The names should say it all really. Neil Young the godfather of grunge had been a legitimate inspiration to thousands of artist but none wore his influence so proudly as the nexus of bands that would create Grunge. From Curt Kobain’s suicide note to a headline slot at Reading with Pearl Jam by his side, Neil hovered like an eerie spectre over the entire scene.
Pearl Jam who had worked with Young before, were honoured to step into Crazy Horse’s shoes and back the folk/rock superstar when he was booked to headline Reading Festival in 1995, fittingly enough, above Soundgarden. The collaboration made more many amazing moments, but their finest joint offering came on 2004′s vote for change tour when they uncorked “All Along The Watch Tower”.
Kanye makes a second appearance this time alongside Jay-Z on the balmy “Niggas In Paris”. The storming single almost came as a relief. When the duo release something this breezy, this stupid, and this fun, we could all exhale and thank our lucky stars that this wasn’t another multi-million pound dud.
2011 had already been blighted by the dreadful marriage of Lou Reed and Metallica on the regrettable Lulu, and many feared a similarly purposely offering from the rap game’s two biggest names. Oddly, the preconceived negatives were turned on their head by “Niggas In Paris”. Fans were grumbling about unseemly excess, vulgar ego stroking, and celebratory back patting before anyone had heard a single note of Watch The Throne. Far from side stepping expectation “Niggas In Paris” played into all of those grating traits, as Jay spit rhymes about owning the New Jersey Nets while Kanye screeched about blow jobs in bathroom stalls. It all sounds terrible regrettable doesn’t it? Except it just isn’t. “Niggas Is Paris” is utterly bananas, an absolute riot, a scream along get stupid anthem, that’s too much fun to condemn.
I could have chosen any number of Gorillaz tracks but I decided to go with the “Clint Eastwood” the anthem that turned the cartoon rockers into global superstars and stopped all those grumblings about Blur, or the lack thereof.
As collaborations go, Del The Funky Homosapien was the perfect choice, his laid back, spitting knowledge flow was perfect for a lurching horror-pop beat and Damon Albarn’s sleepy croon. The track became a summer anthem and set the band’s stall out as genre benders and serial collaborators.
This is a little bit of a cheat as Eno and Daniel Lanois went on to become U2’s long term producers, but no one can deny the importance or brilliance of their first initial collaboration. “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” effectively set U2’s stall out, signally the true start of their undeniable ascent to stadium rock dominance. Eno and Lanois simultaneously stripped the band’s sound down and built it up as The Edge’s guitar line towered and echoed seemingly endlessly consuming everything but Bono’s gut shredding vocal performance.
Lyrically, Eno, Edge and Lanois had to convinced Bono to embraced an impressionistic style that favoured suggestion and the intensity of the vocal performance over more literal and ham-fisted verses. It was a bold decision, but one that would lead the band towards unparalleled success painting in the broadest brush strokes and touching millions.
Despite writing some truly phenomenal pop songs (“Don’t Bother Me”, “Think For Yourself”, “If I Needed Someone”, “I Want To Tell You”, “Within Without You”, etc.), George Harrison truly came into his own on The White Album when he contributed an anthem so sublime it managed to stand head and shoulders above the works of Lennon & McCartney, practically demanding a single release.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is clearly the sum of its quite incredible parts. It’s glorious amorphous sounds is as much the work of Lennon, McCartney and Martin as it was Harrison, but the track wouldn’t have been complete without a tear stained solo from one Eric Clapton. Little else needs be said; “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is dreamy, regretful perfection.