----- Forwarded by Dick Spottswood/dick/AmericanU on 03/25/2006 06:52 PM
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03/25/2006 05:20 PM
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George Harrison & The Chiffons at bottom
By KEITH BRUCE March 13, 2006
It's The Same Old Song (BBC Radio2, Tuesday) was also right on the button,
but rather more serendipitously. In his usual cheeky-chappie style, Mark
Riley is looking at instances of plagiarism in popular music over four
shows, produced by Ian Callaghan. Starting from the premise that there are
only 12 notes, 26 letters and seven plots, Riley wondered that accusations
of poetic larceny were not even more common, and then produced a long list
of entertaining examples to show how regularly they crop up. With Da Vinci
Code author Dan Brown defending his orginality in a London court, the
series is certainly timely.
It was also funny in its insistence that no-one is guiltless. So, the same
Chuck Berry who claimed royalties from Brian Wilson when he pinched a riff
for The Beach Boys' Surfin USA, was described as a "former hairdresser"
who had "borrowed" the famous guitar intro to Johnny B Goode from Louis
A couple of figures from the British blues scene turned up to defend their
Jeff Beck reasonably pointed out that forgotten blues musicians were given
a new lease of life
and a pretty penny or two by the patronage of white players, and our own
Jack Bruce recalled being surprised to hear Otis Spann play Cream
arrangements of his own songs.
The terminology of the whole business was an entertainmentin itself – one
person's culture mining is another person's copyright infringement, and
the legal eagles are kept in Mercedes coupes by the grey area between an
original work and an idea – but the best bits of the show were the playing
of suspiciously similar tunes back to back.
So, Led Zeppelin were clearly bang to rights for lifting Willie Dixon's
song to make Whole Lotta Love (he settled out of court), and Pachelbel's
Canon was revealed as the raw material for The Farm's All Together Now and
Elvis Costello's No Action.
The great tale of George Harrison's My Sweet Lord was saved till last.
Harrison's defence, bizarrely, was that he had ripped off the Edwin
Hawkins Singers' O Happy Day, rather than The Chiffons' He's So Fine,
despite the melodious evidence.
Riley, however, missed two great codicils to the story. The girl group
later cashed in on the court case by recording My Sweet Lord and, later
still, Harrison used some of his Beatles money to buy a publishing
company. In its catalogue was, yes indeed, The Chiffons' He's So Fine.