Paul McCartney Revives 1969 Track for Johnny Depp Supergroup
Joe Perry details Hollywood Vampires' recording session with the former Beatle
By David Browne
March 5, 2015
Ever since word trickled out that Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper and Joe Perry had formed some sort of band, information about that project — called the Hollywood Vampires — has been scant. "We've done a lot of recording together recently," Cooper told Rolling Stone last year. But now, more details are starting to emerge, and these involve a full album, a likely fall tour and a cameo appearance by none other than Paul McCartney.
Hollywood Vampires features Joe Perry, Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper and a handful of special guests. Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty; Theo Wargo/Getty
Spearheaded by Cooper, the Hollywood Vampires take their name from a boys-night-out drinking club at L.A.'s Rainbow Bar in the Seventies, a carousing band of rock brothers that included, at various times, Cooper, John Lennon, the Monkees' Micky Dolenz, Harry Nilsson, Keith Moon and Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin. On his website, Cooper recently put out an open call for any Vampires-related memorabilia for a possible documentary he'd like to make about that era: "Where were you in the early 1970s? Los Angeles? The Sunset Strip?? You probably remember more than I do!" he wrote, adding that he's in search of "photos, stories, artifacts and witnesses from this place in rock history." Cooper set up a hashtag, #Hollywoodvampires, for people to submit any memories.
The new version of the Vampires, launched by Cooper and Depp, is more focused on music. Since last year, they've been laying down tracks in L.A. with a distinctive theme provided by producer Bob Ezrin. "The record is dedicated to all the friends we've lost to drugs and alcohol over the years and getting people to come in and cover the songs their friends wrote," Perry says. And, according to Perry, who's contributed to several tracks on the album, one of the friends who popped in was McCartney, who contributed a new version of "Come and Get It," the hit he wrote and produced for Badfinger.
A few years ago, McCartney briefly revived the song onstage with his band, but he's rarely sung or played it since 1969. But according to Perry, little prep was necessary for the Vampires session. Showing up at the studio with his regular drummer, Abe Laboriel Jr., McCartney had not only already picked out the song — a tribute to Badfinger members Pete Ham and Tom Evans, who each committed suicide — but was ready to go. "I was joking with him and said, 'You probably wrote this in 20 minutes,'" says Perry, who had met but never worked with McCartney before. "And he said, 'Actually, I was in bed sleeping and I knew they needed a song for this band we signed, and I went downstairs and played it on the piano and then went to Abbey Road an hour before the rest of the [Beatles], played all the instruments, made the demo and gave [Badfinger, then called the Iveys] the song.'"
As Perry and the others watched, McCartney effortlessly revived his 46-year-old tune. "He knew all the chords, the lyrics, everything," Perry says. "He didn't have any cheat sheets. It was like he'd been playing it his whole life. Me and Alice and Johnny were standing there and looking at each other and I tell you — if there's any ego-lever in a room, it's Paul. It doesn't matter who you are or what you've done. If Paul's in the room, he's there. It was hard to focus on playing." Cooper and McCartney wound up sharing the lead vocals on the song, Perry says.
As of now, the Hollywood Vampires have only one scheduled show on their calendar — an appearance at Rock in Rio in late September. But Perry says a tour that month is in the works and that he's looking forward to playing onstage with Depp. "Johnny's a great guitarist," he says. "The times I've spent with him, I've always been impressed. To go out and tour with him is going to be a lot of fun. Everybody's really charged about it."
Theo Wargo / Mike Coppola, Getty Images