Friday, November 29, 2013

Wait! That Sounded Like...

Doug:  Today's post-gluttony conversation is on back-up vocalists in popular music -- sometimes surprising us!  Think about it -- there have probably been many times when you've heard a song for the first time, and you're suddenly beset with a feeling of, "Hey, that sounds an awful lot like..."  And, to be honest, sometimes you're flat-out wrong. Today we'd like to hear examples of favorite collaborations between the lead artist and their well-known back-up singer(s).

Doug:  I'll start.  Well, actually I'll start with a mistake I made for some time until I finally had the resources (i.e. the Internet) to look it up.  I forever thought that Dolly Parton sang back-up on the Eric Clapton hit "Lay Down Sally".  Fooled me!  Actually, a somewhat famous artist did sing on that record -- Yvonne Elliman.  Marcella Detroit also sang, and to be honest I'm not certain which lady fooled me, but I'm thinking it was the latter.  As to collaborations I'm certain of, how about Phil Collins singing on the Howard Jones hit, "No One Is to Blame"?  That tune, which I heard on the radio last week, actually serves as the inspiration for today's topic.  I'll leave you with one more before I turn it over to my partner -- then it will fall to you.  John Stewart was a former member of The Kingston Trio when he became a one-hit wonder with 1979's "Gold".  Stevie Nicks, then riding the high crest of popularity from Fleetwood Mac's success, sang back-up on that track.  If you click the link on Stewart's name, you'll be taken to the Wikipedia page about him -- and how about that?  I had no idea he wrote "Daydream Believer" for the Monkees!


Karen: Since I've been in a Stones mood lately, how about "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon, with Mick Jagger on backing vocals? Of course there was speculation that the song actually was about Jagger for many years, but it seems that it most likely was about Warren Beatty. Still, given the lyrics, one can see why people would draw that conclusion.


Karen: OK, it's your turn: let's hear about your favorite musical team-ups here.

14 comments:

Redartz said...

One of my favorites is Elton John's remake of the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". Credit on the single label mentions "the reggae guitar of Dr. Winston O'Boogie"; who of course was John Lennon. But Lennon also contributed some backing vocals, helping make this one of the greatest cover songs ever...

david_b said...

I was going to mention Jagger on Simon's record, since it was SUCH a cool backup vocal. It really helped Jagger's voice at that time get more mainstream and contemporary, plus it just added a lot of style to Simon's vocals as well.

I will ponder, but I'm always listening to Lennon-McCartney backing up the Stones on 'We Love You' and other tracks at that point, but it seems too buried in the mix to really decipher, probably like listening for Danny Ackroyd's voice on 'We Are The World'..

david_b said...

One more entry.., Macca on Donovan's 'Mellow Yellow', I can hear it in certain areas.

Edo Bosnar said...

A really cool collaboration is Merry Clayton's vocals in what is probably my favorite song by the Rolling Stones, "Gimme Shelter." I think it's her bit in that song that makes it so memorable. I later learned (thanks, a la Doug, to the Internet) that she was also one of the back-up vocalists on Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama."

Another great use of a guest vocalist can be heard in the Sisters of Mercy's (or is it Sisters' of Mercy?) "Temple of Love," i.e., the (sadly) late, great Ofra Haza.
And of course, there's Willie Nelson performing "They All Went to Mexico" with Santana.

Otherwise, when Doug mentioned some of those mistaken attributions, I thought of a few that everybody thinks are true but aren't, like Toni Tennille singing back-up vocals on Pink Floyd's The Wall (apparently, she did actually come into the studio and record, but Waters and Gilmour later erased it all and used different singers), or Jerry Hall doing those catcalls at the end of Bryan Ferry's cover of "Let's Stick Together" - she does appear in the video, but I don't think it's actually her voice.

Graham said...

Everybody remembers Sting's backing vocals on Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing," I'm sure.

One backup singer that I could remember hearing immediately when I first heard the song was Lou Rawls' on Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me."

themiddlespaces said...

James Taylor and Linda Rondstadt backing vocals on Neil Young's "Old Man" and "Heart of Gold" (off Harvest) was a sweet surprise when I found out - and also any Steely Dan with Michael McDonald on backing vocals.

sean kelley said...

Don Henley and Glenn Frey singing back up on Bob Edgar's "Against the Wind" Ring a bell?

Doug said...

Osvaldo, I was hoping someone would bring up McDonald's back-ups on Peg, et al. Have you ever heard his comments on working with/for Donald Fagen? McDonald said you never knew how many takes would be necessary -- Fagen's a true perfectionist.

Sean Kelly -- are you a victim of auto-correct, my friend? 'Cause I'm wondering if you meant "Bob Seger"? My Kindle often gives me some interesting alternatives to what I want to type...

Doug

Anonymous said...

The only one that comes to mind in this category is how surprised I was when I found out that the Ellen Foley who played Billie on Night Court was the same Ellen Foley who sang on "Paradise by the Dashboard Light".

Mike W.

Garett said...

One surprising one is Bryan Adams singing just a few words on Don't Forget Me When I'm Gone by Glass Tiger. His voice is so distinctive it pops right out.

Thanks for the info about John Stewart from the Kingston Trio. I listened to that music growing up as they were one of my dad's favorite groups. Fascinating that he sang Gold years later...not exactly Kingston Trio style of music.

Doug said...

Mike W. -

I did not know that! Great song by Meat Loaf!

Doug

Edo Bosnar said...

Robbie Robertson's awesome first solo album has quite a few notable back-up vocalists: Peter Gabriel on "Fallen Angel," Bono on "Sweet Fire of Love" and "Testimony," Maria McKee on "American Roulette" and even producer Daniel Lanois on "Broken Arrow." Also, the BoDeans did back-up vocals on about half of the songs.

And speaking of Peter Gabriel, he did that nice duet with Kate Bush, "Don't Give Up."

Anonymous said...

Not a great song but Motown artist Rockwell's 1980s hit 'Somebody's watching me' featuring none other than Michael Jackson on backup vocals always sticks out in my mind. Everyone asked who is this guy who has Michael Jackson singing backup for him - only later we found out he was Motown founder Berry Gordy's son.

Also, Lionel Richie had tennis champion Jimmy Connors singing backup for him on a song once if my memory serves me right.


- Mike 'the Golden voice' from Trinidad & Tobago.

david_b said...

No one mentioned yet, but one of my all-time favs was Phil and Don Everly chiming in with esquisite backgrounds on Paul Simon's 'Graceland', adding great Americana texture to an already brilliant song.

Then later the great Ms. Ronstadt dueting on 'African Skies'.

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