On the Nature of Originality

The recently announced win by Led Zeppelin over 70s cult faves Spirit in the Stairway to Heaven vs Taurus lawsuit underscored perfectly the topic for this week’s blog.

If this topic creates a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now. I will take the bull by the horns.

I recently blogged about a new song I wrote called Exposure Bucks Boogie. I have attached it for your listening pleasure. No doubt, many will say it pays more than a passing resemblance to ZZ Top’s La Grange. Yup! Similar feel and dynamics for sure! I do not mind standing on the shoulders of giants (not just Billy Gibbons, more below).

For the record, my starting point was actually Slim Harpo’s Shake Your Hips as covered on the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street. 

The debate as to who originated the boogie riff is well documented (just Google it) and pretty much all agree that John Lee Hooker was the first to popularize it with Boogie Chillen, whose approach to spelling had a big impact on 70s British glam rockers Slade.

Here’s what is said about La Grange, which in turn could be extended to cover other hits like Canned Heat’s On the Road Again and Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the Sky. 

“The initial groove of the song is based on a traditional boogie blues rhythm used by John Lee Hooker in Boogie Chillen’ and by Slim Harpo in Shake Your Hips. A failed lawsuit by the copyright holder of “Boogie Chillen'” resulted in the court ruling that the rhythm was in the public domain.[6]

There you have it. Public domain! Like the so-called 50s Progression (I-vi-IV-V) used in a gazillion doo-wop songs. Like the I-IV-V 12-bar progressions in innumerable blues, rock and roll and country tunes. And don’t get me started on sampling…

So, yeah, on a superficial level, Exposure Bucks Boogie is an homage to Gibbons/Harpo/Hooker’s boogie rhythm, which I dig. But if you listen closely, there’s a lot that is not, and I like that too. It’s good to build from a solid foundation.

By the way, did I mention I got the idea for the lyrics from a Facebook post by Pat Kelly?

Exposure Bucks Boogie ©  2016 Félix and the Cats/R. Pelletier.

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