Boneyard Media

Archive for the ‘Borrowed Tunes’ Category

Song ID: Hedva and David – “Naomi No Yume” (1970)

Saturday, April 26th, 2014


In 1970 this Israeli duo (Hedva Amrani and David Rosenthal) entered their single “Ani Cholem Al Naomi” (“I Dream of Naomi”) in Tokyo’s Yamaha Song Festival and won first prize. They entered with a Japanese version, though, which subsequently sold close to a million copies.  If you let this sticky song run through your mind long enough, it might morph into the Association’s “Along Comes Mary” or the Zombies’ “She’s Not There.”


“Ani Cholem Al Naomi” – Hedva and David (Hebrew)

“Naomi No Yume” – Hedva and David (Japanese)

“I Dream of Naomi” – Hedva and David (English)

“Bali Ha’i” and “The Jitterbug”

Friday, January 10th, 2014

A while back I posted some observations on what my ears heard as the influence of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Bali Ha’i” (from the 1949 South Pacific soundtrack) on Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and some others.  A deleted scene from The Wizard of Oz (1942), though, has me wondering if Rodgers and Hammerstein actually borrowed from Harold Arlen. The expensive, elaborate scene included an Arlen song (lyrics by E.Y. Harburg) called “The Jitterbug,” in which Dorothy and friends dance frenetically under the influence of the song title’s creatures (only the grainy version above, shot by Arlen himself, exists). Although “The Jitterbug” never made it to the final cut of the film, it did appear in a 1942 stage musical version, which is one way it might have seeped into Rodgers and Hammerstein’s consciousness.

Pete Townshend’s words about the Everlys

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

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Pete Townshend says this about the Everlys in his Who I Am:

“Best of all, I found two great albums by the Everly Brothers, one was called Rock and Soul, the other Rhythm and Blues… The Everly Brothers played a number of R&B classics, but it was their original material–or the very obscure material they introduced as covers–that I thought exceptional.  ‘Love Is Strange’ is an eerie bluegrass song that the Everlys transformed into a driving showcase for jangling electric guitars and nasal vocals…There were few artists that all four of us respected and enjoyed, and the Everly Brothers were among them.”

Townshend’s actually talking (I assume) about the Rock’n Soul and Beat & Soul albums, both great.  As for the “bluegrass” origins of Mickey and Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange” (written by Bo Diddley), I’m all ears. Anyone?

The Everly Brothers – “Love Is Strange” (1965)

Mickey and Sylvia – “Love Is Strange” (1956)

Chuck Blevins – “Sleighbell Rock” (1961)

Sunday, December 1st, 2013


Time to revisit my favorite Christmas record and attend to this little matter: In 1961, the year after Hal “Holiday” Schneider tossed his still-resonating yuletide hand grenade with his group Three Aces and a Joker, a politer version appeared on the Foxie label (a New York City subsidiary of 20th Century Fox) credited to Chuck Blevins. According to Hal, “Chuck Blevins is the brother of Jim Blevins (who plays the lead guitar on the original recording by Three Aces and a Joker). Chuck recorded it in Baltimore a while after. The original recording was in Utah.”

The temptation is to stir the pot a bit, to ask why Chuck, who wasn’t a part of the original recording, chose to do this and claim songwriting credit. And who’s the J. Blevins who shares credit? Jimmy or Joe (both of whom were members of Three Aces and a Joker)? With Hal’s ownership of the song firmly established, though, I’ll let his words above be the final ones.

“Sleigh Bell Rock” (1960) – Three Aces and a Joker (YouTube)

“Sleighbell Rock” (1961) – Chuck Blevins (YouTube)

Song ID: Sopwith Camel – “Fazon” (1973)

Friday, November 15th, 2013

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I checked out Jonathan Wilson’s new Fanfare album and liked its early ’70s California vibe. It should have had a gatefold including black and white/sepia pics of all the Laurel Canyon musicians involved for listeners to hold in their hands a la Deja Vu or If I Could Only Remember My Name. The biggest treat for me was Wilson’s cover of the San Francisco band Sopwith Camel’s “Fazon.” I knew this song from the 1973 Miraculous Hump Returns from the Moon record a friend gave me in the summer of ’85 – he’d found it in a stash of LPs his long-deceased uncle had left in his family’s basement. It became my most-played nighttime record that summer and whenever I’d look up at the night sky the swirling guitar chords that open up “Fazon” would play in my head.

Later that summer I took a trip to San Francisco to visit my Grandmother who lived on Geary Street and found a copy of the Camel’s self-titled 1967 album at a used record store on Polk Street. The man at the cash register had a walrus moustache and looked at the record for a longish moment. “This was an underrated band,” he said quietly, then took out the disk so we could listen to “Cellophane Woman.” I later taught myself a ragtime guitar version of “Hello Hello” and dug up a 45 of that song for its Byrdsy non-album B-side “Treadin’.” (Sopwith Camel only released two albums – the one from ’67 on Kama Sutra and a revival album on Reprise in ’73.)

I once had a conversation with Camel drummer Norm Mayell, who told me that one of the group’s first early advocates happened to be a guy with a walrus moustache who ran a used record store on Polk Street (no joke). He also told me that the “Fazon” incarnation of the band unraveled en route to a gig they were supposed to play with BJ Thomas in my present hometown of Austin, Texas. “We were leaving Palm Beach, Florida, because a concert with Sly Stone fell through and we were scheduled to play on the Midnight Special,” he said. “So a stop in Austin would be good preparation according to our manager Bob Cavalo (Little Feat, John Sebastian, Earth Wind and Fire).”

Austin, it turns out, is where the Camel’s second incarnation ran out of gas. The roadie and a band member, who were heroin buddies, were supposedly driving the van with all of the tour equipment up from Florida while the rest of the band waited in Austin. Eventually the manager got a phone call reporting that the “van had caught fire and all the equipment had burned on the freeway,” says Norm. In truth, the heroin buddies had been pawning all the gear, some of which had turned up in Macon, Georgia, where the group had played its last gig. It was a “gut punch,” as he put it, that did the Camel in. Norm, at least, could take comfort in the success he’d been having as the drummer for – and percentage holder of – Norman Greenbaum’s monster hit “Spirit in the Sky.”

Norm currently maintains the official Sopwith Camel website, where loads of memorabilia can be taken in, along with info about the newly reformed group’s live performances around the Bay area. Best of all, you can get your own copy of the remastered Miraculous Hump Returns from the Moon album and experience its time-tested ability to get inside people’s heads.

Sopwith Camel, “Fazon” (1973) (YouTube)

Jonathan Wilson, “Fazon” (2013) (Soundcloud)

Song ID: Shocking Blue – “Acka Raga” (1968)

Monday, May 6th, 2013


None of the official “best of” comps for the Dutch group Shocking Blue do justice to their facility with the three minute pop song. You have to go digging through all of their album cuts and B-sides and construct your own playlist. “Acka Raga” is a post-pyschedelic sitar instrumental, a cover of a track from the Joe Harriott-John Mayer Double Quartet’s 1967 Indo-Jazz Fusion LP. In 1999, a techno group called Mint Royale covered the song and retitled it, but hilariously claimed writer credits, giving Harriott-Mayer liner note honors for the “sample.” They even had the song placed in the Alias TV show and the Vanilla Sky film soundtrack. How did the licensing for this go down, I wonder?

Shocking Blue – “Acka Raga” (1968)

Joe Harriott-John Mayer Double Quartet – “Acka Raga” (1967)

Mint Royale – “From Rusholme with Love” (1999)

One Bobby nicks another

Monday, December 10th, 2012

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Last September Bob Dylan lashed out at those who noticed similarities between his work and others’. Dylanologists will know that he’s been dogged by accusations of plagiarism at least as early as his Freewheelin’ days and they will accept and point out that the appropriation of idiom and folk tradition is what the pop culture process is all about. But Dylan’s full songwriting claim for his recent “Soon After Midnight,” in which he purloins the entire chord structure of the Bobby Fuller Four’s “New Shade of Blue” is kind of eyebrow-raising, and I’m surprised that only a few muffled “wussies” (Bob’s words) in comments sections of the online wilderness have taken notice of this. “New Shade of Blue” songwriters Bobby Fuller and Mary Stone have both passed on, but giving them a bit of songwriting credit where it’s due shouldn’t strike anyone as being an unnecessary gesture.

[P.S. Remember when Dylan gave Rod Stewart the business over “Forever Young”? Quoting myself: “In 1978 Stewart would get in trouble … when his ‘Forever Young’ irritated Bob Dylan, whose own ‘Forever Young’ was an obvious influence. So the two mammoths ended up splitting the royalties, which was no compensation for those of us who were irritated by the song in general.”]

The Bobby Fuller Four – “A New Shade of Blue” (1966) (excerpt)
Songwriting credits: Bobby Fuller and Mary Stone

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Bob Dylan – “Soon After Midnight” (2012) (excerpt)
Songwriting credits: Bob Dylan

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Neil Young, Shocking Blue & the Big 3

Friday, July 6th, 2012


One of my favorite “borrowed tunes” is Shocking Blue’s “Venus” (1969), which was lifted from the Big 3’s 1963 version of “Oh Susannah,” which they called “The Banjo Song.” I like how Neil Young’s new version of “Oh Susannah” is directly inspired by “The Banjo Song.” I like the fact that many people who listen to it will think that Neil’s lifting from Shocking Blue. I also like how Neil once had a group called the Shocking Pinks and he will now be accused of lifting from Shocking Blue, who were actually lifting from the Big 3. I also like how I lifted my “Borrowed Tunes” heading from a Neil Young song he lifted from the Rolling Stones.

The Big 3 – “The Banjo Song” (1963)

Shocking Blue – “Venus” (1969)

Neil Young and Crazy Horse – “Oh Susannah” (2012)

NPR’s All Things Considered, Smurfs, and Polish Christmas Music

Saturday, December 24th, 2011


Since NPR started airing the current Wycliffe Gordon-penned theme for All Things Considered in 1995, I’d always imagined it as a smartened variation of the Smurfs theme. (South Park administered payback in 1998 by lifting its cheesy poofs theme from NPR.) My friend Jim, though, sent me a 1968 Christmas song by a Polish rock group called Skaldowie (aided by a girl group called Ali Babki), and if my ears don’t deceive me, the refrain near the end of the song, starting at 2:19, anticipates All Things Considered quite faithfully.

Skaldowie – Bedzie Koleda (There Will Be a Christmas Carol)

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Three stages of “Stairway to Heaven”

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011


Spirit – “Taurus” (1968)
The Chocolate Watchband – “And She’s Lonely” (1969)
Led Zeppelin – “Stairway to Heaven” (1971)

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More about Page and his borrowing activities here.

Update, 5/21/14: Spirit will now be taking Zeppelin to court over this, which is a shame. A descending guitar figure is not substantial creative property and the two songs are otherwise very different. Time and money will be wasted and the beautiful “Taurus” will be tainted, regardless of the outcome.