What do Men at Work and The Verve have in common? Well, for one, they both had law suits brought against their one and only big hit of their careers. Bummer. You make a song, song gets popular, and, years down the line, someone slams you for pilfering notes.
Although The Verve had originally licensed a sample of the Oldham Orchestra's cover of the Rolling Stone's song, "The Last Time" (my, this music stuff is complicated, right?), they used more than the agreed-upon amount of the song in their popular hit, "Bittersweet Symphony", and, the court agreed to nail them for it. Really, the sample is what made up half of the song's public appeal, to be fair, and, in my opinion, the orchestra deserved at least part of the credit for that song's universal success.
However, in all fairness, the group did creatively use the sample and overlaid its own lyrics, and still got completely bamboozled in a legal battle with ABKCO, the corp that owns the rights the the Stones' stuff, eventually turning over ALL song royalties, AND songwriting credits to the Stones. Boooh and hiss. Do the Stones really need to rob the rich to further stoke the unfathomable fires of their own fortunes? REALLY?
Yet, in a 1999 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Keith Richards called out The Verve, saying, "If the Verve can write a better song, they can keep the money."
Yeah, and if you can find your keys, you can drive home, Keith.
But, there's a lesson here, folks, in honesty. If The Verve hadn't pushed the limits with the song, they may have still made bank, or at least enough pocket money to get by. Now, what have they got? In all likelihood, not much. We haven't heard from them since 2008. You still alive, boys?
Speaking of dead, the writer of the Kookaburra song has long since passed, but that didn't stop the people who owned the rights to the song to unearth a colossal lawsuit against the 80s Australian group, The Men at Work. They waited ages (over 20 years) to roll out the mother-of-all smack downs on the group whose main claim to fame, "Down Under," utilized a flute solo that bore an uncanny resemblance to the aforementioned childhood tune.
I must say, although band member, Greg Ham, claimed that he had no intention of copying the aforementioned childhood tune, it is ridiculous, in my opinion, to believe that he did not intentionally use the riff to give the "Down Under" song a recognizable Australian feel. Now, if the boys had been up-front and PAID for the use of this little tidbit in the 80s, they and their label would not be battling a colossal suit that may well scarf most of their celebrated fortunes. Booh and booh.
Music industry lessons learned, folks. Buy now or pay later.