I’ve never been too bothered by the thought of bands borrowing, or in some cases outright stealing, from their heroes and influences. If you know the original, you still have the original, it’s not diminished in any way by association. If you don’t know the original, maybe later you’ll decide to check it out and see why some of its fans are so upset by the modern-day larceny.
In some cases it’s not just the fans that get upset, but the band as well. Britpop was no stranger to borrowing from the past - The Verve had a license to sample the Andrew Oldham Orchestra track The Last Time (itself based on a Rolling Stones song of the same name), but took a bit more than they were entitled to and ended up having to hand over song credits to Jagger and Richards. Noel Gallagher was not averse to looking back: when he wasn’t misquoting Isaac Newton he was getting himself sued by The New Seekers for turning I’d Like To Teach the World to Sing into Shakermaker.
No-one was quite as ballsy as Elastica’s Justine Frischmann, who took the Wire back catalogue, melted it down, and reformed it using exactly the same jerky post-punk mould. Both Line-Up and 2:1 are built on I am the Fly, while Connection was close enough to Three Girl Rhumba to provoke an out of court settlement. And who, exactly, lost out over this? Elastica were, briefly, cooler than Britpop could ever claim to be before or since, Wire gained new fans (and a pay-day), and some Elastica fans found Wire. It’s the classic win, win, win.
Unless, that is, you’re the Youtube user who submitted this comment to the Connection video in response to another user’s claim that Wire would get new fans thanks to Elastica:
I’m actually sad that morons were able to experience Wire because of Elastica. I’d prefer you never even heard of this band….thats the way most of us like it. We don’t want you to know who the bands we listen to are….and it really sucks when you find out the way you did!
Pram, toys, etc.
There’s even a case to be made for brazen repeated plagiarism over more subtle one-off reinterpretation. When R.E.M. roared back into rock with Monster in 1994, their lead single What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? borrowed from Wire’s Feeling Called Love, but I don’t remember so much of a fuss being made about that at the time…