Remembering Björk and PJ Harvey covering The Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’ in 1994
At the 1994 edition of the annual BRIT Awards, the crowd may not have known it but they were in for a treat. As two icons of the alternative music scene came together to give an unstoppable cover of one of Britain’s favourite sons’ songs. Here we remember the performance of The Rolling Stones’ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ from PJ Harvey and Bjork.
The footage below shows off two artists in the midst of their bustling careers, finding their creative feet, and moving forward with every gigantic step. PJ Harvey had released Rid of Me and was the darling of the alt-rock world in Britain. She represented a move away from the grunge which had left so much of England bereft of their twinkling eye. Meanwhile, Björk was only one album out of her punk band The Sugarcubes and was finding life as a solo artist incredibly fruitful.
That is what we are faced with in this footage too. The two artists stand in the centre of a very large stage, surrounded by the glitterati of the British music scene, about to be swallowed up by the laddish sensibilities Britpop, defiant and defined in their work. You can only imagine the delight the pair shared when thinking about their performance. What could they do that would really show off their power as musicians and artists? A cover of The Rolling Stones might work, but they would need to add something a little special to make it memorable.
Instead of adding something special, avoiding a strutting Jagger bouncing on stage for a final chorus or the classic Union Jack reveal that so many artists went for during the ’90s, they did something a little bit different. They stripped it back, chewed it up, and spat it out without apology at the feet of the nation’s music press, smiling through every note. Is it the best cover of The Rolling Stones ever? No. Is it still fucking brilliant? Yes.
Björk and PJ Harvey stand side by side, dressed in all black, and with just a guitar and a synthesiser, they perform one of the most iconic rock songs in British history. It’s the kind of remarkable performance that looking back feels more poignant than it may have done at the time. The likelihood is, that at the time, the people in attendance of the awards show would have laughed this performance, and the two singing it, off with a derisory snort.
How wrong they would be. Björk would win two prizes at the event, Best International Breakthrough Artist and Best International Female Solo Artist and use that as a springboard for an illustrious career drenched in accolades and acclaim. While PJ Harvey would go on to be one of the most authentic artists these fair isles of ours have ever produced.
While it would be unfair to say that this was the starting point of their career, it would be fair to say that this moment was a statement of intent. These two were gunna go far.
Watch below as PJ Harvey and Björk perform The Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’ at the 1994 BRIT Awards.