The Rock Cover Song

Culture, History, Politics

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About the Book

Cover songs operate as a form of cultural discourse across various musical genres and different societal, historical and political conditions. Case studies include a comparative analysis of Jimi Hendrix’s and Whitney Houston’s versions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as well as a mapping of the trajectory of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” from the original version by the Rolling Stones through cover versions by Otis Redding, Devo, and Britney Spears.
The radical deconstruction of pop and rock songs by the Residents and Laibach is also examined, with additional studies of cover songs by such as Van Halen, Kim Wilde, Rufus Harley, the Four Tops, Pat Boone and Johnny Cash.
Rather than questions of quality or how a cover song measures up as “better or worse” than other versions, this book focuses on the ideological implications and social stakes of the “same old songs” as they are reconfigured to consider, comment on and confront political issues of gender, sexuality, race, the nation-state and the generation gap.

About the Author(s)

Independent scholar Doyle Greene is the author of several books and serves on the editorial board of Film Criticism. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Bibliographic Details

Doyle Greene
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 216
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7809-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1507-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments vii

Preface 1

Introduction: The Song Doesn’t Remain the Same

• “Reading” through Listening 5

• Covering Cover Songs 7

Part One—Judging a Song by Its Cover

1. National Anthems: “The ­Star-Spangled Banner”• Jimi Hendrix (Woodstock, 1969) 16

• Whitney Houston (Super Bowl XXV, 1991) 22

2. The “Anti-Cover”: Punk and the ­Avant-Garde



• Sid Vicious: “My Way” (The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle, 1980) 29

• The Residents: The Third Reich and Roll (1976) 36

• Hardcore and the ­Anti-Cover 41

Part Two—Anatomy of a Cover: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”

3. “Satisfaction” and Rock: The Rolling Stones (Out of Our Heads, 1965)

• The ­Anti-Beatles 50

• “Satisfaction” as Manifesto 52

• Under My Thumb: Altamont and Rock Totalitarianism 56

4. “Satisfaction” and Soul: Otis Redding (Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul, 1965)

• Paint It Black: Race and Rock in the 1960s 59

• Soul Brands: Motown and Stax 61

• “Satisfaction” as Protest 64

5. “Satisfaction” and Punk: Devo (Q: Are We Not Men?

A: We Are Devo!, 1978)

• A Postmodern Protest Band (or, Anarchy in Akron) 67

• “Satisfaction” as Deconstruction 70

• Marketing Opposition 72

6. “Satisfaction” and Pop: Britney Spears (Oops! … I Did It Again, 2000)

• The Lolita Next Door 75

• Blonde Alienation 78

• “Satisfaction” as Commodity 79

Part Three—Signs of the Times: Cover Songs in Context

7. Music from the Waist Down: Covers, Gender and Sexuality

• King Curtis: “Whole Lotta Love” (Single, 1970) 86

• Van Halen: “You Really Got Me” (Van Halen, 1978) 91

• The Flying Lizards: “Sex Machine” (Top Ten, 1984) 94

• Kim Wilde: “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (Another Step, 1986) 101

8. Black Musicians, White Songs: Race and Covers in the Late

Counterculture Era

• Rufus Harley: “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” (Recorded

in 1969; Released on Courage: The Atlantic Recordings, 2006) 109

• The Isley Brothers: “Ohio/Machine Gun” (Givin’ It Back, 1971) 115

• The Four Tops: “A Simple Game” (Single, 1972) 123

9. Dance with Laibach: Covers and the Critique of the ­Nation-State

• The Laibach Project 129

• NATO (1994) 135

• The Dilemmas of Laibach 144

10. In with the Old: Covers and Generational Politics

• The Midlife Crisis of Rock and Roll 146

• Frank Sinatra: “Something” (Single, 1970) 147

• “So Bad It’s Good”: Covers and Camp 150

• Pat Boone: “Smoke on the Water” (In a Metal Mood: No More

Mr. Nice Guy, 1997) 155

• Johnny Cash: “Hurt” (American IV: The Man Comes Around,

2002) 159

Conclusion: The Politics of Listening 167

Chapter Notes 171

Bibliography 191

Index 195