What’s my criteria for this selection? My primary subconscious reasoning (I realised, after the fact) is that these are songs that can be covered by a hard rock band without a trace of irony and still rock a jaded anti-pop crowd. Plus they have a killer riff or vocal melody that incites: a) a fist pump, b) a head nod/mosh or c) a finger snap <— just kidding about that last one…
Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams
No need to dwell on this one – the song is trotted out on a regular basis to pimp everything from hair-gel to David Attenborough’s latest documentary on the mating rituals of african bees: it’s a perennial classic. The warm, pulsing analogue synth that forms the instantly recognisable main riff gives this tune balls and could make a black metal crowd break out in a frenzied mosh.
Manson’s gutter reimagining proves the song’s rock-worthiness but I’ve gone with a remix by dutch D&B legends Noisia called “Street Dreams”. Before you click away from it, at least stick around until the vocals kick in at 1:30 with a criminally phat stomping break-beat that’d make a break dancer’s corpse twitch.
Cameo – Word Up
My personal favourite of the lot – and I don’t think anyone’s quite nailed the ideal cover yet. The main riff in the song is a classic rock stomper hidden under funk/R&B trappings – a simple three chord power riff over a driving rock beat.
Gun’s version included below proves the point and is the better rock cover imo – I think Korn’s version, while good, just misses… (and let’s not even talk about Melanie B’s version “…which was the lowest selling Spice Girls-related single of the 1990s” and just plain crap >_<. Timbo – what were you thinking?? ;_; )
INXS – Need You Tonight
This song is quite pop – I can’t really see Disturbed covering it but hey, they covered Tears For Fears so what do I know… Justin Timberlake and Matchbox 20 cover it – and both versions sound great; the quality of the clips ain’t so hot though, hence no embed. Included here instead is a rare acoustic version by INXS with Hutchence on vox.
Pop or not, the guitar riff is a jangly killer that’s immediately recognisable, singable, and could even get your grandmother air-strumming on the dance floor. You only have to hear those first three sharp chords over the beat: dun! dun! dun! – and you can’t stop the last part from ringing in your head: dunnalunnalunnalunnun! <– Sak Mo Dee’s patented “rock guitar speak”. Go on, try not to think of it.
Talking Heads – Burning Down The House
I’ve already posted the Cardigans + Tom Jones cover of this – not a favourite… Quirkmeister David Byrne is not the first person you think of when it comes to phat, manly rock but this tune has a simple, driving riff that lends itself well to rock cover-age (Michael Hutchence isn’t the manliest rock god either, for that matter, but his sex appeal bought him some phat points ;-).
Toby Rand’s performance on Rock Star Supernova was a bit of a poser festival but if it makes Jason Newsted pull his metal face and bob his head it can’t be too bad.
Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus
Since Marilyn Manson missed out on the Sweet Dreams cover here he is/they are performing yet another cover live (well, it was either them or Hillary Duff…)
Depeche Mode’s classic song has a marching rhythm and memorable broken line delivery that cements the first line in your head. I’m also seeing a common thread in a few of these songs of deep, dark analogue synths driving a moody bass riff through the proceedings :).
Shameless Self-Serving Inclusion: Nine Inch Nails – Terrible Lie
I have no excuse for including this except to say that it’s a personal favourite and “Pretty Hate Machine” was released in 89 so it makes it in as an Honourable Mention xD.
Like “Sweet Dreams” the major component of this song is the deep, phat, warm analogue synth of the chorus that could go up against a Metallica riff for pure rock phatness. (Totally Unrelated Note: speaking of Metallica phatness – have you seen this clip of Nickelback playing well outside their Macho Level?)
How wrong am I? Surely someone’s dying to lambast me for missing an obvious 80s rock-cover-in-waiting? xD If I get any suggestions that demand inclusion I’ll update the post :).
Thanks P Dogg for the Personal Jesus suggestion xD.
Go here for 5 more eighties songs that still kick ass today.