The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

When Two Songs Sound The Same

Another obsession of mine. Soundalike recordings.

What are they? Well, best example I can give is the Cold Feet DVD. At some point during an episode – probably a scene involving Jimmy Nesbitt and Helen Baxendale sitting in a front room decorated with candles – we hear Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ playing in the background. As was so often the case during the 90’s. Barely an episode of This Life went by without it.

But on the DVD, you don’t get ‘Teardrop’ by Massive Attack. Instead, you get a song which is almost, but not quite, the same as ‘Teardrop’ by Massive Attack. Which I’m guessing was specially recorded, or taken from a stock music library of such ‘soundalike’ songs. That way, the mood of the scene remains unaltered, but without the need for Massive Attack’s permission.

It’s not the only time this has happened. ‘Teardrop’ by Massive Attack is the theme tune to House everywhere in the world – except in the UK, where a tune almost, but not quite, the same as ‘Teardrop’ by Massive Attack is used. Because Massive Attack are a bit tricky about their songs being used in the UK; which is ironic because I’ve heard that Tricky is a bit massive attack about his songs being used too.

These songs fascinate me. Who makes them? Where do they come from? They turn up on DVDs and advertisements, something almost-not-quite Oasis, something that’s-definitely-meant-to-be-'Shine'-but-isn’t. In their own way, they’re ingenious, finding ways of pressing the same musical buttons without treading on any copyrighted toes. Like what Neil Innes did with The Rutles, recreating the ‘feel’ of a song without its specific content.

I want compilation CDs. The guys who put together these soundalikes should get the recognition and the royalties they deserve. They’re the unsung heroes of music.

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