Graham Reid | | 1 min read
American r'n'b singer Bobby Parker couldn't possibly have known that the young Beatles used to play his '61 single Watch Your Step in clubs, although he may have heard Adam Faith's cover of it.
In fact the song was so popular in the UK that a number of acts performed it (Manfred Mann among them) but it was the Beatles who got the most mileage out of its distinctive riff which they shamelessly borrowed and bent for I Feel Fine in late '64 and then overhauled it a bit more for Daytripper a year later.
John Lennon acknowledged as much in the Anthology doco where he said it was one of his favourite records and they used it in those songs.
Feel free to compare the Beatles and Bobby.
I Feel Fine
Lennon was especially light-fingered when it came to lines and riffs: among them his nasty Run for Your Life on Rubber Soul which lifted lines from Elvis Presley's hit Baby Let's Play House and the distinctive riff which opened Revolution was taken from Pee Wee Crayton's Do Unto Others.
And we won't even go to the issues surrounding Come Together.
"After 'Watch Your Step' was released," said Parker later, "is when I heard 600 or more versions of blatant 'Copy Cat' recordings... Everybody in the Guitar World was playing my guitar lick and trying to claim it, The Beatles included. Even now in 2008 I hear Copy Cat guitar riffs From 'Watch Your Step' in TV commercials. I wish they would come up with a different riff and leave mine alone!"
This list of borrowings and plagiarisms could get very long, but as Little Richard – on whose style McCartney modelled I'm Down and may other throat-abusing rockers – famously said, “It ain't what you do it's the way how you do it”.
And the way how the Beatles did it was fresh, different and repurposed enough so it became another original.
For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.