Covers. When done tastefully, honestly, and appropriately, they can have lasting impressions and pay great respect to the original tune. It’s hard to really cover a song and make it fresh without upsetting at least one over-cautious listener, let alone the original performer/songwriter. And I’m talking about really recreating a song, not just karaoke-ing it up on YouTube. Cover songs that I have thoroughly enjoyed in recent years include the late Johnny Cash’s 2002 rendition of Trent Reznor’s (Nine Inch Nails) “Hurt“, Peter Gabriel’s 2010 take on Bon Iver’s “Flume”, and almost everything on Paul Anka’s Rock Swings (2005) and Classic Songs: My Way (2007) albums.
The DEVO cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (The Rolling Stones) is one such amazing cover. I’d hope that you have heard it at some point in your life, but in a discussion with a co-worker the other day, it became apparent that, some people haven’t. The cover was released as a single in 1977 along with the song “Sloppy (I Say My Baby Gettin’)” and features vocal and musical styles so different from the original that a second listen is required just to make sure it’s actually the same song. Mothersbaugh(s) and Co. really did their homework when stripping apart the song and re-packaging it DEVO-style, featuring atypical timing and beat-emphasis, a funky bass/guitar groove, and that stop-motion, robotic. spazzy-style the band has mastered. It’s really a completely different song that honors an already great song. Also, you don’t have to lose points by saying it’s better than the original, both are excellent.