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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Blurred Lines and the Surf Music Community

Unless you live on the Planet of Mars, you've probably heard of the Blurred Lines Case Ruling.

It was passed down not too long ago from the Courts in LA, and found Pharrell and Robin Thicke guilty of creating a song "In the Style Of" Marvin Gayes hit "Got To Give It Up" from 1977, and the Jury awarded the Gaye family 7.4 million dollars as recompensation for Copyright infringement. If you're really into Surf music like a good deal of us in the SG101 community, you may or may not be aware of the actual songs that are involved in the case. Here's a primer on the situation: Blurred Lines was created by Hip-Hop/R&B Superstar and seven time grammy winner, Pharrell Williams, along with another artist T.I. and Robin Thicke, who produced it for Robin Thicke's latest album of the same name. The song has been nominated for the World Music Awards best song in the World category, as well as selling around a million copies.

When a song is this successful it's natural to assume that someone is going to sue to get portions of the proceeds if the song uses a sample or uses an exact riff or musical phrase from someone else's musical composition. What's interesting to me is that even though supposedly no samples were used, and no direct parts are exactly the same, Pharrell and Thicke decided to Sue the Gaye estate pre-emptively in order to secure an order from the courts that there was no connection between Gaye's song "Got to Give It Up" and their new song "Blurred Lines". Perhaps this is what created the ultimate doubt in the Jury's mind to find for the Gaye family, but ultimately this is exactly what happened. At this point Gaye is listed as a co-author of the song on the wikipedia page for the song (yes, it has a wikipedia page even), and they are halting sales until future monetary situations are arranged.

So listen to those two songs and you decide for yourself if Blurred Lines is indeed "In the style of" the Gaye song. For me, it's obvious that they have that same general feel and for sure, some elements of the songs percussion and construction are very reminiscent of the 70's hit. However what is astonishing to me is, since when is it a crime to create music "In The Style Of" another artist? I completely understand that using someone else's music and passing it off as your own in order to profit from it is a crime, because that's the way it currently is in the Music Industry, and I agree with this to an extent (I always wonder how much this was the case in the classical era, or even in earlier times when recordings were not a factor?). However Music is a very subjective form of artistic expression and creation, so "in the style of" encompasses every form of music ever in my opinion. Even original creations that basically started completely new genres are still in the stye of music that came before them to the musicians themselves who created the music. Everyone is inspired by something, regardless of how original you might think it is. And how are you actually copyrighting something that is not wholly your own creation?

So what really is going on here? And how does this affect the Surf Music Community in General? Well lets just say that the very foundation of the Surf Music Community stresses the inspiration, similarity and "Style" of the young people that started the Genre in the 60's. Even as new genres are embraced and integrated into the new songs of instrumental Surf Rock bands of today, there are still elements of the music, the Sound, the construction of the songs, that harkens back to the original songs written by the First Wave musicians in the original groups that comprised the Surf Bands of the early 60's. So if all of the Surf Songs from all of the various revivals are "In the Style Of" and use basic elements of that first wave, why are there not tons of lawsuits? It could certainly be that there is no point in sueing someone or something when money is not really a factor, of course! But that sidelines the main point, which is that music has never been created in a vacuum, so how is it legitimate to sue someone who stole your idea, if the person you stole your idea from never sued you? I would suggest there is no end to this madness!

To me the Surf Music Genre has and always will be about "In the Style Of" the classics. It's what holds the community together and gives us a common bond that unites us in the joy of listening to the classics, and then listening to the wonderful and awesome music that it has inspired over the years. It seems to me that back when the music was first created, most bands played each others songs, something that I very much miss seeing in the Surf Music Community in general these days. Perhaps it is this fear of copyright infringement that is stifling this type of musical cross-pollenation, and if so I for one find that unfortunate, I think the United States has always been a petrie dish experiment for law and in particular Intellectual Property law, but this latest ruling speaks volumes about where we're at with law in the music industry in this day and age. The ridiculousness to think that a musician can create music without being inspired by anything or anyone that came before it is so ludicrous to just be outright dismissible by anyone with a thinking brain. Granted when millions of dollars are at stake, things change, but I for one hope that this latest ruling does not hamper anyone's creativity going forward. To me, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", and hopefully always will be in the Surf Community. Besides, isn't our National Anthem just a British pub song? Ridiculous!

Southern Surf Radio #1 - Blurred Surf! by Aqualadius on Mixcloud


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