Controversy Mix: Lawsuit Songs
by Eric Jenkins

Listen to the mix here.

I'm sure a lot of you have heard most of these songs a million times, but you may not know the controversy surrounding them. Each was involved in a lawsuit and here's why:

01 - George Harrison - My Sweet Lord. George was accused and found guilty of "subconsciously plagiarizing" The Chiffons' song "He's So Fine." This one is a stretch for me…vaguely similar at best.

02 - ZZ Top - La Grange. So check this shit out. The main riff to "La Grange" is a standard blues lick that countless artists have used over the past -- I don't know -- 100 years. The earliest recorded/copyrighted song that used this lick was John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen." The guy who had the rights to this song unsuccessfully sued ZZ Top in 1992. The judge ruled this lick was public domain.

03 - Elastica - Connection. They totally ripped the catchy opening from Wire. They settled out of court. They've ripped off several other bands and never denied it.

04 - Judas Priest - Better By You, Better Than Me. So these two idiots get drunk and try to kill themselves. One successfully and one not. Well, he killed himself a few years later due to his horrible disfigurement. The parents then sue Judas Priest with their claim that a subliminal message of "do it" is hidden in the Gary Wright (the "Dream Weaver" dude)-penned metal classic. The coverage was all over the news. The most memorable part to me was when the judge asked Rob Halford to sing the song in the courtroom. That was awesome!

05 - Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love. Can you believe Zep ripped people off? The travesty! This time they ripped off Willie Dixon and Small Faces in one go. What's better is that the Small Faces version was itself a rip since they never gave credit to Dixon either. Zeppelin stole the lyrics to the Willie Dixon song "You Need Love" and Steve Marriott's awesome vocal style from "You Need Loving." They settled out of court for a buttload of cash I'm sure.

06 - The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony. Another ridiculous ruling. Here's the scoop. The Verve went through the proper channels to use a sample from one of those shitty "orchestral" cover albums from the '60s. The part they wanted to use WASN'T EVEN PART OF THE ORIGINAL ROLLING STONES SONG! It was a little embellishment added by the orchestra. The Stones' lawyers claimed that, although they secured the right to sample the recording, they did not secure the right to use the recording. Huh?! At first everything was set in place for a 50/50 split with Jagger and crew, but when the song started to explode they demanded a full 100 percent take of all sales from the single plus a percentage of album sales. Dicks!

07 - De La Soul - Transmitting Live From Mars. The Turtles (of "Happy Together" fame) sued De La for sampling an organ riff, slowing it down, playing it backward and looping it a few times for a minute-long skit on their seminal album 3 Feet High and Rising. They settled out of court.

08 - Biz Markie - Alone Again. Biz asked for permission to use a loop from Gilbert O'Sullivan's classic hit. Everything was in place until Gilbert and his people actually heard the finished track that Biz presented. The problem they had with it was not the content but how much the song relied on the original hook. This led to a landmark case that eventually got the album removed from store shelves. More important, this case changed the future of hip-hop by making it mandatory to have all samples legally cleared before used.

09 - 2 Live Crew - The Fuck Shop. 2 Live was never really known to dig very deep with their sample usage. Why on earth they didn't get the obvious Van Halen "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" sample cleared is beyond me. Did they think no one would notice?
10 - Cypress Hill - How I Could Just Kill A Man. Just a few months ago, Cypress Hill (and Apple…for allowing the song to be sold through iTunes???!!!) were sued for a loop used in the background nearly 20 years after its release! I hope the accusers -- The Music Machine -- get $20 from this bullshit lawsuit.

11 - Beastie Boys - Pass The Mic. This one should have never gone to court. The Beasties went through all the proper steps to secure the right to use the prominent flute sample from the James Newton song "Choir." Newton thought that the Beastie Boys should have contacted him personally to ask permission, so he sued them. He was totally unaware of them using it until 2002 when one of his pupils pointed it out to him.

12 - The Chemical Brothers - Setting Sun. The surviving Beatles took The Chemical Brothers to court for what appeared to be a sample of "Tomorrow Never Knows" trademark drums. All the Beatles had to do was call them. The drums on "Setting Sun" were recorded by a hired drummer. Dismissed.

13 - M/A/R/R/S - Pump Up The Volume. Out of all the samples used in this track, the one that got them in trouble was a barely audible background "Hey" from a little-known track produced by Stock Aitken Waterman (SAW). They're the chumps who brought the world Rick Astley, Dead or Alive, Kylie Minogue and Bananarama, among many others. They would never have even found out had one of the members of M/A/R/R/S not revealed the source during a radio interview. Many speculate that SAW intentionally forced a delay in the release of "Pump Up the Volume" since Rick Astley was riding high on the charts. In the end, the uncleared sample was removed before the release hit the stores.

14 - Negativland - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. So the engineers who worked for Casey Kasem's American Top 40 radio show had some embarrassing outtakes of Casey cursing up a storm during the recording of a Long Distance Dedication segment. These outtakes eventually landed in the hands of pranksters Negativland. This hilarious song is made from samples using U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and Casey's rants. U2's record label Island did not like the unauthorized samples nor what they called "deceiving" album artwork. This lawsuit nearly bankrupted SST Records.

15 - The Orb - Little Fluffy Clouds. Rickie Lee Jones was not too happy about The Orb using an interview she gave as the source for "Little Fluffy Clouds." I think she was more embarrassed than anything because rumors started flying that Jones was "wasted" during the interview. She later fessed up to be on cough syrup or something. Whatever she was on made for some great descriptions of clouds. They settled out of court for a giant wad of cash.

16 - Chapterhouse - Deli. Chapterhouse was recording the album Blood Music with mega producer Youth. Youth had the idea of adding some background poetry from a supposed "friend" of his to the instrumental track "Deli." Youth said the guy would have absolutely no problem with this. Well, he did have a problem with this. During the middle of the tour supporting this album, they received notice of a lawsuit forcing Blood Music to be removed from all stores.

17 - Global Communication - Beta Phase. Here's one more reason to hate George Lucas. He sued an underground ambient/electronic band for an offending Star Wars sample. EV-9D9: "How many languages do you speak?" C-3PO: "I am fluent in over six million forms of communication." Even though the album was given away free as a bonus disc, it had to be re-edited with the few seconds of dialogue removed.

Copyright 21 Nov 2010 We Like Media
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