Dissatisfaction – God of the Machine
Dec 142003

I tire of having to straighten everybody out on everything, but really, all these intelligent bloggers discussing great covers and not one mention of Devo’s (Can’t Get No) Satisfaction? Satisfaction never truly belonged to the Rolling Stones anyway. The Who might have made it their own but never the Stones, who were too smug and well-adjusted for a song so damp and anxious. The famous Keef guitar lick, great as it is, could just as well have shown up in Jumpin’ Jack Flash or Street Fighting Man, it doesn’t fit the lyrics at all. Truth now, Mick: did some girl you were trying to make ever tell you to come back baby later next week? Devo grasps the meaning of “He can’t be a man ’cause he does not smoke the same cigarettes as me.”

(Update: Props to Jeff Taylor, who lists Satisfaction in his top five. David Fiore comments, and posts a more interesting list than any I linked in the first place. The Warrior Monk plumps for the Otis Redding version.)

(More: Ian Hamet, George Wallace, Rick Coencas — yes, it’s godofthemachine.com, where the fun never stops!)

  14 Responses to “Dissatisfaction”

  1. You should hear Cat Power’s version of Satisfaction. Astounding. She completely reinvents the song.

  2. It’s all about Bjork’s cover of "Leaving On A Jet Plane."

  3. One of my favorite all-time covers is "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" by the Breeders.

  4. "Wish You Were Here" by the Grateful Dead.

  5. Jeff tells truth!

    I also nominated the splendid Breeders version of "Happiness…" (along with Sleater-Kinney’s "More than A Feeling" & a few other choice "do-overs") here.


  6. Oh, here’s a great one — Japanese girl band Shonen Knife doing The Carpenters’ "Top of the World."

  7. Dramarama’s cover of the Stones’ "Memo from Turner."

    They always picked the most obscure songs to cover.

  8. It’s time we laid out the criteria for a great cover.

    One, it must be better than the original. Different does not suffice. Wish You Were Here covers are eliminated prima facie, Wish You Were Here being the greatest rock song ever written.

    Two, the song must be great to begin with. You cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Shonen Knife’s Top of the World is out.

    Finally, and almost ineffably, the cover must be inevitable. It must strike the listener as the way the song should have been done in the first place. The Breeders’ Happiness Is a Warm Gun may still qualify, but as I haven’t heard it, I cannot say.

  9. Trust me Aaron, it does!

    I wrote elsewhere that the Breeders’ HIAWG is the finished portrait based on the Beatles’ brilliant sketch. Sounds like what you’re calling for, no?


  10. It does rather. But too many items on too many lists smacked of street cred. I suspect anyone who recommends Shonen Knife covering the Carpenters of liking the idea of the song more than the song itself. In fact I suspect Shonen Knife felt the same way.

  11. I think you’re right–and I think I was guilty of something like what you’re talking about when I nominated Peter Parker’s cover of "Wannabe" on my blog yesterday–it’s a striking thing to hear, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a stupid song in the first place, and the cover version (precisely because it’s the work of a very smart band) just explores some of the dimensions of that stupidity that might not otherwise have been evident…

    But the Breeders’ cover is the real deal–and so, I submit, is the Ramones’ "Needles and Pins".


  12. Aaron is almost right. "Wish You Were Here" is only, however, the second greatest rock song ever, after "Won’t Get Fool Again". And yes, if the cover has to be better than the original, then he is correct that this cover is excluded.

    With these new criteria I can think of two:

    Hendrix’s "Watchtower" and, if taking a song from a musical is acceptable, then Bobby Darren’s "Mack the Knife".

    The inevitability prong of the test may not be met with "Mack" because the coupling of the upbeat tune and gruesome lyrics is anything but inevitable.

  13. How about a cover of an entire album? Camper van Beethoven did an amazing job w/ Tusk. In fact, I never liked Fleetwood Mac’s music, but the CVB version of the album has been in my CD rotation for months. Could just be my preference for gypsy fiddles.

  14. Favorite cover: Beatles Shout

    Though the anti-cover, the cover that deconstructs the original such as Aztec Camera’s Jump has its amusement value.

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