Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Don Henley Must Die

I had this poster. Seriously. Prized possession.

I may have mentioned before that I have quite forgiven myself for liking Jethro Tull when I was thirteen. The Sex Pistols weren't even yet a gleam in Malcolm McLaren's eye, and Elvis Costello was still punching cards in FORTRAN for Elizabeth Arden. Particularly before the whole silly Elizabethan-Boogie thing, Tull was really quite a fine band -- their first two albums, made when they were a mere blues band with pretensions to good songcraft, are still rather listenable. Our local PBS station has a Celtic-music show on Sundays that I'll occasionally listen in on (not a major fan of the thick-sweatered "authentic" music, me -- too repetitious) called "The Thistle and Shamrock," and it amazes me how many times I'll notice that Ian Anderson lifted huge swathes of his mature output, lock, stock, and two smoking Uilleann pipes, from that music.

Today, I had a perfectly decent early-Tull song utterly ruined for me.

There I was in a quiet moment at work, idly clicking the Stumble! button, when up came collection of really-quite-good essays on applied music theory by a fella named Ger Tillikens. One of them is named "Locked Into the Hotel California," about the chord progression in that loathsome song by the loathsome fucking Eagles. Tillikens uses the song to make fascinating (to me, anyway -- YMMV) points about the Dorian mode and something I'd never heard of called the "twin-tone system."

During the course of the discussion, he lets drop the bomb that the authors of the Wikipedia article about "Hotel California" note that the verse's chord progression bears an amazingly exact resemblance to -- be ready to have the song ruined for you -- Jethro Tull's "We Used to Know," from their second album, "Stand Up." In a footnote, he notes that Ian Anderson knows damned well the song was lifted from him; "in a BBC radio interview [Anderson] once laughingly said that he was still waiting for his royalties."

For the record, the verse of "Hotel California":

i - V - VII - IV - VI - III - iv - V

"We Used to Know":

i - V - VII - IV - VI - III - II - V

Awwww.... fuck.

I hadn't thought about that song in years, but I have great affection for its memory, and many was the time that I played mad air guitar in my shuttered room to Martin Barre's workout in that halcyon year 1973.

So I came home, pulled out the CD, and... Oh yeah. Larceny-a-go-go....

Try it for yourself. They even lifted quite a bit of melody from it. You can sing "On a dark desert highway/Cool wind in my hair" right along with "Whenever I get to feel this way/Try to find new words to say," and it fits right in. I'll never be able to hear the song the same way again.

Fuckin' Eagles. Is there no end to their evil?

Jethro Tull's "We Used to Know." (pops)


zombie rotten mcdonald said...


Right after I destroy "What I Like About You" in all its incarnations, we can swing by (Cincinnatti? Last I heard he was jocking down there) to pick up mojo and we can hunt down the eagles, one by one.

Joe Walsh can live, but he loses one leg and both arms.

racketmensch said...

I don't really get the Eagle hatred - at the time I thought they were just a minor nuisance. Did they suck worse than journey? worse than Frampton? Just askin'

Anonymous said...

No racketmensch, they did not.. These dudes here are just gettin' their hate on.

I'm running down the road
trying to loosen my load
got a world of trouble on my mind
lookin' for a lover
who won't blow my cover
she's so hard to find
Take it easy

Anonymous said...

At the risk of permanent banishment, I really like the Eagles. I don't have any hotshot musicological razzle-dazzle to back up that statement, I just like 'em. The line "City girls just seem to find out early/ How to open doors with just a smile" remains one of my favorite lines in rock.
But I would never have bothered to write about liking them, if you hadn't written this gratuitous slam. Slow night, Ned?

Neddie said...

Jesus Christ, you people...

Have you never listened to any fuckin' country music?

The Eagles personify Awful Corporate Country Music!

Compare, if you please, the Flying Burrito Brothers to the fucking EVIL EAGLES. On the one hand, you've got beautiful, damned Gram Parsons, who truly believed in the authenticity and naive beauty of Ernest Tubb records. He died, by his own hand, alone in the desert.

On the other, you've got the miserable, fucking corporate-rock Eagles, who took Gram's formula and turned it into AM Radio gold. Huge profit margins. And gorgeous, high-production-values, emotionally empty fucking pap.

Nothing the miserable fucking Nashville-sucking Eagles ever said was worth the powder to blow them to hell.

You might as well be defending Britney Spears, which is what the fucking Eagles were, in the history of country music.

Anonymous said...

Time to blow what little cred I have:

I have no interest in Parsons, (My closest exposure - Sweetheart of the Rodeo - leaves me cold), or the Eagles. 'Nashville Skyline' is easily as bad as 'Self Portrait'. If i do listen to country, i'd rather it be pure than country rock - my interest in that particular hybrid begins and ends with 'Listen to the Band', which sounds more Sally Army than Bullriding anyway.

(I think it was my childhood overexposure to my dad's Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers and Creedence records - plus that bloody 'Smokey and the Bandit' soundtrack. The older boys next door used to joke that it was music to 'hump sheep by').

Anonymous said...

Am I going to have to make my own video defending the Eagles?

They are HUMANS!!!

All right, Jeddie. I'll place them in the appropriate place in my mind, now that I fully understand what hacks they truly were.

But, next time Take It Easy comes on the radio?

I'm crankin' it.

I never had an Eagles' album, but too many of their songs are tied to specific memories growing up to chuck them 100%.

The Viscount LaCarte said...

I don't hate the Eagles - I don't love them either. I could debate either side though I agree that Journey sucked like a hungry aardvark.

I have to say though - if George Harrison had to pay, if John Lennon had to pay (at least He had the balls to admit when he stole)for what they did, Ian Anderson has a case. Chord progression - that's rock and roll. But chord progression + melody? Theft.

By the way Ned, do you know the earliest known I IV V turnaround? I don't, so I'm actually asking.

Missed you last night Ned.

Don't forget BeeGee - Take It Easy was a Jackson Brown tune.

Turn up the eagles
The neighbors are listening

Anonymous said...

Don't forget BeeGee - Take It Easy was a Jackson Brown tune.

Really? I never knew that!

How in God's creation did I ever get through life before I started blogging. I never knew anything till a couple of years ago.

...Must remember to feel lucky to be learning all this stuff instead of feeling like a total and complete moron...

I just downloaded it, Al. I love that song.

The Viscount LaCarte said...

Mojo Nixon is nuts

Neddie said...

I'm imagining a tear-streaked Blue Girl, mascara running down her face: "Leave the Eagles ALONE! RIGHT NOW!"

Last night's remarks were intemperate, the result of a long, hard day (ask the Viscount) and a refreshing, yet tongue-loosening, draft of something cold and tasty.

Let us refine our remarks a tad, shall we?

While last night I noted that the Eagles blew dead bear, I was perhaps not putting the matter concisely enough. What I meant to say was that they couldn't have sucked more than if they'd been manufactured by the Hoover Corporation rather than David Geffen.

They are pretty much the entire reason punk happened. The were the Clampdown.

EmployeeoftheMonth said...

The Eagles suck worse than a hole in a spacesuit.

The Eagles; more like The Thieving Magpies.

Anonymous said...

The Eagles personify Awful Corporate Country Music!

Howard Stern once said that all of modern country music sounds like the worst song on any Eagles album.

about Hotel Cali... i'd been listening to some Boubacar Traore a few weeks ago, when i sat down with my guitar to see if any if it had seeped into my own playing. after a few minutes, i find myself playing something that sounds very familar...a few more minutes and i realize i'm a single accent note away from Hotel Cali.. crap.

a couple of days ago, i'm playing around with some minor inversions, trying to find something interesting in there. and, again, after a few minutes of screwing around, i end up with something that's a chord away from sounding a lot like gaddam Hotel Cali..

it's a total ear worm.

Boldly Serving Up Wheat Grass said...

Anyone would concede the chord progression similarity, but what can we ever know of intention? I think well-meaning musicians unintentionally lift melodies and progressions (or snippets thereof) all the time (sometimes intentionally as a hat-tip or an homage). Both tunes are certainly a meditation on that lengthy progression, true. But, the Eagles added that distinctive bass line and, at least in the beginning, plucked an original melody line (within that progression) instead of simply strumming it. I'm willing to give the Eagles the benefit of the doubt that it may not have been a conscious rip-off. (Of course, maybe it was. How the hell would I know?)

So, what exactly constitutes originality? What about the entire blues genre... Are they all unoriginal because their chord progressions and scales are all the same? (I'm not asking to be a smart-ass, btw. I'm seriously thinking about the question. What's your take?)

Aside from all that, I'm not a huge Eagles fan. My formerly "born-again" mom used to warn me about this song. When I was a kid, she said that this tune was inspired by Satan. Well, that can only mean, I guess, that Satan is Jethro Tull. (I should let her know as a courtesy, I suppose.)

Incidentally, last month, I posted a sort of open letter to the Eagles, suggesting they hire me to adapt Hotel California into a screenplay. So far, no reply. But, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that one of those dudes Googles himself and hires me to fly out to L.A. and write the movie.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

And here they were berating me over at Snag's place for 'holding back' (sarcasm) on my feelings about "What I Like About You."

I bow down, Neddie. epic takedowns, just the right mix of learnedness and invective. And a side slice right at Blue Girl.

The Viscount LaCarte said...

I've pissed off some Zeppelin fans.

Anonymous said...

BP, Jeddie knows that, when it comes right down to it, I can take him down in a heartbeat.

I just let him have his little fun.

All they ever wanted to do was perform for you bastards!!!!

Neddie said...

I'm willing to give the Eagles the benefit of the doubt that it may not have been a conscious rip-off.

Oh, I'm not gonna accuse the Beagles of actually sitting around in a band meeting and going through a list of songs to steal. (Although I do remember at the time reading derisive commentary in "Rolling Stone" [so it must be true!] that they'd dried up so badly that they'd purchased a rhyming dictionary.) Wikipedia says the Beagles and Tull toured together in the mid-70s, proving precisely nothing.

No, I'm mainly annoyed because now every time I hear the Tull song -- you know, every twenty years or so -- I'm gonna be stuck humming that evil song over top of it. In a certain sense it was inspired by Satan, just not the way your mom thinks.

I bow down, Neddie. epic takedowns, just the right mix of learnedness and invective.

Well, thanks, BP. Truth be told, nothing helps a comment thread quite like taking the odd potshot at a Sacred Cow...

Viscount, wait'll you see the shit that hits the fan when I announce that Jimmy Page is the most overrated guitarist in rock...

Anonymous said...

Your rant reminds me of Henry Rollins going to town on U2, and I think that it's for much the same reason, that there was a superior artist playing in the same field who never got his due. (In Rollins' case, that would be Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy, not really that similar to U2 but was also from Ireland.)

I can easily blame anything that I don't like about the Eagles on Glenn Frey, but really, I've heard those songs so many times that they're almost inaudible to me--my brain just goes on "ignore" until something better comes on. Luckily, I don't have the same reaction to

Anonymous said...

Oh, and WRT Led Zep, I was watching that little Flash movie with the kittens set to "Immigrant Song" (yeah, yeah, I know) and realized two things: that, having listened to that song every now and then for thirty-odd years, I never really parsed out the lyrics, and having finally seen them in print, they're very much the sort of thing that I would have scribbled as a junior high student during study hall after having read a bunch of Conan and Thor comics.

Neddie said...

Oh, yeah, Tom, it's ridiculous. I also think of Zep as the leading purveyor of what I've come to call Hobbitism, skewered so nicely by Spinal Tap in "Stonehenge."

No. Fucking. Songs. About. HOBBITS!

The Viscount LaCarte said... the darkest depths of Mordor
I met a girl so fair
But Gollum the evil one
Crept up and slipped away with her...

I remember reading LOTR the very first time and thinking that was a spoiler!

I actually like Zeppelin - in spite of knowing better. I agree with Ned that Page is overrated - but I like his guitar parts in the studio. I agree with Tom that the lyrics are for the most part adolescent but I sing along anyway.

I guess I'll keep on RAMBLIN!

Speaking of theft...

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I stayed away from Zeppelin for so long, it's still enjoyable for me.

But it's not the lyrics.

and it's not the guitar.

It's the frickin DRUMS.

Physical Graffiti has some of the most transcendant drum fills I've ever heard. And In through The Out Door has some great stuff too.

The Viscount LaCarte said...

It's the frickin DRUMS.

Amen brother.

Anonymous said...

Look, I loath the Eagles, and all that they represent: The worst of slick, corporate rock, and a sort of exhausted, bad-faith capitulation to everything that was awful about our post-Vietnam culture.

Nevertheless, I had no reason, until this evening, to suspect them of blatant plagiarism in addition to their other sins. Just because you make awful, really awful, really awful meretricious music, does not mean you are a plagiarist. But the clip provided by Neddie shows by preponderant evidence, the evidentairy standard used in our civil courts, that the Eagles are indeed plagiarists as well as soul-killing dementors. If george harrison could be dragged into court, I really don't see what's stopping Ian Anderson from finding a good lawyer and filing a complaint.

Neddie said...

Ah, JC, I'm afraid musical plagiarism is notoriously difficult to prove. See BSUWG's comments above about "intentionality." George Harrison did get busted for "My Sweet Lord," but the similarities between that song and the Chiffons' "He's So Fine" are far more blatant than those between the Tull song and "Hotel California." You can't copyright a chord progression, and the Beagles added a chorus that's completely absent from the Tull song. See, e.g., this article.

Also, I suppose, there's the question of that greatest of all American sculptures, the Statue of Limitations. We are talking about a song more than 30 years old -- practically out of copyright itself, which is a slightly depressing thought.

Neddie said...

Just came across this, from the Viscount, as I was rereading the comment thread:

By the way Ned, do you know the earliest known I IV V turnaround? I don't, so I'm actually asking.

Jeeze, why not ask a difficult question?

Trouble is, back when Pythagoras was measuring strings and concluding that ones double the length produce a tone an octave deeper, they weren't thinking in terms of diatonic theory, but in modes. I believe (though I confess profound ignorance on the subject) that Pythagoras noted the relationships among tonic, subdominant and dominant notes in an octave, but they didn't invent keys until, what, the sixteenth century.

Put more simply, you can't play "Louie, Louie" on a lyre.

It would be an interesting research project, though.

bobby lightfoot said...

Well, well, well.

guess I'll just a-hafta weigh on in here.

1. Tull shreds. They was ruined by AOR. They sound more like "English Settlement" XTC than anyone I can think of. Tull was wrecked by wangs with t-shirts and crap acid. And "Aqualung". TULL WAS SO FUCKIN' AHEAD OF THEIR TIME THAT THEY WERE GETTING NOISE COMPLAINTS AT THEIR REHEARSAL SPACE 15 YEARS AFTER THEY BROKE UP, MAN.

2. EVERY Eagle must die badly. Every SNIVELING EAGLE. BLAH BLAH fast lane BLAH BLAH desperado BLAH BLAH. Every fuckin' song of theirs makes me feel like I'm coming off of bad coke and makes me wish it would actually get worse so I could check myself in somewhere and maybe GET SOME PEACE.

El Gran Culprito Numerio Uno: That fuckin' GLYNN FRY. What a no-talent weezil. Guy makes Danny Bonaduce look like fucking MINGUS. Jesus Fucking Christ On Th' Six-Ten to Kankakee does that fucking wet make me want to put my cock in every electrical outlet I see just to stop the white-hot rage. Stop, Stop, Stop.

To this day he thinks he's fookin' whatsisname there who played harmonica on "Hey Baby" crossed w/ Steve Cropper. Dilbert McClintock.

Dude, if you're going to ride someone's coattails to stardom why WOULD YOU CHOOSE DAN HANLEY? That right there is like, man. Shit. Just fucking actionable. Fuckin Glynn, what a wang.

Oh, and that one crap thing they put out that was them school kids singing "Space Oddity" and "Desperado"? The Something Or Other Schools Project?

Wow is that depressing and horrid. It was the KOOL thing there for like six minutes in '01 until Saddam blew up th' Trade Towers on that Geraldo tv special.

And that god damn idiot Joe Welsh? Who carved out a whole solo career singin' about how he's just like YOu 'n' Me but richer and higher and uglier and more prone to green, weeping boils? I can't think of a greater waste of skin 'ceptin' maybe a eight-foot fuckin' foreskin. Same diff, man- you keep peelin' back the skin and eventerally you'll find yourself an unkempt tallywhacker that is redolent of ricotta sure as Bob's your uncle.

I would very much like to beat Joe Welsh with Timothy B. Schit. Don't get me STARTED on that fucking John Denver in Fabio clothing. Christ. I weep. I fucking WEEP. At the mere THOUGHT of that Painted Desert PUSSY. He's like something you'd buy cheap in some Arizona Crapstand while you're topping your coolint and your little bastinges are all screamin' for ice cream.

Yeah, you laugh bleaugh haugh haugh but you know I'm right.

3. John Paul Jones WAS fuckin' Zerpellin. Until he assumed The Papacy. Robert Flunt was and is a nancying little Fauntleroy of a Tolkien memorizer and has never been off antibiotics a day in his coddled fucking little existence.

Zeppelin's demise was no tragedy because from the ashes rose THE FIRM. With Max Bacon on vocals.

Oh, wait- that was Steve Howe's AWESOME '80's project GTR.

Tracy Bonham, love him or hate him, is th' only drummer who could piss himself in the pants while issuing percussive volleys of such force and conviction that you'd find yourself running for the bathroom to ease your thrumming, roiling bowelles. You just don't see that every day. It's very Tin Drum.

And I heard Zerpellin all ate each other's shit on tour. Which for a band is apt. And Jeremy Page did Santeria and put Ahmet Ertegun in a trance and snapped one off in the Turk's ear whilst he was thus mesmerized.

4. Buck Owens IS fucking COUNTRY MUSIC. BUCK.

5. First I-IV-V song is "Your Face Is Changing" by Lothar And The Hand People. 1969, brothers. You can totally LOOK THAT UP.

How did they THINK of it?

Same way I came up with ii-V, children.

Anonymous said...

Bobby: Best. Rant. Ever.

(Although I do remember at the time reading derisive commentary in "Rolling Stone" [so it must be true!] that they'd dried up so badly that they'd purchased a rhyming dictionary.)

Dammit! Rock and Roll has such inane, arbitrary rules at times. What the *hell* could possibly be wrong with a rhyming dictionary for refining lyrical ideas that were just slightly out of reach and triggering subconcious connections between words?

Otherwise we're left with Madonna rhyming 'New York' with 'Dork' or Anthemic Wank bands like U2 and Coldplay, (or the bloody Eagles), singing profoundly and self-importantly about something vague and generic.

If i've got a tumble of notes and can fit 'Repress excess, suppress burlesque / Suggestive statuesque grotesque' in there, rather than 'hide / inside / flame / name', i'll do it. A rhyming dictionary is an incredible mnemonic tool.

Fucking rock and roll and its Endless Bullshit Authenticity as defense against lack of craftmanship or imagination. It's so damn *Mundane*. Isn't the beauty of art about wanting to be so much more than what we actually are?

Anonymous said...

Here I was composing a hateful anti-Iggles screed as I read the posts but after getting to the end of Bobby's there really isn't much point. Any chance we'll ever see a little Bobby Lightfoot / Al Swearengen dialogue?

Cup said...

the loathsome fucking Eagles

I want that on a T-shirt. In LARGE letters.

Anonymous said...

Neddie, the wikipedia citation you provided in your post to me does not support your argument. According to the article,many (most?) courts are willing to impose damages in cases regardless of proof of "intentionality." Therefore, notwithstanding any expert testimony a defendant might produce concerning the phenomena of (cough!) cryptomnesia, that does not insulate a defenadnt from damages.
While I agree that the issue of Tull's copyright is a valid consideration, you are a bit off the mark with respect to the SOL. What excatly do you mean by that? In your view, when did Tull lose the right to file suit against the Stink Birds? If yous answer is 3 years after the recording was made, I would argue you are wrong about that. Think about it. That would be an absurd way to apply the law. It would be three years from the "last infringement." Courts have taken a very expansive view of what constitutes an "infringement" from the little that I know about this area. We know, unfortunately, that the eagles are one of the biggest-selling acts of all time. Wow it hurts to say that. Still, even if they weren't, and 1 copy of HC were for sale at Bleeker Bob's in a back bin in 2007, that might constitute an infringement.
As I mentioned earlier, I had never heard the Tull song before last night, and (mercifully) I haven't heard HC by the Eagles in years. But last night, the Tull song sounded remarkably similar to HC. Nevertheless, I will defer to your (ahem) expert judgment as a musician that the two songs are less similar than MSL and "He's So Fine."

Anonymous said...


One more thing. You mention in your comment that the Tull Song "We Used to Know" is over 30 years old and "practically out of copyright itself." Assuming a composition/copyright date of 1969, under US law "We Used to Know" will enter the public domain in 2064. The result might be different in Europe depending on the country (Berne Convention, etc.), but it would usually result in the work entering the public domain 50-70 years after the death of the last suviving author of the song, which, conceivably, might push the date beyond 2064.

bill said...

"wait'll you see the shit that hits the fan when I announce that Jimmy Page is the most overrated guitarist in rock..."

No argument from me. I'll never forget a guitarist friend of mine on listening to the first Zep album many years ago commenting, "Listen to all the fucking mistakes he's making!"

Although as far as the most overrated goes, I have to stick with my all-time favorite, Dickey Betts. Duane, we hardly knew ye.