Feb 10, 2008

Songs That Quote Other Songs

One of the secret pleasures I have as a music afficianado happens when I recognize a verbal or musical quotation in a song. Sometimes a band or songwriter wants to pay homage to an earlier performer, while at other times musicians quote their own work.

Of course, only a geek like me tries to make historical connections with music, and I recognize that most folks simply tap their feet and sing along to a tune. Still, for those of you who share my passion for arcane references to other songs in a given composition, here is a brief list of some of my favorite musical quotes. I am avoiding the phenomena of direct sampling, which is a staple of the hip-hop world, but rather focusing on those sly quotations that fly under the aural radar.

Feel free to chime in with any other quoting songs that you can find.

"Centerfield," John Fogerty - Fogerty borrowed the line "Rounding third, headed for home, it's a brown-eyed handsome man" from one of rock-and-roll's greatest poets, Chuck Berry, whose "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" tells the story of, well, a bunch of brown-eyed handsome men.

"Gone Daddy Gone," the Violent Femmes - The Femmes lifted a complete verse from Willie Dixon's 1954 "I Just Want To Make Love To You," which was later butchered by Foghat. Gordon Gano, to his credit, listed Dixon as a cowriter on the debut Femmes LP for borrowing the verse that begins: "I can tell by the way you that you switch and walk, I can see by the way that you baby talk..."

"Feelin' Stronger Every Day," Chicago - You will have to listen closely for this quote, which occurs during the uptempo musical break before the repeated lines of "Feelin' stronger every day" at the end of the song. Those with sharp ears will hear "Jumpin' Jack Flash, it's a gas gas gas" sung by Peter Cetera, Robert Lamm, and Terry Kath, paying homage to the Rolling Stones.

"Come Together," The Beatles - John Lennon's "Here comes old flat-top, he come grooving up slowly" was snagged from Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me," which sparked a lawsuit from Morris Levy, who owned the rights to the original song.

"Tainted Love," Soft Cell - This 1980s techno-dance tune quotes The Supreme's "Where Did Our Love Go?" on the extended versions, though I think this is missing from the abbreviated MTV video.

"Into the Great Wide Open," Tom Petty - The line "Rebel without a clue" first appeared in the 1989 Replacements song "I'll Be You." Petty insists that he did not intentionally swipe the line, but the Replacements were opening for TP on a 1989 tour, the year that "I'll Be You" was released as a single. Hmmmm....

"Glass Onion," The Beatles - Lennon quoted and referenced a number of Beatles songs in this tune, including "Strawberry Fields," "I am the Walrus," "Lady Madonna," "The Fool on the Hill," and "Fixing a Hole." I am of the opinion that Lennon liked jerking the chain of those who spent hours analyzing Beatles songs for clues to larger mysteries, and that "Glass Onion" is Lennon poking fun at people who are a bit too serious with his songs.

"All You Need is Love," The Beatles - Lots of musical and lyrical quotes happening in this song, from "La Marseillaise" to J.S. Bach's "2-part Invention #8 in F" to "Greensleeves." A saxophone plays snippets from Glenn Miller's "In The Mood," while Paul and John reprise the chorus of their own "She Loves You" at the end of the song.

"The Song is Over," The Who - The end of this Who's Next tune features a quote from "Pure and Esay," a song that was cut from the LP, but which later showed up on the Odds and Sods and Who Came First LPs. The Who's Next LP is actually the remnants of a larger project called Lifehouse, and "Pure and Easy" was supposed to be the closing song in the unfinished rock opera.


microdot said...

Wasn't Pure and Easy released on Pete Townsends first solo album,
Who Came First?

historymike said...

You are correct, sir. Gold star awarded.

microdot said...

I actually wrote a song that quoted another...
I wrote a stupid serious parody punk anthemn in the early 80's called "Ugly World" and the skrawky guitar solo was the melody of "Singing In The Rain"

I vaguely remember in the fade out of Strawberry Fields by the Beatles, a lush George Martin string section quote from "Greensleeves" before the bizarre coda with the drums, guitar and recorders playing the repetious figure and the slowed down voice saying "I like Strawberries".

HumboldtsClio said...

Eddie Money's "Take Me Home Tonight" includes a line from the Ronette's "Be My Baby".

There's also a ton of songs (usually rap songs) that take the melody of other songs and simply change the lyrics. I remember a few years ago some rap song came out, and everytime it started I wondered why "Crimson and Clover" was being played on the hit music station.

Another case in point: the melody from one of Britney Spears' new songs, "Ooh Ooh Baby", is identical to the melody of the Turtles' "So Happy Together".

microdot said...

Yeah and George Harrison got sued for writing My Sweet Lord with out crediting the Ronettes.

Rap is entirely diffrent art...
So much of the 90's stuff was samples from great music of the past...
Now it seems to be evolving and the best rap has live bands, playing real music.

Here in France, there is a great young artist named Abdl Malik who has teamed up with the pianist and arranger for the great Jacques Brel and is creating truly stunning powerful music with great poetry.

Back to language, both rock and rap started as American art forms. Very few French artists have been able to make the French language work well in rock songs. Therre are some great French rock artists, but they are special.
Rap on the other hand explodes into something completely different. the language really lends itself to the wordplay and free style and super fast delivery!

LBDG said...

In "Johnny Ryall" from the Beastie Boy's Paul's Boutique record they have a line:

Washing windows on the Bowery at a quarter to four
'Cause he ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more

Especially interesting since the Beasties are known for using samples, but here opted to sing the Dylan line themselves.

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Anonymous said...

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