Green Day Stole My Riff!: Part 1, feat. The Kinks
Now I don’t know about you, but to me, Green Day seems to try awfully hard to come off as having punk cred — sometimes too hard. Like maybe they’re a little too aware of the fact that they’re a second-generation (or third, depending how you divide things up) punk band that’s gone a little soft, rather than the forever edgy first-gen band they wished they were. And of course, they do have some claim to greatness, with a number of good-to-great songs in their catalogue, the most recent among them being “American Idiot.” But then they go and blow it, with a Broadway show based on their music (Green Day’s American Idiot). I mean, c’mon. I don’t care who you are, or how good the show is, but that’s just not very punk. Pete Townshend can get away with it, because he’s actually laid down some pretty serious claims to being a true composer (although honestly, I don’t know that I could bring myself to go see the Broadway production of Tommy — the movie was painful enough as it was). And aside from the musical, Green Day sure does have some sappy songs in their repertoire that just don’t ring sincere enough to work.
So where am I going with this? Well, my point for the sake of this column is that if you want to be a punk band with street cred, one other thing you try to avoid is stealing from other people’s songs quite as obviously as Green Day has been known to do. The Clash, or X, wouldn’t have done it, at least not so transparently. Well, okay, The Jam walked right up to the Beatles, ripped the “Taxman” riff out of their hands, and didn’t change it at all for “Start!” — and despite that, I do love that song, so…
Okay, I admit, it’s not that uncommon for bands to borrow riffs. But seeing as how I find myself mocking Green Day these days whenever I see them on, say, the MTV Awards (I mean, enough the eyeliner already, Billie Joe), they make a good target for this particular two-part series of posts (more, if anyone has any other obvious examples to point out to me). So that’s my rationale, take it or leave it.
And today’s riff-stealing example is probably the more obvious of the two (I’ll leave you in suspense for the other): their song “Warning,” from the 2000 album of the same name. Sure, I like the song, but how could I not? It’s based almost entirely on The Kinks’ great 1968 song, “Picture Book” (from their fantastic album, The Village Green Preservation Society).
Listen and compare:
Green Day: “Warning”
The Kinks: “Picture Book”
Hopefully they at least felt that they were paying tribute to the greatness of the Kinks, but still…
Next time on “Green Day Stole My Riff!” we come back to American shores for a ’70s song that Green Day would never want to admit they stole from…
Previously Reselect-ed songs by the Kinks: “Powerman“