One of Neil Young’s first musical endeavors came in the form of a Winnepeg high-school garage rock band he fronted, dubbed The Squires. Releasing only one single in 1963 (when Young was 17), “The Sultan”, nothing much came of the them. Word has it some future Young originals were written during the time of the band’s existence, but the band was short-lived. Their sole single, “The Sultan” was a purely instrumental 45″, save for some unknown voice speaking “Aurora!” at the end of “Aurora,” the second of the two tracks. The record is a mix of drugged out, crash-washed, psychedelic, surf-rock, which doesn’t sound anything like the Neil we know today. You’d never guess it was him without somebody telling you. But the lead guitar line from the single’s title track sounds incredibly familiar, and not to anything Young later penned. No, I’m thinking of somebody else entirely . . .
Flash forward about 40 years to Arcade Fire’s Funeral. Skip to the record’s second track, “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)” and you’ll hear the exact same notes, with almost the same timing verbatim, sung by Regine’s accordion. But that’s not the extent of it, the underlying melody of the entire song is almost built upon this riff. The chanting, the Butlerian yelps, chimes, what have you.
It’s most-likely a mere coincidence, but maybe through an obsession with Young and some subconscious inkling towards the notes he had just heard after listening to The Squires’ “The Sultan” for the first time, Win Butler settled on a set of notes that he thought sounded great. You never do know.
Maybe a fluke of this sort says something about musical preference in the world of western rock music, a tendency towards certain sounds or melodic orders. Could it be that as a result of the various music we consume on a day to day basis, what we in turn spew out is almost predetermined to sound similar to those things we hear, even if we might not realize it? In keeping with this pathos melodic originality may not even exist. A scary thought, but it would explain all those lawsuits between artists like Coldplay and Joe Satriani.
Yeah . . . But, check it out for yourself below.
The only video on youtube which features “The Sultan” by the Squires
Arcade Fire “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)”