Ten Great ’80s Covers From The ’00s

The soundtrack to the 2005 film "Sky High" was chock full of Eighties covers, from Vitamin C tackling 'Til Tuesday's "Voices Carry" to Bowling For Soup performing Modern English's "I Melt With You".

While the Nineties gave us some great underground music from the metal, goth, ambient and experimental communities, the mainstream world was generally filled with whiny rock, anemic pop and insipid dance music. It’s funny how a decade of prosperity inspired such underwhelming cookie cutter music. Or perhaps that is the reason why. Thankfully the ’00s — fueled by a strong Eighties flashback mode, including conservative cultural repression — brought back big hooks, colorful looks and the belief that it was okay to be a rock star once more. Even the darker pop and rock tunes from the Eighties seemed larger than life and more dramatic than what followed in the decade that spawned grunge, alternative and electronica. (Many people know I like dark and moody stuff, although I also have a soft spot for party hearty rock from back in the day.)

Naturally Eighties covers became all the rage during the Aughts and allowed many young listeners to be exposed to great songs that came out before they were born. And when done right, these new renditions also brought smiles to the faces of those of us who remember the originals. Following are ten reinvented tunes that made all things Eighties that much more cool during the first decade of the new millennium.

TORI AMOS “Raining Blood” (Slayer) — You have to give Amos points for sheer chutzpah in transforming this aggressive thrash metal classic into an eerie, dissonant piano and vocal composition. And it works. The live version below is slightly heavier and more rhythmic than the studio take. Okay, not exactly the feel good song of the Eighties, but you have to take sinister and intense along with perky and poppy. Complement and contrast, folks.
Compare to the original here.

APOPTYGMA BERZERK “Cambodia” (Kim Wilde) — This Norwegian band took Ms. Wilde’s slow, dreamy song and injected it with synth-rock energy and guitar crunch without losing the original’s melancholic edge. It’s funny that Apop gave an adrenaline boost to a song whose original singer was known for the propulsive pop anthem “Kids In America”.
Compare to the original here.

THE ATARIS “The Boys Of Summer” (Don Henley) — The Ataris’ lone Top 20 hit was an amped-up version of the forlorn Don Henley ballad that turned a nostalgic adult tune into an angst-laden teen rocker without sapping it of its emotional power. It was also one of the first prominent Eighties covers in the Aughts.
Compare to the original here.

CRADLE OF FILTH “Temptation” (Heaven 17) — Leave it up to this black metal battalion to take a bright synthpop number and transform it into a snarling, cheeky, heavy goth track. Then again, isn’t the point of doing a cover to try something different? They certainly did here.
Compare to the original here.

DISTURBED “Land of Confusion” (Genesis) — While they did a good job giving Tears For Fears’ “Shout” a metal makeover, Disturbed’s cover of “Land Of Confusion” upped the ante, not only with its driving energy but good timing — right at the height of the bitter Iraq War debate. Their choice of an animated video is an interesting nod to the original Genesis clip, which featured the political puppetry of Spitting Image.
Compare to the original here.

HIM “Wicked Game” (Chris Isaak) — Although this Finnish band’s thundering rendition of Isaak’s ethereal pop song lacks the subtlety or fluidity of the original, Ville Valo’s crooning and the group’s electric energy imbued it with new life. They’ve actually recorded and remixed this several times between 1995 and 2000, and since HIM didn’t get big in the U.S. until 2005, this one slides onto the list.
Compare to the original here.

IN EXTREMO “This Corrosion” (Sisters Of Mercy) — This was the Sisters’ best song, an 11-minute dance epic with choral vocals, catchy hooks and a driving beat. Then a bunch of crazy Germans turned it into a shorter medieval metal number complete with growled vocals and high-pitched bagpipes. Awesome. The video features a headbanging harpist and fire, fire, fire!
Compare to the original here: Single version and uncut.

GARY JULES and MICHAEL ANDREWS “Mad World” (Tears For Fears) — A lot of young music fans will never have heard Tears For Fears’ dancey original — come to think of it, I hadn’t either before I constructed this list. Jules and Andrews’ gloomy acoustic rendition — a vocal, piano and cello piece recorded for the cult film Donnie Darko — is beguiling and fantastic.
Compare to the original here.

NO DOUBT “It’s My Life” (Talk Talk) — This is a fairly faithful take on the dramatic Talk Talk song, with Gwen Stefani’s sultry vocal stylings supplanting Mark Hollis’ elegant crooning. Part of what sold this rendition (which won a Grammy for its “Thin White Duke” remix by Jacques Lu Cont) was a hip, humorous video, in which femme fatale Stefani offs three lovers (her bandmates) in different ways before going to the gas chamber. Ironically, she departed for a successful solo career, and the band has not released a new album since 2001.
Compare to the original here.

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE “Never Say Never” (Romeo Void) — It seems apropos that an eclectic hard rock unit like QOTSA would tackle this off-kilter cult song from the early ’80s. Beyond the obvious switch from female to male vocals, this Romeo Void remake enhances the discordant guitars and replaces the saxophone with a kazoo. Nice touch.
Compare to the original here.

One Response

  1. Michael Weinmayr

    The entire Not Another Teen Movie soundtrack is spectacular for its 80s covers. “Metro” by System of a Down and “99 Red Balloons” by Goldfingers are standouts.


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