Maddenation

La Villa Strangiato/Cartoon Network

I was overhearing a self-promoting Cartoon Network commercial just today and suddenly it clicked that I was hearing part of “La Villa Strangiato” (an instrumental by Rush). That spurred in me a memory of something I had read about Rush paying an out-of-court settlement to a composer because they hadn’t gotten permission to use his melody (this was in the 1970s, before sampling was rampant). So I looked up the information again, and sure enough, that’s what it was. But, before I give you the quote from the site I found, what I want to call to mind is how this sort of thing happens all the time. I must have heard that Cartoon Network theme (called, I found, “Powerhouse”) a hundred times, and not only as the Cartoon Network theme (the song has been used in hundreds of cartoons for decades), but it never clicked. And when I read that information about the out-of-court settlement, I followed a link that played part of the original song for me, and it didn’t sound a bit like Rush’s song (because it wasn’t the right part of the original song, I realize now). But for some reason, today, I made the connection. It’s like when you learn a new vocabulary word, and then hear it everywhere (i.e. quotidian). Or the day I was just riding my bike (during my mission) and realized that the Alphabet song, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and “Baa Baa, Black Sheep” were the same song. The stuff was always there, hitting me in the head, but I never realized it until something clicked (for some unknown reason). I want a term for this. I’ve been thinking about ubiquitous realizations or something. Any other ideas? Isn’t it cool when it happens? Makes life wonderful!

Here, below, is the information I found a while ago, and then again today.

From Power Windows:

“Powerhouse” by Raymond Scott, 1936
This song inspired the “Monsters!” section of the song “La Villa Strangiato.” Carl Stalling, Warner Brothers’ music director, used much of “Powerhouse” in his Warner Brothers cartoon scores in the ’40s and ’50s. Although the music wasn’t originally written for cartoons, publishing rights for a limited catalog of Raymond Scott’s titles were sold to Warner Brothers in 1943. Not only was “Powerhouse” used in the old Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoons, it has been sampled more recently by the bands Devo and They Might Be Giants; recent cartoons including The Simpsons, Ren & Stimpy, Duckman, Batfink, and Animaniacs, the Cartoon Network theme song, and throughout the Disney film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids! (without crediting Scott — Disney was threatened with a lawsuit and the matter was settled out of court). Rush didn’t give credit to Scott for their use of “Powerhouse” either. By the time Raymond Scott’s publisher notified the band’s management of the infringement, the statute of limitations had expired on the challenge. But Rush’s management, out of deference to Mr. and Mrs. Scott (Raymond was still alive at that point), and being the class act that they are, offered a one-time “penance” payment, feeling it was the ethical thing to do. All involved were happy with the resolution, and Rush has no further financial obligations. Under the settlement, they were not required to accord Raymond Scott partial songwriting credit on the piece. For more information, go to RaymondScott.com.

PatrickConnections02/21/03 3 comments

Comments

Dad • 02/22/03 12:25 PM:

Reminds me of the George Harrison, My Sweet Lord situation, where he “unconsciously” stole the song from the Chiffons 1963 hit “He’s So Fine.” The songs really are similar, although the comparison fits well with the old expression, “from the sublime to the ridiculous.”
While George’s group is going, “Harri Krishna, and Dali Lama” in the background, the Chiffons are going, “Du lang, Du lang, Du lang” (probably du doesn’t need to be capitalized).
Necessary question: was it determined that RUSH got the Raymond Scott song while watching Saturday morning cartoons? That would certainly explain it.

Patrick • 02/22/03 2:44 PM:

I don’t know much more than was explained on the web site I linked to. I can imagine that it might have been unconscious copying. I mean, the song is all pervasive, so the melody gets stuck in your head and you don’t know where it’s from. Maybe it was more conscious, but they thought it was a public-domain sort of thing? Anyway, it really fits into the Rush song well with all the other stuff that’s going on. And, according to this site, once the borrowing was noticed, it was too late to take the band to court, but Rush paid anyway. Of course, that could be untrue and just there to show how great the band is.

The weird thing is how nowadays certain types of music sample other songs without any hassles. Maybe there’s legal workings in the background to get permission. And what about doing cover versions of songs? As far as I know, you don’t have to pay royalties for cover versions. But maybe you do if you put a cover version on your album (as opposed to just playing it live)?

David • 02/22/03 3:20 PM:

Pat & Family,
What is your fascination with ‘Quotidian’? I forget. I decided to look it up on dictionary.com and it told me (I only kinda sorta knew) it meant, “everyday, commonplace”, and that it’s used to describe specifically malaria attacks. So while I looked it up in hopes of clarification, I am only now more confused. Enlighten me please.

Also, did I ever direct y’all to the pretty funny and mostly clever site …?

http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/99aug/9908elements.htm

On it they’ve got an Atlantic Monthly article on the “Periodic Table of Rejected Elements”. It’s good. You’ll notice that the element with atomic number 32 is Quotidian. I’m not sure I get it. It belongs to the ‘Microsoft’ group of elements if that’s any help.

I also made a cool bellringer for my class where we read a related article and then checked out the Rejected Elements. The most important question I asked them was, “What is the funniest element?” Challenge yourselves to see if you can get it!

PS. if anybody (other than Dad whom I already sent it to) wants a copy of the bellringer activity, let me know. Can I post a word document on the site?

david

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