Spiritualized Album Delayed Over Elvis Song Controversy

Even from the grave, the King rules his dominion with an iron (if not cream-filled) fist.

One of the songwriters of the Presley hit "Can't Help Falling in Love," George David Weiss, delayed the release of the new Spiritualized album, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, when he denied use of his lyrics at the end of the title track.

The Spiritualized tune, which features narcotic backing from the London Gospel Community Choir on a slowly-evolving space symphony that makes use of the "Wise men say/ Only fools rush in" portion of the song, was recently re-recorded by band leader Jason Pierce, which caused a two-week delay in the album's release, originally scheduled for June 17. The album will now hit shelves on July 1.

A source at the group's U.S. label, Arista, told ATN that the Presley estate objected to the use of the lick because, "the estate doesn't allow the use of Presley lyrics in other compositions... ever." Britain's New Musical Express reported that the estate objected to the use of the phrase (originally coined by 18th-century poet Alexander Pope) "on the grounds that it had been incorporated into an original Spiritualized song and therefore infringed publishing rights."

To diffuse the situation, Pierce entered a London studio and re-recorded the offending portion of the song to excise the Presley reference.

Danna Yarmowitch, Licensing Account Manager for the Presley estate, who was not familiar with the Spiritualized song, said that "if the song title or words are directly associated with the singer, then you need to get clearance from the music publisher and the estate. There is not a blanket ban on licensing and sampling of Elvis Presley material. It is decided on a case-by-case basis because every song has different ownership."

For his part, Pierce said he prefers the new version to the old one. "I asked the songwriter if I could use it and he wouldn't give permission, even though I brought the choir in and used it in what I thought was a very reverential way," Pierce said. "I had to change the song so little to get rid of that part. I just put the lyrics in a different tune and I think it's better now as a result."

Pierce, eager to put the episode behind him and concentrate on the music again, said he was especially disillusioned by the denial because, "if I had done a cover of the song in some ridiculous manner, like Julio Iglesias, they couldn't do anything about it. I only chose that song because it half-fit over my composition. I thought it sounded cool how my music sort of melted into that music."

A representative for Williamson Music, the company that represents Weiss, was unavailable for comment.