I was listening to Saint Etienne’s “Like a Motorway” today when I realized that something about it was maddeningly familiar. I had only recently downloaded this song, and today was the first time I had given it an involved listening. Finally I figured it out - the melody is exactly the same as that of “Silver Dagger,” the folk tune that I know best by Dolly Parton’s version. Which got me interested if there are any other songs that do this. Obviously, jazz, blues and classical do a lot of quoting. But as far as pop/rock songs go, I can’t think of any other examples. I guess “Like a Motorway” gets away with it because “Silver Dagger” is in the public domain.
So, what other songs can you think of that borrow tunes from others? Samples don’t count, but single lines do.
“Cigarettes and Alcohol” by Oasis virtually steals the signature hook from “Bang a Gong” by T. Rex.
“Going Out of My Head” by Fatboy Slim (and probably dozens of other songs too) borrows the guitar riff from “I Can’t Explain” by The Who, albeit raised a half step in pitch.
The opening riff from “Wake Up” by Rage Against the Machine sounds a lot like the one from Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”.
“Black Night” by Deep Purple and “We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet” by Blues Magoos employ the same signature riff, though in “Black Night” it’s performed on a guitar in E minor and in the other on an organ in Bb minor. Still, it’s easy to hear that it’s the same riff.
Green Day loosely borrowed the signature line from Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” for “Brain Stew”.
“Sister Hazel” appears to have based the chord progression for “Your Mistake” on “Another Park, Another Sunday” by the Doobie Brothers.
Some people think “Get Free” by The Vines sounds like it was ripped off of Nirvana’s “Negative Creep”.
“Hash Pipe” by Weezer sounds like it borrowed the main riff from “Lick it Up” by Kiss, and changed two notes.
The signature riff from “Interstate Love Song” by Stone Temple Pilots sounds oddly similar to a riff from “I Got a Name” by Jim Croce.
“Bitter Sweet Symphony” by The Verve centers around an orchestra playing an adaptation of “The Last Time” by The Rolling Stones. The song is credited entirely to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, after legal issues compounded things when it was released as a single.
Interesting responses so far, guys. However, I’m looking a little more for songs that share the same or a very similar melody (like “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Get a Job”) rather than just guitar riffs, as those are more commonly “stolen.”
The Clash song “Clash City Rockers” has a guitar riff that’s almost identical to some song by the Who, but I forget which one. I think I also heard another song with the same riff, forget by who though.
Not in popular music whatsoever, but the old Shaker song “Simple Gifts,”(warning: plays midi) written by Joseph Brackett Jr. back in 1848, was borrowed by Sydney Carter for his “Lord of the Dance” (which has nothing to do with Michael Flatfoot, thankewverymuch) – as well as by Aaron Copland as a theme motif in Appalachian Suite and by Augusta Cecconi-Bates as one in Tug Hill Suite.
I don’t think in popular music there is as much melody sharing as in more traditional music since music from more recent times has a copyright giving the holder the rights to that melody. More tradional music is used back and forth constantly. As in “Greensleeves” and “What Child is This”, the previously mentioned Alphabet song and Twinkle Twinkle. In religious music, the older hyms seem to all use the same melody. My guess is the traveling singer used whatever words fit to music they could remember.
I agree. I addressed that in the OP concerning Saint Etienne’s appropriation of “Silver Dagger” - they could “get away” with using it because it’s not copyrighted. The very fact that there aren’t any very many pop songs that do this is what intrigued me.
Great examples so far, guys. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t think of “Love ME Tender” before Johnny L.A.