Is ‘Spirit of Radio’ Riff a Hyper Version of ‘Sweet Jane’ Riff?

Maybe, but it’s a stretch.

Music critic Rob Sheffield has written an aw shucks kind of essay about how Rush isn’t so bad after all. bright In his August 6 Salon piece, the Rolling Stone writer says as a teenager he wore his dislike for Rush as a badge of honor in the same way Rush fans wore their loyalty to the band as a badge of honor. The essay is an excerpt from Sheffield’s book, Turn Around Bright Eyes.

He dates his detente with the band to 2010, when Beyond the Lighted Stage came out. The documentary humanized Alex, Geddy, and Neil and he started to view them with slightly different eyes. He still doesn’t care for them, he says, just as most people still really don’t care for them, but he gets them a little better and he looks upon the hold Rush has on its fans as quaint.

The essay to me is a little smarmy, but Sheffield does make an interesting observation at the end about how the main riff in “The Spirit of Radio” sounds a lot like the main riff of “Sweet Jane” by Lou Reed. That piqued my interest, so I listened to the two riffs side by side and indeed there is a similarity between them, although it’s rough. Maybe you can say the main “Spirit of Radio” riff is a speeded-up version of the repeating chord sequence in “Sweet Jane,” at least for a few seconds. But I still think it’s a stretch.

Reed wrote “Sweet Jane” in 1970 when he was withThe Velvet Underground and he still performs the song as a solo act, although he tends to play a harder-rock version of it now.

You can hear the two riffs side-by-side in the 40-second video I made above.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault

What makes Alex’s playing unique? You decide!

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~ by rvkeeper on August 10, 2013.

2 Responses to “Is ‘Spirit of Radio’ Riff a Hyper Version of ‘Sweet Jane’ Riff?”

  1. In music there are 12 notes that repeat-A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#. There are an infinite way to arrange those notes in different tempos, different volumes, different lyrics and layering of instrumentation and vocals. Many songs have the same chord progressions or even parts of the same riffs, one band, Axis of Awesome, proved that 50 songs had the same basic chord progression http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I. The fact that a riff in “Sweet Jane” may sound like a riff in “The Spirit of Radio” is probably just a coincidence. It is amazing how many unique riffs and sounds that Rush has written over the years. Thank you Rush for keeping us fans interested!!

    • That’s a great point. You can find similar-sounding riffs all day, and I think we just have a coincidence here between “Sweet Jane” and “The Spirit of Radio.”

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