Sunday, August 03, 2014

Whole lotta similarities

This list of "Top 10 Rip-off Songs" caught my ear because I recently purchased the Spirit album with "Taurus" which is the - um - "inspiration" for Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven".


Nigel Tufnel said...

It's a descending chromatic bass line. Songs have been built around that progression for centuries.

If the people from Spirit manage to pull this off then I would suggest Davy Graham's people turn around and sue those bastards from Spirit for "ripping off" "Cry Me a River" - which they didn't.

Eric said...

"Cry me a River" by Julie London? Made popular in "V for Vendetta"?

Now I'm confused.

Nigel Tufnel said...

If you look up Davy Graham you'll find it.

My fave 'rip off' story was the famous suit against George Harrison by the folks who owned "He's So Fine".

That story is loaded with similar background of someone going after a wildly successful artist because there was money to be made.

The poor bastard who wrote 'Taurus' died poor. He was a talented guy. Imagine his annoyance as he watched some dudes he used to share a stage with who had 'that much talent' go on to become international superstars with money to burn.

The bass progression shared by the songs in one portion is about as simple as you can get in music - moving down a semitone at a time.

It would be impossible for any artist to claim ownership of it. While it is common to a portion of the two songs (and the Davy Graham song, and others), the rest of each diverge more than enough to put to rest any claims of ripping off. You could come up with a list of songs with a similar progression - especially in folk music.

The story has legs because the two bands shared a stage at one point.

Eric said...

Hey, um, Nigel - did your wife to to U Vermont or U NH?

I think my son is thinking of UNH which I found has the 4th highest tuition for a state college in the USA.

As for Jimmy Page, I'm going to quote Homer Simpson: ""Let's just look. There's Big Ben; there's Piccadilly Circus; there's Jimmy Page, the greatest thief of American black music who ever walked the Earth; Oh, there's the kids.""

Anonymous said...

It's a descending chromatic bass line. Songs have been built around that progression for centuries.

It's not the bass line that was the problem. Almost the entire intro guitar arrangement was lifted.

Nigel Tufnel said...

You make one more disparaging comment about the great Jimmy Page, who's like, THE BEST EVER, and I swear I will start trolling all over your blog, my friend.

She went to UVM. I thought about going to UNH, but I got more help from Umass. All the state schools are bad for out of staters in terms of tuition. If he wants to go to big state U, Umass is by far the best choice in the region. Familiarity may breed contempt, but it's a better school than either UVM or UNH in terms of breadth of offering, faculty, etc. He can live on campus and get away from his parents, and you guys can promise not to show up at his dorm too often.

The decision making process is different than when we were kids. Less romantic and more hard nosed, I fear. You have to make a serious calculation about whether you are really getting your money's worth given the absurd inflation of tuition rates.

When I was in high school, dinosaurs roamed the earth and Quinsigamond CC in Worcester was a junior college for people not ready for the real deal. Now it is standard practice for kids who want to graduate from WPI to do their first two years at Quinsig and then transfer, freeing themselves from $70K (or more) of student loans when they graduate, and getting the same educational content. Counselors at WPI actually encourage kids to do that if they aren't getting enough aid.

Nigel Tufnel said...

Anonymous, adding arpeggios of the associated chords doesn't change the point. They share a few bars of similarity and then resolve into different chords. By that definition the majority of popular, concert, folk, blues and other music are 'almost' entirely lifted.

These stories generally have the same dynamic of a poor guy going after a rich guy. Davy Graham didn't go after Spirit because there was nothing to go after, despite the Spirit's 'lifting' the same progression in Taurus.

Led Zeppelin didn't go after Chicago for "25 or 6 to 4", and George Harrison didn't go after Led Zeppelin for "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You". What all three had in common was commercial success and piles of moulah.

There are interesting web sites that track the interrelationships in music. Some time spent on one of them quickly dispenses with the notion that people write 'entirely' original music.

What matters is the totality of the song. It is the totality of Stairway to Heaven that makes it great and so well known, and is the reason that the rather unoriginal and plain progression in the introduction is associated with it rather than with other music in which it appears.

Anonymous said...

What matters is the totality of the song. It is the totality of Stairway to Heaven that makes it great and so well known

I certainly agree with that. Still, rare would be the person who could hear the Taurus intro for the first time, whose jaw would not drop.