You know what’s better than one insanely popular band or one extremely successful artist? When they all merge together to create a beautiful, downright magical collaboration. Audiences explode when musicians collaborate on stage for one night only: Some of the greatest award show moments involve momentous collisions of musical talent -- the Grammys alone have played host to duets by Eminem and Elton John, Prince and Beyonce, and Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. But what’s really special is when the magic continues off the stage, giving birth to an album and sometimes even a tour. If lightning continues to strike, and that tour is followed by other albums, calling it a “collaboration” just doesn’t quite cut it.
Enter the supergroup, which Webster’s defines as “a rock group made up of prominent former members of other rock groups.” But that, too, seems insufficient; the members of a supergroup achieved individual success and fame from other projects before coming together for the love of the art to create music magic and make history. Like headphones, supergroups come in all different styles and sizes (and aren’t confined to rock -- c’mon Webster’s!). So we’re stepping into the booth with Juicy Fruit to bring you a playlist of some of the more memorable supergroups that tantalized our ears with their delicate melodies or hardcore metal chords.
Considered one of the first and the “archetype” of all supergroups, featuring Eric Clapton (The Yardbirds and solo fame) and Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce (both from the Graham Bond Organization). The group formed in 1966 and although they didn’t stay together for very long, Cream was inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
2. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
They played Woodstock, freaking Woodstock! Before attaining “super” status, the original trio of Crosby, Stills & Nash danced among genres, from rock to folk to blues, and created music that defined a generation. David Crosby began his musical career with the Byrds. Graham Nash was originally a band member in the Hollies. Stephen Stills was with Buffalo Springfield. The three men recorded their debut album in 1969. They later brought on Neil Young -- also of Buffalo Springfield -- during their first tour.
3. The Highwaymen
Are you prepared for this? Put Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson into a pot and you’ve got yourself a nice Highwaymen stew. These musical legends teamed up in 1985 and recorded a country album. Before the deaths of Cash and Jennings, the group had recorded a total of three studio albums.
4. The Postal Service
Launched in 2001, The Postal Service was the creation of Jimmy Tamborello of Dntel and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. They chose the name because the two artists sent ideas and music back and forth to one another via snail mail. The music merged the electronic sound of Dntel with the emotionally charged lyrics of Death Cab. In 2013, The Postal Service performed “Such Great Heights” on stage at Lollapalooza as Tamborello and Gibbard’s swan song together. During the tour that preceded their final bow, Jenny Lewis was added to the band.
5. Velvet Revolver
Without frontman Axl Rose, Guns N’ Roses bandmates Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum continued to collaborate together. Hoping to make something out of their musical chemistry, they added guitarist Dave Kushner of Wasted Youth and eventually pulled in the volatile Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland as their vocalist. The group eventually called it quits in 2008, but recently Weiland has been quoted saying he would be open to a Velvet Revolver reunion.
6. Monsters of Folk
Monsters of Folk is Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, M. Ward of She & Him, and Jim James of My Morning Jacket. The band released its first album in 2009, after five years of backstage and part-time collaborating. The group pooled resources to build a backyard studio at Mogis’ Omaha, Nebraska, home. They recorded much of their first album there. The four band members are the only musicians heard on their album, with each taking a turn on the drums.
7. Tinted Windows
What do you get when you take a dash of Hanson (yes, that Hanson), a sprinkle of Cheap Trick, a tablespoon of Fountains of Wayne, and mix in some Smashing Pumpkins? Tinted Windows is the brainchild of Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger and features Taylor Hanson, Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, Shlesinger, and Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos. The group’s sound: unmistakably pop rock.
8. Them Crooked Vultures
The year 2009 was clearly good for supergroup-dom. The Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and Queens of the Stone Age vocalist Josh Homme recorded an album together as the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures. The group won a 2011 Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance, Homme’s first. The band still only has one album to its name.
9. You + Me
They’re part country, part indie folk. This very young supergroup of Alecia Moore (aka Pink) and Dallas Green (City and Colour) put out its first album, rose ave., in 2014. You + Me has a very different sound from Pink's bass-heavy pop hits, but the song lyrics feel every bit as self-reflective.
10. Broken Bells
Remember the tall, Oscar–like foil to Cee-Lo Green’s Felix in Gnarls Barkley? Well, Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton created his own superduo with James Mercer of The Shins. Going by the name Broken Bells, the two met at the Danish music festival Roskilde in 2004. Waiting until 2008 to start working together, the “dream-pop, psych-rock” duo released their second album, “After the Disco,” in 2014. The album is aptly named, heavy with Bee Gees-esque tracks like “Holding On For Life.”
This self-described “cooperative project” somehow weaves together the pure rock of Mick Jagger, the reggae style of Damian Marley, the soulfulness of Joss Stone and the synthpop of Dave Stewart (Eurythmics). These four artists, along with award-winning Indian music composer A.R. Rahman, began writing and recording music together in 2009 and released their first album in 2011. SuperHeavy doesn't fall neatly into any genre, but mimics elements of many. Nothing about it should work, but it does.
12. Empire of the Sun
Nick Littlemore, formerly of Pnau, and Luke Steele of The Sleepy Jackson make up the Australian musical duo Empire of the Sun. The pair is known for spectacular costumes and theatrical performances. The band’s latest album, “Ice on the Dune,” was recorded in 25 different studios in various parts of the world.
Other honorable mentions not listed (because they are, ahem, not available on Spotify) include Oysterhead [Trey Anastasio (Phish), Les Claypool (Primus), Stuart Copeland (The Police)] and The Traveling Wilburys (Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne).
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