t the first time they’d collaborated – Fox had duetted with the band on a cover of the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter on a compilation album seven years earlier. Quark, strangeness and charm indeed.

REM & the cast of Sesame Street – Shiny Happy People (1999)

Hardcore R.E.M. fans hated 1991’s Shiny Happy People because it sounded like it had been written for some happy-clappy kids’ TV show. So why not actually turn it into the theme to a happy-clappy kids’ TV show? Which is exactly what Michael Stipe and co did in 1999, when they appeared on Sesame Street surrounded by a bunch of cackling muppets to sing a reworked version of the song titled Furry Happy Monsters. “We said, ‘All right, why not?’ It’s not as if we were tarnishing its legacy,” bassist Mike Mills later explained. Yeah mate, if you say so.

Metallica & Swizz Beatz ft. Ja Rule – We Did It Again (2002)

Yeah, Lou Reed, Lulu, blah blah blah. Actually, the most wrong-headed thing Metallica have ever participated in was their team-up with producer Swizz Beatz and rapper Ja Rule on the thankfully forgotten We Did It Again, a car-crash collaboration that appeared on Swizz’s 2002 album Swizz Beatz Presents G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories. Featuring Ja Rule rapping over an unused Metallica track while James Hetfield shouts “Yeeaaahhh” in the background, the whole sorry affair provides one of the most cringeworthy moments in the Some Kind Of Monster documentary, which really is saying something.

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