Saturday, August 21, 2010

7 (Very Different) Versions of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

1965 saw Lyndon Johnson sworn in as President, the funeral of great British wartime leader Winston Churchill, a new flag for Canada (the current design), and the premiere of The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Tom and Jerry, and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

1965... yaaayy...

None of these things, however, may be as important as the release of the Rolling Stones' opus, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"... well, maybe Charlie Brown, but that's a big maybe. Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger said of the song, "It was the song that really made The Rolling Stones, changed us from just another band into a huge, monster band." The song hit #1 in the US and UK, and ironically enough, Rolling Stone magazine named it the second best song of all time, trailing only, also ironic, Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." I was going to make a "rolling stone gathers no moss" joke, but I couldn't think of anything worthwhile, so let's drop it.

With success comes praise, and what flattery is better than knowing that other bands think highly enough of your song to want to play it themselves? Well, a number of cover versions have been performed, and from what I've heard, no two are the same. Here are the seven most interesting covers of "Satisfaction" that I have heard (and here is the original song as a reference point):

1. The Residents

One way to describe this version is "noise." Another is "crap." It sounds like a detuned orchestra of shabbily-produced kazoos, a thousand about-to-be murder victims simultaneously begging for mercy, and the grinding of bones for a giant's bread. On the plus side, this video is absolutely ridiculous: as one commenter asks, "why hasn't this gone viral yet?!!!" If you can't bear the entire video, either mute it or skip to 3:44. You're welcome.

2. Devo
(watch the music video on YouTube, I can't embed it here.)

Now, I would not go as far as to call this version "bad," because it really isn't: it's interesting. It's barely recognizable as "Satisfaction" until Mark Mothersbaugh monotonously chants "I can't get no" for the first time. It's the kind of weirdness you would expect if you're familiar with Devo's work, and if you like Devo, you'll probably enjoy this cover (released as a single in 1977).

3. Aretha Franklin

You can't go wrong with anything from one of the queens of soul, and Aretha's smooth voice works nicely with the song. An impressive cover, although Aretha grabs the song by the horns and muscles it into submission, almost convincing you that it was her song since the beginning.

4. Paul Revere & The Raiders

There's not much to say about this rendition: Sounds like a better-than-average company picnic cover band recreating the original with a fair amount of adeptness. I just figured I should include a cover that sounds at least a bit like the original.

5. Cat Power

I listened to this version for the first time at the writing of this post, and it's already one of the covers I enjoy the most. Cat Power simplifies the tune finely, stripping it down to just voice and guitar (which I would assume explains the clothes on the album cover). Cat Power does to this song what U2's The Edge did to "Sunday Bloody Sunday" during the Popmart tour.

6. ugh... Brittany Spears (yep, not gonna bold her name)

I tried to listen to it, I really did: too many lalalas in the first 12 seconds for me to bear. Brittany dismantles the song and turns it into a drunken lounge performance... until about 42 seconds in, when... oops, it picks up and she does it again.

7. Blue Cheer

...and I saved my favorite version of the song for last. Not my favorite cover, my favorite recording of the song, period. The original is excellent, but I prefer a psychedelic sound and energetic feel, and Blue Cheer translates the song into that mood excellently, using loud-quiet dynamics, fuzzy guitars, and according to a YouTube commenter, "somebody laughing and singing and double tracked guitar solos with feedback and fuzz with drums playing faster and faster."

Which cover do you think reigns supreme? Did I miss any good versions of the song? As always, let me know.

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