Chris Martin Accused Of Surfing With The Alien, Stealing His Tunes

What would the world’s lovers of tasteful rock think of Coldplay and Brian Eno if they found out that they plagiarized the good bits of “Viva La Vida” from guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani, of all people? Well, we’ll find out if a lawsuit that Satriani filed in Los Angeles yesterday goes his way. Satriani is claiming that the Brit band incorporated “substantial original portions” of his 2004 song “If I Could Fly” into their iTunes-shilling track, and the YouTube above puts Satriani’s hypothesis to the test. The songs do sound kind of similar! But then again, when I heard “Viva” for the first time, there was something very familiar about it, and I haven’t purchased any Satriani albums recently, so maybe they both ripped off someone else? (I’m getting a vibe that this all traces back to the the Beverly Hills, 90210 theme, I swear. There’s one lick in the Satriani bit…) Anyway, for those of you who want to practice your forensic musicology, the two full tracks are after the jump.



Of course, Coldplay being accused of ripping other people off is nothing new. There’s their current Arcade Fire-inspired stage personae, and there was that whole thing where some guy in Brooklyn tried to piggyback on the band’s new album by claiming that Chris Martin had taken in one of his shows and ripped off one of his songs. But did you know that there are even grander Coldplay-related conspiracy theories out there?

The creator of the YouTube swears it’s a joke, but the similarities are kinda eerie, no?

Guitarist accuses Coldplay of plagiarism [Reuters]
Did Coldplay copy Joe Satriani? [YouTube]
Coldplay vs. Ashlee Simpson: Plagiarism? [YouTube]

  • Chris N.

    There’s definitely those three notes, then it kinda falls apart.

  • NeverEnough

    Can we PLEASE declare a moratorium on Coldplay posts? Jesus Christ…

  • Maura Johnston

    @NeverEnough: yeah, how dare a music news blog mention the most popular rock band in the world! especially when they do newsworthy things like get grammy nominations and come in at no. 1 on year-end sales charts!

  • GhostOfDuane

    @Maura Johnston: Yes, less Coldplay posts, more Satriani posts! Ha.

  • NeverEnough

    @GhostOfDuane: Hang on… Coldplay sued Joe Satriani! [] It all makes sense now.

  • NeverEnough

    Oops, I meant that Satriani sued Coldplay. Suddenly I’m pro-death penalty.

  • Audif Jackson Winters III

    @Chris N.: Exactly what I was thinking.

  • Captain Wrong

    Is it just me or are lawsuits like this becoming more common? Prior to recent times, I can think of a couple of Chuck Berry and Kraftwerk cases, but that’s about it, unless quiet was kept.

  • Anonymous

    I too thought “Viva La Vida” sounded familiar when I first heard it, but I think it’s because that chord progression has been around for awhile. I’ll bet you could start back in the 60′s and find some other examples.

    In a way, that’s part of Coldplay’s “genius” – the ability to come up with these melodies that fit in with the general public’s existing frame of reference.

  • JDR

    Seriously, what chord progression ISN’T familiar after 50 years of rock. There is a bit that’s very similar but I don’t think Satriani has a winning case here.

  • JohnOO

    Dunno, Oasis got themselves into legal trouble a few years ago as the chord prog to one of their songs, can’t remember which, was very similar to the opening bar/bars (here’s where my lack of a musical education comes to the surface) of a song by Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dog Band. You can chase them down on Youtube.

  • mackro

    Satriani’s album this year, Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock (I’m not making this title up!) got ignored + this lawsuit = someone wants publicity

  • Marth

    @JDR: Pretty much every one by Deerhoof, and that’s about it.

  • Marth

    Also, since he’ll be in court anyway, can we bring up some sort of civil suit against Chris Martin for naming his kid Apple?

  • 10:02am

    They’re both incredibly uninspired and unoriginal pieces of muzak. Who cares, they should both be ashamed

  • Anonymous

    I would like Coldplay if they got rid of the keyboards, canned the singer, replaced the drummer and hired a different bass player, and maybe took another musical direction in their style.

  • revmatty

    @mackro: And it’s a pretty good album, too. Not his best, but how can you beat “The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing”?

  • Lax Danja House

    @JohnOO: Yeah but Noel Gallagher openly admits to borrowing melodies from other artists’ work (he got into a bit of bother with Stevie Wonder when he openly boasted that ‘Step Out’ contained portions of ‘Uptight’) and would undoubtedly have been exposed to the song.

    If Satriani is to win his case, he’s going to have to make a convincing case that Coldplay would have been exposed to his song in order to violate its copyright, either intentionally or by osmosis. Given that he is an extremely niche musician, one that it’s difficult to believe Coldplay would dig, it’s not going to be easy.

    I’m guessing he’s looking for a settlement.

  • Anonymous

    I can see why Satriani is trying, i’ll give him that.

    Unfortunately rock is fairly limited, so things will inevitably sound like each other after so much time and so many releases.

    It’s probably more likely that it’s complete chance.

  • Skwerl

    both melodies are vanilla and generic. it’s been heard in everything from coffee commercials to… well… shitty coldplay songs of course, for the past forty years.
    i hope satch just wants money and doesn’t actually think this is a big rip-off.

  • ObtuseIntolerant

    @Marth: New conspiracy theory – The fact that his kid is named Apple, and Chris Martin’s iTunes prowess….coincidence?! I think not.

  • TheContrarian

    I think they should just cut to the chase and hire Satch as their new lead guitarist. That’d liven things up a bit. Maybe. Well, not really. But at least there’d be fussy guitar solos!

  • Lax Danja House

    @revmatty: I’m a guitarist and I’d never heard the song. I’m not sure such a tenuous association would hold up in court. I’m sure Buckland knows who he is, but Coldplay’s music doesn’t exactly suggest that he’s a fan (it doesn’t prove he’s not either, but it’s up to Satriani’s side to prove the positive).

  • revmatty

    @Lax Danja House: I would argue that Satriani, while a niche musician, would undeniably be known to at least the guitarist in any rock band of the last 20 years. In that most any rock guitarist over 30 has heard of him and probably owned at least two of his albums. He has been nominated for Grammy awards for instrumental rock 14 of the last 20 years, which also greatly increases the likelihood that another artist who has been nominated for Grammy awards has heard of him.

    @TheContrarian: He writes some great rhythm parts as well, it would definitely improve their music quite a bit.

  • tigerpop

    @Marth: Really–the Beatles are usually so litigious!

  • Anonymous

    @Lax Danja House: But you have heard of him. I hate to shatter everybodie’s conceptions, but Coldplay is a succeful pop band; hence they probably spend a good deal of their time listening to a wide array of music. They all probably love music, listen to music that doesn’t sound like themselves, and have a lot of freetime and money to dedicate to their love of music. They’re just a group of human beings who make music that different people feel differently about; they’re not monsters. Probably.

  • Lax Danja House

    I’m not sure “they listen to lots of music therefore they probably listened to this relatively unheralded performance by a minor niche artist” will hold up so well in court.

  • Lucas Jensen

    @Lax Danja House: Yeah, for real. I really, really, really doubt that Coldplay ever heard this Satriani song. They seem more like Vai fans to me.

  • KikoJones

    @Lax Danja House:
    As any rookie entertainment lawyer will tell you, one must prove access by the alleged party to the creation of the song in question. Having heard the song broadcast, no matter how widespread its distribution or its popularity, does not constitute actual access in legal terms.

    These cases are routinely fought between relatively unknown plaintiffs and well-known artists and are almost never won by the former. The odds don’t fare much better for the plaintiff even if they are both famous, George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”/”He’s So Fine” case being the rare exception. (Interestingly, according to music biz insider Moses Avalon, in his book Confessions of a Record Producer: How to Survive the Scams and Shams of the Music Business, Satriani’s one-time boss, none other than Mick Jagger himself, was sued by Jamaican reggae artist Patrick Alley for allegedly ripping off “Just Another Night” which Alley had recorded in 1979 and released in 1982. Alley was able to prove access in the form of legendary session man Sly Dunbar who played on both Alley’s and Jagger’s versions of the track. Avalon states that while testifying on the stand the famed drummer stated he couldn’t remember playing on the original version. Jagger was subsequently cleared.)

    In any event, I doubt anyone in Coldplay has ever heard a Satriani song, let alone copy one. They were probably too busy aping Radiohead circa The Bends, anyway.