Marvel Studios recently staked the hyperbolic claim that their new film Avengers: Infinity War is “the most ambitious crossover event in history”. “Au contraire!” Twitter protested, and a meme was born. Cue a stream of reminders about such improbable genre-clashing moments in light entertainment history as the Red Dwarf crew landing on the set of Coronation Street, Magnum, PI meeting Murder, She Wrote, and that time the Hoff did panto with the Krankies.
Evidently none of the above are aware that Sting and Shaggy have made an album together. Yes, that’s the lute-abusing worthy-rock bard of the north east and the Jamaican Mr Boombastic call me fantastic, united in cod reggae song. The ambitious crossover event that nobody thought would happen – because nobody’s mind is that twisted, not even the person who put the Hoff together with the Krankies – has happened. And the weirdness just keeps getting weirder. They’re playing at the Queen’s 92nd birthday party.
Whether they know it or not, Sting and Shaggy’s album, titled 44/876, places them among a long lineage of strange musical collaborations from throughout the ages which, in some instances, have proved as ill-advised as they did implausible. As a warning from history if nothing else: meet the odd couples and groups.
The Flaming Lips and Miley Cyrus
“She’ll send me pictures of herself peeing,” casually mentioned Flaming Lips’ frontman Wayne Coyne of his new bezzie Miley Cyrus in an interview. It’d probably be briefer
to list the things that aren’t weird than the things that are about the unlikely and evidently not especially shy personal and professional kinship that has blossomed between the acid-guzzling 50-something psychedelic rock mage and the ex-Disney child star gone wild.
But hey, they’re both grown-ups, and while the association hasn’t exactly proved a blockbuster – Cyrus’s Coyne co-produced album Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz did not chart – it has produced some good songs, such as We A Family, the triumphant closer to The Flaming Lips’ latest album Oczy Mlody.
Metallica and Lou Reed
In his last piece of recorded music prior to his death in 2013, the late and legendarily curmudgeonly Lou Reed delivered his final and arguably most complete act of musical belligerence.
He teamed up in a gruesome twosome with monsters of thrash metal Metallica to make a nigh-on unlistenable record based on the Lulu plays by German playwright Frank Wedekind. Decried as one of the worst albums of all time, on a par with the former Velvet Underground frontman’s famously hated Metal Machine Music – charitably described by one reviewer in 1975 as “guaranteed to clear any room of humans in record time” – Lulu left some Metallica fans so furious that they threatened to shoot Reed. His work on this earth was done.
Texas and the Wu-Tang Clan
How did this even happen? In 1997, Scotpop wet flannels Texas’s song Say What You Want was remixed as Say What You Want (All Day, Every Day) featuring Method Man and RZA from Staten Island, New York’s baddest of the bad hip-hop crews the Wu-Tang Clan – an ensemble for whom the ‘Controversies’ sub-section on their Wikipedia page runs the length of a short novella. To make matters even more surreal, Method Man – that’s Cheese Wagstaff to fans of The Wire – joined the band to perform the song live at the Brit Awards, towering over Sharleen Spiteri in her trouser suit like he’s enjoying an unusually amiable encounter with his lawyer. It’s so ridiculous it’s sort of inspired.
There was just so much going on here it’s hard to even know where to begin – Mick Jagger plus soul singer Joss Stone plus former Eurythmic Dave Stewart, Bollywood composer AR Rahman and Damian “Jr Gong” Marley.
Jagger hanging out with a woman a third of his age was of course nothing new; Jamaican soundsystems clashed with Indian strings, a song in Urdu, hour-long jams and lashings and lashings of cringey cod reggae rather more so. Of the relatively few people worldwide to buy SuperHeavy’s one dismal album in 2011 we can but assume that Sting and Shaggy were not among them.