Sound-Alikes?: Creaky Boards Vs. Coldplay and Other “Similar” Songs

Jun 20, 2008 1:30pm

Recently Andrew Hoepfner, leader of an indie rock band from Brooklyn, Creaky Boards, noticed that his song, the now semi-ironically titled “The Songs I Didn’t Write,” was strikingly similar to Coldplay’s current number one hit, and ipod-ad staple “Viva La Vida.”  Claiming he’d been ripped off by Chris Martin and company, he went to youtube and prepared a clip with both tracks side by side.  He also claimed he saw someone he thought was Martin in the crowd at a show last year.  There are plenty of lanky, Chris Martin look-alikes, (especially in Brooklyn, indie-rock hipster circles) so Martin’s actual presence at the show could be disputed.  Is There A Case For Infringement? The two tracks have their similarities, but legally, it may be hard to prove.  I quote the Beastie Boys in their song “Shadrach.” “Only 24 hours in a day / Only 12 notes that a man can play!” This could be chalked up to pure coincidence, especially since the two songs are arriving at very similar times.  Coldplay’s record just arrived last week and Creaky Boards’ album, “Brooklyn is Love,” is “almost done” according to their myspace page.  In addition, the songs’ melodies have enough slightly different twists and turns that “the eight-notes-in-row” standard probably wouldn’t hold up.  Creaky Boards’ song is a sunnier slice of almost twee-sounding power-pop in comparison to Coldplay’s moody, anthem-ready, string-laden hit.  Sure enough on E’s website, there are posted statements from Coldplay’s management that Martin was in London and not at that show, which was said to take place in October 2007.  Also, supposedly “Viva La Vida” was recorded in March of last year, long before said show.  Hoepfner wrote to E and said that he must’ve been mistaken.   He could’ve honestly thought he’d been robbed or it could’ve been just a way to hype his music.  Either way, both songs are good in their own different ways.  There should be room for both of them to exist.  Here are some other “similar” songs: George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” and the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine.” – It was ruled that Harrison’s song was too similar to the girl-group’s hit, thus proving that even legends can be caught copying people, whether by accident or not.  Harrison’s use was said to be unintentional. The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Dani California” and Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” – Petty was concerned by the similarities between his 1993 hit and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 2005 single.  Both songs are bluesy work-ups full of references to different states.  They sound an awful lot alike and the music press had a little bit of a field day for a few moments with this story.  In none of the stories I read on the subject, however, did anyone notice that both tracks were produced by Rick Rubin.  Hmmmmm. The Flaming Lips’ “Flight Test” and Cat Stevens “Father and Son.” – This is a rather straightforward sound-alike.  The songs’ melodies are virtually identical.  As soon as the common elements were noticed, the Flaming Lips agreed to give Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) credit.    The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA” and Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” – This is another obvious one.  They sound pretty much exactly the same, even down to their obsession with geography. Berry was given a writing credit.  Brian Wilson must’ve been a big Berry fan.  If you listen to “Fun, Fun, Fun,” it seems to me like the intro is pretty much lifted from “Johnny B. Goode.”  The "Final Jeopardy" music and “I’m a Little Teapot.” – Every time I watch Jeopardy at the very end, I want to sing the words, “tip me over and pour me out!  Bom Bom!!”    Sublime’s “What I Got” and The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” – I’ve never seen anyone write about this, but Sublime’s big breakthrough (coming unfortunately a few months after leader Brad Nowell’s death) is a clear, yet maybe unintentional nod to the Fab-Four’s hit.  John Mayer’s “Waiting For the World To Change” and Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” – Mayer’s socially conscious song and Gaye’s smooth-lovin’ anthem share the same chord-progression and could easily be sung side by side.  Again, I’ve never read anybody else’s observations on this comparison.  INXS’ “Need You Tonight” and Frédéric Chopin’s "Death March” – It was really weird when Michael Hutchence died.  He was so young and still had career possibilities ahead of him.  Shortly after his death, I listened to INXS’ greatest hits and it occurred to me that the guitar line/centerpiece of “Need You Tonight” sounds an awful lot like “The Death March.”  There are a couple of notes missing, but it has the same general feel.  The dance beat only makes it unsettling.  That being said, it’s still a classic.  Green Day’s “Hitchin’ a Ride” and the Stray Cats’ “Stray Cats Strut” – Both tracks are built around the same simple bass-line.  If copyright rules were stricter, Green Day might find themselves in trouble when you also consider that one of the sections of their epic track “Jesus of Suburbia” sounds just like Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69.” The Strokes’ “Razorblade” and Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” – In an unusual move, the chorus to this Strokes song bares a striking similarity to Barry’s “Lite” radio staple.  It’s pretty strange and hopefully a coincidence.  I don’t know if the guys in the Strokes spend a lot of time listening to Barry Manilow, but a lot of critics have noticed the two tracks’ common traits.  Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” and Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life” – It takes a lot to borrow a bass-line from such a timeless song, but it seems to me that Jet did it.  It’s actually more than a bass-line; to me, it’s the essence of the entire track.  The song has its fans and it has its detractors, but few will argue that it’s the most original piece around.  Sometimes originality isn’t everything, though, and borrowed elements can still make for a good song.  What do you think?  Can you think of any songs you think sound like each other?   

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