Thursday, July 13, 2006

Last Dance With Dani California

I'm always a sucker for a hook. As Blues Traveler once sang, "It's the hook that brings you back." (Side note, are those guys even still together?) A little background for those of you that don't know what a hook is, it's a term for the part of the song that grabs the attention of the listener. Just about every good song out there has a "killer" hook. It literally "reels" you in like you were a big mouth bass chomping on a worm. Think about your favorite song. Where's the hook? Likely it's the part of the song you know by heart. Hell, I don't know every word to "Sympathy For The Devil," but I sure as Mick's lips know the "Doo-Dooo" part. That my friends, is the hook.

Years ago my music snob friends and I discussed hooks in cheesy pop songs, and how much we appreciated them. Granted, we'd never admit to anyone in public that we actually liked these songs. Besides, how could someone who listens to Elvis Costello dare listen to N'Sync? Anyway, at the time I was claiming that "Mmm Bop" by Hanson was a great pop song with a hook that once started, could not leave your head for days. (You're humming it right now, aren't you?) We came to the conclusion that it was ok to like disposable pop songs with their killer hooks, but it was not ok to get caught with the windows down on the 405 belting out "I Want It That Way."

"Tainted Love" by Soft Cell is the worst (or is it best?) culprit of this sensation. Let's do an experiment. Finish singing (outloud) the lyrics to this part of the song: "Sometimes I feel I've got to..." I'll bet a hundred bucks that you just did that 2 drum beat before you sang "run away." Am I right? Forget the hun, buy me a Coke.

Ok, so now you know about hooks. Keeping that in mind, I wanted to get to the real point of this post, and that is the recent mishigas (yes dear reader, I use Yiddish) involving the similarities between the Red Hot Chili Peppers "Dani California" and Tom Petty's "Last Dance With Mary Jane." Rolling Stone Magazine asked University Of Chicago musicologist Travis Jackson about the songs and he said this: "The opening parts of both songs have very similar grooves, they use pretty much the same chord progressions and the ways the melodies are patterned are similar. And it pretty much stops there. Chord progressions are really hard to claim as a basis [for a lawsuit]. That's a pretty standard groove. You would have to do a lot more to say there's outright copying."

In other words, the hooks are similar but it wasn't exactly copied.

Petty was quoted in the article saying this: "I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there. And a lot of rock 'n' roll songs sound alike. Ask Chuck Berry. The Strokes took "American Girl" (for their song "Last Nite"), and I saw an interview with them
where they actually admitted it. That made me laugh out loud. I was like, "OK, good for you" ... If someone took my song note for note and stole it maliciously, then maybe (I'd sue). But I don't believe in lawsuits much. I think there are enough frivolous law suits in this country without people fighting over pop songs."

Petty. What a man. He sings, he acts (King Of The Hill and It's Garry Shandling's Show, remember?), he does it all. See him live this summer if you can. It's a great show.

Tom does say something very interesting in his quote that got me thinking. Are the Strokes full of shit? Do they copy more than Kinko's? They already admitted they stole the riffs from "American Girl," when are they going to admit that they stole from my mother's favorite singer, Barry Manilow? Listen to The Strokes "Razorblade" from their new album, then listen to Barry's classic 70's ballad "Mandy." It's the same hook! I'm telling you dear reader, it's no coincidence.
I'm just sayin!

For your consideration:
Razorblade - The Strokes MP3

Mandy - Barry Manilow MP3

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