One morning, Joe Satriani woke up to 40 text messages on his cell phone.Â After scrolling through 40 variations of â€œholy schet u got ripped off,â€ Joe texted back his good friend (whose Internet name is Fuzzyslippers621) the following reply: â€œwot d feck R U talkin bout?â€Â This went back and forth for about 15 minutes until Joe realized his cell phone was actually a phone.Â So he called Fuzzyslippers621 and asked in regular English, â€œWhat the fuck are you talking about?â€Â To which his friend replied, â€œHavenâ€™t you heard the new Coldplay song?â€Â He had not, but after launching his Limewire program, he downloaded an illegal copy, waited for his iTunes player to play it, and lathered up his head for his morning shave.
The opening strains of the song were interesting, but he had no idea what all this â€œripping offâ€ business was, until …
He was stunned. There it was.Â An unabashedly plagiarized portion of a song he wrote years before.Â â€œHow could this be?â€ He wondered as he carefully glided the Gillete â€œFusionâ€ razor over his grizzled pate.Â The more his listened to â€œViva La Vida,â€ the angrier he got.Â Beads of shaving cream-infused sweat started rolling off his head. Furiously, he texted his lawyer the following message:Â â€œI wnt 2 sue.â€
And so began the story of one artistâ€™s quest to right the wrongs that had, uh, wronged … him. Right.
Joe Satrianiâ€™s claim may have merit, but if he does win in court, lawyers for artists whose work has been the inspiration for other songs that sound uncannily like the original are going to have work after listening to this mix.
My Popdose colleague Matthew Bolin started a back and forth about Satrianiâ€™s lawsuit against Coldplay, and me being the opportunist I am, decided to float a Mix Six idea I had been thinking about for a few weeks. Jeff Giles, Scott Malchus and Michael Fortes all contributed suggestions to this mix, so with that, letâ€™s get started!
Yeah, this is one of those â€œWTFâ€ moments where you wonder why the Mighty Zep didnâ€™t let loose the lawyers on those copycat Mormon brothers.Â Sure, the Osmonds have been reinventing themselves since Andy Williams first brought them into the popular culture. But by the early â€™70s, they were cashing in by ripping off the Jackson 5 on â€œOne Bad Apple,â€ and then Zep a couple of years later with â€œHold Her Tight.â€Â The guitar riff the Osmonds use is pretty much the same one Jimmy Page laid on us cats back in 1970, except the tempo is increased for maximum rockinâ€™ rip off. Oh, and â€œHold Her Tightâ€ went to #14. And â€œImmigrant Song?â€ Well, it wasnâ€™t in the Top 40, but one could make the case that Robert Plantâ€™s wail at the beginning of the song ripped off part of the melody from the â€œGet Smartâ€ theme song.Â Have a listen!
Somewhere in the wilds of Wisconsin where Tommy Heath of Tommy Tutone fame lives, heâ€™s probably shitting himself with worry about what it would mean to challenge The Boss in court over the similarity between his hit song and Bruceâ€™s â€œRadio Nowhere.â€Â My view, however, is that if youâ€™re going to be ripped off, itâ€™s an honor to be ripped off by Springsteen. And look at it this way, Tommy: it gives you some colorful stories to tell your friends while youâ€™re ice fishing.
The legal battle over these two songs, as you probably know, headed for court upon release of Avrilâ€™s tune.Â But the two parties reached an agreement before the trial.Â It seems Avrilâ€™s lawyer was quick on his feet and pointed out that the Rubinoosâ€™ chorus sounded a lot like â€œGet Off My Cloudâ€ by some group called the Rolling Stones. No word on whether Toni Basil is lawyering up against Avril over â€œMickey.â€
Paul Simon isÂ a classic poacher of musical ideas, but Lindsay Buckingham strikes me as a guy who is more auteur than pirate.Â But if you canâ€™t fill in the (â€œAw, aw, aw, aw, aw awâ€) vocal hook in the chorus of â€œPeacekeeper with â€œAll the worldâ€™s a sunny dayâ€ from â€œKodachrome,â€ then you live on some polygamist compound in central Utah.
I suppose John â€œJohnny Ballsacâ€ Mayer could be forgiven by the estate of Curtis Mayfield if he just flat out admitted, â€œYeah, this song owes almost everything to Curtis Mayfield. And because it does, Iâ€™m giving a portion of my royalties to whatever non-profit political organization his estate tells me to.â€ Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?
Well â€œDo-lang, do-lang, do-lang, do-lang,â€ cribbing the melody from the Chiffons cost Georgie boy over $500,000 (US) in royalties — until he put a stop to all that by buying the rights to â€œHeâ€™s So Fine.â€ Harrison provides a good lesson to those who are so keen to pilfer from others: If youâ€™re rich enough, just buy the rights to the song youâ€™re, um, â€œborrowing from,â€ before releasing yours.Â Otherwise, ask permission — because you probably wonâ€™t get forgiveness if it goes to court.