Sounds Just Like… Is The Violent Femmes Blister In The Sun An Original?
I came across the Sounds Just Like site via a friend on twitter (thanks @SamdeBrito), which was interesting given my previous post about lip syncing. Interesting because authenticity of originality is right up there with authenticity of recording in the world of musical debates. Nothing comes from a vacuum – everything we create is influenced by something, so when it comes to music we have to decide where the line in the sand is: how much can you be influenced by something before you are in fact copying it? The Violent Femmes Blister In The Sun is worth investigating…
As you go from example to example at Sounds Just Like you are struck by the range of challenges: some that appear to be dead set rip-offs, and others where you feel that it was more “inspired by” than lifted. I often hear a chord sequence that I like and will indeed write down those chords. The important thing is I never write down where they are from, and also try and wait for a few months before actually referring to those chords when trying to put together something of my own. Hopefully the gap in time allows me to avoid recreating the original feel – or even lifting the melody that goes over those chords.
The Violent Femmes example in this link is fascinating. The signature riff in Blister In The Sun is incredibly well known but also appears to be a pretty good copy of a song called Little B that The Shadows released in 1962. On one hand you could argue that the subtle difference in the way it is played by the Violent Femmes is a key to how much of a hook it has become, and also the lyrical additions are enough to have transformed this little known Shadows song into a classic… which is true but still feels like a bit of a stretch. It’s funny that hip-hop has created a musical world where artists are very happy to list their sample sources but the rock genre hasn’t quite embraced the same attitude. That I love the Violent Femmes song more than The Shadows is also interesting, but then there are lots of covers (the entire Me First & The Gimme Gimmes catalog for example!) that I like more than the originals. Maybe it’s just that. Blister In The Sun is not a cover of Little B, it’s a “new” song. Or is it? Could the similarities between the songs simply be a coincidence?
I don’t know if you can actually define where the line is that you shouldn’t cross, but there’s a gut feel at play that, as you go through all the examples on Sounds Just Like, let’s you know when it “feels” okay or is pushing the boundaries.