Did One Direction Rip Off The Clash?

New single "borrows" guitar riff from "Should I Stay Or Should I Go".

Ultimate Guitar

While we wouldn't expect that many Ultimate-Guitar readers would have actively sought out "Live While We'Re Young", the new single from boy band One Direction, those that have heard it might have noted a distinct similarity between its introduction and a certain early eighties punk-rock classic. The track uses a guitar riff that is almost identical to the one prominently featured in "Should I Stay Or Should I Go", from The Clash's 1982 album "Combat Rock".

And, as NME notes, a number of Clash fans have already taken to the Twitter to voice their complaints:

Writing on the social networking site, @joe_ridley said: "One direction stealing the start to 'should I stay or should I go the clash' little sh-ts!" while @Guywoodgate1989 fumed: "I hope One Direction are paying royalties to The Clash for that crap rip off of Should I Stay Or Go opening riff." @GavanCasey, meanwhile, quipped: "One Direction's new song sounds like what I imagine Satan's tribute to The Clash would sound like, but slightly more melodic."

Of course, it's not the first time that a pop band has been accused of recycling the riff of another act. Bands have been sampling the music of other bands and reworking their material into different songs for a number of years. The Who's "I Can't Explain", for example, was reportedly created after a failed attempt by guitarist Pete Townshend to mimic the chords from The Kinks' "All Day And All Of The Night", with Townshend even going on to state that the song "can't be beat for straightforward Kink copying."

But does this apparent act of pop music plagiarism by One Direction take things too far? Should the band be paying royalties to Strummer, Jones et al (given One Direction's reported earnings of $100 million in the past two years, they could certainly afford to)? Or is the repetition of the iconic riff just an inevitability in the current music age?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments:

One Direction

YouTube preview picture

The Clash

YouTube preview picture

47 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Copy or not, coincidence or not. Now the Clash would somehow be associated with One Direction. GODDAMMIT, WHY??!!
    Heres where musically oblivious 8th grader comes in "The Clash" "OMG THEY RIPPED OFF ONE DIRECTION!" Also wanna bet that 80% of OD's fans won't know who the clash are?
    They're similar, but who cares? It happens all the time. The better question is how anyone could listen to that One Direction song.
    Well i doubt they wrote it. their first single sounds like summer nights on grease. Listen to the guitar at the beginning.
    I listened to one direction for less than a minute and it was enough to give me cancer.
    blur - song 2 > Big time rush - windows down
    They played song 2 at a baseball game I was at last week, and the ten year old girl sitting behind me said,"Hey Mom, thats the song from big time rush". I was dying to turn around and correct her, but I facepalmed instead.
    Ever notice when a band you like does something like this, they're "inspired" from that artist. But the second a pop act or some band you dislike does anything remotely close to it, it's labelled a "rip-off" and the accused band is dn near tarred and feathered.
    Why is a website called UltimateGuitar.com posting One Direction videos?
    Joe Strummer is probably spinning at over 10000rpm in his grave right now, screw One Direction.
    these faggs just need to go blow their brains out and do us a huge favor. we can all dream.
    'POP SINGER/GROUP RIP OFF CLASSIC ROCK SONG' Oh look, this article again. I don't care about the artist sampling or stealing the riff. What I do care about is the amount of 13 year olds who will think that 1D wrote this riff. 'Ew, these guys ripped off One Direction. Why can't they write their own music?' That is the only problem I have with talentless pop acts today
    Well at least they're not stealing from obscure, smaller artists like Jimmy Page did. And to be fair, it appears that Rami Yacoub, Carl Falk, and Savan Kotecha did have the audacity to make it slightly different in order to avoid a lawsuit.
    Proves that modern groups can't song write. Why do they have awesome bands that aren't recognized. BUT HAVE THESE AWFUL RIP OFF ARTISTS THAT ARE THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING?
    They ripped off bands and made people like em' so that they start ripping off more and more bands and fans would protect them. But They ARE FRAUDS COMPLETE FAGGETY ANNS
    there's enough of a difference that it shouldn't be bothered (this coming from a musical analysist thought process). and even if it is "stealing", as long as their record company filed the correct paperwork with the copyright offices over in england (or where ever the copyright information for the clash is held, there is no problem (from a legality perspective). but notaconotaco hit it on the head, who cares? sooner or later, you're going to hear riffs like "come as you are" or "holiday in cambodai" sampled and used in popular recordings. rhianna has sampled michael jackson, "crazy train" has been sampled, "u can't touch this" is "super freak", "ice, ice baby" is "under preassure", and emminem sampled "dream on". there will certainly be more respect for certain artists over others, but as long as the right legal documentation is filed, all people can do is be pissed that there favorite riffs are being used by pop artists that they hate.
    There is a DEFINITE difference between sampling a riff, and stealing a riff. When you sample you are splicing in the original artist's recording as a quote, the goal not being to pass it off as your own. When you steal a riff, you're re-recording it in order to pass it off as your own. Not that it's necessarily a crime though because everyone does it whether its intentional or not.
    A 'sample' and a 're-creation' aren't the same thing. A few of the songs you mentioned re-created the source material; usually, when that happens, it's either a) to avoid paying royalties by only being required to pay licensing fees, or b) an attempt to pass of the material as their own creation, only changing stance once a lawsuit has been filed. A few of the songs you mentioned were done legally, and a few others weren't, resulting in lawsuits and out-of-court settlements.
    They both have one thing in common, both of the lyrics for each of these songs are completely garbage.
    I never even thought they had any talent. So this isn't that surprising because it's the only way they can 'make' music.