Friday, May 06, 2016

Randy Craig Wolfe Trust v. Led Zeppelin

Interesting times, no?

If you click on the above link, midway through the piece is a chart of the various infringement and potential infringement suits courted by Page and Plant, back in the day. I can certainly understand ageing bluesmen getting peevish and recruiting lawyers to correct the younger band's* cavalier attitude toward attribution and wholesale appropriation. But this is something else. We're talking about a chord progression.

It's curious to consider the ramifications should the Trust win the suit. What's to stop, say, Chuck Berry's people from suing AC/DC for 95% of the songs they've committed to record -- the ones reliant on the "Johnny B. Goode" half-boogie structure? Why not also demand recompense for Angus Young's gimped-up appropriation of Berry's famous duckwalk?

Or some other signature move? California, in action.
Musicians "steal" riffs and progressions from each other all the time. The best ones actually improve what they've "stolen." I've zero familiarity with Randy "California" Wolfe and his catalogue but now I'm giving it a close listen. He seems to have carved out his own ouevre (wiki, obit), which I'm keen to discover. But I'm also wondering -- what's there that he might have "borrowed"?

Or, more likely, their label's lawyers'.


Joel Swagman said...

Interesting... I knew nothing about this, but that is a long list.

Thanks to your link, I've just spent a lot of time on youtube comparing versions. I didn't listen to every single song, but I listened to a few of them. I've got to say, on every one I heard, I thought the Led Zeppelin version was much supperior

Darrell Reimer said...

Yeah, those guys had the insight, alright. I could imagine it might make a guy like California, who's no slouch himself, hear a progression he performs at every concert deftly improved like that, then become the most popular song in the world.