The Beatles vs. Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan vs. The Beatles

Of the several run-ins between the Beatles and Bob Dylan during the 1960s, perhaps the most abstract involves two particular songs — one from Rubber Soul, the other from Blonde on Blonde. It’s obvious that by 1965 the Beatles had started to exhibit in their own work the absorbed influences of current American music trends, most conspicuously in George Harrison’s emulation of the Byrds and John Lennon’s reverence for Bob Dylan. The collision of both, and arguably Rubber Soul’s most Dylanesque moment, is heard on “Norwegian Wood”. Yet the subject of this post is not which Dylan number that sounds like, but rather how he reacted the following year to acknowledge the song’s similarity of spirit. Dylan did what must have seemed only natural: copied the nuts and bolts of the Beatles’ song right back at them.

His “4th Time Around” is equal parts knowing nod and humorously lazy admonition, couched in a similar melody and bar structure and stretched out about twice as long. Though “Norwegian Wood” moved the Beatles’ lyrics for the first time past straight love song and towards more whimsical terrain, its rhyme scheme is still kind of laughable on paper — likely intentionally so — and this is something that Dylan, no stranger to ridiculous rhyming himself (see: Bob Dylan’s 1st and 115th Dreams), lampoons mightily. With lines like “She buttoned her boot, straightened her suit, said ‘Don’t be cute,’” it almost seems that Dylan was sort of reaching into his past and possibly even making fun of his own former proclivities on an album that had otherwise left them more or less behind. In that way, “4th Time Around” represents an injection of tongue-in-cheek absurdity into an otherwise poignant account of a bitter misunderstanding and the amends that follow. That being said, the song overall plays it pretty straight with a lovely simplicity which, taken at face value, belies the complexity of his multi-layered homage.

Have a listen to the two:

The Beatles - "Norwegian Wood" (1965)
Bob Dylan - "4th Time Around" (1966)

It’s hard to escape the notion that John’s “Norwegian Wood” lyrics were a bit of a lark, while “4th Time Around” actually achieves some kind of real emotional resonance. For example, each song features a character who winds up on the floor, but for different reasons. John’s first person narrator gets there because he’s told “to sit anywhere, so I looked around and noticed there wasn’t a chair,” while Dylan riles his lady into screaming “till her face got so red, then she fell on the floor.”

John Lennon had different interpretations of the “response” song over the following decade, imagining that Dylan was trying to send a message to the Beatles to back off from copying his style, before ultimately deciding that the song had a more friendly tone. There are lines that make one wonder, like the downright ornery “Everybody must give something back for something they get,” and “I never asked your crutch, so don’t ask for mine.” Though for every line like that, there’s a “Felt with my thumb, gallantly handed her my very last piece of gum,” so all in all who can say.

Led Zeppelin vs. The World

Led Zeppelin vs. The World

“If the lyric hadn’t been stolen, the music would have been lesser for it… It was decided that it was so far away in time and influence that… well, you only get caught when you’re successful. That’s the game.”

-Robert Plant


Editor’s Note:

This has been a hot topic for many years and Ben did an awesome job writing this up. I added some notes and the best images I could find on Google 😛

Got anything to add to this list? Add it in the comments below!

Led Zeppelin is certainly no stranger to this site, which to a degree is inevitable with any highly mimicked, vastly popular band. However, most of their coverage thus far has revolved around what others have taken from the group, despite the likelihood that they themselves are one of the most infringing acts in the history of rock. A few glowing moments and an admirable knack for myth-making aside, Jimmy Page & co. borrowed far and wide for both riffs and whole songs, indebting Led Zeppelin not only to their contemporaries but even more substantially to specific old blues tunes — and yet it often went officially unacknowledged by them. Indeed, a cursory glance through old Zeppelin vinyl reveals that even tracks which were later assigned proper songwriting credits in the CD era — after the band was repeatedly taken to task — were initially devoid of any mention of their origins. Hand it to Led Zeppelin: at least they had good taste, borrowing from some of the day’s finest acts past and present.

What follows are samples of tunes that were originally notated as being solely written by the band — delusions since debunked.

Jimmy Page's "zoso" Saturn sigil

Start by considering the back-to-back examples offered in “Your Time Is Gonna Come/Black Mountain Side”, a one-two punch of plagiarism found on their 1969 debut.

The first is pretty straightforward:

Traffic - "Dear Mr. Fantasy" (1967)
Led Zeppelin - "Your Time Is Gonna Come" (1969)
Robert Plant and Steve Winwood on

Robert Plant and Steve Winwood (Traffic)


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Cher Lloyd vs. Percy Montrose vs. Kelis

Alex is on a roll this week with three stellar submissions.

Cher Lloyd on

This one is pretty mind boggling. It looks like the American western folk ballad “Oh My Darling, Clementine” is in the public domain so it’s fair game. But who cares? Why would you use it for something like this? I normally don’t judge here but according to the “Swagger Jagger” wikipedia page it took a team of 9 writers including Cher Lloyd to produce this song and the chorus melody is directly lifted from “Oh My Darling, Clementine”. Am I missing something here??

Also note that this is the third X-Factor star to appear on this site. Others include:
Leona Lewis (vs. Avicii)
Diana Vickers (vs.  Red Hot Chili Peppers)

After listening to “Swagger Jagger” I thought of a few other things.

1. The verse sounds a lot like “Milkshake” (2003) by Kelis.

2. What’s the fascination with “Jagger”? Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” was released in 2011 as well.

3. What the hell is “swagger jagger”? I did some “research” and Urban Dictionary offered some of  the following useful information:

“A shit, pointless song with stupid lyrics made by Cher Lloyd”
“The term is infact Swagger JACKER: Someone who “Jacks” your look, style, sound etc… Taking it and passing it of as their own look/Material/ Shit, Etc…. ”
“Cher Lloyd hs produced a terrible CD using the miss interpretation “Swagger Jagger” Thus making her both a national laughing stock and an embarrassment to this country.”

So there you have it. Now you have all of the information you need to listen to the following clips:

Percy Montrose (performed by Connie Francis, 1961) - "Oh My Darling, Clementine" (1884)
Cher Lloyd - "Swagger Jagger (chorus)" (2011)
Kelis - "Milkshake" (2003)
Cher Lloyd - "Swagger Jagger (verse)" (2011)