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Yes and Zeppelin? 5 True All-Star Near-Collaborations

Yes at House of Blues, February 2010
Yes at House of Blues, February 2010
Photo by Jason Wolter

Quick, what's your dream supergroup, living or dead? When I was a big prog nerd, mine was Peter Gabriel on vocals and lyrics, David Gilmour and Robert Fripp on guitar, Geddy Lee on bass, Bill Bruford on drums, Tony Levin on Chapman stick, and Rick Wakeman on keys. Come to think of it, that still sounds awesome.

But if you're a bit more realistic than I am, did you know that some of your dreams may have already almost come true?

Yes, there's been many cases where fantasy pairings almost happened and for whatever reason just didn't. No, your bizarre desire to hear a Ratt, Tesla and Dokken supergroup never happened and stop asking for it because that's terrible. But if any of these were in your head, well, here's what could have been.

5. XYZ (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Chris Squire, Alan White)

On the subject of prog supergroups, this one actually almost happened in 1981. Page and Squire had been talking seriously about making this a thing, named because they were eX-Yes and Led Zeppelin, by all accounts a pretty lame name for an awesome band. Squire would have handled most of the writing and brought Alan White over from Yes. Page, meanwhile, felt they needed a good front man, and who better than Robert Plant?

Unfortunately, Page didn't like how proggy Squire's songs were, so he only made one practice before the group fizzled out. Plant never even got a call about it. Page and Squire took their ideas for the band to The Firm and the then-recently reformed Yes respectively. Of course, if you've heard either The Firm or Yes in the '80s, maybe we didn't miss out on much when XYZ fell apart.

4. Dave Walker in Black Sabbath

Ok, you probably didn't think of this one, but if you were a blues-rock fan in the '70s, it might not have sounded like a bad proposition. Dave Walker was a long-term member of Fleetwood Mac in their serious blues-rock days before they got Stevie Nicks and went pop. When Ozzy quit Sabbath in 1978, Sabbath hired Walker, who had been recording solo since getting bucked (get it?) from Fleetwood Mac.

They only managed to make a few recordings for what would eventually become Never Say Die. You can listen above to an early version of "Junior's Eyes" featuring Walker on vox. Unfortunately for Walker, Ozzy wanted back in when he saw the band was going on without him, so Dave was out and Oz was back in (at least until he left again the next year).

 

3. Tony Iommi in Jethro Tull

Speaking of the Sabs, before they took off, a young Tony Iommi was a member of Jethro Tull for a very brief time. There are no recordings of them together, and the only performance that exists is above, where they were miming (so that's not actually Tony playing; sorry guys). Before they could do anything else, Tony went back to Sabbath and then they took off in a big way.

One has to wonder though what would have become of Tull had they continued with the Dark Master of the Riff. If nothing else, they might have deserved that Best Metal Grammy.

2. Dimebag Darrell in Megadeth

Before Pantera took off big, they were toiling away making low-budget hair metal albums, but one standout of the band was a young guitarist then known as Diamond Darrell. When Megadeth's second lineup fell apart after their album So Far, So Good... So What?, Dave Mustaine and his ever-present companion/bassist David Ellefson were in need of a new lead guitarist and drummer.

They auditioned Diamond Darrell and hired him on the spot, but Darrell had one stipulation: He and his brother Vinnie Paul came as a package deal. Since Mustaine had already hired Nick Menza to play drums, he had to turn Darrell down on that, so Darrell went back to Pantera.

Immediately after, he and his band's new vocalist decided to add some major testosterone to their sound and we got Cowboys from Hell. Mustaine ended up hiring Mary Friedman and I don't think anyone was disappointed with his playing on Rust in Peace. But man, what do you think Dave and Dime could have come up with together? Well, one thing's for sure, Dave can't play Dime's songs anyway...

 

1. Les Claypool in Metallica

Like Dime in Megadeth, this probably turned out for the best since we ended up with two great bands instead of one. Regardless, after Cliff Burton died, Metallica did audition Les Claypool to replace him.

Les had been friends with Kirk Hammett for a long time, having grown up with him in the Bay Area. He didn't really know much about metal, though, so he had no idea Metallica was even a big deal. He walked in dressed like a skater and had no idea the intro to "For Whom the Bell Tolls" was on the bass, so it didn't work out.

Of course, that didn't stop them for playing together once they were all famous years later. Can anyone imagine how utterly weird Metallica would have sounded though if they had brought in Les and let him write songs? "My Name is Mud" sung by James Hetfield? Now that would be interesting.


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