Supergroups: when the biggest names in pop come together

As Sia, Diplo, and Labrinth release their first album as LSD, we look back at more pop mergers and takeovers.

For years, collaborations have been part and parcel of today’s music scene, but supergroups are different.

Like the Avengers banding together to save the world from destruction, supergroups see solo artists and band members like join forces in a musical bid for a blockbuster.

We look back at some of the biggest – and most surprising – supergroups of all time, starting with…

LSD

LSD have enjoyed chart success since their formation in 2018, and their eponymous debut album is out 12 April. 

The band already have an impressive back catalogue of hits to their name in the shape of singer and songwriter to the stars Sia, rapper, singer and songwriter Labrinth, and super-producer, DJ, rapper, singer and songwriter Diplo (a lot of singing and songwriting credentials going on here). The tracks we've hard so far show off each star’s talents, and takes them in a new direction  their first hit as a trio was Thunderclouds, which reached 17 in October last year.

The Carters

More a superduo than a supergroup, we grant you, but when two musical behemoths come together, the world listens. Not content with collaborating on marriage, children, and doing the odd feature on each other's hits, Beyoncé and Jay Z came together in 2018 to form The Carters (that's their surname, in case you were wondering; yes they have surnames, just like us!). The pair surprise-released collaborative album Everything is love, and literally took over the Louvre to film the impressive video for headline cut APESH*T. Is there anything these two can't do?

McBusted

“Gone too soon” can be overused, but there’s no doubt the world wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Busted when they called it a day after Charlie quit. The band always had close links with McFly, so it made sense for the band to get together for a tour. Pretty soon, though, the new McBusted realised there was more they could do, releasing Top 20 single Air Guitar and a self-titled album, which peaked at 9. But when Charlie decided he was ready to come back to the Busted bosom after all, the McSupergroup went on hiatus while its two parents bands carried on their own paths.

Gorillaz

The brainchild of Blur’s Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett, animated supergroup Gorillaz have had many incarnations, bringing in various musicians for each of their cycles. They scored their first Number 1 in 2005 with Dare, featuring Shaun Ryder, and its parent album Demon Days was a chart-topper too. The band’s latest album Humanz debuted at 2 on the Official Albums Chart in 2017, cementing their place as one of the industry’s most popular and enduring supergroups.

Electronic

Bringing together Barney Sumner, lead singer from New Order and former Smiths' guitarist Johnny Marr, this superduo – yeah, that's a thing now – also collaborated with Pet Shop Boys on their earlier material after forming in 1989. Their highest charting single came in 1992, when Disappointed went to Number 6. All three of Electronic's albums went Top 10.

Million Dollar Quartet

Comprising Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, the Million Dollar Quartet was initially just an impromptu jam session. The four musicians descended on Sun Record Studios in Memphis at the same time in 1956 and, naturally, gathered around the piano, belting out gospel songs they knew. The name, Million Dollar Quartet, was coined by local newspaper, the Memphis Press-Scimitar, who reported on and photographed the session.

Someone had the foresight to record this monumental musical meeting, although it was nearly thirty years before they saw the light of day. The recordings were released in Europe first in 1981.The sessions were re-released in 1990 with new material, followed by a 50th anniversary edition, The Complete Million Dollar Quartet, released in 2006.

Unfortunately, the group never performed in their original set up. However, as the video above shows, in 1985, Roy Orbison would pick up where Elvis left off.

Cream

Widely considered the world’s first proper supergroup, Cream — drummer Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce — made a big impact during their original run between 1966 and 1968. You get that many superstars in a room, egos are bound to get in the way: building tensions and rivalry between Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce drove the group to split. Still, they reformed in 2005 for a string of live dates, their last shows together.

Traveling Wilburys

The Traveling Wilburys is the true definition of a supergroup, made up of some musical big guns: Bob Dylan, Beatles' George Harrison, ELO's Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty.

Active between 1988 and 1991, the group released two albums, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 and the intentionally mis-numbered Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3, both of which landed at Number 16 and 14 respectfully on the Official Albums Chart. Vol. 3 had been recorded without the talents of Roy Orbison, who’d sadly died, and after its release, the group disbanded.

Plastic Ono Band

John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s The Plastic Ono Band had a shapeshifting lineup and, between 1969 and 1974, released seven albums. The band was more a collaboration between various artists than a full-on supergroup, but with names like Phil Spector, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon and Lennon's former Beatles bandmates George Harrison and Ringo Starr involved, it more than fits the bill.

In 2009, Yoko Ono revived the Plastic Ono Band with her son Sean Lennon, Cornelius and Yuka Honda. This incarnation has performed with artists like Lady Gaga, Bette Midler and Mark Ronson.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer

This prog rock supergroup brought together The Nice's Keith Emerson, King Crimson's Greg Lake, and Carl Palmer. Their first seven albums went Top 10, and their sole hit single together, Fanfare for the Common Man, went to Number 2 in 1977.

SuperHeavy

If you’re going to bring together some big names for a supergroup, you might as well go eclectic. Super producer and former Eurythmics member Dave Stewart came up with the idea of SuperHeavy, and recruited Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, reggae artist Damian Marley, and composer AR Rahman, plus singer Joss Stone. The band experimented with styles and got critical acclaim, but released only one self-titled album, which reached Number 13 in 2011.

NKOTBSB

Originally uniting for a tour, the merger of New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys brought back the rush of teenage hormones, boppy choruses and slick dance routines. With nine members – BSB’s Kevin Williamson decided to sit this one out – the stage was in danger of getting crowded, but the band did manage to fit into a recording studio to record an album together.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Founded by Nick Cave (obvs), Mick Harvey and guitarist Blixa Bargeld in 1983, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is another supergroup that, over the years, has had many guises. Currently, the group is comprised of Thomas Wydler, Martyn P. Casey, Jim Sclavunos, Warren Ellis, George Vjestica and Toby Dammit. The band make up the main thrust of Nick Cave’s musical outpourings, releasing 16 albums since its inception. The band even spawned its own spin off group, Grinderman.

Tin Machine

Such was his stage presence and bona fide superstardom, interest in Tin Machine was always going to focus on David Bowie. But the band also did a lot for Bowie’s career. Following the lukewarm critical reception to album Never Let Me Down and his Glass Spider Tour, Bowie started collaborating with The Cure’s Reeves Gabrels. They were later joined by Tom Fox Sales and his brother Hunt Sales.

Between 1988 and 1992, the group released two albums, Tin Machine I and Tin Machine II. They eventually called it quits, with Bowie citing “personal problems” beyond his control for the group’s demise.