Get ready, our weekly charges of musical plagiarism have started early: Fans of seminal punk band the Clash are accusing One Direction of ripping off the opening to “Should I Stay or Should I Go” on their latest single, “Live While We’re Young.”
From the NME (whose bread is definitely buttered on one side of this thing):
Angry Twitter users have hit out at the boyband for copying the opening bars of the legendary punk band’s classic track ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’…
Writing on the social networking site,@joe_ridley said: “One direction stealing the start to ‘should I stay or should I go – the clash’ little shits!” while@Guywoodgate1989 fumed: “I hope One Direction are paying royalties to The Clash for that crap rip off of Should I Stay Or Go opening riff.” @GavanCasey, meanwhile, quipped: “One Direction’s new song sounds like what I imagine Satan’s tribute to The Clash would sound like, but slightly more melodic.”
In these angry Clash fans’ defense, the similarities between the two songs are obvious. Both lead off with the main guitar riff, then three beats of rest counted out with pick scrapes. But they’re missing the point, for a few reasons:
1) The guitar riffs themselves aren’t that similar.
2) Picks scrapes are hardly specific enough for one band to have ownership of them for all time.
3) The “punk versus pop” ethos that we sense is fueling much of this outrage is undercut by the fact that “Should I Stay or Should I Go” is the Clash’s poppiest single, and according to the band themselves was a nakedly commercial attempt at producing a radio classic. (It was the band’s only #1 hit, in the UK.) Now, if One Direction took the idea of putting Allen Ginsburg on their record, then we could talk.
Pop music borrows ideas all the time. Hell, the Clash intro isn’t even the most blatant lifting on “Live While We’re Young.” (That would be yanking the guitars from “Starships” for the instrumental break.) Think of it as an homage. Besides, if Joe Strummer were around today, we can think of thousands of other issues he’d rather you be more horrified by.