Twenty years ago at the 1994 Brit Awards (basically, the U.K. Grammys), the show was hosted by Elton John and RuPaul, the Stereo MCs were named the top British group, and the boy band Take That beat out Radiohead for best British Single. (And somehow, Crowded House beat out U2, Pearl Jam and Nirvana for Best International Group. At least it wasn’t the Spin Doctors.) But the evening’s highlight was PJ Harvey and Björk teaming up on a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.'”
In the 49 years since its release, “Satisfaction” has proved pretty much indestructible in any version, whether it’s Otis Redding replacing the guitar riff with horns, Devo giving it a herky-jerky New Wave treatment or Cat Power recording the verses (but not the chorus). Accompanying themselves on guitar and mini-synth, Harvey and Björk started slow and quiet but built into a glorious clamour. Harvey brought the deadpan snarl, while Björk contributed her unearthly wail, and together they channeled the song’s raw expression of sexual id.
At the time, Harvey had released two blistering albums (Dry and Rid of Me), while Björk was enjoying the success of the groovy solo joint Debut (although she had recorded multiple records with the Sugarcubes and even released an album in Iceland as a 12-year-old). Björk later claimed that the Brits organizers had wanted her to duet with Meat Loaf and for Harvey to team up with Jamiroquai, but the female singers chose to work together instead. We can be thankful that the two women on a most unusual wavelength came together to fire their imagination.
Björk said, “When it comes to people who make music, I’m not very interested in most cases. That doesn’t mean I think they’re bad, they just don’t do anything for me. But… when I met Polly, it was really relaxed and I have to say that she was like I expected her to be.” She concluded: “You can suss some people out pretty quickly. Not completely, obviously, but you can sense whether or not you’re on the same wavelength.” Maybe that’s why they both pinned up their hair with matching sparkly heart barrettes.