Can someone explain the connection between Bowie's "Fame" and James Brown's "Hot"?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Gang Twanger, Apr 16, 2009.

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  1. Gang Twanger

    Gang Twanger New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canton, CT, USA
    I've been meaning to ask about this for a while. The two songs (James Brown's "Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved)" and David Bowie's "Fame") have an obvious similarity to one another. But I've been wondering who actually came up with the music, and who borrowed it. Different words, but it's the same music.

    Can someone clear this up for me.
     
  2. Another Side

    Another Side Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    My understanding is that the Bowie song (recorded in January 1975) came first. The James Brown track was recorded the following year (or in late 1975).
     
  3. Trainspotting

    Trainspotting Senior Member

    Location:
    Los Angeles

    Yep, Brown just copied the music.
     
  4. johmbolaya

    johmbolaya Active Member

    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Didn't I read somewhere James Brown copied it because he felt Bowie was doing a knock-off of him. Brown did that quite a bit in the 70's, or would often poke fun at the bandits in his song titles. In fact, there was "Pick Up The Pieces One By One" by the Above Average Black Band.

    It's probably not unlike George Clinton calling out Smufus, Earth, Hot Air & No Fire, Fool & The Gang, and Slick & The Family Brick in "Let's Take It To The Stage", although arguably in James Brown's case, he had been making music for 20 years, found it increasingly difficult to compete with the younger kids who were obviously influenced by him, and went at them, even if it meant doing a song that sounded a lot like theirs.
     
  5. Gang Twanger

    Gang Twanger New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canton, CT, USA
    Was he ever sued for the Bowie thing?
     
  6. vonwegen

    vonwegen Forum Resident

    No. Actually according to "Strange Fascination" by David Buckley, Bowie felt flattered that JB would lift the tune from him. Carlos Alomar was deeply hurt by the steal and wanted to sue (he knew the JB musos personally) but Bowie insisted on not suing unless "Hot Hot Hot" became a hit.

    It didn't.
     
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  7. Cope_Freeland

    Cope_Freeland Forum Resident

    Location:
    United States
    What George Clinton was trying to do with "Let's Take It To The Stage" was to get those group to do reponse records. They weren't playing Funkadelic records on the radio at the time and this was just a publicity stunt.

    Anyway EW & F got their feelings hurt. Rufus and another group I can't remember heard it and dug it.
     
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  8. leshafunk

    leshafunk Forum Resident

    Location:
    Moscow, Russia
    I wonder if JB used a sample or just re-played that guitar lick...
     
  9. Joel1963

    Joel1963 Senior Member

    Location:
    Montreal
    JB did another steal from the B.T. Express, with the J.B.'s Monaurail. He also did a title (not musical) steal in '69 with a member of his female entourage with a variation of the Isley Brothers' It's Your Thing, with the same title and the extra words (You Don't Know Who You Been Sockin' It To). Even on the Live At the Apollo Vol. 2 album, you can hear JB actually singing snippets of other people's songs (most notably O.V. Wright's You're Gonna Make Me Cry) without credit on the album. On the There It Is album, he takes writing credit for Never Can Say Goodbye, which has the same beginning as the Jackson 5 song.

    I read that during the 1975 period, JB's bandmates knew he was plagiarizing and thought he had lost his mind.

    Of course, there was some self-plagiarizing. Money Won't Change you became Sexy, Sexy, Sexy. The music of It's A Man's Man's Man's World was used for King Heroin.
     
  10. It sounds like a well-edited tape loop w/ additional signal processing to hide where it came from.
    I've never tried to sync up the tracks and test this,
    I'm not Audacity-savvy enough personally.

    The Star Time box credits "backing by unknown personnel"
    I got a big laugh first time I read that kludge! :laugh:
     
  11. jupiter8

    jupiter8 Forum Resident

    Location:
    NJ, USA
    Kind of ironic because JB spent so much time (rightfully) griping about all the rappers who sampled him in the mid 80s and beyond.
     
  12. leshafunk

    leshafunk Forum Resident

    Location:
    Moscow, Russia
    neither did I; but it really sounds like a loop
     
  13. johmbolaya

    johmbolaya Active Member

    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    You're joking, right?
     
  14. johmbolaya

    johmbolaya Active Member

    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Let's do it. I decided to take the James Brown song and place it on the left side. Bowie side, where there's an instrumental break, is on the right. I adjusted them to match. Now, James Brown's musicians are more than capable of playing something, even replaying another song, so there was no way he was going to use a tape loop. Not that it wasn't possible, but this is James Brown we're talking about.

    Anyway, I matched them up. If it was a sample or a loop, it would flange. As you will hear, it's completely different recordings.

    http://rapidshare.com/files/222247552/Bowie_JB_Fame_compare.mp3

    It's amazing that a Beatles recording can be analyzed forwards, backwards, and inside out, but once someone realizes James Brown borrowed a few songs every now and then, it had to be a sample or a loop. No.
     
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  15. ledsox

    ledsox Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    You should hear "Mickey's Monkey" by Mother's Finest.
    A total "Custard Pie" chord progression rip. I was scratching my head first time I heard that one.
     
  16. JJAM

    JJAM Forum Resident

    Location:
    South East
    Marva Whitney's "It's My Thing" is a musical steal to a fair degree. Don't forget the JBs' "The Grunt" which is ripping off The Isley Brothers' "Keep On Doin'" big time.
     
  17. Well, johmbolaya, if he had not so thoroughly aped the instrumentation I wouldn't
    have thought that in the first place (laughing). If he had reused the lick but made
    no effort to make the actual instruments sound the same we might have never
    recognized the similarity at all. A few extra beats in the bass-line, or change the rate
    of the flange on the guitar, . . . but he and the band instead made every effort to
    make the two tracks sound identical! You have to admit, it sounds like a loop.
     
  18. I just listened to your comparison and (even though the
    drum fills are not synced up) I think you just PROVED that they
    used a loop (laughing). Did you pitch shift anything?
    You got the quarter notes perfectly lined up.

    Like you say though, they are not flanging.
    Maybe they head a tape loop playing in their headphones to play along with.
    Crap, that guy had the tightest band in the world!
     
  19. Sully

    Sully Forum Resident

    Location:
    Verona, NJ USA
  20. zebop

    zebop Well Known Stranger

    I don't think it's a sample because there's another music on the James Brown "Hot" version, a break albeit a weak one. To me, the music on "Hot" simply isn't as funky as "Fame" and has to come from another session.
     
  21. Roland Stone

    Roland Stone Offending Member

    I haven't heard the Mother's Finest version, but is "Mickey's Monkey" a cover of the Smokey Robinson song and would that change the chronology of who had the progression first?
     
  22. johmbolaya

    johmbolaya Active Member

    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    I simply matched the same amount of bars in one section with another so that what you heard on the left would be similar to the right. I think what was on the left channel ran at 18 seconds, and the Bowie track was slower at 19, so I simply sped up that section to match the left. When I did that, I thought "oh crap, they ARE in the same key".

    Definitely. Of course that song was not the only song in JB reissues where the musicians were "unknown", on a number of reissues in the last 20 years you will see a listing but it will say "drummer unknown, maybe Clyde Stubblefield", or they will not know who the people in the horn section were (if it wasn't the usual guys). Unlike Frank Zappa, it seems JB didn't archive his own work too well, or left it in the hands of others such as Alan Leeds, and he only has what is available to him. In other words, Zappa was probably more obsessive about track notes and studio information than James Brown was.
     
  23. rickharper

    rickharper Forum Resident

    Location:
    shively, ky u.s.a.
    everybody knows that's john lennon doing the guitar riff in the bowie version, yes? i saw an interview w/ someone who played in brown's band and he said j.b. was making them copy david bowie songs, etc. this is after his wife turned him onto angel dust. or so i've heard.
     
  24. johmbolaya

    johmbolaya Active Member

    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    On a board that has over 50 Beatles topics a day, I would guess yes.

    Probably a bit of truth to that.
     
  25. zebop

    zebop Well Known Stranger

    It could be that the reason the James Brown players are unknown in this instance is because he cut it in New York with David Matthews. I hear the declining sound of the Matthews/Brown alliance more than whatever was left of the JB's at that time.
     
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