For this month’s edition of “The Original vs. The Cover”, we are going to take on a third version as we tackle the David Essex song “Rock On”. We will battle it out between David Essex’s original version vs. covers by both Michael Damian and Def Leppard.
The song was written for a movie that David was starring in called “That’ll Be the Day” which also had Ringo Starr and Kieth Moon. The song, however, was not used in the movie. David wrote the song based on his character from the movie and it has a pure old rock & roll rebellious attitude. The song is actually a tip-of-the-hat to the old time rockers as it mentions “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Summertime Blues” as well as it gives a shout-out to an old Hollywood rebel James Dean.
Since we have three versions, we might as well jump right into it.
David’s version hit #3 on the UK singles chart in 1973 and didn’t do that great in the US, but doesn’t mean we Americans don’t love it. The song is very unique in that there are no instruments that play any chords which means there is No Guitar and No Piano on the song at all. It is all bass, percussion and horns. It is really stripped down.
You can tell a major influence of the song is Jamaican raggae and the whole dub style. The song is driven by the bass line which was done by Herbie Flowers. According to Wikipedia…”(Herbie’s) double-tracked bass guitar was treated with a prominent “slapback” delay effect, creating a complex polyrhythmic backbeat.”