Remembering Björk and PJ Harvey’s searing cover of Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’
We’re dipping into the Far Out vault to bring you a special performance form two of our favourite artists. Here we remember the performance of The Rolling Stones’ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ from PJ Harvey and Björk. It’s a performance that not only works perfectly within its environment but also as one of the finest covers of the ubiquitous rock anthem we’ve ever come across.
At the 1994 edition of the annual BRIT Awards, the crowd may not have known it, but they were in for a unique treat. As two icons of the alternative music scene came together to give an unstoppable cover of one of Britain’s favourite songs. It was an opportune moment for PJ Harvey and Björk to subvert the song’s very nature and all it represented and deliver one of the most stunning performances in BRITs history.
The footage below shows off two artists in the midst of their growing careers, finding their creative feet alongside one another, and moving forward with every gigantic step. What better place to throw down the gauntlet than one of Britain’s most prestigious music awards show?
The duo arrived ready and raring to go. PJ Harvey had released Rid of Me and was the darling of the alt-rock world in Britain, captivating audiences with her visceral musings. 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, she had quickly transcended from curiosity to cult favourite and was only going to rise further.
That is what we are faced with in this footage too. The two artists stand in the centre of a huge stage, surrounded by the glitterati (or at least the ones that could afford it) of the British music scene, about to be swallowed up by the laddish sensibilities of Britpop, defiant and defined in their work, they rose triumphant with a showstopping time under the spotlight.
You can only imagine the delight the pair shared when thinking about their performance and the looks on those Britpop bros. What could they do that would really show off their power as musicians and artists? Rather than put out some obscurity for scrutinising they instead decided to subvert one of the classic rock and roll songs, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’.
A cover is all well and good but it would need something special. 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 the track back, chewed it up, and spat it out. What’s more, they did it without apology as the rock and roll gem lay at the feet of the nation’s music press, the spitters smiling through every note.
Is it the best cover of The Rolling Stones ever? No. Is it still 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, thanks to their impressive careers, 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 gonna go far and going to do it all on their own terms too.
Watch below as PJ Harvey and Björk perform The Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’ at the 1994 BRIT Awards.