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Who Does Jens Lekman Like?

August 31st, 2008 · 4 Comments

jens lekman

 
The following are songs that Jens Lekman has sampled or interpolated…

Van Dyke Parks – Steelband Music (used in Happy Birthday Dear Friend Lisa)

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Arab Strap – Kate Moss

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The Shangri-Las – Remember (Walking in the sand) (interpolated in A Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill)

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Martha Reeves & The Vandell’s – (Love is Like) a Heatwave (interpolated in A Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill)

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Television Personalities – Someone to Share My Life With (covered by Lekman, Someone to Share My Life With)

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Beat Happening – Gravedigger Blues (sampled in Pocketful of Money)

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Belle & Sebastian – Mary Jo

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Left Banke – I’ve Got Something On My Mind (from Black Cab)

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Mamas and the Papas – Do You Wanna Dance? (from Maple Leaves, also used by The Avalanches in Since I Left You)

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The Left Banke – Walk Away Renee (strings used in Maple Leaves)

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Blueboy – So Catch Him (used in A Higher Power, which itself is named after a song by Jonathan Richman)

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Jerry Goldsmith – Theme from Sandpebbles

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The Tough Alliance – Take No Heroes

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Gal Costa – Baby (used in Do You Remember the Riots – orchestral version)

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Others

Willie Rosario – By the Time I get to Phoenix
Patrick Mkwamba & the Four Brothers – Dai Ndiri Shiri
Renaldo and the Loaf – Hamba Hadu
There’s a guitar line in I Saw Her in the Anti-War Demonstration that sounds very similar to The Byrds Mr. Tambourine Man, AND The Beatles What You’re Doing, but I don’t think either one is really a sample, they’re just very very similar sounding.

Lekman’s music has intrigued me ever since I heard Pocketful of Money, which samples Calvin Johnson’s baritone in a way that seemed to defy logic. Even though it’s a sample, there is an intimacy between the two male voices that gives the impression the two were recording together in the wee hours of the morning. And yet they were recorded more than a decade apart. Johnson’s vocals don’t come in until halfway through the song, but when they hit, they hit deep. It’s erotic in a way that—I’m pretty sure—Johnson never intended. But that! That is the beauty of Lekman’s sampling technique. I felt compelled to write this post because apparently, Lekman has had consistent trouble clearing rights for his music.

The following was posted on his website:

“Sample laws. Can anyone come up with something more retarded ? Here’s my philosophy: If I sample something that is in any way recognisable, I think it’s fair to ask for permission, credit the source and pay them a percentage of my record sales. But I can’t do that because when you clear a sample you have to pay for 100,000 to a million copies in advance. Clearing the samples for my new record has been estimated to cost at least $400,000. I would be in debt for the rest of my life. So I’m left with two options: risking it or replacing them…

The message from the court is plain and simple: ‘Get a license or do not sample. We do not see this as stifling creativity in any significant way.’ [ed. note: this is a verbatim quote] This was back in 2005, when Bridgeport Music Inc. managed to eliminate the de minimis doctrine. Since then I’ve heard rumours of software being developed with the sole purpose of identifying samples, no matter how small, hidden or unidentifiable. There’s money to be made by suing artists and Bridgeport and others have made it their business. So I don’t know about risking it.

Replacing them is also out of the question. The beauty of the collage technique is that you’re using sounds that have never met and were never supposed to meet. You introduce them to each other, at first they’re a bit shy, clumsy, staring at their shoes. But you can sense there’s something there. So you cut and paste a little bit and by the end of the song you can spot them in the corner, holding hands. The magic is in the mistakes, the scratches and dust from the vinylrecord, the echo from something that happened a few bars ago and most importantly the new context in which they are placed.

I hate to say it but most of all I’m upset with my record label Secretly Canadian. It was two weeks ago now that they said “Hey, we just had a meeting and decided that you’re gonna have to remove all the samples”. I love those guys and I’ve really enjoyed working with them and want to continue doing so. I also understand their concern. But they come up with this NOW ? When the record is already finished ?

I’m scared this record would become my own Chinese Democracy, eternally delayed or never released. So I’m gonna take a little while to figure this out and if I can’t find a solution I’ll just put the songs up here and move on. I have a lot of stuff to do cause when I was a teenager I went to a fortune teller who told me I would die young.”

Pocketful of Money is like the poster child for the legalization of samples. But on the other hand, Puffy’s sampling of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir in Come With Me is the antithesis. That is to say: unimaginative, obvious and unabashedly derivative. And yet, Puffy’s is the legal one. Mostly because he has a fatcat record label to back him up. Lekman is unfair to accuse Secretly Canadian, who doesn’t have the hundreds of thousands of dollars handy that it would take to clear this record. But imagine how great this record could’ve been, had Lekman been on Bad Boy records. This is also the likely reason that there are many Jens Lekman unreleased singles floating around. Have you heard the song that samples Paul Simon?

It’s sad to think that some of these songs almost didn’t happen. This post certainly does not contain all of the songs that Lekman has sampled, but it’s a start. Please chime in you’ve got some that aren’t on this list. Or, maybe it’s best if you don’t.

PS. On a final note, I’ve been desperately trying to ID a sample in one of Lekman’s songs. It’s from an earlier version of Someone to Share My Life With, and the sample comes within the first 10 seconds. It sounds like a cross between Prince and Boys II Men, but I don’t think it’s either. It’s a male harmony, and they sing, All I need now is a good woman. Following this is a beautiful aria from another unidentifiable source. Have a listen…

Jens Lekman – Someone to Share My Life With

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Update: 10/26/10

So, a major music sampling mystery has been solved. OK, major to me. I don’t think anyone else was too mystified by this. On a rare single by Jens Lekman, there is a sample that I hypothesized to be Boys II Men or Prince. It was neither. It was Ray Coniff. The sharp-eared Robyn York picked out the harmony, but refused to divulge the source of her knowledge. After holding her in a headlock for many hours, she conceded. Apparently, she was a Ray Conniff fan as a youth, and was deeply familiar with all his songs, esp. Rhinestone Cowboy. First the sampling song, then the sampled.

Jens Lekman – Someone to Share My Life With

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Ray Conniff – Rhinestone Cowboy

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If you’re interested in pinpointing the sample, here’s how. The chorus, “All I need now is to find myself a good woman,” drops in at about the 2 min 58 sec mark. This chorus is sampled in the Jens Lekman song right off the bat, and also returns later in the song.

Tags: Essays & Articles

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Percy // Sep 9, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I am the son of Patrick Mukwamba, quoted in your post. I am desperately looking for my fathers recordings in electronic format. At the time the songs/ albums were released they were only on vinyl. Can you help?

  • 2 Hey Buddy! // Sep 30, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    One more for the list: the cello break in “Higher Power” is from Smog’s “One Less Star.” :)

  • 3 Jon Coombs // Oct 26, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Hi Percy,

    I work for Jens Lekman and would love to talk to you. Please email me at jcoombs (at) secretlycanadian (dot) com

    I look forward to hearing from you!
    Jon

  • 4 Cut Bait // Oct 26, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    [...] Oh, I updated the Jens page. [...]

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