There is a long an honourable tradition of songwriters copying each other’s work. Elderly bluesmen had their back catalogues rifled by Elvis, the Stones and Led Zeppelin; James Brown was the unwitting co-author of numerous hip-hop anthems; and Noel Gallagher dared to rip off the Rutles.
But there’s another kind of copying; a wry nod, a few words or notes that pay tribute with a smile. A familiar riff would come out of nowhere, and be gone almost before you’d noticed it. It was so blatant, only the most tight-assed copyright lawyer could complain. For some reason, these were particularly big in the late 1960s/early 1970s, examples being:
The Small Faces, ‘Lazy Sunday‘: comb-and-paper snatch of the Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’.
David Bowie, ‘The Laughing Gnome‘: the gnome asks “Have yew got a loight boy?” in emulation of the wonderful Singing Postman, Allen Smethurst.
The Beatles, ‘It’s All Too Much‘, from Yellow Submarine: while Ringo invents the Madchester drum sound 20 years before the fact, George gives us a brief snippet of ‘Sorrow’, by the Merseys.
Roxy Music, ‘Re-make, Re-model‘: Graham Simpson’s bass solo is copped from the Beatles’ ‘Day Tripper’.