Tag Archives: Sweet

copy that!

I know … this is kinda ironic, isn’t it? (I did try to find a photo credit though, honest!)

The recent unfound case of plagiarism instigated by Grime artist Sami Chokri (Sami Switch) against Ed Sheeran, had me wondering how many times structures, harmonies, beats and particularly guitar riffs have been tweaked,  repeated and basically ripped off through time.

(It was only a cursory thought – I didn’t lose any sleep, it has to be said.)

Bowie / Mercury – pic: Gold radio
Vanilla Ice

One of the most high profile cases in recent times was that of Vanilla Ice –vs – Queen & David Bowie. Reportedly, the American rapper contested he had added a ‘dum’ to the bassline of ‘Under Pressure’ and that he was not complicit in copyright breach with his ‘Ice Ice Baby’ hit. Of course, he eventually acceded to the contest brought by the British acts and paid out a considerable sum (believed to be @ $4m) for the publishing rights so that he could avoid paying royalties.

There have been several more high profile cases in recent years, but this being a ‘70s blog, there’s one contentious case that stands above all else; one that would inevitably rear its head on this blog, what with co-host, Paul,  being a big David Bowie fan and me listing Sweet as one of my favourite bands:

the case of ‘Jean Genie’ –vs – ‘Blockbuster.

The debate has always been who copied who? Bowie, Sweet; or Sweet, Bowie.

Both were signed with RCA when they recorded their respective hits. They shared the same studios and with ‘Jean Genie’ being recorded on 6th October 1972, Sweet have been accused of nicking the riff for the recording of ‘Blockbuster’ a few weeks later, on 1st November.

A counter argument could be that Bowie overheard Sweet rehearsing and subconsciously picked up on the riff.

Plagiarism is everywhere in the music industry, even extending to blogs. At this point I must confess that after hitting on the idea of writing this piece, I found I had been beaten to it by over five years – by the excellent Darren’s Music Blog.

I discovered this when carrying out my own research into the subject. However, the band / riff that prompted me to look into this is not mentioned in Darren’s blog – so like Vanilla Ice, I contend this article is not plagiarised. But, unlike Vanilla Ice, I will not be buying the rights to Darren’s blog article for @ $4m!

Anyway, as it happens, I reckon neither Bowie nor Sweet have a case to answer. But before I present my case for the defence, a word or two on the band that prompted me to look at this whole issue:

HONEYBUS.

Honeybus.

Honeybus are your archetypal ‘one hit wonders.’ Formed in London in 1967, the four-piece were signed to Decca’s Deram label. Their first two singles bombed, though the second, a ballad, ‘(Do I Figure) In Your Life?’ was covered by Joe Cocker, Dave Berry and Dana.

It is for their third single though, that Honeybus are best known. I bet almost all readers (certainly those from UK) will remember this:

(Though this version of the advert is from the early ‘70s, the single, ‘I Can’t Maggie Go,’ which provides the musical accompaniment, was released in 1968. It entered the charts in March of that year, where it spent a total of twelve weeks, peaking at #8.)

Shortly after this though, founder member and co-songwriter Pete Dello quit the band. Ray Cane now assumed the mantle of principal songwriter. His first-penned single, ‘Girl of Independent Means,’ was the driver behind this article, and appears fourth in the timeline that follows.

Unbelievably, in my opinion, the music buying public were not impressed and it failed to capitalise on the success of ‘Maggie.’ When their next effort ‘She Sold Blackpool Rock,’ also tanked, the band folded. Though they would reform in 1971 with the original line-up, mainstream success still eluded them, and an album that had been prepared for Warner Brothers, was cancelled.

An interesting point of note is that drummer and original member, Peter Kircher, would go on to play with Status Quo from 1983 – 86.

Peter Kircher

Anyway – back to the debate.

I stated earlier I didn’t feel either David Bowie or Sweet were guilty of plagiarism with regards to the riff for ‘Jean Genie,’ and ‘Blockbuster.’ My reasoning is simple: unlike ‘samples’ of other artists’ work where short bursts of music are inserted into another song / track (blatant plagiarism in my book) riffs are able to breathe, mature and develop like a fine cheese. Which is maybe why neither Bowie nor Sweet decided to kick up a stink and join the controversy.

Don’t believe me?

THE MORPH OF A RIFF:

(Muddy Waters: ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ – recorded 1954)
(Bo Diddley:  ‘I’m a Man’ – recorded 1955)
(The Yarbirds: ‘Im a Man’ – recorded 1965)
(Honeybus: ‘Girl of Independent Means’ – recorded 1968)
(Iggy & The Stooges: ‘I’m A Man’ – recorded, but not used for the ‘Raw Power’ album of 1973.)
(David Bowie: ‘Jean Genie’ – recorded 1972)
(Sweet: ‘Blockbuster’ – recorded 1972 … but a few weeks after David Bowie’s ‘Jean Genie.’)

What I’m suggesting is a riff can take a natural progression.

I mean – just because a song may sound like one that’s gone before, it does not necessarily mean it is a plagiarised copy. Does ‘Blockbuster’ really sound like Muddy Waters’ ‘Hoochie Coochie Man?’ Does it?

That would be like saying the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a rip-off of Wilbur and Orville’s ‘Wright Flyer.’

I rest my case, M’lud.

________________

(Darren Johnson is a prolific music blogger and writer. He is the author of ‘The Sweet Through the 1970s’ – which I have and can thoroughly recommend – and ‘Suzi Quatro in the 1970s’ – which I have still to get to.)

children of the revolution

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, March 2021

As sub-genre’s go ‘Glam Rock’ has got to be one of the most influential, but for the most part people are usually pretty sniffy about it and it rarely gets the respect it’s due.

Ask people what their favourite 70s music was and they’ll probably say Rock, Disco, Punk, or Reggae but they’ll very rarely say Glam Rock, preferring to say Bowie or Roxy or T-Rex.

Maybe Glam Rock gets a bad rep because for every Roxy Music or T-Rex there was a Chicory Tip or a Kenny.



Maybe it’s because six-inch platform boots, glittery capes, satin loons and feather boas don’t wear quite so well several decades later.

The genesis of Glam Rock is credited to Marc Bolan and his appearance on Top of the Pops (TOTP) in March 1971 with his new single – ‘Hot Love’.

Ex-hippy Marc, bopped along with teardrops of silver glitter under his eyes, gold satin pants, a catchy chorus, and kicked the whole thing off as the unofficial Prince of Glam Rock, with lyrics aimed at his target audience….

Ah she’s my woman of gold
And she’s not very old a Ha Ha

Girls loved him, guys accepted him and parents were a bit confused by him, which as we all know now is the perfect cocktail for pop stardom.

On the back of T-Rex’s impactful TOTP appearance Hot Love went straight to number one and stayed there for 6 weeks.

Get it on (Bang a gong), came hot on its heels, and also made the number one spot its own, ditto the album Electric Warrior and with a sell out tour playing to legions of adoring fans, there was no stopping T-Rex.

‘Jeepster’ was the next release, and the second single I ever bought after ‘Maggie May’.
I remember being particularly impressed with the B side, ‘Life’s a Gas’, and naively thinking that all B sides must be great as Rod’s ‘Reason to Believe’ wasn’t too shabby either.

Frustratingly for T-Rex fans Jeepster would remain at number 2 for six weeks – kept off the top spot firstly by new Glam sensations Slade, and then by of all people – Benny Hill, probably the antithesis of Glam Rock, who reached the coveted Xmas number one spot in 1971, ahead of T-Rex.  

Looking back now it’s quite funny to picture the Bolan devotees huddled around their radios on consecutive Sunday’s, counting down the top 20 and waiting to lip-synch Jeepster’s dreamy lyrics, as it reached the top spot….

You slide so good
With bones so fair
You’ve got the universe
Reclining in your hair

Only to find the slightly less dreamy lyrics of that weeks actual number one, the un-glamest song ever – ‘Ernie the Fastest Milkman in the West’ with the chirpy west country droll of Benny Hill, assaulting their eardrums.

Now Ernie loved a widow, a lady known as Sue,
She lived all alone in Liddley Lane at number 22.
They said she was too good for him, she was haughty, proud and chic,
But Ernie got his cocoa there three times every week

SORRY I COULDN’T RESIST….

When Benny Hill was finally ousted from the number one spot it wasn’t by T-Rex it was by the New Seekers with, ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’.

It was Glam Rocks first bloody nose – being beaten to the number one spot by upstarts like Slade was one thing but to be kept off the top spot by a roly-poly comedian with a comedy song and then by a TV jingle for coca-cola was an affront to the T Rex acolytes.

Despite this setback, in the space of 12 short months Marc Bolan had become the poster boy (quite literally) of Glam Rock, he was front and centre of every teen mag and plastered on the bedroom walls of most teenage girls, and quite a few boys as well.


Bolan’s success had been meteoric and he quickly became the Pied Piper of the Glam movement, inspiring others to follow with varying degrees of success

There were those artists who jumped on the bandwagon and did it well:

Slade were the perfect example, prior to donning top-hats, satin and glitter they were wearing doc martins and braces as a skinhead band, but Bolan had shown them there was another way, and the lads from Wolverhampton went on to carve out a great career using Glam Rock as their platform.

Similarly, The Sweet, changed lanes, initially a bubble-gum pop band covering Archies songs with aspirations to be the new Monkees, they updated their line-up, beefed up their sound and found a commercial niche within Glam Rock.

Other artists who carved out successful Glam Rock careers in this category include Suzi Quatro, Gary Glitter and Wizzard.

Then there were the hustlers – the bands/artists who flirted with Glam Rock to gain a foothold before using their talents to carve sustainable careers.

David Bowie
Roxy Music
Elton John
New York Dolls

Sparks
Alice Cooper
Mott the Hoople
Lou Reed

And finally there were those artists who jumped on the bandwagon and had their 15 minutes of fame before disappearing off into the sunset.

Bands like – Kenny, Chicory Tip, Racey, Geordie and Hello

The Glam Rock movement probably peaked in 1973, but just as acts like Wizzard and The Sweet were topping the charts, T-Rex’s star was beginning to wane and their last big hit was 20th Century Boy.

The chart below offer a snapshot of the top 20 from May 1973 and as you’ll see, Glam Rock was riding high with 4 of the top 10 singles coming from Glam acts.


By 1973 Bowie was the one carrying the torch for Glam Rock as well as influencing others like Lou Reed and Mott the Hoople to follow in his footsteps. We were soon to find out however that Bowie was the master of reinvention and it wan’t long before he had moved on from Glam and was recording a soul album – Young Americans.

BOWIE, RONSON & HUNTER REUNION

Glam Rock at it’s best was a series of well-crafted, well-produced, 3-4 minute pop songs with a bit of theatre, that didn’t pretend to be anything else. It was commercial, accessible and catchy.
(see Glam Rock playlist below)

In terms of Glam Rock’s legacy, we all know how far reaching Bowie’s influence has been and you only need to listen to the first two Oasis albums to hear T-Rex & Slade riffs aplenty.
Bands as diverse as The Sex Pistols and Chic have also credited Roxy Music’s influence on their careers and acts like Alice Cooper, Sparks and Elton John are still going strong today.

Bolan’s activity waned heading into the mid seventies which was understandable given his prolific output and he found domestic bliss to replace the mayhem.
He was on the comeback trail by 1977 and hosted a TV pop show called imaginatively – ‘Marc’, inviting his old buddy David Bowie to perform Heroes in the final episode.

With a successful TV show a newly released album and a planned tour, things were looking up for Marc when he was involved in a fatal car accident at the tender age of 29.

In terms of Glam Rock fashion, I need to declare that it wasn’t very accessible for the majority of us who didn’t have connections with avant garde designers like Bowie, Ferry or Glitter or who wanted to look like scarecrows on acid like Roy Wood.
Platform shoes and broken ankles were probably as Glam as it got for most of us guys.

YOU COULDN’T BUY THIS IN KRAZY HOUSE!

When it came around, Punk was a lot easier all you needed was a pair of scissors and some safety pins.

I’m probably a tad defensive about Glam Rock because the period it represents, 1971-74 holds a lot of great memories and correlates with my peer groups formative years – a period when we started to have a bit of freedom and a social life.

‘Glam-Rock’ anthems like Get It On, Jean Genie, Virginia Plane and This Town Aint Big Enough for Both of Us, made up the soundtrack to much of that youth, and when I hear those songs today they bring back memories of Teen Discos, and gatherings at friends houses when T-Rex devotees like Elaine Neal (nee Currie) would turn up with her copy of Electric Warrior place the needle on the vinyl – first track, side one, Mambo Sun……

Beneath the bebop moon
I want to croon with you

Beneath the mambo sun
I got to be the one with you

uncovering my tracks (part 1 & part 2)

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – February 2021)

Part #1: APPLE TREE AWAKENING

Do you recall the precise moment you became aware of music? Not the nursery rhyme, lullaby type stuff your exasperated parents would feel compelled to sing as you exercised your lungs at some god-awful hour of the night.

No – real music. The tunes that set you off on your personal musical odyssey. (See how I cleverly avoided using that dreadful ‘J’ word, just there?)

I grew up in a household filled with the sound of marching military bands and film soundtracks. The Royal Marines Bands Service and South Pacific still come back to haunt me. In fact, having asked my Dad what was the music of choice to get me settled when I was a nipper, I was horrified to hear it was ‘I’m Getting Married in The Morning,’ from the musical, ‘My Fair Lady.’

Sheesh! 1958 – even Pat Boone or Dean Martin would have almost passed as ‘cool’ then. But no – I must have been the most uncool six year old in Glasgow when I first became aware of some combo called The Beatles.

1964 – The Swinging Sixties and all that were just around the corner and the only reason I became aware of the biggest music phenonemon until Wet Wet Wet came along (‘J’ for joke) some twenty-odd years later, was because my father had written a banner with the words ‘She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah Yeah’ to stick on my Uncle Robert’s Triumph Herald on the day of his wedding. And even that was a year after the release date.

Unbelievably, it would be another five years before I eventually ‘got with it,’ as we would say. And I remember the precise moment.

I was climbing the apple tree in our back garden with my pals, when one mentioned the cartoon he had seen on TV (yeah, I know – apple tree / garden / TV – we were terribly middle class, not that I’m at all ashamed of that)

Cartoon? He said ‘cartoon?’ That was me – I was in. What was this ‘cartoon’ of which he spoke?


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Part #2: SWEET SWEET MUSIC

The first single and first album I bought. – read on!

In truth, it was the cartoon more than the music that commanded my attention of The Beatles and ‘Yellow Submarine.’

I was to remain blissfully unaffected by the hype surrounding the Fab Four for many more years. Indeed, even now, I don’t quite ‘get’ them. I know that amounts to something like heresy, but while I can appreciate their later work, I still have more time for each of John, Paul, George and Ringo’s solo efforts than that they produced together. In fact, ‘Back Off Boogaloo‘ would end up one of my favourite singles from 1972, the words being scrawled in an old-school Kolossal graffiti style across the cover of my English jotter.

Even at the age of ten, I railed against convention. Not for me, this accepting what was uniformly and blindly followed. Unimpressed with the biggest band on the planet, I was already showing a stubborn and ‘punk’ attitude.

I nailed my colours to the Ohio Express and The Scaffold masts in 1968.

1969 was another year more focused on football, Batman and Thunderbirds. I do, however, have vivid memories of returning from the annual Carnival with my Cub Scout Pack, on the top deck of a Glasgow Corporation bus, singing the latest big hit by The Archies.

I’m not so sure that was evidence of a musical maturing, though.

Being only eleven / twelve years old in 1970, my scant pocket money stretched only to a copy of Shoot! magazine, a pack of football related bubblegum cards and a handful of gobstoppers. Any money I saved would go towards buying a trick / joke item from Tam Shepherd’s magic shop in Glasgow city centre.

Music and records would not become a priority until the following year when at the age of thirteen I developed the ‘cool’ gene.

OK – maybe ‘cool’ is stretching it. But I was the only kid in school who owned a copy of ‘Kongos’ the debut album John Kongos in his own name. This was the first album I bought and paid for on my own, and came a few months after my first single, ‘Co-Co,’ by The Sweet.

It’s fair to say I got a bit of stick at school for my choices. But hey – nineteen years later, The Happy Mondays covered John Kongos’s ‘He’s Gonna Step On You Again.’ It was ‘cool’ then, wasn’t it?

One thing about the early Sweet singles was that while the ‘A’ side was of a pretty commercial, twee style, the ‘B” sides were infinitely more rocking. They had a harder edge, and I played them as much as the principal song.

My musical development was to take on a heavier bias.

TO BE CONTINUED …

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