Top 10 Musical Duos
The often intense dynamic of a duo making music often results in something quite special that is impossible to replicate solo or with bigger bands. So we countdown some of our favourite musical duos of all time.
10. Beach House
The best way to picture the music of Beach House is to imagine you’re on acid and having a flashback of hiding your parents’ wardrobe during a game of hide-and-seek, your Mum’s sparkly dresses blind you momentarily as Dad opens the door and tells you you’ve been dead for 18 years. Well that’s one way to look at it. Now for the ‘fact-based’ stuff: They were formed in 2004 in Baltimore, Maryland by French-born Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. Their first album Beach House found itself in the sticky little paws of many indie-pop dreamers, paving the way to greater acclaim with their second release Devotion. The most recent album Teen Dream (released in January 2010) has also had its fair share of time through the hype machine after they signed with Sub Pop last year. Only time will tell if they’re in for the long haul, but at least if it does go arse-over-tits, they can be grateful they’re neither dating, married or related!
9. The Carpenters
The brother-sister act were one of the most popular musical duos in the 1970s, preciously brought out on family occasions by soppy Mums and Dads while the kids got high on Cherry Cola. Sadly, after the successes of ‘Rainy days and Mondays’, ‘Superstar’ and ‘Close to You’ dribbled away as the Carpenter family crumbled from the inside as Karen and Richard were constantly having ‘creative differences’. Karen eventually lost her long battle with Anorexia Nervosa which she had denied despite looking like death warmed up for many years. However, it wasn’t long before their discs were plied from basement boxes and the full extent of the musical genius of The Carpenters was appreciated. In 1992 Sonic Youth released ‘Song for Karen’ on their record Goo, addressing the difficulties Karen experienced with her over-critical mother. Interesting fact: Karen only started singing when Richard overheard her and realising she naturally had perfect-pitch, but in many of the initial performances she refused to be the front woman, preferring to hide behind the drums instead.
8. The Raveonettes
Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo crawled out of a Velvet Underground inspired shoe-gaze swamp to bring us harmonies so sweet and haunting they could have been the house band in the Black Lodge for David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’. Their songs have the structural simplicity of ‘50s and ‘60s rock, but paired with the fuzzed-out electric reverb of The Jesus and Mary Chain. On their second album ‘Love in a Trashcan’ they had Ronnie Spector (of the Ronettes) and Maureen Tucker (The Velvet Underground) play guest spots. Ronnie Spector (Phil Spector’s ex-wife) would know all about finding love in a trashcan...or a studio.
7. Johnny Cash & June Carter
Johnny and June set the bar when it came to musical duos, and even when not performing, Johnny was sure to be found propping up that bar. Their relationship was made famous by the film Walk the Line, detailing the crushing reality of a couple working together and touring endlessly while still trying to maintain a sense of normality. Theirs was an endearing love story born out of the entertainment industry- a rare and unexpected thing, like Russell Brand not cheating or The Libertines reforming. They also died within months of each other in 2003 due to medical complications which dramatically worsened. How’s that for a romantic ending?
6. Kim and Kelley Deal (The Breeders)
Honing their harmony and song writing skills as teenagers, identical twins Kim and Kelley would eventually end up in the same band together, but only after Kelley finally managed to get her shit together and come out the other side of rehab. Kim’s early, not to mention lucky, break as the bassist for the Pixies set her up in a fine position to conquer the world with her classic pop/punk hooks and sweet Americana harmonies in the form of The Breeders. The name was actually taken from the twin’s first acoustic/folk band they formed as teenagers, which fell by the wayside as Kim’s role in the Pixies took over, and Kelley’s commitment to heroin and data analysis work grew. Their signature style of simply-formed, 50s inspired pop/rock tunes and sugary harmonies has been evolving ever since the release of Pod in 1990, through the ‘Cannonball’ period to today, with the release of Mountain Battles in 2008, which strayed slightly from their up-tempo formulaic song structure to a more relaxed experimental and folky style. Ironically, breeding is the last thing on the Deal sister’s minds, being more interested in making music, knitting and other women.
5. Ike & Tina Turner
Ike Turner is synonymous for many things- ‘50s hit maker (in more than one sense of the word), producer, father of rock ‘n roll and godfather of cocaine. Ike initially scouted the young Tina Turner to be in his band, which led to one of the most infamous pairings in music, rising to prominence with ‘River deep- Mountain High’ and ‘Proud Mary’. After taking years of abuse from Ike, with drug-debts stacking up and a failed suicide attempt, Tina finally left him to be alone with his mountain of coke. She built her career back up again peaking at number 1 on the US charts with ‘What’s Love Got to Do With it?’ Apparently not much, especially if Phil Spector had anything to do with it. In 2007 Ike died aged 76 from a cocaine overdose.
4. The White Stripes
As one of the first contemporary bands to play up the boy/girl duo and the ensuing mystery around it, The White Stripes broke into the mainstream in 2002 along with the DIY garage-rock revival. Even decades after The Carpenters’ inception, female drummers were still seen as a novelty- especially since Meg White sounded like a toddler with two sticks. They initially told everyone they were brother and sister but it soon came out they used to be married. The reasoning behind the ‘white’ lie was due to Jack’s belief that people would find the dynamic more interesting if they were siblings, drawing the attention away from their relationship. The only flaw in that tactic lay with the fact they looked nothing alike.
3. The Kills
After meeting while staying in the same hotel in NYC, the achingly hip and gorgeous chain-smoking-vegan Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince (arm-candy of Kate Moss) started a friendship that would see them have a brief relationship and then become the darlings of indie-rock, touring with the likes of The Raconteurs, The Black Keys and The Horrors. Not staying a couple has thankfully kept them away from the pages of ‘New Idea’ and contributed to their prolific work-ethic. But Alison Mosshart has been linked to psychedelic-coolsie Noel Fielding from the Mighty Boosh, even appearing on a BBC doc about the show. Their art-inspired video clips have been praised by indie-geeks worldwide for their originality and minimalism.
2. Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
The infamous pairing of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards all began in the cold suburban sprawl of Dartford, Kent in the 1950s when they bumped into each at Dartford station after being separated when their families moved apart in primary school. Mick Jagger was holding the latest R&B records from the US, which revealed a mutual love of blues, booze and very tight jeans- the raw ingredients for the creation of The Rolling Stones. Over time the partnership has seen them inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, win countless Grammys and become the highest earners in music of all time. But they did have some help- in 1997 The Verve sampled a six-note refrain from the Rolling Stones’ orchestral version of the ‘The Last Time’ for their song ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, which went on to become a massive hit. But The Verve was sued by both copyright owners of the original song, as they claimed the license agreement had been broken. The Verve were forced to hand over 100 per cent of their song writing royalties, but the biggest bittersweet blow was when they were nominated for a Grammy award for best song. Since they were no longer the legal copyright owners of the song, the nomination actually went to Jagger and Richards. Richard Ashcroft remarked that it was the “best song Jagger and Richards have written in 20 years”.
1. John Lennon & Paul McCartney
The song writing powerhouse of Lennon and McCartney has been one of the most successful partnerships in music in terms of originality, musicianship and making an obscene amount of money. But like most life-long partnerships, it wasn’t without its disputes and ego-driven battles. While one may consider the order of writing credits incredibly insignificant from people who wrote ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and ‘Let it Be’, Paul and John were still mere mortals with the potential to be very stubborn and let’s face it, very arrogant. The song ‘Drive My Car’ is a good example- it was originally written by Paul, but when he turned up at John’s house for a writing session, they both agreed that the lyrics “You can give me golden rings / You can give me anything / 'Cause baby, I love you" would not work, since they had been recycled from other songs. John suggested ‘Baby you can drive my car’ instead- an old blues euphemism for sex. Even though the song was mainly written by Paul, the song is still credited as Lennon/McCartney, which can predictably be attributed to the influence of Yoko Ono.
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