Music Article

Do You Copy?

Did The Red Hot Chili Peppers copy Tom Petty? -- We compare songs that sound alike and decide whose is better

Did The Red Hot Chili Peppers copy Tom Petty?

A Delaware radio DJ recently kicked off a controversy when he noted the parallels between the Red Hot Chili Peppers' ''Dani California'' and Tom Petty's ''Mary Jane's Last Dance.'' Just how similar are the two tunes? We investigate — and include two other recent songs that sound a little...familiar.

TOM PETTY VS. RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

The Original Petty's 1993 rocker about a gorgeous but troubled small-town girl you just can't stay away from, produced by Rick Rubin. The Rip-Off The Peppers' 2006 rocker about a gorgeous but troubled small-town girl you just can't stay away from, produced by Rick Rubin — and featuring a nearly identical chord progression and tempo. The Winner Petty. It's the Peppers' best single in years, but he owned the melody first.

JOE JACKSON VS. THE RACONTEURS

The Original British songwriter Jackson's plaintive 1979 jam ''Is She Really Going Out With Him?'' with its famous dum...da-dum, da-dum, da-dum bass line. The Rip-Off Jack White's new band's ''Steady as She Goes'' has the same exact bass line, although the similarity ends there. The Winner Jackson. ''Steady'' proves White's non-Stripes chops (he's not allergic to bass after all!), but Jackson's track is a stone classic.

LOVE AND ROCKETS VS. YEAH YEAH YEAHS

The Original Neo-psychedelic Brits Love and Rockets' largely acoustic '87 tune ''No New Tale to Tell,'' with falsetto ''hoo-hoo's'' and a distinctive guitar-strum riff. The Rip-Off Yeah Yeah Yeahs' ''Gold Lion'' has same hoots and same riff, minus (wisely) the flute interlude. The Winner The YYYs, whose more living-room-danceable version prevails, although ''New Tale'' evokes the sweet nostalgia of Anglophiliac high school years.

Originally posted Jun 16, 2006 Published in issue #883 Jun 23, 2006 Order article reprints
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