Sunday, April 9, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 5)

Just back from some fun in the sun with the kids during their spring break. Never needed vitamin D so badly. I ripped this translucent gold 10" before I left but ran out of time to post. You may remember Elastica's single "Stutter" making an appearance here before, back in 2015 during my countdown of favorite songs from the '90s, but that was before I had the proper equipment to transfer the B-sides.

On the previous post, "Stutter" generated quite a bit of debate about how much is too much to lift from musical forefathers. For a little taste, C said, "I couldn't believe how much it made me think of Wire when I first heard it." I reminded her Wire thought the same thing... and a settlement was reached. Friend of Rachel Worth had a great line: "Don't mind bands wearing their influences on their sleeve but as a whole suit?" He vaguely remembered a song by Elastica that was awfully close to something by the Stranglers. I was pretty sure it was the riff in "Waking Up" resembling "No More Heroes." Yes, the Stranglers got paid for that one too.

I have been irked many times by bands that have crossed that line, but I have shrugged my shoulders and accepted blatant swipes just as often. When is it acceptable? For starters, give credit where credit is due. When you're caught, don't act shocked and tell us you've never heard of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers before, for example. Now on with the 10" inch of "Stutter." Pilferers or not, I loved Elastica, Sadly, as Echorich said in the comments last time, "Never felt Elastica/Justine Frischmann ever lived up to their potential." What's the old proverb? Oh, yes. "The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long."

Side 1
"Rockunroll" (Peel Session, first broadcast Sept. 18, 1993)

Side 2
"2:1" (BBC Evening Session, first broadcast April 18, 1994)
"Annie" (Peel Session, first broadcast Sept. 18, 1993)


C said...

Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between outright pilfering and just being influenced and inspired - but I definitely thought the same about the Stranglers' one too and it's just that bit too close. Doesn't stop them being great songs but for me it just taints my view of the band slightly, perhaps for being so blatant. But it must be difficult to contest sometimes!

Here's another perspective too - a few years ago I was designing some greeting cards and one day out of the blue I received a truly terrifying email from the lawyer of a Swedish artist I'd never heard of accusing me of copying a piece of his work. When I looked it up, it was indeed pretty similar. But I had never seen it before in my life and not sure I could even have stumbled upon it if I had not had the full details to search for it from this letter. Plus I'd never copy anyone else's work anyway! The other artist wanted my design immediately withdrawn from sale, and for me to pay him all the royalties I'd ever received from it as well as legal costs. I was absolutely horrified at this prospect and the worst part of all was the injustice of being accused of something I hadn't done and wondering how on earth I could prove my innocence. It really was pure coincidence (not a particularly original concept behind the design as it was based on a visual pun, plus as we were both artists we had both approached the composition in the most obviously aesthetically pleasing way, so really it was no surprise that they looked quite similar). Fortunately my publisher knew I was innocent and sprang to my defence and got the guy to withdraw his claim but it was a horrible, anxious time. Really made me think about the probability of innocent, coincidental similarities in all creative fields.
That said, I'm sure Elastica had heard Wire!

Rol said...

Wire were one of the touchstone bands for early Britpop, and considering Justine was knocking about with Damon Albarn at the time (a massive Wire devotee), the idea that she'd never heard it was pretty ridiculous. Same for the Stranglers. Best to admit all upfront... but this becomes trickier when you look back into the early days of rock n roll when a lot of riffs were wholesale plagiarised by the likes of the Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys for some of their earlier recordings.

I think When Is It Acceptable? comes down to whether you like the new song or not. I like these Elastica recordings, just as I liked Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve... so the plagiarism was fine with me. They made something enjoyably new out of old influences, which is what all artists do.

On the other hand, that Sam Smith song which ripped off Tom Petty is pretty awful, so yes, he should be thrown in jail for life after having both hands chopped off so he can never score another song again.

I'd hate to be a judge in a copyright case.

JC said...

Had my say on this a few years ago

Still very fond of Elastica....and a have a new post on them coming up reasonably soon.

Brian said...

JC, I have never seen that post before in my life. I swear!

C, That is a harrowing tale. Any reader will have their stomach doing somersaults after that one. Sorry you went through that ordeal, and I hope my silly post didn't belittle your situation. I realize there are many inadvertent similarities that occur in the arts and other places.

Rol, Agreed. Everyone has lifted from everyone from the very beginning. Nothing wrong with making something new from something old, but it can get tricky for those who have to judge how far is too far.

George said...

"Pilferers or not, I loved Elastica, "
I'm with you on that one Brian. Great indie-pop, a great album, nice and short, leaves you wanting more (and please do not try and read any sexual innuendo into that, act your age!). I would never have known if they had listened to anything by Wire, I've only just listened to Wire thanks to those ICAs at the vinyl villain.

C said...

Brian - oh god no, don't worry, not belittling at all and thanks for kind words - just thought I'd put forward the other side that sometimes people just genuinely do come up with the same ideas. When it happened I searched for advice and reassurance on what to do if wrongly accused of copying and I couldn't find a thing! - it was all about what to do about being copied, so it was really frustrating. I'm wary of it now and date all my first sketches! As Rol says, would hate to be a judge in a copyright case...

Brian said...

How are you, George. Didn't remember you liking these guys, but I'm sure glad you do! JC has more Elastica up today at his place, including their last single. Never knew about that one.

Thanks, C. Even after your second message I still feel bad about you having to worry so much about these things. Sounds like you're doing what you can to protect yourself. Cheers! Loved your geek piece!