Did You Ever Realize…

Did You Ever Realize…

Songs You May Have Missed #579


Rod Stewart: “The Best Days of My Life” (1978)

I find Rod Stewart infuriatingly chameleonic. The same guy who gave us some of rock’s most tender ballads (some self-penned, others well-chosen covers) has seemed content at other times to cover himself in schmutz like “Hot Legs” and “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and the same artist who blended folk and rock in innovative ways has satisfied himself too often with recording superficial pap or simply lending his voice to American pop standards.

I stopped paying attention for the most part when his records went from sounding something like this:

to sounding more like this:

The same album that found him crossing into disco territory for the first time also brought us this gem of an album track.

“The Best Days of My Life” begins with one of those superfluous acoustic intros Rod used to be so fond of, similar to those that adorned the LP versions of “Maggie May” and “You Wear it Well”, before giving way to one of his trademark melodic and heartfelt love songs, a statement of devotion of the same cloth as “You’re in My Heart”.

Pop-lifting (Part 2): Avril, Rod and Bob Marley Found Guilty

Welcome to another segment of the widely tolerated “Poplifting” feature, wherein we like to demonstrate our vast (or at least half-vast) knowledge of pop history’s musical pickpockets. Let’s point some incriminating fingers!


avril rubinoos

“Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne lifted from “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” by The Rubinoos lifted from “Get Off My Cloud” by The Rolling Stones

When power pop band The Rubinoos filed a claim against Avril Lavigne and her “Girlfriend” cowriter/producer Dr. Luke, saying her 2007 hit ripped off their 1979 song, Lavigne responded by saying she’d never heard their song before. Although her claim seems plausible (she wasn’t even born till five years after its release) there had been two cover versions in 1990 and 1996 that she certainly could have come across. And it’s not like music from 1979 didn’t exist on CD in 2007…

Be that as it may, Lavigne was exonerated in court despite the opinion of prominent music critics that her song is a total lift from the Rubinoos’. In Lavigne’s defense her manager pointed out that The Rubinoos song itself seems to borrow from the Rolling Stones’ “Get Off My Cloud”. Certainly a case can be made that there were two incidents of poplifting here:


roots drifters

 “Let’s Live For Today” by The Grass Roots lifted from “I Count the Tears” by The Drifters

Legendary songwriters Pomus and Shuman had their hook hooked for a song recorded originally by The Rokes in 1966, then taken to #8 by The Grass Roots the following year.


rod jorge

 “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” by Rod Stewart lifted from “Taj Mahal” by Jorge Ben

Jorge Ben, Brazilian musician and writer of the classic “Mas Que Nada”, didn’t take kindly to Rod Stewart’s unauthorized use of a melody from his “Taj Mahal”, a song Rod surely had opportunity to hear as the 1972 song was popular in London clubs. Ben sued for copyright infringement and the case was settled amicably with all future royalties from “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” going to UNICEF. Stewart has admitted to “unconscious plagiarism” in the matter.

Jorge Ben added “Jor” to his name, becoming Jorge Benjor, supposedly in response to an incident where some of his royalties went to George Benson.


berry jordan

“Roll Over Beethoven”, “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry lifted from “Ain’t That Just Like a Woman” by Louis Jordan

Chuck Berry, as we learned in the last post on this subject, is the true originator, the one everybody cribs from…right? Well, yes. But he’s also a guy who recycled that signature riff a lot. And, oh yeah–he wasn’t the first to use that now-famous guitar intro, the one that rang in the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. The first three samples you’ll hear in this clip are the intros to Chuck’s “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Johnny B. Goode” respectively. The fourth is the intro from Louis Jordan’s “Ain’t That Just Like a Woman”. It’s from 1946. Call it rock ‘n’ roll’s false start.


marley splits

“Buffalo Soldier” by Bob Marley lifted from “The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)” by The Banana Splits

I know. It doesn’t get any more unlikely than this. But maybe not–Marley did spend about half of 1969 living with his mother in Delaware, his wife and young kids with him. Seems almost likely he’d be exposed to Bingo, Drooper, Snorky and Fleegle and their Saturday morning Adventure Hour (if you’re too young to know who the Banana Splits were, think The Monkees in animal costumes. If you’re too young to know The Monkees, ask your mum).

Why he’d copy their song is another story. I’m thinking this is another case of “unconscious plagiarism”. A pretty funny one. To my knowledge, Fleegle and company took no legal action.


See also: Pop-lifting (Part 1): Eagles, Beatles, Beach Boys and Their Stolen Music | Every Moment Has A Song (edcyphers.com)

Rockers Singing Standards: The Overdone, The Overdue, and The Overlooked

The Great American Songbook Collection (4CD/DVD)

The Overdone: Rod Stewart’s Great American Songbook was the album series that wouldn’t go away. It spawned five volumes (with Roman numerals, no less–like the Super Bowls), a four-disc box set and even had its own best-of. As Rod points at you in the above photo he’s thinking: I’m glad YOU don’t realize how much better Bobby Darin could do this.

Rod, write some songs now. Or…retire?

Kisses on the Bottom

The Overdue: Paul McCartney’s first-ever standards album is Kisses On The Bottom. It’s badly titled but tastefully arranged and given a pleasant, relaxed vocal treatment by one of the all-time great songwriters, who ironically seems to bring some of his best performances to others’ material. (Entered into evidence: his “It’s So Easy”, by all accounts a fiery highlight of a 2011 Buddy Holly tribute album:

Paul even includes two new originals which fit in quite well among the all-time standards. A nice trick, that.

On the downside, these arrangements are quite spare at times, and the vocals “in close”. The 69-year-old McCartney, despite having amazingly well-preserved vocal range, is not always ready for his closeup. Just a little breathy or rough around the edges here and there. It’s a small distraction, especially when I consider how much I love Jimmy Durante doing the same kind of material. My only real complaint for Sir Paul is that he didn’t do this sooner. His reason? Had to wait for Rod to finish. (No, really!)

Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night 

The Overlooked: Harry Nilsson’s A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night came, in 1973, at a point in his career when he should have been consolidating the mainstream success he’d found with the hit Nilsson Schmilsson album. Instead he insisted on singing an album of standards with Sinatra’s arranger Gordon Jenkins. Not the best career move perhaps. But in hindsight we’re probably just as lucky to have this collection of timeless songs, impeccably arranged and sung by one of the great voices of his era, as we’d have been to have another Nilsson Schmilsson. This one’s a comparatively little-known gem today, but worth seeking out. Of all the rock musicians who moonlighted singing the standards, no one could touch the voice of Nilsson.

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