Songwriters are always on the lookout for new ideas.
Whether it’s borrowing rhythms and melodies from their environments or lyrics from conversations, there’s an infinite number of ways to write a song.
Heart is not the first artist to “borrow” a musical idea from an influence, and they won’t be the last, but guitarist Nancy Wilson freely admits that the unmistakable intro riff from the band’s 1977 hit “Barracuda” was not unique to that song.
“Nazareth had a hit with a Joni Mitchell song that they covered called ‘This Flight Tonight’ that had kind of that riff,” Wilson explained to Loudwire. “So we kind of borrowed that, and we made it into ‘Barracuda.’ We saw the guys from Nazareth later, and they were pissed.”
While the first few bars of each riff are identical, the turnarounds in the respective songs go differently.
Wilson doesn’t seem to have any misgivings about the success of the song or what may have kicked it off.
“You borrow from what you love and make it your own,” she added. “It’s one of those sounds too. It’s one of the guitar tones that I’m still trying to figure out what we did because it’s hard to recreate.”
The ‘chugging’ rhythm technique used in “Barracuda” and in Nazareth’s “This Flight Tonight” is more or less a convention of heavy rock guitar playing. It's worth noting that neither riff is drastically far off from Led Zeppelin’s “Communications Breakdown” or Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave,” each of which predate the Nazareth version of "This Flight Tonight."
You can’t blame Nazareth for being upset, but you also have to give Wilson credit for not trying to hide the inspiration behind one of her band’s biggest hits.
Heart is returning this summer after going almost three years without performing.
Nancy and Ann Wilson are set to reunite Thursday, March 7, for the Love Rocks NYC charity benefit at New York’s Beacon Theatre.
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