I would have been just short of my 8th birthday when South-African musician John Kongos took He’s Gonna Step On You Again into the UK charts in May 1971. I can honestly say that I have no recollection of the record whatsoever and therefore had no idea, until reading about it at the time back in 1991, that Happy Mondays latest single Step On was a cover.
The two songs are really quite dissimilar and I don’t think may would argue that the Happy Mondays greatly improved on the original. I think the big difference is that the original really does sound of its time while the cover has become genuinely timeless – it does help of course that the production advances over the two decades between them meant that loveable Mancunians could do so much more with the tune but it still doesn’t detract from the fact that they derived a classic.
And yet, the original outperformed the cover – John Kongos got as high as #4 while Happy Mondays stalled at #5 – and it’s likely in pure sales terms that the original did better. What I didn’t know until doing a wee bit of research for this piece is He’s Gonna Step On You Again, according to wiki, is cited in the Guinness Book of Records as being the first song to have used a sample which just goes to show how long that’s been around contrary to popular belief. Having said that, a much later CD reissue of the parent album states it wasn’t a sample but a tape loop of African drumming and so debunked the alleged first.
Also worth mentioning that the Happy Mondays version actually sampled three guitar notes from the original as can be heard easily when you listen to both versions:-
mp3 : John Kongos – He’s Gonna Step On You Again
mp3 : Happy Mondays – Step On