Today I want to do something different for #musicmonday. For the first time, I’m not featuring actual music but rather a service. One that I have long needed and only just discovered. First let me preface why I needed the service so badly with a rather wordy rant:
A few months back, I was catching up on some of the newer episodes of The Tonight Show. Ever since Jimmy Fallon took over I’ve tried to stay current because despite his shortcomings as a comedian, he has turned the Tonight show back into a really fun hour (ok, minus commercials 42 minutes — and minus the bits that don’t work 34 minutes) of television. On the night that Demi Lovato was booked as a musical guest – I’m not a fan, I just remember music-related information more than anything else – The Roots were playing an interstitial piece of music during a return from a commercial break. It sounded extremely familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it.
Cut to: 2 months later, that 2.5 second snippet of music is still haunting me, albeit not as persistently, and during some random thoughts about Geri Halliwell’s first solo album, I suddenly remembered that artist who styled herself as Vitamin C. Everything was citrus-colored with her. At any rate, 14-year old me totally bought into her shtick, and I listened to that album often. The very last track on her debut album was especially catchy, but I was unaware of its musical pedigree. See, it turns out, nearly the entire musical portion of that song was lifted from an old song by The Clash. Don’t get me wrong, the musical education I received as a result of my parents’ album collections was indeed substantial. Furthermore, VH1’s Pop-Up Video and Rock & Roll Jeopardy furthered my musical education. But the one primary era of the musical past in which I’d never been tutored was punk. My dad was a fairly straight-laced fella, and my mom had a varied pop-alternative taste. There wasn’t really any punk influences anywhere. I knew the Clash hits that would become pop-culture references, “My Sharona,” and “Rock The Casbah,” but I didn’t know much else from that band or their genre.
Cut to: Last night. I was watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix (“Valentines Day Massacre” to be exact) and I heard that all-too-familiar drumbeat. It was back. And I thought, naturally, that it was the Vitamin C song (since, again, I did not have the reference point of the song from which the music was sampled) until I noticed that the vocals were not matching up with what I had been expecting. Since Grey’s is a very music-heavy show (all of the episodes are named after song titles that fit the theme of the episode but which are not necessarily featured) there are plenty of resources in which you can locate songs by scene descriptions. Turns out, the song which I’d been latching on to for months was a total surprise.
Final Verdict: The song I had been playing in my head was Vitamin C’s “Fear of Flying.” That song in fact samples nearly all of its music from The Clash’s “Magnificent Seven.” Ergo, that Tonight Show interstitial as played by the roots was actually them jamming out to some Clash instead of forgettable pop entity from the turn of the millennium.
And that musical journey is why I am recommending to you a website and mobile app called WhoSampled. It is a remarkable database that gives you any and all samples and musical references contained within a song. Myself, I have what feels like a musical venus fly trap of a brain; I absorb melodies, flourishes, basslines, guitar licks, et al. but my mental cataloging skills are often not adequate enough to file away all of the information that’s going in. I have a much more visual type of memory in that musical notes can trigger scenes in my head, which then may trigger pertinent information about that musical cue, but not always. WhoSampled, therefore, is essentially my new god. I now have the visual spiderweb database I’ve needed for a long time, and I’m really hoping that my sharing what I’ve found can help someone else out there who also has a hard time cataloging all of the music in their heads.
Visit the website – – – Download the iPhone app for $2.99 (worth it.)
If you’re interested in the aforementioned music:
Vitamin C’s “Fear of Flying”
The Clash’s “Magnificent Seven” from whence much of the music came: