5 Great Covers of Old School Songs

These 5 cover songs – in their original versions – appeared between the 70s and 80s. I can’t say I was a great fan of all the songs in their original form at the time but they’re all classics and I certainly came to appreciate them eventually. Each of the artists in these cover versions brings their own flavour in some way and each cover fulfils my 3 Tenets of Cover Songs (which I’ve made up just now):

1 – Be Original: the Cover Artist must bring something fresh to the original song, whether it be supplanting the song into another genre or casting it in a different light through context, tempo, musical colour, etc.
2 – Have a Point: the Cover Artist has to have a reason to cover the song – and we need to see it, whether it’s simply a love for the original or an outright mock; the remake should make the artist’s intention clear and convince us that they really did have to make a whole new version of an old song.
3 – Respect the Original: “respect” doesn’t mean that the Cover Artist can’t make fun of a song – it just means that they have to know what worked musically and build off it or reference it in some way that makes it clear they’re not just slapping their own music on a more popular song to try and gain some fans. Usually, a Cover Artist is covering a song that’s well known and was once popular to some extent so they should have some degree of respect for the fact that the songwriter knew what they were doing.

I like ’em all – I hope you like them too! (and thanks for the help fOo!)

Duran Duran – Hungry Like The Wolf

by Incubus

When live, Incubus prove they’re a cut above many of their garden variety rock peers as far as musicianship. They take a while to get into Duran Duran’s catchy hit but it’s worth the wait – this cover is one of my favourites; the live instruments and rock sensibility gives the song a needed edge and Brandon’s voice is a great fit for this synthy pop classic.

Blondie – Heart Of Glass

by Lily Allen

Lily’s cover changes the feel from the original disco almost back to its original reggae roots – albeit an uptempo, hybrid pop version.

∞ Random Interest Snippet: Blondie originally recorded the song in 1975 as a much slower blues / reggae version before Producer Mike Chapman suggested the disco angle for the 1979 release. After its release the band were lambasted by their peers for supposedly “selling out”.

John Lennon – Imagine

by A Perfect Circle

Maynard James Keenan (also of Tool) brings his anguished vocal to this Lennon classic – as well as the judgemental, cynical outlook that contributed to “Vicarious” and other Tool staples. In this cover, however, Maynard’s skewed cynicism doesn’t manifest in lyrical poetics – it is present in the dark chord choice and melody, a stylistic decision that adds a twisted air of disillusionment to Lennon’s anthem of hope.

∞ Random Interest Snippet: When the Liverpool airport was named after Lennon, a phrase from the song, “above us only sky”, was painted on the ceiling of the terminal. When commenting on this, the panel of Have I Got News for You joked that the baggage handlers’ motto was taken from the same song: “Imagine no possessions”. – [Wikipedia]

The video ably supplements the gray mood with a barrage of images that throw a stark light on the optimism of the lyrics. Ultimately, I’m not sure whether Maynard is laughing at Lennon’s premise (the baby dolls, ice cream cones and the rugby ball look faintly ridiculous) or calling our attention to the need for it now, more than ever.

Warning: some reasonably graphic images of war from various news programs / documentaries contained herein.

Real Life – Send Me An Angel

by Deadstar Assembly

Gotta love the bizarre cartoon video for this pop-metal / goth cover of Real Life‘s 80s hit. Love that anime hair! The best video for this song has to be the clip from 80s BMX movie RAD, though. And is that a young Lori Loughlin (of Full House fame) performing figure skating type dance moves on a BMX? Why yes, it is.

The Cars – Drive

by Strawpeople

And finally, a cover by our very own Strawpeople – NZ’s sometime pop electronica duo (plus vocalist Bic Runga). Strawpeople featured various guest vocalists from NZ’s talent pool – at one time Fiona McDonald (also of the Headless Chickens) sang for them.

This is probably a good time to mention my forthcoming post dedicated to NZ music – it’ll be a good chance to catch up on some great music from our little country for those who haven’t heard much of it!

Honourable Mention

Mullet Inc. cover Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” and change up the verse lyrics to confess their love for the 80s…


2 responses to “5 Great Covers of Old School Songs

  1. I would have included Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze by The Cure, made for the Stone Free tribute album. It’s a great cover that easily fulfills your tenets. Oh, and I would’ve rated Imagine #1. In fact, most covers by A Perfect Circle could be in this list. I love their rendition of Depeche Mode’s People Are People.

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