There is no artifice here, no hidden tricks up my sleeve. I was listening to The Rolling Stones’ original in the car earlier, and was struck – as ever – by what an articulate, totally rockin’, protest song it is. Indeed, their version is as good as the first versions I ever heard (by Devo and The Residents) and, round these quarters, this is no small praise. No, indeed. The song never sounds tired, always fresh – and always relevant. I have never held Jagger in much regard but have to confess that if he wrote the lyrics for this then he is indeed quite the lyricist. Great performance, too. I think I might have been marginally put off the original by the Otis Redding version (which I would listen to in the 1980s). I no longer believe it to be superior: it feels too rushed, throwaway. Like someone had suggested to him it would be a good song to cover and so he covered it, but never quite understood why.
One of my favourite New York PR firms is named for this song. Girlie Action.
Any accompanying words are taken from a column I wrote for Melbourne paper The Age in 2000 or thereabouts:
1) THE RESIDENTS
Late 70s cover from this strangest of strange American bands. A voice whispers hoarsely over a tuneless refrain that manages to be simultaneously terrifying and unnerving. Not for the faint-hearted.
2) OTIS REDDING
The soul man stutters. Stutters some more. Stutters again. And then the horn section comes crashing in. Glorious.
3) THE ROLLING STONES
It’s almost inconceivable now to imagine the Stones could sound this so sexual, so swaggering, so driven. Quite what Jagger was going on about, though, as he lisped “I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried”, we’ve never managed to work out. (Yeah, we know. It’s a protest song against consumerism.)
Some critics believe singer Chan Marshall to be possessed by spirits, ghost voices from her deep Southern past.
5) BRITNEY SPEARS
The antithesis of sex. Contrasting Britney to Mick is like saying Debbie Gibson was the new Sam Cooke.
Masturbatory ode for the Blank Generation kids. Be-suited New Wavers Devo took the jerky quirkiness of the original to its logical extreme.
7) BLUE CHEER
Grunge, he wrote.
8) TALULAH GOSH
A personal favourite. Not strictly a cover, I guess.
9) BJORK & PJ HARVEY
10) ARETHA FRANKLIN
Soul music belted out with the passion of a Force 9 gale.
No, wait. That Britney Spears one ain’t really all that.
12) ACID DRINKERS
13) MARY WELLS
15) THE ASSEMBLAGE