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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