An irreverent, opinionated look at rock-’n’-roll plagiarism, guaranteed to elicit laughter and/or fistfights among your friendly neighborhood music geeks.
Rock-’n’-roll is one of America’s youngest musical genres, and, as is the case with many evolving art forms, the artists draw primarily from the work of their predecessors, meaning that once in a while, Song A will sound like Song B, which resembles Song C. Music journalist English raided his record collection and emerged with more than 50 pairs of sound-alike tunes. Conceptually, the book is a winner, one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-that projects, but the delivery, while enthusiastic, is somewhat lacking in potency. Each song comparison is given a one- or two-page essay, some of which are fact-based, some opinion-based and some just good-natured rants. Approximately half of the author’s choices are right on target, e.g., the choruses of The Doors’ â€œHello, I Love You” and The Kinks’ â€œAll Day and All of the Night” are definitely kissing cousins. But many are a stretch–yes, the opening guitar riff of Nirvana’s â€œSmells Like Teen Spirit” resembles Boston’s â€œMore Than a Feeling,” but the songs themselves have little in common; the similarities between Bob Marley’s â€œBuffalo Soldier” and the theme to the ’60s children’s television program The Banana Splits is tenuous at best. The book’s format is similar to that of Tom Reynolds’s I Hate Myself and Want to Die: The 52 Most Depressing Songs You’ve Ever Heard (Hyperion, 2006), but Reynolds supports and enlivens his observations with witty banter. Here, the jokes are not as consistently amusing. The high point is a cheeky quiz that asks the reader to figure out which Oasis tune sounds exactly like which Beatles tune.
A well-conceived and well-researched stroll through a musical minefield, but missing the kind of belly laughs that would make it a must-have.