Thursday

TUSH


On a recent visit to a very toasty Dallas, Texas I stopped to enjoy a delightful iced coffee at a Starbucks  in the city's "tony" Uptown district. The blazing late summer heat, while a welcome change from the already autumn-like New York weather, was making me schvitz like a ham sandwich in a plastic bag, and I needed some refreshment.  As I waited at the counter I heard these words:


  "I've been bad - I've been good,
   Dallas, Texas - Hollywood,
   I ain't askin' for much -
   I said, Lord take me downtown, I'm just lookin' for some tush."

This sublime prose is of course the lyrics to ZZ Top's immortal 1975 rock classic "Tush", and I believe the message is one we can all relate to in this time of cultural upheaval - because after all, aren't we all just looking for some Tush?

                            

Anyway, as I listened to the guitar riff I recognized a strong similarity to the riff in a Motörhead song - specifically "No Class", from my favorite Motörhead album, 1979's "Overkill", and played by Fast Eddie Clarke.

 

Moments later, as a rubenesque bleached blonde with the word JUICY emblazoned on her outsized ass waddled by, it occurred to me that the song "Say What You Will" by Fastway had a very similar riff as well! Hmmm THREE songs with the same riff!?  WTF!?

                            


Fastway, of course, is the band formed in 1982 by Fast Eddie after he left Motörhead, joined by bass legend Pete Way of UFO (hence the name) - and eventually featured Humble Pie's Gerry Shirley on the drums (after Topper Headon, recently fired from The Clash, decided he didn't want to commit to the band full time. Those in the know will remember he had "other interests" at the time).  Lead vocals were provided by a very young, then-unknown ginger-haired heavy metal squealer by the name of Dave King. Dave later went on to massive success with Pogues-influenced band Flogging Molly but doesn't like to talk about Fastway as he never got paid, and who can blame him.

So getting back to the point,  it appeared that Fast Eddie, while writing songs for his new band, thought to himself, "Well it's my riff, it's a good riff - why not use it again in a new song?".

[Sigue Sigue Sputnik took this concept to the next level in 1986 when they used the same song 8 times on their excellent album Flaunt It.]

- And as anyone who's ever written music knows, one aspect of songwriting really just about piecing together little sections of music - a verse, a chorus, a solo section, etc. Sometimes they're interchangeable and just need to be arranged in a way that works. So Eddie added a little descending scale to the old riff and "Presto!", another rock n roll classic!

I hummed it to myself and it my theory seemed valid - imagine my excitement knowing I was about to "expose" Fast Eddie's sneaky tactics to the world..!

 

 

 But then I actually listened to "Say What You Will" again and realized that it wasn't that similar at all really, and so my entire genius discovery was now debunked and writing an article about it an almost pointless exercise.
Conveniently, not having a point or anything relevant to say has rarely kept me from doing so, and so diligently I decided to press on.

Still I wondered where he originally got the riff from - was it an accident, had he heard it before but forgot the connection, or was it an homage, him being fully aware of the similarity?  Did he make it up himself, or did he "borrow" the riff from ZZ Top?

Not that anyone could fault him for it - "borrowing" is a commonly accepted practice in the rock and roll world. Sometimes cleverly disguised as "inspiration", (or not), everyone from David Bowie to The Who's Pete Townsend (below) have engaged in this practice from time to time with great success.

                                                        
 There's the story about how the riff for "I Can't Explain" supposedly came to Pete Townsend while he was in his dressing room before a gig. (seen below skateboarding)


In the next dressing room over, The Kinks were playing their new single "All Day and All of the Night" on a record player - Pete heard it through the wall and caught the riff, but out of time and flipped, and "Presto!" another rock and roll classic.*

"Hello, I Love You" by The Doors sounds suspiciously (i.e. exactly) like this song as well, to the extent that BMI Europe awarded The Kinks royalties The Doors had coming without so much a legal hearing. In the US it would have involved legal action against The Doors but the Kinks never pressed the issue because Ray Davies "thought they were nice guys".

"Certain people" argue that the riff for David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" sounds somewhat like the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" in reverse, but that's another yet story again....

*The Clash would later add a few more chords to a similar riff for their classic "Clash City Rockers" - did they borrow or steal or neither? You be the judge, but honestly who really cares, it's the Clash after all...

Anyway, I gave Fast Eddie a call and left a message but am still waiting to hear back. I did find out through other means however that the truth of "Say What You Will" was much less contrived than I had imagined. The band were recording at Sterling Sound in New York City and basically finished the new album but needed one more track, so they quickly threw a song together, not thinking much of the result. At one point the engineer leaned over and said "Man, this is a great rack - this going to be a smash!"  Eddie and Gerry looked at each other and shrugged, "We don't like this one very much."

"Say What You Will" ended up being their biggest hit ever in the USA.

  
Fastway's latest album "Eat Dog Eat" was released in April and is available on iTunes.



Here's another insane Motörhead video clip just for giggles - live with Fast Eddie in 1981...

                             

POSTSCRIPT: It's important not to confuse Fast Eddie Clarke with the "Fast Eddie" referenced in the Rose Tattoo song "The Butcher and Fast Eddie" - the true story of a showdown between two rival Sharpie gang leaders in early 70's Melbourne, Australia.   Fast Eddie Clarke may be a cold-blooded entertainer, but he's a warm-hearted individual - unlike the one referenced in the song - and he's alive, living in England - unlike the one referenced in the song - Because if you listen,  you'll know, "The Butcher! He put Fast Eddie dowwnnnnnnn....."


- Karl Monroe


Nice Boys Don't Play Rock n Roll...  Australia's ROSE TATTOO in 1982.


Thankyou for your support.



2 comments:

  1. In LOndon in 1905 - they said it couldnt be done, but you managed to do what they said couldnt be done. Don't ever turn off your heartlight.

    ReplyDelete