Jun 302012

I guess as any big Elvis Costello fan might tell you, it’s easy to go back and forth on his great pre-Punch the Clock albums and get fixated on one and then another. I had that moment as a youngin’ with Trust, which for a long time took my number one spot as the BEST Costello disc.

I couldn’t have know how much that album hinted at Imperial Bedroom at the time…but there are a bunch of songs on that which could have been on Imperial and vice versa. But at the time I thought the absolute standout song was “From a Whisper to a Scream”—with Glenn Tilbrook taking up the alternating vocals. [Mod. – Not to mention Friend of the Hall Martin Belmont on lead guitar.]

Wow, how fun I thought—a new wave super duo of sorts! At the time.

Now I listen to that song and kinda cringe. What was Elvis thinking? Why share the spotlight with another dude?? Was this trying for some sort of crossover appeal? Was Squeeze big at the time? Every time I hear it now I wish Elvis woulda sung the whole thing…but it also feels like he was trying to capture some earlier glory (of his faster, angrier days) and it just falls flat to me now.

So 1) … can a I get an Amen? But 2)—the real reason for the post: name me another great new wave singer duo who successfully (or unsuccessfully) pulled of this feat.

Bowie and Freddy Mercury don’t count. Or Jagger with _________.


  35 Responses to “From a Scream to a Whisper”

  1. The off-key woman who sings with Terry Hall on the 2nd Specials lp is the first such duo that comes to mind for me.

  2. ladymisskirroyale

    Rhoda Dakar from Selector.

  3. ladymisskirroyale

    With the Go-Betweens, Robert Forster and Grant McLennan took turns penning and singing the songs. On a couple of songs they sing together (alternating verses or choruses).

  4. Happiness Stan

    I can’t imagine any post-punk/Indie duet coming close to this, live on Top of the Pops (after about four seconds of Michael Bolton of all people…)


  5. Slim Jade

    I guess now’s as good a time as any to salute the Ian McCulloch/Liz Frasier collaboration ‘Candleland”.

  6. I”m sorry…but can we comment about that video?

    What’s with the second woman drummer behind Pete? Plexi between the drums and bass player? Tilbrook’s beard!!?!

  7. All fair calls! No one called for a Bearded Tilbrook.

    Is the plexiglass barrier ever warranted?

  8. A little beyond the new wave era, but let us never forget Temple if the Dog’s Cornell-Vedder MAN-OFF.

  9. Anti-Amen, Mac. I’m still a fan of that track, and that they trade off the vocal.

    Not sure who was paying whom back, but the vocals that E.C. does on Squeeze’s “Tempted” add a lot to that track. Another winning new wave collaboration.

    Not sure if you are only looking for examples of shared/trade-off lead vocals, but I think new-wave collaborations were not that rare. Doesn’t a B-52’s singer show up on R.E.M.’s “Stand”? That worked too.

  10. cliff sovinsanity

    I’m guessing you are putting this one in the unsuccessful column.

  11. cliff sovinsanity

    Your close chickenfrank, ’twas Kate Pierson who dueted with Stipe on Me In Honey and Shiny Happy People from Out Of Time. Now, should we classify the duet with KRS-One on Radio Song as unsuccessful? It does kind of wank.

  12. cliff sovinsanity

    Here is a potent duet of the Roy Harper song Another Day performed by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush

    Of course, their collaboration on Don’t Give Up is really fine as well.

  13. cherguevara

    Kind of? It’s pathetic.

  14. What’s the opposite of a Pyrrhic victory?

  15. At this point my scroll reads cher’s “pathetic” remark followed by cliff’s Gabriel name-drop.

    Might I be so bold as to combine them into “Peter Gabriel and Sting backing up Phil Collins on ‘Take Me Home.'”? O, and “pathetic.


  16. trigmogigmo

    The artists ain’t exactly new wave but they thrived pretty well during that time: Stevie Nicks & the Heartbreakers “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”. Definitely one of the better rock duets. No gimmick, no joking around, no sappy retro cover tune.

  17. Pretty good: Springsteen’s doing that manly Bruce thing behind Graham Parker on “Endless Night”
    Way Less Good: Sting naked ploy for MTV time on Dire Strait’s “Money for Nothing”.

  18. hrrundivbakshi

    Surprised nobody has jumped in with their Elvis Costello trivia superpowers to explain why Tillbrook was featured on that track. I remember reading somewhere that the answer had less to do with coolness or the desire to shock and awe teenage skater kidz like Machinery, and more to do with the fact that EC had a bad cold that day. Or something like that.

    On another note: yeah, the REM/KRS-One collabo-turd is just about the worst such thing I can imagine. There’s a white liberal shame thing that makes me wish it weren’t so bad, because I fear the world will accuse me of rock racial profiling. The sad fact is, that song is god-damn awful.

    Now THERE’s a thread idea: cross-ethnic songs/albums that work to lift the pop/rock aesthetic dream higher without relegating either participant to some unspoken conceptual ghetto.

  19. cliff sovinsanity

    I put the “kind of” there because I don’t mind the song. The song is ok, but the addition of KRS-One serves no purpose whatsoever and drags the entire thing down.

  20. Yes! That’s what it was. Thanks, Cliff. Without any evidence, I’ll bet there is a Natalie Merchant and Stipe duet committed to one of their respective band’s records too. Those 2 were tight. That would count as a new wave collaboration.

  21. cliff sovinsanity

    A rout.

  22. The Costello-Darryl Hall song kind of sucks.

  23. I really like the Billy Bragg/Natalie Merchant duet “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key”, despite the fact that I generally don’t care for Ms. Merchant. Then again, I also like her duet with Michael Stipe, “Little April Shower”, on the Hal Wilner Disney tribute album Stay Awake. The Roches also sing backup on that.

  24. I like that track too — Squeeze is OK by me.

    On the Kate Pierson bandwagon – she and Iggy on “Candy” is kind of good.

  25. If you have never heard Dave Edmunds and Carlene Carter do “Baby Ride Easy” — here it is —
    I got to see him sit in at show she did at the old Birchmere back in 1990 or so. Fishnets and red cowboy boots are seared into my mind. She had it going on for about 15 years or so.

  26. If you are intrigued by that Explorer-shaped acoustic and have $8K burning a hole in your pocket, there’s still 1 day left to get Nick Lowe’s custom-made one (a gift from Carlene Carter)
    (hat tip: Michael Shelley)

  27. the initial shows of the re-formed mission of burma featured the drummer encased in plexiglass and roger miller wearing firing range earmuffs. on subsequent tours they abandoned both the plexi and the earmuffs.

  28. mockcarr

    I think Suzanne Vega dueted with the Smithereens’ Pat DiNizio on In A Lonely Place off Especially For You. That seemed unsuccessful to me.

  29. diskojoe

    I’m surprised that nobody mentioned the duet between one of the Go-Gos gals & Russel Mael in Sparks’ Cool Places.

    I still like “Whisper & A Scream”. Jeez, I still remember paying $3.99 for a new copy of Trust @ the Harvard Coop.

  30. cherguevara

    When somebody told me I should check out Sparks, I only knew two of their songs, one of them being “Cool Places With You,” a song I absolutely cannot stand. (The other song I didn’t realize was Sparks.) Now that I am more hip to Sparks (esp their first handful of albums, I can say I do really like them but I still don’t like that song.

    I am a big fan of Squeeze. Glenn Tilbrook is the complete package – the voice, the guitar playing, along with the songs he wrote with Chris Difford, just amazing. I’ve heard those greatest hits so many times that it’s become rather blah to me, but to see them play them live is very impressive, how on the mark they were for so many years.

    Having said that, I think that Tilbrook just comes off somewhat lightweight next to Costello on “Whisper.”

    That REM album was really a duet between the band and the shark they were jumping. It had some moments, though.

  31. cherguevara

    Did anybody mention “Fairytale of New York” with the Pogues and Kirsty Macoll?

  32. misterioso

    machinery, I am not sure about this without checking sessionographies and such but I assume the EC/Squeeze “Whisper” dates to the time when he was working with them on East Side Story?

    Anyway, on disc 2 of the expanded, 2-disc version of Get Happy (one needs footnotes to explain which iteration of EC’s back catalogue is being referenced) there is a EC & Attractions version of the song; moreover, there’s an alternate take, sans Tillbrook, from the Trust sessions on the 2nd Trust disc in the same (Edsel) reissue series.

    Crossover appeal? I suspect that was the intention. “From a Whisper” almost cracked the top 40. Not quite, though. But, then again, “Tempted” didn’t make the top 40, either, yet somehow it ended up as a hit.

    Count me as a big fan of Trust, though.

  33. machinery

    Thanks Misterioso … I believe I do own that expanded Get Happy disc — I will have to track down the Tiibrrok-less version and listen more closely!!!

    I do dig that song, just not the duet part. And Trust totally holds up.

  34. Here’s a NEW hipster duet! — Lou Reed shows up on Metric’s new album — singing with Emily Haines on The Wanderlust.

  35. BigSteve

    The second drummer is Pete Thomas’ daughter, Tennessee.

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