Monday, June 21, 2010

Do not adjust your record speed, revisited eight times

Back on March 10 I wrote a post entitled Do Not Adjust Your Record Speed which highlighted TotallySoundsLike's allegation that Rick James' "Super Freak" received a significant amount of inspiration from Michael Nesmith's "Cruisin."

The whole idea of borrowing from other songs is popular in music, and occurs in a variety of forms. Devo's "Some Things Never Change" includes an intentional quote from the lyrics of "A Day in the Life," but the snippet is so small that I doubt that lawyers needed to get involved. It was a different story, of course, with George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord." And then you have the whole topic of parodies.

Regardless of whether the borrowing was accidental or intentional, laudatory or malicious, there's certainly a lot of borrowing going around. Here's a list of a number of cases. In the list, the first song is the original, while the second song is the subsequent one. Here are a, samples from the list:

AEROSMITH-- "Walk This Way"
"Walk this Way", Run D.M.C.

Inasmuch as Steven Tyler and Joe Perry appeared in Run D.M.C.'s video, presumably this was a case in which the borrowing was approved.

Incidentally, the idea to cover the song did not originate with the band.

While working on Raising Hell, Rick Rubin pulled out Toys in the Attic (an album they freestyled over) and explained who Aerosmith were. While Run and DMC had no idea who Aerosmith were at that time, Jam Master Jay suggested remaking the song. Both Run and DMC did not like the idea. Later, however, they covered the song with Aerosmith.

CHUCK BERRY*-- "Sweet Little Sixteen"
"Surfin' USA", The Beach Boys

This borrowing was not approved until the copyright of the latter song was changed to give Berry a co-writing credit.

THE MOMENTS-- "Sexy Mama"
"It Was a Good Day", Ice Cube

This illustrates something noted in the post - often when we hear a song, we have no idea that the song is based on a previous one. I've never heard of the Moments or their song.

ANDREW LOOG OLDHAM-- "Last Time" (From a Rolling Stones Instrumental Album)
"Bittersweet Symphony", The Verve

Now obviously I have heard of Oldham and the band he used to manage, but I never made the connection between "Bittersweet Symphony" and "Last Time." (To be fair, I had never heard the instrumental version before I wrote this post.) Incidentally, this was not a friendly borrowing - both Oldham and Allen Klein have sued the Verve over this.

THE POLICE-- "Every Breath You Take"
"I'll Be Missing You", Puff Daddy feat Faith Evans and 112

This song can result in polar opposite views. I was discussing this with someone once, and asserted my preference for the Police version because Mr. Combs really didn't add much of anything in his take. My verbal opponent disagreed, saying that Mr. Combs' version is a much more positive song, as opposed to the creepy version by the Police.

QUEEN and DAVID BOWIE-- "Under Pressure"
"Ice Ice Baby", Vanilla Ice

On the other hand, I know of no one who prefers Vanilla Ice's version over the original (even if Vanilla Ice once claimed that the two songs were totally different).

VAN HALEN-- "Jamie's Cryin"
"Wild Thing", Tone Loc

Here's another case where I never made the connection between the two songs, but it's obvious once you think about it. Did Jamie get paid to do her cryin'?
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