Joe: Welcome to Riffs on Riffs, where we explore the surprising connection between songs past and present and share the fascinating stories that make music a universal language. I’m Joe Watson and I’m here with my co-host Toby Brazwell. What’s up my friend?
Toby: I’m well and living my best socially distant life. I’m still packing boxes and welcoming this podcast break from duct tape, sharpies, and bubble wrap. Outside of all of that nonsense, I’m doing great! I listened to our past episodes and although I enjoy them, one thing always sticks out.
Joe: What’s that?
Toby: I never get a chance to ask how you’re doing. I feel selfish. How are you, Joe?
Joe: Aww, thanks buddy, I really appreciate that. Well, it’s 2020, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, and one of my best friends just moved to Michigan. So, you know. But regardless, I’m an eternal optimist, and besides, there’s no reason to go INXS and bore our audience with details. So let's move on, what are we going to be discussing today?
Toby: Funny that you mention INXS because that’s the name of one of the bands that we will be discussing today. The other part of our discussion will be focused on a young woman that you might be familiar with. Anyone that's been listening to the radio lately has heard the beautiful voice of Miss Dua Lipa. This English model turned singer/songwriter released her self titled album in 2017. The 9 singles that she released from the album propelled it to number 3 on the UK charts.
Joe: She won the Brit Awards for British Female Solo Artist and British Breakthrough Act, and was also awarded the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2019. Again, if you listen to top 40 radio, there’s a really good chance that you have heard of her work. There’s also a really good chance that you might have noticed a similarity between her new song Break My Heart and a certain track by Australian band INXS that’s sold about 60 million records.
Toby: Before we get into all of that… let’s talk a little bit about Dua Lipa. Truth be told, I really like her voice. There’s a lot of female artists who have voices that try to be similar to Whitney or Mariah. That’s not to say they succeed… I mean come on it’s Whitney and Mariah…. though artists like Ariana Grande in my opinion have shown signs of having comparable talent. It’s nice to hear something different. And I think that the texture of Dua Lipa’s voice does exactly that. Gives you something different.
Joe: Lipa was born in Westminster, London and her parents are from Albania. She knew early on that she wanted to be a singer and posted videos of herself singing covers on Youtube when she was 14. She moved with her family to Kosovo in 2006, and eventually moved back to London in pursuit of the ever enticing record deal.
Toby: She worked several jobs to earn money for music sessions, including working as a model for ASOS Marketplace at the age of 16. Her thinking was that modeling could help get the necessary exposure for her music career, but when a manager told her she needed to lose weight, she quit.
Joe: I’m so glad to hear that, it definitely sounds like a healthy decision, and too often we hear of that going the other way. I’m also glad that she didn’t quit her dreams of being an entertainer. She inked a deal in 2013 that allowed her to quit her waitressing job just to focus on recording music. Soon after she co-wrote a song called Hotter than Hell, which helped her get signed to Warner Bros in the summer of 2015. She released several more singles in a strategic approach before going all in with a full album.
Toby: I like the approach and it looks like it really paid off. Her debut album features her first UK number-one single, “New Rules”. So I know I can be a bit cynical from time to time, but the first time I heard this song it reminded me of a song by Notorious BIG.
Joe: That's interesting. You being cynical about music? I can’t imagine.
Toby: I said all of that and you just heard that one part.
Joe: I did. That's what I heard. But anyways, what are you referring to?
Toby: So Biggie has a song called the 10 Crack Commandments on his 2nd album Life after Death and on this song he breaks down to the listener the rules regarding selling drugs. So obviously… drugs are bad… just say no…. but I remember the beat and I remember the content really sticking out because it made a lot of sense. In Dua Lipa’s song it’s all about rules of how to get over a man. I don’t remember another song where the rules are broken down quite like that on a dance record!
Joe: Yea that doesn't not seem like music to dance to. Then again, I’ve never tried to get over a man, so I dont’ know. Well we’ll be sure to include both tracks on the playlist for this episode so people can compare them for themselves. Dua Lipa’s latest album, “Future Nostalgia” was released in March of 2020, so there’s something good to come out of this year. The first single is the track “Don’t Start Now”, which became her first top 3 entry into the Billboard Hot 100. The third single was the song “Break My Heart”, which we’re going to discuss a bit more for this episode.
Toby: Anyone that has ears and is of a certain age can hear that Lipa aims to create a dance, pop type of record. She openly admitted that this album was going to have a retro type of feel to it. And there are several songs that definitely remind me of songs that were made back in the day. Break My Heart, specifically, has a riff in it that seems like it completely sampled or interpolated a riff from a track by INXS called Need You Tonight. The fact that they sound similar isn’t the amazing part. The amazing part, in my opinion, is that no one on her team predicted that comparisons would be made while they wrote it.
Joe: We’ve often been told that a lot of people don’t think about music quite like we do. So maybe there’s a chance that they heard this guitar riff and then subliminally added it to the track unintentionally.
Toby: Before we get into that and discuss how this could have possibly been sampled accidentally, we’re going to take a quick break. We’ll return with Riffs on Riffs in just a moment.
Toby: So let’s get into more of a discussion of the “I need you tonight” track by INXS and the similarities with the DUa Lipa song “Break Your Heart”. We should start off with a little bit of history first, starting with what is INXS?
Joe: That one’s easy. INXS is the feeling that you have 40 mins after thanksgiving dinner has been served. Or the amount of candy a child receives on Halloween. Or the number of times that people try to sing Whitney at talent shows.
Toby: Although those are great examples… it’s still not what I’m talking about. I want to talk about the Australian rock Band INXS that consisted of the Farriss brothers (Garry, Andrew, Jon, and Tim) with MIchael Hutchence as lead lyricist and guitarist. The band was formed in 1977 and got their first number one hit in Australia in 1984 with a track called Original Sin. They had other singles as well including What you Need, Devil Inside, Suicide Blonde….
Joe: Those song titles are a little interesting to say the least… Kinda makes me feel that their band name might be descriptive and appropriate.
Toby: So true. Well they also came out with a track called Need You tonight which was released in 1987 off of their 4th studio album Kick. This has been called their signature song, and there’s actually a funny story about the creation of this riff on this song. Andrew Farris said that the riff popped in his head before flying to Hong Kong. He was in a cab and asked the driver to wait a couple of minutes so he could grab something.
Joe: We’ve all left the house and left something behind. Which is fine as long as it’s not your kids or something. What did he forget?
Toby: The only thing he forgot to do is tell the truth! He actually went up to record the riff and came back an hour later with a tape of a rough version of the song. Obviously the driver was HOT!
Joe: Oh geez. I hate waiting for people as is… but waiting an hour for someone. That’s patience. I’m also assuming the driver kept the meter running.
Toby: That's the good thing about all that waiting… he got paid. The cab driver was upset for the long wait, but he did indeed keep the meter running. When Andrew was asked about the meter. … he replied that he thought it was FARE.
Joe: Oh gosh. This is what you’re coming with today?
Toby: But seriously- back to Need You Tonight. This song was a HUGE #1 hit, and as recently as 2014, it charted again due to the release of an INXS’ miniseries. So how did Dua Lipa and the songwriters for Break My Heart not know this? How can this be considered an accident?
Joe: Well, Dua Lipa did confess to accidentally interpolating INXS for Break My Heart. Maybe she did it to avoid being sued, but nonetheless, she did it. In that vein, I have a confession I’d like to make.
Toby: Oh boy. First off, is this the forum for that? Should I be worried? Remember my dad is a pastor, not me, so confessing to me might not make a lot of difference in the peace that you’re supposed to have.
Joe: Perhaps, but I know you to be your brother’s keeper. Let me ask you a question, first. Are you a James Bond fan?
Toby: Am I a James Bond fan? That’s like asking me if I like good music and whiskey! Of course I’m a James Bond fan. My favorite movie, you didn’t ask this, but I’m going to tell you anyways, For Your Eyes Only.
Joe: I grew up watching all those Bond flicks, and I even went back and started reading some of the original Ian Fleming novels. Random trivia, Casino Royale was the first of those Bond novels written, back in 1952. But the movie version didn’t get made until 2006 with Daniel Craig playing Bond.
Toby: Ok, so I’m still waiting for the confession. Or have you come to your senses and thought better of it?
Joe: Here goes. I think Daniel Craig plays a great Bond. I think Sean Connery was iconic in the role. But I have to say, for as much shade as he gets from Bond fans, I liked Roger Moore.
Toby: Now what you should have said was “I liked Roger… more”. That is how you should have said it. Roger Moore to me is the man. That is Bond in my opinion. Now, you don’t think Octopussy was a good movie…
Joe: I haven’t seen it in 30 years, but I loved Octopussy!
Toby: That doesn’t sound like something we can say on this show. We’re going to move on.
Joe: Look, maybe it’s not the best movie of the franchise, but it IS an entertaining romp. And hello, Maud Adams. Who by the way, I think bears a striking resemblance to Jessica Beale.
Toby: This is all well and good, and I’m glad you got that off your chest, but why are we talking about James Bond?
Joe: Do you remember all the cool cars and tech Bond would get to play with?
Toby: Sure. Lots of fun toys developed by the character known as Q. Which by the way, another fun factoid, the letter Q stands for Quartermaster, so it’s more of a title than a name. Again, what are you getting at?
Joe: Q was a fun character, most notably played by Desmond Llewelyn for a 30+ year run of the film franchise. But that character is also the inspiration for the name of another artist that I think deserves writing credit for Break My Heart.
Toby: I believe you are talking about Stacey Q, who had a hit back in 1986 with the song Two of Hearts. But why do you think she deserves a writing credit?
Joe: Well first, this is what Dua Lipa had to say about the writing credit they gave INXS for Break My Heart:
"When we were in the studio, we didn't quite connect the dots. We were just like, 'Oh yeah, this is great!' We were on such a high and we were just working on it, and then I listened back, and I was like 'Hold on, guys...' ... The guys at INXS, the people that are looking after the publishing, were very nice and they really liked the song, so we gave them a publishing credit, a writing credit on the track, because it was only fair, and it just brought nostalgia even more to the forefront, you know? It confirmed that part for us. ...
"It was a funny moment when we were like, 'Eureka!' And then, 'Oh, wait a second…' ... I'm not trying to get sued, is kind of the moral of the story."
Toby: Sure sounds like the right thing to do.
Joe: Which is why I say Stacey Q and her writing team deserve some credit, too. If you listen to that Two of Hearts track, specifically the chorus where she sings “Two of Hearts”, it’s the exact same phrasing as when Dua Lipa sings in her chorus “Stayed at home” or “You said hello” in the chorus of Break My Heart. I’ll put these songs on the playlist for this episode. Listen to the :43 second mark of Two of Hearts and compare it to the :59 second mark of Break My Heart. And I mean, even the song titles have similarities.
Toby: I do hear the similarities, but I think you are reaching here. I’ve listened, and yes, I can hear what you are saying, but it’s not so much of a similarity that I think it needs a writing credit.
Joe: We’ve talked about this before — the slippery slope that the music industry has gone down regarding sampling and interpolation and songwriting credits. Honestly I just think we have reached a tipping point, and this to me is a good example. Some of this is completely subjective. I personally think the Two of Hearts similarities are equal to if not more striking than the INXS track similarities. For you, the INXS interpolation sticks out like a sore thumb.
Toby: It does, and whether it was intentional or not, it needs to be addressed once it’s discovered. I think we can all agree with that. I’ve said it millions of times — if we try hard enough, we can find links between a lot of songs. Whether it be in word play, chords used, etc…. There just needs to be an easy and cost effective way of recognizing the original artist while not stifling the creativity of other artists.
Joe: I think all of this is untenable. At this point, you have to be aware of all music from all genres and hope that what you wrote doesn’t sound like anything else — which honestly I think is impossible. Or now we have to go down the path of intent — did you intentionally sample it, or was it a coincidence? Does it matter, cause you’ll get sued either way?
Toby: Untenable is the word. It seems like proving intent is like ice skating uphill. Which by the way I’ve never done NOR do I intend to ever try.
Joe: I’ll say this, and then get off my soapbox. It used to be that we payed homage and showed respect to artists by incorporating some of their unique style into our music. We’ve all been in jam or writing sessions where someone will reference a song or artist and say, “play something like that” or “In my head I’m hearing a little so-and-so for this part.” It’s part of our musical vocabulary. The other part that I think we are missing is that it’s part of our inspiration. Just the other day I was listening to Steve Cropper’s work with Otis Redding, and I picked up my guitar and started noodling a tune based on Steve’s signature style. I’m not trying to steal anything, I’m emulating and appreciating something I enjoy, and using it as a jumping off point to create something new. But god forbid I release that song, someone might come along now and say, “he totally ripped off Steve Cropper for that lick!”
Toby: Yeah agreed. As we said before. It’s definitely a slippery slope. There definitely needs to be reform.
Joe: What would you do?
Toby: What would I do? Well for me honestly, I’ve thought about it, especially with hip-hop and loving samples, I think all samples need to be the same price. Flat royalty fee. Just base it on how much was sampled. That makes it easy.
Joe: Let’s circle back around to Stacey Q and that Two of Hearts track for a bit. Stacey’s real name is Stacey Lynn Swain, and she’s got an interesting history, including a stint as a showgirl and an elephant rider for Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. You like the circus?
Toby: I used to love the circus until I had some conversations as an adult about how the lives of those animals must be. So, no longer a fan.
Joe: I have never been a big fan of the circus, it either creeped me out with all the clowns, or freaked me out worrying that someone would plummet to their death on the trapeze or tightrope. Clearly I have issues. I did like The Greatest Showman, though, which gave me a new appreciation for P. T. Barnum.
Toby: Absolutely awesome movie. The song Never Enough sung by Lloren Alred gives me chills every time I hear it. I saw her sing the song at an awards show on youtube and she doesn’t have any back up singer. It’s actually better than the movie version. But enough about that, Joe let’s talk a little more about Stacey Q.
Joe: In the early 80’s, Stacey started working with a producer and engineer by the name of Jon St. James. He had a recording studio in Orange County named Casbah Recording, and it was an important spot for punk acts like Social Distortion and The Vandals.
Toby: It also was the spot where bands like Berlin would record, and I bet if I went back and listened to those sessions it would “Take My Breath Away.”
Joe: Nice! Are you as excited as I am for the Top Gun sequel?
Toby: Classified. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.
Joe: Fair enough, but for the record, you can be my wingman anytime.
Toby: So when we aren’t making bad Top Gun references, or just bad jokes period, and when Jon St. James wasn’t working with Berlin, he was also fanboying on synth bands like Kraftwerk.
Joe: And here I was just starting to like the guy.
Toby: St. James put together his own synth pop group called Q, which as we mentioned was named after the James Bond character. Stacey Swain was assistant producer on 4 tracks for their EP, and St. James wanted vocals for one of the tracks, so Stacey did the honors.
Joe: Unfortunately, they had to change the name of the band because a certain other well known Q had laid claims to the name. Care to venture a guess as to who?
Toby: Good question. Queen Elizabeth II?
Joe: Great guess, but no.
Toby: Queen Latifah?
Joe: Another good guess, but still not the one. We are talking about one of the most iconic producers in history, and someone we’ve referenced a few times in past episodes.
Toby: You’re talking about Quincy Jones. Yeah, I’d say he’d have a fair claim to the Q moniker.
Joe: The band name changed to SSQ, and Stacey also kept the Q when she branched out as a solo artist. Two of Hearts was her biggest hit, and it even led to an appearance on the show The Facts of Life as a character named Cinnamon.
Toby: Another fun fact: A young George Clooney had his farewell appearance on The Facts of Life as his character decided to join Cinnamon as a roadie.
Joe: Stacey would continue to perform and record over the years, exploring different styles and genres. And in January of 2020, things came full circle as she and Jon St. James collaborated to create a new SSQ album, “Jet Town Je t’aime”. We’ll put the single “Trippin’ Me Out” on the playlist for this episode.
Toby: Besides being an engineer and producer, Jon St. James also has spent some time on the artist management side, including for the rapper Candyman, who had a top ten hit in 1990 with “Knockin’ Boots”.
Joe: Which just makes me want to create a mashup track of content that we’ve covered this episode. Octopussy. I Need You Tonight, Break My Heart. Knockin’ Boots.
Toby: We are fully off the rails now. So I’m just going to stop you right there.
Joe: This is why you are the best wingman. What do you say we wrap up the show. Can you tell us all we covered?
Toby: We discussed Dua Lipa’s song “Break My Heart” and its connection to the INXS track “Need You Tonight.” We also spent some more time in the 80’s with Stacey Q and her song “Two of Hearts.”
Joe: Thank you for joining us on this crazy journey, and be sure to check out the playlist for this episode on Spotify and Apple Music. Just do a search for Riffs on Riffs. While you're at it, please leave us a review on whatever platform you listen — it just might help someone else stumble upon our witty banter and bad puns. And if you feel the need for speed, be sure to dialog with us on social, @riffsonriffs. As always, thanks for listening. We’ll catch you next time for Riffs on Riffs.
Toby: Keep listening. Huzzah.