David Bowie once spectacularly turned down a collaboration with Coldplay: “It’s not a very good song, is it?”
While David Bowie’s undoubted influence on contemporary music remains unchallenged, The Thin White Duke was not always the most opproachable in terms of artistic collaboration and Coldplay once found that out the hard way.
Bowie, who famously shared the stage with the likes of Tina Turner, Cher, Lou Reed, Marianne Faithfull, Mick Jagger and countless others, was once approached by indie-pop group Coldplay in their ambitious attempt to secure the services of the Starman’s vocals. Instead, though, the Chris Martin fronted group were met by a hard rejection.
Reflection on the failed attempt in a past interview with NME, Coldplay drummer Will Champion opened up on Bowie’s very honest assessment of the song they’d asked him to lend his vocals on. According to Champion, Bowie said: “It’s not a very good song, is it?” (Or as Chris Martin put it: “He called me and said, ‘It’s not one of your best.’”)
Despite the disapproval from Bowie, the band didn’t take his criticism to heart and, like most affiliated with the late musician, respected him for being true to himself. Champion added: “He was very discerning – he wouldn’t just put his name to anything. I’ll give him credit for that!”
In the interview the drummer then went on to say Bowie was “one of the points of reference for absolutely everything” and his death was “quite disorientating”. The sentiment was echoed by guitarist, Jonny Buckland who added: “We’ve all loved his music for as long as we’ve known about music.”
Another act who received the same Bowie cold shoulder is the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, as revealed by frontman Anthony Kiedis in a radio interview on KLOS in 2016.
Kiedis said: “Every record we ever made, we had the band discussion: ‘Who should we get to produce this record?’ ‘I don’t know, we have to try someone new. Let’s get David Bowie! So in the beginning we would call him, and he would say no, respectfully. Then, later, we would write long e-mails explaining everything, and why it was time for us to really get our ships on – and he always respectfully declined… For two minutes I was heartbroken, and then I would hear Chad Smith play drums, and I’d be like, ‘We’re good, we can go do something else.’”
He continued: “We asked him to produce By the Way, as we were writing By the Way, and then we asked him again for our next record, which was Stadium [Arcadium]. He said no to us like, two or three times, but his mate [Brian] Eno, who we’ve also been asking our entire career to please produce a record for us, has said no eight times. All good. You gotta ask. And by the way, “no” is a reasonable answer. It’s one of a couple of answers you could get, and it’s acceptable.”
Bowie always put credibility first and would only ever work on a project that he truly believed in which made him the artist he was.