leejohnson's current selection is:
The Jean Genie
by David Bowie

Attention, @ElizaJane!

A slightly off-kilter view of this track today - straight reviews and features have been done by me in the past, at This Is My Jam in particular. I'm focussing on the alleged plagiarisms involved in the basic riff of the song - and that of the 'Sweet' mega-hit "Blockbuster!", "Oh Yeah" by 'garage' band 'The Shadows of Knight', and the original tune/riff (some say) by Bo Diddley, "I'm a Man" (notably covered in the Sixties by 'The Yardbirds'). See the list of YouTube links below if you wish to compare:


['Spiders from Mars' bassist] Trevor Bolder:
"The 'Sweet' didn't start until 'Ziggy'. 'Sweet' came along just about the same time as we made it, and they sort of copied us."

['Sweet' lead guitarist] Andy Scott:
"It's probably the wrong thing to be saying, because the biggest hit before 'Fox On The Run' and 'Love Is Like Oxygen' was 'Blockbuster', but when I first heard that mix, I remember [drummer] Mick Tucker and I walking out of there, gloomy. Because we were at a real turning-point in our career here, where we'd just done 'Little Willy' and 'Wig Wam Bam' and we were trying to shove some musicianship into this one. And we walked away a bit gloomy.

"And then, you wouldn't believe this, before our release we were in the office of the guy who was our contact at 'RCA' and he played us the new David Bowie record, he played us 'Jean Genie'. And I went, 'That's the same guitar riff,' and he went, 'Is it?' This is a record company guy and I'm saying, 'Haven't you noticed?' And he went, 'No.' I was horrified, I was thinking: that's coming out first, and we're coming out a week behind it, on the same label, it's got the same guitar riff. I said: well, we don't stand a chance of being No. 1. That was my thought. And within three weeks we were No. 1 and [Bowie] was No. 2. I've since spoken to Trevor Bolder, [his] bass player, and he said, 'Remember 'I'm A Man'?'"

[Music biographist] Alwyn Turner:
"It was a fair cop. Both 'Blockbuster' and 'The Jean Genie' ripped off their riff from 'The Yardbirds' cover of Bo Diddley's 'R&B' classic 'I'm A Man'. They weren't the first, mind you: the same record had provided the source material for 'Oh Yeah', a minor American hit for 60s 'garage' icons 'The Shadows of Knight', though they at least had the honesty to credit Bo Diddley as composer."

[ More of this good read at: http://www.alwynwturner.com/glitter/sweet.html, plus the article which actually led me to that bunch of quotes, at http://jukeboxtimemachine.com/tag/the-jean-genie/ (another good read). ]


So - what a mess, eh? I'm not going to comment on the complexities of copyright and music biz ethics, and I'm sure fellow 'Sweet' and David Bowie fanatics won't either - those alleged rehashes of Diddley's riff are sacrosanct in the discography of each artist (and the memories they rekindle). Who cares? And so to the listings - yes, a surprising non-chart-topper for Bowie's single, reaching as it did No. 2 in the UK, while in the US Billboard Hot 100 it reaped a meagre No. 71 berth.

Comparison links:
'Sweet': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCH8fsJ7Ggc;
Bowie: (today's selection);
'The Shadows of Knight': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10ewO__FceU;
'The Yardbirds': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfhHdE0y-xA;
Original Bo Diddley: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaC5ZKRjLUM.

1972 - RCA Victor - United Kingdom - From the album "Aladdin Sane".
Posted: 10th October 2019
Born in 1954, leaving education by 1972, 'glam' was my thing, "Ziggy" Bowie my hero. I was even the only guy in my town with the haircut (though not the carrot red colouring!). Therefore every seventh selection is a Bowie track.
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19 Nov 2019
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