Following in the wake of Beach House getting ripped off in a television ad for Volkswagen and the John Butler Trio settling with Oikos Yoghurt over the theft of a riff; a tune with a striking resemblance to ‘My Pal’ from 80s cult Melbourne band GOD has appeared in the latest Mercedes-Benz advertising campaign.
Comprising Joel Silbersher, Tim Hemensley, Sean Greenway and Matthew Whittle, GOD and their seminal track ‘My Pal’ has become legendary in the Melbourne live music community and is frequently named the official anthem for the city.
Recorded in 1987 by a group of teenagers in Abbotsford, the song also shares a strong association with Melbourne rock institution The Tote – where it was last played in 2010 when the venue was set to close as an emotional and extremely rare rendition with singer and guitarist Joel Silbersher.
But some super sleuths over at FasterLouder have noticed that a series of advertisements promoting the new $70,000 Mercedes-Benz car have a backing track that mimics the well known guitar track from ‘My Pal’, and even the drumming is strangely familiar.
GOD released ‘My Pal’ as their debut 7″ in 1987 on the Au Go Go label where it got very favourable reviews and sold in the thousands, which was no doubt headspinning at the time for a group of fifteen and sixteen years olds.
Since then the track is considered an Australian claassic and has been covered by several bands, including Magic Dirt, Peabody, The Hollowmen, Bored!, and Violent Soho to name just a few.
[do action=”pullquote”]”That explains why I’ve seen Joel driving around in a convertible Merc coupe”[/do]
But the music didn’t last forever, and by 1989 the teenage friends had gone their separate ways, adding fuel to the fire of the folklore surrounding the band. Greenway has since died of a heroin overdose 2001, while Hemensley died of a heroin overdose in 2003.
Remaining members Silbersher and bassist Matty White were unavailable for comment on whether the song was officially licensed, as it has been in the past on television for shows as diverse as Underbelly and the Julian Assange tele-movie.
Former Au Go Go Records boss Bruce Milne told FasterLouder last night that he didn’t know whether the track was officially licensed to the German car manufacture, although joked that it would explain “why I’ve seen Joel driving around in a convertible Merc coupe.”
It isn’t the first time either that the song is alleged to have been misused in a commercial advertisement. A television spot for rival car manufacturer Mitsubishi in 2010 also used a backing track that sounded a lot like ‘My Pal’.
If the track wasn’t officially licensed, then the remaining members of the group and Universal Music Publishing could be heading for a big pay day. When Canberra band Tonk discovered a US sitcom had used one of their songs without permission in the show they were paid out a ‘large’ sum of money.
Another Australian band, Men At Work, found out the hard way recently about copyright infringement when a judge ordered the band pay 5% of earning plus royalties stretching back to 2002 for ripping off the melody from ’Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree’.
You can have a listen to GOD perform ‘My Pal’ below, and compare it to the Mercedes-Benz commercial.