R: Dave J Hogan / Getty Images
Early this morning, shit-eating right-wing English tabloid The Sun published a skimpy and anonymously sourced story claiming that Radiohead might be suing Lana Del Rey for copyright infringement. According to Dan Wooton’s unnamed source, Radiohead believe that Del Rey’s “Get Free,” the final track on her 2017 LP Lust for Life, bears too close a resemblance to their breakthrough hit, “Creep.” This afternoon, Del Rey appeared to confirm on Twitter that the report was accurate.
The Sun’s piece—which, being anonymously sourced and published at The Sun, wouldn’t have been beholden to understatement—indicated that the two sides of this dispute were trying to stay out of court. Del Rey, apparently, has gone past that point.
But, beyond that, this is all a little strange. The verses in “Get Free” do share a chord progression with “Creep,” and it’s difficult to conceive of anyone hearing those four chords in order and not thinking of Radiohead. But can anyone lay claim to a four-chord progression, however recognizable? And, if so, which ones are up for grabs, and which ones are off-limits?
Radiohead themselves had to give up a percentage of royalties for “Creep” soon after its release, when they were sued by Mike Hazlewood and Albert Hammond (father of The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr). Hazlewood and Hammond claimed that Radiohead had lifted the progression from one of their songs, “The Air That I Breathe,” made famous by The Hollies in 1974. Hammond's solo recording is superior, and you should go listen to it, but The Hollies' version has a bassline that's inescapably similar to Radiohead's, so that's the one I'm dropping in here.
Radiohead apparently confessed to the too-faithful homage, so Hazlewood and Hammond are listed as songwriters in Pablo Honey's liner notes. "Because they were honest they weren't sued to the point of saying "we want the whole thing," Hammond said in 2002. "So we ended up just getting a little piece of it." So, do Hazlewood and Hammond have a claim to a share of "Get Free" as well? And, if not, why not?
Radiohead's representatives declined to comment on the matter. Noisey has also reached out to Lana Del Rey's representatives. This post will be updated if and when either party provides an official statement.
Follow Alex Robert Ross on Twitter.