Plagiarism: It Happend To Me And I Had No Clue I Did It!
Something happened to me that makes me understand plagiarism much better.
One of the best-known examples of plagiarism is the wildly publicized case a couple of years ago, where Joe Satriani sued Coldplay because their song “Viva La Vida” sounded strikingly similar to the main melody in Joe’s song “If I Could Fly”.
I never deemed it possible, that a band that plagiarizes does not fully know that they did so.
I could never really truly believe that a band could copy someone else’s melody or lyrics without being blatantly aware of it.
And yet… that is EXACTLY what happened to me.
Many years ago, I wrote this song that I really liked.
I never bothered giving it a title as I never fully finished the song. (I only had 1 song section and I still had to write lyrics for it and had just made up words on the spot while recording the chords and vocals.)
It sounded very Beatles-ish to me, but then again, lots of the music that I write does.
Everybody knows I have always been a huge Beatles fan ever since I was a kid.
Needless to say though: I really wrote that song like I write every song: a melody line came to me, the melody kept developing in my mind as I was toying with it, and then I figured out the chords.
I could never quite shake the feeling though that it “sounded like something”.
I still remember though this song was written many years ago, how I spent hours going through all my Beatles CDs shortly after I wrote it, skimming through EVERY Beatles song, just to make sure I had not just ripped off a Beatles song.
I could not find one Beatles song that sounded like the song I had just written.
And yet… I was never really entirely sure I wrote this song.
All I was sure about, was that I had not ripped off a Beatles song (I have all their music and listened to their whole catalog song by song to make sure), yet I kept feeling like the song had to be a Beatles song for whatever reason I could not understand.
Till my friend David Crocco, who has a similar musical taste to me, told me yesterday about this Paul McCartney documentary “Wingspan” which he had seen on YouTube last week.
He told me I had to watch the documentary too because it was so beautiful, truthful, and honest.
I watched “Wingspan” last night…
And there suddenly was “my song”, playing in the documentary:
Obviously: Paul’s version came first, as he recorded “Another Day” in 1970, the year before I was born. 🙂
I immediately went through all my Protools demos and song snippets of the past 10 years and found the Protools session folder I was looking for.
I really only had 1 song section: which corresponded to the 1st part (verse) of the original “Another Day”.
The session was actually aptly titled: “Vreny or Beatles?”
As turned out, it’s neither a Vreny nor a Beatles song: it’s a Paul McCartney song.
I was astonished to find out that “my song” sounds more like “Another Day” than Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” sounded like “If I Could Fly”
It was EXACTLY the same frigging song. (I even sang the same words)
It beats me how that is possible?
I literally had started to think in the many years since I wrote and recorded that song, that maybe the song was mine after all. I sure did my share of research through the years to find out why I had this nagging feeling I couldn’t shake, that the song sounded “too familiar).
Since my digging, didn’t lead me to Paul McCartney’s “Another Day”, I started coming up with various reasons to explain that nagging feeling away.
Maybe it was “Collective consciousness” that channeled the song to me creating the illusion I had heard it before, maybe it was “inspired” by a song I had heard in the past without “my song” necessarily being “similar” to that song, … maybe the airwaves had sent a song to “my channel” that only “seemed” to already exist only because the sound of it in my head was so strikingly sounding like the Beatles… maybe…
Maybe I am exposed to so much new music every day, that my mind is overstimulated by an avalanche of constant melodies, chord progressions, and sounds, creating a false sense of familiarity.
It’s interesting how the mind can play games and tricks on you. Yet through the years, I started to believe that my “sense of familiarity” I felt with the song that “had come to me”, probably had to be attributed to some kind of otherworldly, psychic, ethereal, or spiritual explanation of some sort.
Again: for the longest time I had done all I could to find out if that song already existed, but never had been led to Paul McCartney’s “Another Day”.
It also didn’t help that: though I’m a huge Beatles fan, I somehow, for reasons unknown to me, have never ventured into discovering Paul McCartney’s music with Wings or as a solo artist. I have none of his solo albums, which doesn’t mean that I don’t like his music. I love his music and everything he stands for: I just never got about getting any of Paul McCartney’s music in my collection outside of his Beatles period.
So imagine how I felt when I heard “Another Day” in the documentary last night, and learned upon checking my old Protools recording, that “my song” was exactly the same melody and harmony as the verse of “Another Day”?
Imagine a day in the future where I might have released this song, not being aware it already existed (because in the many years since “writing the song”, I had never heard the original version nor had I been able to find prove convincing me it had already been written)!
I would have looked like a complete idiot (or even worse: “dishonest” lol) having Paul McCartney sue me because I “stole” one of his big hits.
And yet: while all this might seem hard to believe, I honestly had absolutely no idea or knowledge that I had plagiarized “Another Day”.
This experience completely changes my whole take and perspective on the Joe Satriani – Coldplay case or any allegation of plagiarism for that matter.
Now I am no longer so convinced that an artist is lying when he or she denies having knowingly copied material from an already existing song
I know I definitely had no idea that I had copied Paul McCartney’s “Another Day”.
I’m glad that I have finally been able to resolve and settle this musical matter for once and for all last night.
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Leave a Comment
testAugust 28th, 2013 at 3:00 pm
ZOTZin Music Says:
one two… is this mic on? 🙂August 28th, 2013 at 4:29 pm
check checkAugust 28th, 2013 at 4:52 pm
ZOTZin Music Says:
I love checks 🙂 Give me more.August 28th, 2013 at 4:58 pm
DIRK V Says:
IB: (to Steve) I was surprised to hear ‘Bangkok’ on the ‘Fire Garden’ album – I never had you down as an Abba fan. How come you chose that?
Steve Vai: Oh, that’s a long story. I have a stack of music: when I was on tour I would just write whenever I had an idea and I threw it in a pile. Then I would get my engineers – when they weren’t doing anything – to type them into the computer so I could hear them. That’s how I discovered a lot of the songs that I have recorded, from these pieces of scrap paper. So I listened to one of the tapes and I heard that melody (sings) and I thought ‘That’s kind of nice, I could make a song out of that’. And I saw the manuscript and it had my name on it, it said ‘Taurus Bulba’. I remembered writing a song called ‘Taurus Bulba’; the melody was so familiar. So I recorded this whole thing and I sent it to my manager, and her boyfriend listened to it and said “Yeah, that’s ‘Bangkok”’ And she calls me up and she goes “Is this ‘Bangkok’ from ‘Chess”’ And I said ‘I’ve never heard any of that – that’s crazy. No, it’s just like a Russian folk dance’. So she played it for me over the phone and I almost died. I thought I was in a dream – how did those guys get my music? Then I realised what had happened: years ago, when I was with David Lee Roth, he gave me this tape – didn’t tell me what it was – and said, “Transcribe this. Let’s learn it and play it in the band between set changes”. So I transcribed it and we only did it a few times. Then I took the music and threw it in my pile. I didn’t know the name of it or anything. So ten years later when I dug it out and listened to it, I couldn’t remember that was the event so I thought I wrote it. It’s a great melody – I thought it was too good to be mine!September 4th, 2013 at 1:25 pm
ZOTZin Music Says:
Thank you for sharing this Dirk. I’m glad to hear I am in good company. 🙂
I was shocked when I found out that a song I thought I wrote, already existed… but now I feel less bad knowing that the same happened to Steve Vai.September 4th, 2013 at 1:37 pm