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It’s the Same Old Song: Coincidence? You Decide!

December 20, 2010

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”  Translation: it’s all the same thing, man.  Ok, so we know new music is made on the same instruments, with the same number of possible notes, and is built on the songs of those who came before us, but sometimes, dang, couldn’t they have changed the bass line just a little?  Occasionally a song pops up that is so reminiscent of another famous tune, it makes you wonder: is this intentional sampling?  An accident?  Or straight up thievery?  Today I want to hear about pairs of songs that are twins, separated at birth.  Let’s examine if they’re identical or not.

This first example I only put together last week, and I would be embarrassed if I wasn’t so delighted at learning the connection.  A couple years ago I was surprised by how much I loved the song by the Raconteurs, “Steady As She Goes.”

So while cruising around in a borrowed car this past week, listening to 97.1 The Drive, aka easy listening classic rock, I heard this Joe Jackson song.

Hey, I know that bass line!  The question is, did they steal it?  I think no, not intentionally, I bet they ‘invented’ it on their own while playing, perhaps with the memory of this song from Look Sharp lingering in the deep recesses.  When no one brought it up until AFTER the song is released as a single, I bet they felt ashamed for not realizing.  Really someone else could have helped them out with this along the way; was there really NO ONE else in the entire record company that was a Joe Jackson fan?  Damn, that guy really can’t find the love he deserves.

Earlier this year I was on a road trip, when Belle & Sebastian’s The Boy with the Arab Strap came on, and I FREAKED OUT….

….not because I’m a rabid fan of B&S, but because of how similarly the opening riff sounded like Boz Scaggs:

….and I might be a rabid fan of that song, but who can say really?  I searched the liner notes and there was no mention of an interpolation in the production credits.  B&S probably aren’t raking in the royalties on this record, though they probably owe Boz a drink every time he’s in town.

Our final example is a little bit more abstract, but try it and see if you might agree with me.  These two songs overlap in an unusual way, so you can sing the chorus of one over the verse of the other.  The first song dropped in May of 2000:

I see you, Darkchild.  The next song followed in December of the same year and was produced by….someone not Rodney Jerkins, I don’t remember.

This seems like a pretty clear case of biting styles, combined a bit with the musical zeitgeist of the year 2000.  I miss those days!  Then again, perhaps they were just doing DJs a favor across the land, it’s real easy to mix those songs together.

~~~~~~~

Give me other examples of song-twins!  If you know the history, spill that too.

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. Marie permalink
    December 20, 2010 1:28 am

    So yeah, you compelled me to FINALLY remember the song that sounds like the beginning of this one:
    http://bit.ly/guLTrW

    It’s THIS ONE, of course… I know it’s only one note repeated, but holy crap, was that bothering me. Thanks for the trigger, now I’m going to bed now too!!
    http://bit.ly/h45akL

  2. December 20, 2010 1:49 am

    This is so tough since with all of the sampling and covering that goes on with music today, I think it’s much more unique to find a song that DOESN’T sound like another!

    3:32 on the video is the passage in question. And actually I think Ashford & Simpson got a writing credit on THIS song because of the lifted “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” vocalizing going on here, but it was kept so low key many people might not have noticed.

    I know there are a few more buried in my brain… so I’ll have to see if I can come up with something closer to what you’re really asking for here!

  3. December 20, 2010 8:25 am

    I’ve always thought the drum parts in Easy Lover sounds just like the intro and breakdown parts of “Take Me With You”

  4. December 20, 2010 8:28 am

    I swear to Xena I hope Bowie got some cashmoney from World Party because their Reality Bites “hit” sounds so much like Young Americans it’s annoying.

  5. angie permalink
    December 20, 2010 12:28 pm

    i swear to xena. you get the best comments! loved this. i don’t hear shit.

  6. December 20, 2010 1:54 pm

    @Marie: that first song sounded SO familiar to me too, but it wasn’t the second song you linked (though that is similiar too) – i think it’s reminding me of a Magnetic Fields song….Meaningless?

    @Dean: sampling sounds very different to me, I guess, because that is about taking a breakbeat or an element of the song, and flipping it and building a new bass line or melody around it. with song twins, I mean more the songs where every time you hear one, you starting singing another tune with the same riffs. like how if the radio is turned down, it’s hard to tell if the opening beat is Hall and Oates’s Maneater:

    or if its Stevie Wonder’s Part Time Lover:

    @angie: i don’t hear shit. LOL!!

  7. December 20, 2010 1:59 pm

    also, Dean, I’ve never seen that video — thank you for introducing it to me!! are they being ironic in the beginning while in the limo? I can’t even tell.

  8. December 20, 2010 2:00 pm

    Don’t get me started on my 70s childhood conflation that was:

    The Doobie Bros “What a fool believes”

    and

  9. December 20, 2010 2:30 pm

    um, that lyrics video for Steal Away is little disturbing.

  10. December 20, 2010 2:37 pm

    It’s so freaking weird and creepy. I just listen to the song and minimize the video.

  11. IrishUp permalink
    December 20, 2010 3:59 pm

    Whoa! I always thought the Raconteurs were doing JJ’s “Look Sharp”

    The Strokes were totes chanelling TP & the HB “American Girl” with “Last Night”

  12. December 20, 2010 4:57 pm

    @Irish Up – used to think “Last Night” was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers! And the worst part was I owed “This is It” at the time!

  13. IrishUp permalink
    December 20, 2010 6:20 pm

    @snarky’s “… I owed “This is It” at the time!” LOL, I think The Strokes are prolly lucky TP does not seem the litigious type.

    “Party Train” (Gap Band, ’83)

    Fantastic Voyage (Lakeside, ’80)

  14. December 20, 2010 6:32 pm

    @IrishUp, omg, Gap Band owes some cash. good call!

  15. Chi permalink
    December 20, 2010 7:50 pm

    When I heard that Belle & Sebastian song, the first thing I thought of was Spirit in the Sky.

    I love this topic! I did a paper for Cognitive Psych back in the pre-YouTube dark ages (like ’93 or so) on cryptoamnesia and unconscious plagiarism. My main examples were George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord and John Fogarty plagiarizing himself. So basically, brains are great at remembering things, but are not good at all at remembering the source of the information (and whether that source was reliable or not). Ever found yourself telling a bit of gossip back to the person you heard it from? So this kind of thing happens all the time and it’s really hard to tell whether it’s on purpose or not. I would think more often it’s not on purpose, because it’s so embarrassing to be found out, right?

    The story of Bittersweet Symphony is fascinating to me:

  16. Chi permalink
    December 20, 2010 7:52 pm

    And speaking of source memory, I am sitting here thinking, now how did I discover that video some months ago? Did someone here blog about it? Ahhh!

  17. December 20, 2010 8:29 pm

    I would think more often it’s not on purpose, because it’s so embarrassing to be found out, right?

    exactly! I wish we were more understanding of how our brains worked, so it wouldn’t have to be so ashamed about it when it happens. Probably every person attempting to be creative has at some point unintentionally borrowed, stolen, or just straight up reinvented the wheel without realizing someone else already recorded it.

  18. December 20, 2010 11:46 pm

    last year I kept hearing this song playing out of cars:

    I’d get really excited because I thought this Kylie song was making a comeback:

  19. December 21, 2010 1:56 am

    I love this topic! I did a paper for Cognitive Psych back in the pre-YouTube dark ages (like ’93 or so) on cryptoamnesia and unconscious plagiarism. My main examples were George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord and John Fogarty plagiarizing himself. So basically, brains are great at remembering things, but are not good at all at remembering the source of the information (and whether that source was reliable or not). Ever found yourself telling a bit of gossip back to the person you heard it from?

    I feel like this is a bit of a dodge used by folks who don’t actually do a heap of creating. I do a heap of creating and I am clear about my influences. Besides every single person who plagiarized me has used this logic. That said, I love the story of Fogarty getting the bum’s rush for plagiarizing himself. I still like that song Centerfield though. It’s good!

  20. December 21, 2010 6:18 am

    Wendy & Lisa did the song “Mother of Pearl”:

    and a decade later, Drain STH made “The Bubble Song”:

    and what I like is that nothing about them is completely the same. They’re even in different time signatures. And yet there are still enough similarities that every time I hear one of those songs, I think of the other one.

  21. Chi permalink
    December 21, 2010 5:52 pm

    @ Snarky’s – yeah, I’m totally just a consumer, not a creator. I can’t imagine how frustrating (to say the least) it would be from the inside. Some examples going around of stolen web writing so egregious that the “just an idea I read bouncing around in my brain until I thought I thought it up” doesn’t hold any water at all. And then there seem to be a lot of people with a business model of content theft.

  22. December 23, 2010 6:05 pm

    Finally thought of one of the ones I was thinking about! If such a thing is possible! Exhibit A:

    The passage in question begins at the 3:08 mark of this track.

    AND…

    So did Paganini get a writing credit on Fleetwood Mac? If not, why not?

  23. December 29, 2010 11:18 am

    I used to get SO MAD when this song came on:

    because I always thought it was going to be this:

    and was sorely disappointed.

  24. December 29, 2010 11:22 pm

    I used to do the same thing! I forgot all about it, thanks for reminding me, Tony.

  25. January 17, 2011 9:27 pm

    Wow! Nice Post I like this song Thanks for sharing and Happy New Year 2011 Please Visit My Music song site.

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