Green Day vs. ELO vs. Scott McKenzie

After all these years Green Day is still churning out hits. Armstrong must be a big ELO fan.

Shane submitted the Scott McKenzie “San Francisco” comparison and  Jeff sent in the Electric Light Orchestra similarity in the chorus. Nonetheless, the Green Day track is super catchy and I can’t get it out of my head. Now I have three songs stuck in my head.

“21 Guns” chorus:

Electric Light Orchestra - "Telephone Line" (1976)
Green Day - "21 Guns" (2009)

“21 Guns” verse:

Scott McKenzie - "San Francisco" (1967)

Green Day - "21 Guns" (2009)
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47 Replies to “Green Day vs. ELO vs. Scott McKenzie”

  1. Joe

    green day is a given. i think you’ll find that 98% of green day songs have the EXACT same melodies as older popular song.

    Reply
    1. Mark Adams

      So far I’ve calculated less than 10%. I might be missing some but there are a lot more cases of slight similarities than exact copies, but why am I defending the indefensible here?

      Reply
  2. Bill

    I like Green Day, but 21 Guns is definitely a copy of ELO’s Telephone Line. If it doesn’t already, the Green Day album should give some credit to Jeff Lynne.

    Reply
    1. Mark Adams

      I like Green Day too, but the album credits read: All Words by Billie Joe. All Music by Green Day. Anyway, are you sure that the credit shouldn’t actually go to Tom Scholz from Boston (check out the pre-chorus of More than a Feeling, but it’s faster)? I tried to find a link between Boston and ELO, but all I could find was a dead end: it seems Tom Scholz had been writing the songs for their first album over the course of five years and recorded More than a Feeling in 1975, before they gained their contract with Epic, which was the American distributor of ELO’s unofficially released live album The Night the Light Went On in Long Beach in 1974, so unless Epic sent a copy of a demo of More than a Feeling to ELO in the UK, this seems immaterial.

      Reply
  3. Tony

    I knew it! Ever since I heard this song in the radio last summer I knew this song sounded a lot like that San Francisco song! I didn’t thought anyone else caught that.

    Reply
  4. Jonny Watts

    I think another thing worth mentioning is that the guitar solo of 21 guns sounds like the chorus from the Full House theme song. Just worth mentioning… *whistle*

    Reply
  5. Travis

    try these

    green day: when i come around(1994 i think)

    better than ezra: good(1995 i think)

    semisonic: closing time(1998)

    unwritten law: cailin(1998)

    Reply
  6. Ramon

    I don’t know if you’d agree,
    but the stanza of Greenday’s 21 GUNS sounds eeirily like Neil Young’s HEART OF GOLD…

    What do you think?

    Reply
        1. Mark Adams

          While I’m on the subject, I Guess Things Happen That Way (1958), written by Jack Clement sounds like When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbing Along) (1926), written by Harry M. Woods and Ghost Riders in the Sky (1979), written by Stan Jones and originally recorded by Burl Ives (1949) sounds like The Ants Go Marching. But, of course, it’s not his fault as like his contempory, Elvis these songs that sound similar to others were written for him, not by him.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aO4n1fLEVQ#t=15s
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mynzbmrtp9I

          Reply
        2. Mark Adams

          Sorry, some were written for him and the others were covers. And his Any Old Wind That Blows (1973) sounds like I Guess Things Happen That Way (1958).

          Reply
        3. Mark Adams

          And the chorus of his That’s the Way It Is (1978) reminds me of Country Comforts (1970), written by Elton John and performed by Rod Stewart, while the verse reminds me of Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

          Reply
        4. Mark Adams

          Plus A Song for the Life (1978) sounds like something, I think it’s (Find A) Reason to Believe by Tim Hardin, covered by Rod Stewart (1971). BTW, I think Country Comforts sounds kind of like Reason to Believe in a major key, especially in the violin solo of Reason to Believe.

          Reply
        5. Mark Adams

          And Worried Man (1998) sounds like across between Mary’s Boy Child and The Star Spangled Banner. I’m Leavin’ Now (2000) sounds like I’m Movin’ On and Before My Time (2000) sounds like The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel.

          Reply
        6. Mark Adams

          And Breaking Bread, written by Randy L. George sounds like He is Risen and The Forgotten by Green Day (2012) sounds like a different part of it.

          Reply
        7. Mark Adams

          T for Texas was written by Jimmie Rodgers. I’ll also add that Do Lord, written by a Fossett, sounds like Glory, Glory Hallelujah.

          Reply
        8. Mark Adams

          And the riff from Rusty Cage, written by Chris Cornell, sounds like Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix and Southern Accents, written by Tom Petty sounds like Country Comforts (1970).

          Reply
        9. Mark Adams

          And the melody of On the Evening Train (2003), written by Hank Williams, sounds like Let’s Twist Again by Chubby Checker (1962?), the verse of Original Sin by INXS (1984) and also a little like Summertime from Porgy and Bess (1937), written by George Gershwin.

          Reply
        10. Mark Adams

          And the verse of Take on Me by A-Ha (1985) sounds like a guitar line from Can’t Help but Wonder Where I’m Bound by Tom Paxton (1964), covered by Johnny Cash in 2003.

          Reply
        11. Mark Adams

          Heartland by Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson (1993) also sounds like When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along). Also, not being American, I didn’t realise the Children’s song The Ants Go Marching was based on the American Civil War song When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again, lyrics by Patrick Gilmore (Sep 1863), which he said he heard hummed by a youngster in New Orleans. The tune may have been Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye, possibly set during the Kandyan Wars, roughly from 1795-1818, but nothing is certain and the song wasn’t published until 1867, then recorded by Tommy Makem in 1959. When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again could in fact be based on Johnny Fill Up the Bowl (Jul 1863) and there are also suggestions it may have come from John Anderson, My Jo, c1630, lyrics by Robert Burns (1789) or the seventeenth-century ballad The Three Ravens, printed in 1611 (I can hear more of a similarity with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen on this one). The Wikipedia pages state other uses of the songs.

          For Green Day, Brutal Love (2012) also sounds like Sittin’ On Top of the World by Willie Nelson (2000). One more thing, San Francisco was written by John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_I_Hardly_Knew_Ye
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_Johnny_Comes_Marching_Home

          Reply
        12. Mark Adams

          I Never Cared for You by Willie Nelson also sounds like When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again, etc. Thatsongsoundslike.com should have a CD, to release on iTunes as well. It would probably be an annoying CD (payback for annoying pop songs?) with listeners thinking “Wasn’t this song just on?”and I don’t think anyone would listen to it in full after the first time.

          Reply

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