The beauty of rock and roll lies in the ability of bands to reinvent it over the years. As much as people like to clown around on pop musicians using the 4 chord trick to make their songs sound great, it’s what you put into the song that’s actually able to make it work. Hell, if you put the right kind of attitude behind your song, you can pretty much make an entire track out of someone else’s material.
Over the years, there have always been bands that are a little too blatant about where their inspiration comes from. Whether it’s through the licks they use in the song or the mannerisms they use when playing, there’s no doubt that these songs have some sort of musical kinship with another band.
This in no way diminishes the power of these songs. If anything, it proves that the basis for these two songs was so good that we actually managed to release two separate hits from the deal. Although there have been lawsuits, all is fair in the Wild West of rock and roll. Because as we all know, it takes a smart artist to borrow, but it takes a genius to outright steal.
According to Stone Gossard, most of the Pearl Jam catalog was built to be a throwback to the glory days of rock and roll. And it’s not hard to see why either, given the Paul Rodgers-esque delivery of Eddie Vedder or Mike McCready drawing much of its sound from Jimi Hendrix’s playbook. Once in a while, however, you can create a song that comes a little too close to your influences.
On their 1998 album Yield, McCready found a lovely melody that he said sounded like a wave in terms of how the dynamics worked. Although the actual song Given to Fly ended up becoming one of PJ’s few hits during this era, the similarities are a little too close to Led Zeppelin’s Going to California for the most seasoned rock fans out there.
It’s not like a carbon copy though. Even with similar grooves and chord structures, McCready has created something of his own, all rolling in a unique way that’s completely different from Robert Plant pining for a girl with a flower in the hair. While they want to be respectful of their past, it’s one of the few songs from Pearl Jam’s glory days that may have garnered a few confused looks from grunge rock oldies.