Take Cover! Love Inks Vs. David Essex

When is a cover song better than the original? Only you can decide. This week Love Inks take on David Essex’s “Rock On.” MAGNET’s Ryan Burleson pulls the pin. Take cover!

Aside from the taut, pointed sexiness of Love Inks‘ “Rock On” rendering—featured on the Austin trio’s debut, E.S.P., arriving May 10 on Hell Yes!/City Slang—what I love about the cover is the way it marries two very disparate periods of pop music. The song was written and made popular in 1973 by British actor and musician David Essex, whose teen-idol looks at the time provoked the kind of obsessive, communal doting reserved these days for Justin Bieber. The song’s, and Essex’s, popularity were also enhanced by its placement in the film That’ll Be The Day, in which a young Essex starred alongside Ringo Starr and Keith Moon, whose collective star power at the time is obviously a known quantity. Decades later, the song hasn’t changed much under Love Inks’ watch—a drum machine’s pulse and a spacey guitar line are the most obvious updates—but it’s to the band’s credit that it nonetheless facilitates an entirely new experience of the track, sans the fanfare of pop idol-dom. It displaces the noise of the past, leaving Essex’s work to be considered in the sober afterglow.

Was the song worth the hordes of pre-pubescent adulation it received? Mediocrity is far more the rule than the exception in the popular marketplace today, so it’s easy to be cynical about about earlier periods of mainstream music, too. And I’m personally too quick to esteem the ’50s and ’60s as some sort-of utopia that existed outside the confines of history, as if those were the only periods when the most ambitious music being made was also the most in-demand. There’s some truth to that intuition, to be sure, but the rampant popularity of “Rock On,” alongside works by T.Rex, David Bowie and Gary Glitter, indicates that the public consciousness was just as attuned to quality in the early ’70s as it was in the days of Elvis or the Beatles. On the flip side, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to imagine “Rock On” replicating its early-’70s successes today, and not simply because tastes naturally evolve.

That’s one reason we should be thankful for bands like Love Inks, Smith Westerns and Free Energy, among many others, who in their own way re-cast the visage of earlier eras in a manner that reflects the forgotten artfulness of individuals like Essex. “Rock On,” in particular, is perhaps unfairly remembered as the lucky work of a teen sensation, not as the brooding and seductive classic it’s always been. Love Inks know the difference. Which is why when Sherry LeBlanc and Co. turn down the lights, “Rock On” feels timeless once again.

Cast your vote wisely.

The Cover:

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The Original:

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33 Comments

  1. Wendy
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    How can you even ask this question? So many have done a copy of this song and David Essex will never be beating! Rock On by David Essex and it always will be!!!!

  2. SharonA
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    David Essex every time. More depth, more feeling, more class. Rock On is already timeless….doesn’t need to be timeless again, although if it brings the original to a new audience so much the better!

  3. Janelle s
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 3:30 am | Permalink

    Only one person that can ever sing this song at that is David Essex … Rock On David Essex forever !!!!

  4. diane w
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    i agree with everything SharonA has said, also why do the people who do the covers change the lyrics? its not Hey Kid rock and Roll, its Hey Did Ya rock and roll? at least get the lyrics right…….. not a bad version but i think it sounds a bit lazy and slurred, they sound like they are falling asleep. give me the original anyday, no one has done it better than David yet.

  5. cath rooke
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Whilst this cover isn’t a bad version do we really think it will stand the test of time the way the David Essex version has and still is, let’s see in 30 years shall we. Whatever you may think of David Essex you cannot deny the fact that his records are still getting played and he still has a legion of fans out there, who delight in his concerts and shows. He loves what he does and loves the fans for all they give back.

  6. julie conquer
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    David every time sounds blurry and slurred infact very boring. Theres only one version DAVID ESSEX ROCK ON FOREVER X

  7. Anne Edwards
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    PLEASE!!! David’s version every time…it will NEVER be bettered! So there!

  8. Posted March 24, 2011 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry but the Love Inks version is bland and soulless. It sounds like someone singing in the bath! There have been some good covers of Rock On but the original is the best. David still sings it at every concert he does and it still brings the loudest applause. Rock On David Essex! Rock On David Essex Girls Club – 11 years old this year!
    Love …………….. Julie xxx

  9. Sue hewitt
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    David’s version will always be the best. The Love Inks version is weak.

  10. susan davies
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    only davids voice can do this justice, earthy and gritty the way it should be, love links versions lacks everything and is so dull and lifeless , only mr super cool essex can sing such a super cool classic.. ROCK ON DAVID

  11. lesley hows
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    There is absolutely no contest. David’s version will always be the best

  12. judy gregory
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    david every time!! other one is rubbish!

  13. Wendy
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Don insult David Essex by getting the lyrics WRONG! GRRRRR!

  14. Barbs
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    David’s version – the original and will always be the BEST. Not a bad try Love Inks but you can’t compete with the master.

  15. Betty
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Love Inks version sound as if they are sing in the bathroom, Did not like it, David essex version every time.

  16. Tara
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Hey guys! This I clearly a young band that adores David Essex as much as you do. At least they have enough class to know what a bad ass song this is and attempt to pay tribute.

    It’s always hard to compete with an original.

  17. Bridget
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Always a Bad Idea to try and Outclass the Master especially when its a Classic Artist Like David Essex + A Classic song written by the Artist himself!!
    Rock on David The One and Only person who can sing this song as it was meant to be Sung..

  18. Helen
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    My god! Are those girls on something? Some covers arn’t too bad, but please, PLEASE stop trying to cover Rock On, it just doesn’t work, LEAVE IT ALONE!!!

  19. Wendy
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    No Helen we arn’t on anything thanks very much!!! We are just very loyal David Essex fans and no other can master the song like him OK??

  20. christine
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    absolutely no comparison….what a load of rubbish love inks……David Essex is the best and always will be…”ROCK ON DAVID”

  21. veronica
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    lol of course i agree its david, but come on girl’s we got to be flattered, the love inks agree with us, its a great song, otherwise wouldnt of tried to copy it. ROCK ON DAVID X

  22. Posted March 25, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    The ‘girls’ that Helen is referring to are the ones murdering the song, not the ones commenting on it.

  23. Mary leblanc
    Posted March 26, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    I love love inks its obvious they love this song or they would not br singing it it helps keep the old songs alive sherry has a beautiful voice

  24. Sue hewitt
    Posted March 27, 2011 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    there are times when you can think things and there’s no reason to comment and make your self look bitchy.

  25. Mario
    Posted March 27, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I <3 LOVE INKS and I <3 DAVIDE ESSEX!

  26. Karen
    Posted March 28, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Oh!! Typical of Julie Waller using this voting board as another excuse to advertise her group! Any David essex fans out there, do not bother joining the DEGC! Unfriendly to say the least! Karen

  27. wendy
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    no contest DAVID ESSEX original and the BEST .

  28. Nina
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Count me in on David Essex’s side–his version is hot and dark, and who can believe the 1974 production is more interesting and original than what can be done in 2011? David Essex sings the song, and makes you re-addict yourself to rock music. More breathy girl singers and their puerile sexiness we don’t need. And Magnet’s pseudo-intellectual commentary–blecch. I thank you for the chance to revisit a song I couldn’t get enough of when it first came out and finding that it feels the same down the road apiece.

  29. Chrissie
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Respect to LOVE INKS for choosing to cover a great song but for me, the David Essex version is the one and only.

  30. Just Me
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    I still think david Essex’s version is the best. I am not at all keen on this new one but maybe the younger generation will it may also make them go & listen to the original to see what they have missed lol. @ Karen I am a member of the DEGC & have made so many new friends through the club & they have all been very nice to me. I have never read anything bad in the club it’s just pictures news & videos of David.

  31. Karen
    Posted April 1, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    PMSL & Just me, all i can say is that you are one of the lucky one’s then aren’t you?
    Rock On David Essex.

  32. t drew hardin
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    The comments so far are summing up my reaction to the situation at hand. What compounds Love Inks’ problem is that there is really not enough material to judge them by tho I like what I hear at this point. And I also don’t appreciate the lyrics being changed. Would Steve Perry of Journey want “Someday Love Will Find You” altered by The Clash just to suit a more punkish fare? Doubt it.David Essex is still on top of the world after all these years.

  33. Karen
    Posted May 1, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I have just been in the DEGC a nasty unfriendly bunch of B’sss!
    DAVID ESSEX ROCK ON!