‘Fairweather Friends’: The unlikely collaboration between Queens of the Stone Age and Elton John

Every now and then, music gifts us with the most unlikely pairings, such as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds collaborating with pop icon Kylie Minogue or Lou Reed working with Metallica. These unexpected alliances sometimes pay off, and other times, they completely polarise audiences. When hard rock band Queens of the Stone Age released their sixth studio album, Like Clockwork, fans did not expect to find Elton John listed on the record’s liner notes.

After forming in 1996, Queens of the Stone Age found commercial appeal with their second album, Rated R, released in 2000. However, after Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame joined the band in 2001, their third album, Songs for the Deaf, launched them further towards success. Recognised for hits such as ‘No One Knows’ and ‘Go With the Flow’, the album was certified gold two years after its release.

Over the 2000s, Queens of the Stone Age continued to release acclaimed records, cementing themselves as one of America’s most popular alternative rock outfits. Following the release of 2007’s Era Vulgaris, the band went on hiatus, during which frontman Josh Homme suffered a botched knee surgery and a bout of depression. However, these events inspired the creation of the band’s next album, which would finally surface in 2013. Like Clockwork contained many collaborations with other musicians, such as Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, and former member Grohl.

However, the acquisition of legendary musician Elton John on ‘Fairweather Friends’ was the most surprising addition to the record, who provided piano and additional vocals. On The Pulse of Radio, Homme explained how the collaboration came about. “It actually stemmed from an old roommate of mine, who drives really high-end folks around now, and Elton was in the car listening to Them Crooked Vultures, I guess. And his assistant was saying, ‘Oh, you’ve got to hear Queens, the other band of this guy,’ you know. And because my old roommate was driving the car, it was like, ‘Do you want to talk to him?’ And I just got a phone call at my house on a Sunday. You know, he said, ‘The only thing missing from your band is an actual queen,’ and I said, ‘Honey, you have no idea.’”

With that, Homme shed further insight on the experience while talking to NME. He said: “We gave him ‘Fairweather Friends’, which is not an easy song to learn. All the piano is him. He started by playing nothing but the root of the song, which is so amazing and respectful and experienced. Then, after about 20 minutes, he was just like, ‘I’m gonna start flowering it out a little bit.’ To watch him do that was just fucking badass. We played for three-and-a-half hours. That’s how long it took to get it.”

Revisit the track below.

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