The concept of the supergroup used to be confined to dad-rock favorites such Cream, The Travelling Wilburys and Crosby, Still, Nash & Young. But lately everyone is getting on in the act with artists from the worlds of club music (Swedish House Mafia), hip-hop (The Throne), and even boyband pop (NKOTBSB) joining forces in addition to the likes of Dave Grohl’s Them Crooked Vultures, Mick Jagger’s Superheavy and Jack White’s The Dead Weather. But if money, differing musical styles, the small matter of being dead and screwing with the space time continuum were no barriers, who would make the line-up for the ideal supergroup? Here’s a look at four musicians who are or were arguably the best in their field.
Frontman – Freddie Mercury
Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Liam Gallagher, Mick Jagger, Morrissey, Robert Plant, Bono, John Lydon – the list of charismatic frontmen who helped to elevate their respective bands into iconic status is endless. But yet no-one understood the art of being a lead vocalist more than Freddie Mercury.
Everyone remembers his show-stealing appearance at 1985’s Live Aid where he managed to unite not only the 72,000 in attendance but the billions watching worldwide with a tour-de-force performance that redefined stadium rock. But there was much more to him than him all the bombast and flamboyance he displayed that night.
Despite little vocal training and an inability to read music, he was a hugely talented song-writer, penning 10 of the 17 tracks on Queen’s multi-million selling Greatest Hits, including the most musically-complex number one of all time, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” While Spanish soprano Montserrat Cabaille admitted she was overawed by his vocal technique after they worked together on 1988’s Barcelona, a venture into opera which further highlighted just how versatile Mercury was.
A huge influence on everyone from Muse’s Matt Bellamy to My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way to Adam Lambert, the American Idol runner-up who would later be selected as his temporary replacement 20 years after his AIDS-related death, Mercury’s dedication to his career was evident by the fact that despite being so ill he could hardly walk during the recording of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On,” he still delivered the kind of vocal that most of his peers could only dream about.
Guitarist – Jimi Hendrix
Astonishingly, Jimi Hendrix’s mainstream exposure lasted little more than four years and yet in that short space of time, he revolutionized the way in which his instrument of choice could be played, becoming the most influential guitarist of all time in the process.
From Eddie Van Halen to Slash to Lenny Kravitz, any axe-wielding rock god since the 70s owes their career to the effortless manner in which Hendrix weaved chords together, pushed the feedback technique to its limits and basically invented the idea of the wah-wah pedal in mainstream rock.
Inspired himself by the blues of BB King and Muddy Waters, the surf-rock of Dick Dale and the R&B of Curtis Mayfield, as well as the style of Little Richard, Hendrix used this eclectic melting pot of sounds to create a hugely unique wall of sound featuring a thrill factor which has never been bettered.
Indeed, Hendrix had a strangely graceful stage presence but was also capable of conjuring up danger in a way which hadn’t been seen before, whether it was drenching his guitar in lighter fluid and setting fire to it, or most famously of all, playing the instrument with his teeth whilst out of his mind on LSD during his career-defining headlining set at Woodstock 1969. But take away the stunts and Hendrix still remains the most daring and exciting musician in rock history.
Bassist – Flea
Australian-born American Michael Peter Balzary might not be as technically gifted as the likes of The Who’s John Entwistle, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones or Paul McCartney.
But under the guise of Flea, he not only created a whole new aggressive slapping sound which inspired a whole generation but was arguably one of the few bassists who matched the showmanship and charisma of his band’s lead vocalist. Considering he’s been backing a talent such as Anthony Kiedis for the best part of 30 years, that’s quite some feat.
Indeed, in addition to his rather relaxed attitude to on-stage attire and manic moves, Flea’s innovative approach to playing the bass has defined the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ sound, from the aggressive funk-punk riffs of their 80s output to the more subdued and melodic hooks he’s favored since 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Initially a trumpet prodigy, Flea’s love of both the jazz of Louis Armstrong, the funk of Bootsy Collins and the uncompromising rock of Black Flag was instrumental in shaping a sound which he’s also since showcased with the likes of Thom Yorke’s Atoms For Peace and Damon Albarn’s Rocketjuice and the Moon.
Drummer – Keith Moon
With such an extroverted line-up, it would be foolish to select a sticksman who just sat quietly behind the drums at the back of the stage. Nicknamed ‘Moon The Loon,’ The Who’s unashamedly out-of-control Keith Moon could certainly never be described as shy and retiring.
One of the wildest men of rock and roll, his legendary exploits include detonating a firework inside his bass drum on live TV, passing out on stage not once but twice during the band’s Quadrophenia tour after allegedly taking ketamine and displaying a rather bizarre fondness for blowing up hotel toilets.
Whilst his erratic behavior may have been a nightmare to contend with, it was ultimately instrumental to his exuberant and thrilling technique, a suitably chaotic fusion of frenetic double bass drum work, cascading tom-tom rolls and wild cymbal crashes which gave the band its louder-than-life backbone. Inevitably, Moon’s hedonistic ways led to his tragic downfall but there hasn’t been a drummer as magnetic or as mesmerizing since.