Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pop does eat itself


There’s a theory that if you hang around long enough, every trend comes around again. What once may have been unfashionable roars back into view and whilst I’m not sure it was ever true for flared trousers it is never more frequently proven than in the world of music.

Bands that punk seemed to have made redundant are still frequently the highest grossing tours around the world whilst those punk bands drag their act (minus a member or two) around the club circuit.

I was a purist once, or at least I thought I was. I used to develop a violent reaction to music that I thought was unoriginal or had been borrowed from a more inventive source. I was an idiot.

Everyone knows that music constantly renews and re-invents and that essentially there are only so many tunes, melodies and chords that can be manipulated in certain ways. Since the birth of rock n’ roll bands have become popular often on the back of music created elsewhere – The Stones and Zeppelin being particularly notable beneficiaries of older, lesser known American blues players.

These thoughts occur to me now as the result of a few songs that remind me vividly of other prior pop excursions.  


Findlay’s excellently scuzzy ‘Your Sister’ has a glam rock feel to it, so much so that if you can take your eyes off the video you may hear The Sweet’s Blockbuster riff rattling around in there.


Similarly Green Day’s Stray Heart from their ambitious trilogy of releases has a traditional tinge to it but a riff that resonates over a longer period of pop history.


I thought first of Jet’s excellent burst of rock brilliance, Are You Gonna Be My Girl


Of course it’s a riff familiar to many tunes and always reminds me vividly of a Town Called Malice.


Weller and Foxton revisited the writing of that song recently with the latter recognising the debt they owed to The Supremes


I suppose there is an eternal question: at what point is it homage and when does it become plagiarism? Some might say the greatest tribute would be to pay the originator, include them as a songwriting credit but that also brings up other problems of getting approval which would obviously slow the creative process somewhat.

It is probably sufficient to recognise that very few songs are truly original, that to resonate with the wider public they may need that pull of recognition. Every tune has to start somewhere and who are we to criticise the source – particularly if the subsequent songs are as good as these? 

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