Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Once In A While

Once In A While
Words by Bud Green
Music by Michael Edwards
Key Eb major
4/4 time
Exceptional song. I learned an interesting but unrelated detail when I watched the odd Reefer Madness-style movie: The Gene Krupa Story (1959). Tommy Dorsey, pictured on the cover of this song because he recorded it initially, was a trombonist band leader...and he actually had Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich in his band at one point or another...and Krupa and Rich are basically the two greatest Jazz Era drummers who would both lead their own bands. The Gene Krupa Story features a classic song performance "Memories of You" performed by Anita O'Day which is priceless. That movie is noteworthy because the recent Whiplash (2014) uses a drummer aspiring to be Krupa as a hero, but Krupa's own story does not contain a drill sergeant conductor. In fact, it's the opposite. Krupa was the drill sergeant. The Krupa movie is really dated but the performances perfectly depict Jazz band era life in real settings, including appearances by 'Tommy Dorsey' and a reefer addict peddling a quick way to 'get high' like marijuana in 1937 was any good.

So, pot was villainized but Liquor, which was far worse, was fully legal in 1937 and although Hitler was chancellor in Germany he had not yet invaded Poland and Czechoslovakia although his ethnic cleansing project was gaining momentum as a wave of hysteria collided with an age of paranoia and suspicion. I'm sure leaders of nations were sick with foreboding over what would happen in a year or two but at this point there was a slim chance of avoiding World War II. Speaking of world leaders, FDR was sworn in for his second of three terms as President. Trotsky tried to assassinate Stalin a while earlier and, while this is one scenario where two wrongs DO make a right, it's possible, though unlikely, Trotsky would've been even worse. Trotsky's assassination plot failed and he ended up living in Mexico in 1937.  This is the year shortly after Edward VIII abdicated the throne and George VI, the guy with the stutter, was crowned King. That set the stage for FDR, Churchill, Stalin and Hitler to control world events for the next 8 years. 

Mango Madness

Everything comes in plastic bags in Guatemala's effort to pollute the remaining 11% of rivers in the country.
Beside the affordable blonde transvestite hookers, the thing I love most about the tropics is bags of mango and papaya all pre-prepared by the refugees of Reagan's slaughter of Mayan farmers. It Worked, Ronnie! They are now completely traumatized, homeless, families torn apart, the economy is fucked by decades of corruption you funded. WAY TO GO! Now they all sell fruit on the sidewalk, shine shoes, wash cars and juggle at intersections. Perfectly exploitable. Oh, but the fruit is super cheap and the farmers were tortured by CIA death doctors for trying to organize a union. But the important thing is that bananas are affordable in the middle of fucking winter in Chicago and Toronto! VIVA CHE!


Funk is awesome. I might like it more than Motown. Love Marvin Gaye.

Only the lurid details of some modern phonies trying to resurrect the Marvin Gaye funk style brought this song to my attention. I don't like much modern music and Robin Thicke comes across as exceptionally phony...he oozes inauthenticity and the song "Blurred Lines" and the video were particularly loathsome. Too loathsome to provide a link. Yes, I dislike the song even though it's a clumsy attempt to steal almost everything from Gaye's vibe, yet I can not agree with the judgement that found Thicke had violated copyrights of Gayes. I hear the similarities, but the funk groove is not Gaye's to steal. See? Every funk song from 1973-1979 had this exact groove. The session musicians were slightly different but in the end they all have the same groove, like Blues has the same groove. Stevie Ray Vaughn didn't invent the blues, but he happened to use the same groove Chuck Berry used 30 years earlier. Well, this Blurred Lines tune liberally uses the groove Gaye and others created in 1974...but so what? The song itself is demonstrably different and the performers are so completely unimpressive and amateurish and loathsomely untalented that it's an insult to Gaye to think these modern assholes created something similar to him. Yes, it's close, but it's close to many songs and Gaye wasn't the creator of Funk so I couldn't award the Gaye family anything although it would please me to see Robin Thicke bankrupt and singing on the sidewalk for a few dollars in spare change, which is all he is worth, but that's my conclusion. However, the law is different than my opinion and a substantial similarity equals a substantial copyright infringement. So that's it. The repulsive Thicke must pay back $4 million worth of his hair products.

So I'm listening to my vintage Fun Boy Three & Bananarama album and I while we're on the topic of copyright infringement go ahead and listen to these two songs back to back...

It Ain't What you Do (1982)

Macarena (1994)

Which are both rip offs of a jazz tune 'Tain't What You Do from back in 1937. The Bananarama tune was admittedly a cover version...

So, do the original 1937 writers deserve royalties from a huge hit Macarena...which was a theft of a song from 12 years earlier? I would submit that, NO, the songs are individual and are both in the swing genre and no one person invented Swing, so a usage of a particular repetitive melody does not mean that Los Del Rio have infringed on either Bananarama nor on Melvin Oliver & James Young. Sorry, there are similarities to many songs of a particular genre, Swing or Blues or Funk or Rock...and that's life. As long as an artist brings his own originality to the song then it's original. I love Marvin Gaye's music but I could find songs he used as inspiration and never credited if I hunted hard enough and if someone wants to do the same thing to him then that's entertainment.

I recently watched the horrible movie Unbroken. Really trite and generic WWII 'Americans are Indomitable' flick. Well, the director Angelina Jolie seems to be liberally borrowing tired directing techniques from Clint Eastwood as well as a running scene that was absolutely identical to one in Forrest Gump, directed by Robert Zemeckis. I mean, it was identical where the hero is running directly at the camera and triumphantly finds his inner strength in slow motion as the music swells. Identical shots, identical framing, identical theme, identical arc. Even the running looked identical. Is that copyright infringement? Rocky II, directed by Stallone has identical sequences from Rocky I. Stallone wrote the original too, but he blatantly stole camera techniques and whole sequences frame for frame from director John Avildsen.
Listen to Chubby Checkers' Lazy Elsie Molly (1964) and you will hear identical notes to If You Want to Be Happy (1963/1934).

This same topic came up with a song Sam Smith 'infringing' on Tom Petty with the song "Stay With Me"...which had some similarities to "Won't Back Down"...which was produced by Jeff Lynne from Electric Light Orchestra...AND EVERY TOM PETTY and George Harrison SONG SOUNDS LIKE AN ELO SONG! So is Sam Smith stealing from Jeff Lynne, who is stealing from himself, who was stealing from Badfinger, which was produced by The Beatles...who stole from Motown...who stole from Joe Burke and Hoagy Carmichael...who stole from Stephen Foster...who stole from Mozart???

It goes on and on and I feel an artist has an obligation to be original, and failing that to at least find inspiration and material from good artists...and failing that he should not be an artist...but if the attempt at originality is there then we should not split hairs and study songs to the point that we can find similarities to share royalties.

And phony Pharrell offers this lame defense, "The verdict handicaps any creator out there who is making something that might be inspired by something else,"
He's young, but I don't like it when people pretend I'm stupid. Pharrell seems to need some refresher course in "shared copyright". All he has to do is put down "Marvin Gaye" as cowriter...and share royalties. Call Gaye's lawyers before releasing the song and work out a deal. It's no big hassle. A whole Generation of Northern Soul artists managed to avoid lawsuits by simply being original. If your inspiration is heavily borrowed from a specific song then you do have a duty to admit it and share profits. Or if that bothers you, then don't release it. Or release it for free. But don't be an idiot and expect me to believe artists are going to stop being influenced completely. They merely need to be adults and share copyright. This is amusing because that Thicke dude is listed as a cowriter, but he says he had nothing to do with writing it. And Marvin Gaye, who had a lot to do with writing it, isn't listed as a cowriter. Why the fuck is Thicke a cowriter? Because he gets writing royalties, that's why. So what's the big deal about adding Marvin Gaye as cowriter, beside it being a total insult that an irritating song was created out of the murdered soul of his excellent original? 
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.