Rock On (song)
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|Single by David Essex|
|from the album Rock On|
3:12 (US 7" version)
"Rock On" is a song that was composed and sung by English singer/songwriter David Essex in 1973. In March 1974, it reached #1 in Canada on the RPM national Top Singles chart and was a Top 5 song (reaching the #5 position) on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop-music chart. It was Essex's only Billboard Top 40 hit. The song also reached the #3 spot on the UK Singles Chart. "Rock On" was the title track to Essex's 1973 debut album and was also featured on the soundtrack album to the 1973 film That'll Be the Day, in which Essex had a starring role. The song is still frequently played on classic rock and oldies radio stations.
Essex later re-recorded the song in 1988 with an updated lyric. The version, which was remixed by Shep Pettibone, appeared on Essex's 1989 album Touching the Ghost. A single release of the updated version reached No. 93 on the U.K. charts.
Arrangement and Interpretation
The song features a slow-tempo vocal performance in a minor key, along with a minimalist, heavily-bass-driven instrumental accompaniment to Essex's vocals. The lyric pays homage to early rock and roll and its surrounding youth subculture, and notably to 1950s iconic rebel James Dean. The musical arrangement is quite distinctive. While Essex's voice is overlaid with reverb, which itself echoes early rock-n-roll production, Herbie Flowers' bass guitar is inflected with a very obtrusive echo effect, unusual for bass guitar, which contributes to the recording's unsettled, dislocated feel, which is further intensified by haunting strings and a soulful Motown-esque male voice in occasional harmony. Essex's first hit pop single is like nothing he recorded subsequently as a UK teenybop idol. "Rock On" might otherwise be located within the 1950s nostalgia strand in popular music of the 1970s; though Essex's allusive, ambiguous song is quite unlike typical expressions of the nostalgia boom, for example the hits of the UK band Showaddywaddy.
Michael Damian version
|Single by Michael Damian|
|from the album Where Do We Go From Here|
Damian's version, which he also released from his independent album Where Do We Go From Here on the Cypress Records label, which A&M Records distributed, was a harder-edged interpretation that employed none of the vocal or instrumental distortion Essex's version had used. It reached the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, thus outperforming Essex's original Billboard ranking. However, the song did get to #1 for Essex in '74 on the US Cashbox charts, the same week it was at #11 on the Billboard Charts. In addition, Haim, Feldman, and Meredith Salenger all appeared in the music video for the song.
This version was ranked #99 on VH1's 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s (despite the fact that Damian actually had four Billboard charting singles during the '80s).
|Single by Def Leppard|
|from the album Yeah!|
|Label||Bludgeon Riffola - Mercury|
|Def Leppard singles chronology|
The American alternative-rock group The Smashing Pumpkins included a live cover version of "Rock On", performed during their Sacred and Profane tour, on their 2001-release album Judas O, a bonus disc (containing B-sides and rarities) which accompanied the group's greatest hits album Rotten Apples.
The Dave Howard Singers released their version as a single in 1986.
The song was covered by power/heavy metal band Heavens Gate on its EP Open The Gate And Watch in 1990.
The song was also covered by Adam Freeland, on the album Cope.
- "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2011-12-01.
- "Rock On: Blondie: MP3 Downloads". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2013-07-05.
"A Love Song" by Anne Murray
|Canadian RPM number-one single
(original David Essex version)
March 30, 1974 (1 week)*
"Sunshine on My Shoulders" by John Denver
"Forever Your Girl" by Paula Abdul
|US Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
(Michael Damian version)
June 3, 1989 (1 week)
"Wind Beneath My Wings" by Bette Midler
*Library and Archives Canada shows this single to attain the #1 position on the date and hold it for one week. There is no chart for March 23 available. The March 30 chart shows the previous week's position to be #2.