Did Guns N’ Roses Steal ‘Patience’ From Tesla?

posted at 1:35 pm on November 21, 2010 by Matt Lewis

Appearing last week on VH1 Classic’s, “That Metal Show” (yes, watching that is what I do with my free time), Tesla guitarist Frank Hannon alleged that Guns N’ Roses’ famous acoustic ballad “Patience” was stolen from his band.

The accusation came during a debate over whether or not “Patience” was a better acoustic “hard rock” song than Tesla’s “Signs.”  (Some nerds debate the nuances of “Superman” or “Star Wars”; others of us argue about 80s “hair” bands! — don’t judge…).

When co-host Eddie Trunk dared to say G-N-R’s “Patience” was better, because, unlike “Signs,” which was a cover, “‘Patience’ is an original song,” Tesla’s Hannon responded, saying:

Frank Hannon: “Let me tell you something: “Patience”, we were label mates with Gun ‘n Roses on Geffen, there’s a demo of a song that we wrote called “Better Off Without You”. It is “Patience” note for note.”

Audience: “WOOOOAHHH.”

Eddie Trunk: “Sue their asses”

Don Jamieson: “Breaking news on “That Metal Show””

Jim Florentine: “And I got something else, he whistled on the song dude. You don’t whistle on a song, you sing a song.”

(This entire debate, of course, is absurd, considering everyone knows Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” is the best 80s acoustic ballad…)

… Later in the segment, Hannon said he wasn’t sure if the song had been stolen directly by G-N-R — by their management — or by Geffen.  (G-N-R rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin is credited as the primary writer of “Patience”).

Posting on a Tesla fan forum after the appearance, Hannon seemed to backtrack, writing:

The demo of “better off without you” i was talking about is an acoustic guitar version we did live at the oasis ballroom in 1985 that Geffen Records had on a ‘live’ cassette tape of a show we played. They did make some copies of it with labels on them and handed them out to people before we made our first album. If anyone can find one that would be awesome. I was not talking about the piano version that’s floating around on a bootleg.

ALSO FOR THE RECORD: “Better off without you” is a song in “D” and it does the “D/F# to G chord change in it. This is also the same type of change that G~n~R used at the end of patience, and also the same change that John Lennon uses in “Imagine” …I do not seriously feel that we wrote “Patience” in ANY WAY.

The song “Patience” is a great song that they wrote themselves, and it is only the end part that has any similar part to the guitar chords we used. I apologize for any controversy or dis-respect I may have projected in my joking around with eddie trunk about this.

My thoughts?

I don’t know which acoustic “hard rock” song is superior, but G-N-R is clearly the more significant band of the era.  Tesla was a solid 80s rock band, but G-N-R’s debut album, “Appetite for Destruction” is iconic (“Patience” is actually from their second album, perhaps ironically titled, “G ‘N R Lies”).

I haven’t heard the “Better off Without You” demo, so it’s impossible to say whether or not “Patience” is, in fact, a rip-off.

It’s also true that artists can inadvertently rip-off material they don’t remember they ever heard.

What is more, it’s entirely possible for two artists to “invent” the same song.   The opening to Jane’s Addiction’s “Superhero” (the theme to “Entourage”) is incredibly similar, for example, to a song I wrote back in the 90s called “Give Way,” but I won’t be making any serious allegations until I can get on VH1 Classic …

In any event, I think this G-N-R vs. Tesla dispute needs to be settled the old fashioned way.

Battle of the bands, anyone???

Note: I’ll be guest blogging at HotAir these next few days.  Check out my Politics Daily column, my blog at MattLewis.org, and follow me on Twitter.

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Comment pages: 1 2

I despised soft rock during the 80′s, wouldn’t listen to anything softer than Metallica.

Nowadays I’m quite appreciative of the over-produced 80′s big hair rock. Whitesnake circa 1987 sounds pretty darn good to me at the minute. In fact David Coverdale is just a awesome all round singer, I prefer his earlier stuff though. Fool For Your Loving was a classic song, rough and ready sound, love it.

But nothing beats Ian Gillan’s Deep Purple.

Sharke on November 22, 2010 at 3:48 AM

Why is this on the main page? (rhetorical question)

aengus on November 22, 2010 at 6:32 AM

is it bad that when I read the headline, I was left wondering, “Whoa, wait, in addition to inventing Alternating Current, Tesla wrote music that was a hundred years ahead of its time?”

The_Livewire on November 22, 2010 at 6:50 AM

Led Zeppelin ripped off Stairway to Heaven directly from Spirit from a Spirit song called Taurus.

Just stirring the pot.

dthorny on November 22, 2010 at 7:17 AM

Best band of all time?
The Rolling Stones.

Emperor Norton on November 21, 2010 at 2:35 PM

The Beatles, by far.

Name ANYTHING memorable by the Stones in the past 20 years?

An annual tour by five barely walking cadavers does not constitute the best band.

dthorny on November 22, 2010 at 7:22 AM

I despised soft rock during the 80′s, wouldn’t listen to anything softer than Metallica.

Nowadays I’m quite appreciative of the over-produced 80′s big hair rock. Whitesnake circa 1987 sounds pretty darn good to me at the minute. In fact David Coverdale is just a awesome all round singer, I prefer his earlier stuff though. Fool For Your Loving was a classic song, rough and ready sound, love it.

But nothing beats Ian Gillan’s Deep Purple.

Sharke on November 22, 2010 at 3:48 AM

Metallica hasn’t put out anything good since the black album. Must be the hair cuts that did them in.

mizflame98 on November 22, 2010 at 7:42 AM

The best hard rock/metal band evah…Jethro Tull. Screw the 80s hair bands. Bwahahahahahahaha!

mizflame98 on November 22, 2010 at 7:47 AM

The Beatles, by far.

dthorny on November 22, 2010 at 7:22 AM

So overplayed following Lennon’s death that I don’t ever want to hear them again.

So This Is Christmas is the worst holiday song ever.

George Harrison went on to solo and was in the Traveling Wilburys. He was underrated.

John Deaux on November 22, 2010 at 8:30 AM

oh big fucking deal. bunch of retard rock stars…. get a fucking job!

NRA Lifer on November 22, 2010 at 9:02 AM

Why am I even reading this?

abcurtis on November 22, 2010 at 9:44 AM

AC/DC stole “Highway to Hell” from Thomas Edison.

leereyno on November 22, 2010 at 10:10 AM

Comment pages: 1 2