Cold Plagiarism

By Nick Haines…

One of the penalties of getting older is that one has increasingly ‘heard it all before’ and become increasingly staggered at the way new acts think they can get away with blatantly plagiarizing the work of others, working on the assumption (no doubt) that it was long enough ago that no one will take notice, or that the source was sufficiently obscure for them to ‘get away with it.’

It has been a long held ambition of mine to release an album called,
“You Thieving Bastards!”

YTB as I shall call it from this point forward would contain the ‘new’ track followed immediately by canned derisive laughter and then the original from whence it had been ripped. (Anyone spot The Smiths filch there?)

Now the parameters for YTB need to be clearly stated. It will not include any track that credits the original author, nor will it include any rap, hip hop or disco where sampling is part of the dj/producer’s palette. No, YTB will contain only those flagrant attempts to hoodwink the public into thinking that what they are hearing is original.

Unfortunately some artists will appear more than once, and in Robbie Williams’ case more than twice. Quite how ‘our Robbie’ has got away with his musical magpie act for so long without being sued is beyond me, and quite why George Clinton didn’t stick a gun to his head and demand royalties for Rock DJ I just don’t know. As for Robbie’s shameless theft of ‘I Will Survive’ on Millenium…well..’nuff said.

*(EDITOR’S NOTE: Robbie Williams may be unfamiliar to some of us Yanks. Think Justin Timberlake and you’re halfway there—Uncle E)

Moving on, now maybe it’s something to do with natural German reserve, I don’t know, but had I been Kraftwerk and heard Coldplay’s ‘Speed of Light’ I would have taken the first flight from Düsseldorf, tracked Chris Martin down like a dog in the street and shoved a copy of ‘Computer Love’ down his thieving throat.

Of course some plagiarism can be claimed to be an unconscious act, as evidenced by the famous case between The Chiffons and George Harrison. Harrison claimed that his ‘My Sweet Lord’ was a purely unconscious lift from the Chiffons’ ‘He’s So Fine’. I’m tempted to side with Harrison on this one since I know how easy it is for a fragment of a tune to lodge itself deep down in one’s brain only for it to resurface some time later and one mistakenly believe it to be one’s own creation. Neither Robbie nor Coldplay deserve such consideration, however.

Richard Ashcroft’s band the Verve thought they could get away with nicking the string section for ‘Bitter Suite Symphony’ from the Stones until they were forced to give writing credits to Jagger & Richards. In so doing a fair dollop of credibility was lost, and quite right too.
Other theft can be less overt. Is it simply coincidence that the Kaiser Chiefs come out with; “I Predict A Riot” when only a few years previously an obscure band from the same city, The Mekons, had released their first single; “Never Been In A Riot”? Hmm.
I could go on but what I’d like to do is invite you readers to submit candidates for ‘You Thieving Bastard’. You will of course be credited on the sleeve 😉