Since the New Year is the time of self-reimagination (or big promises that aren’t kept) it’s a good day to look back into the storied skeleton closet.
While metal took over the planet in the 1980s via Metallica and Iron Maiden (after Black Sabbath set the stage for a decade) pop ruled the charts. You might have been spinning your brother’s copy of British Steel, if you were even alive, but the rest of the nation was listening to shitshows like Tony Basil’s “Mickey” and Juice Newton’s “Queen Of Hearts.” Nonetheless, there were plenty of interesting gems among 80s pop music later resurrected and given new life by metal artists.
There was a dark undercurrent to certain 80s pop perennials utilized in at least some of the following songs. On the top we offer the originals; on the bottom, the metal reworkings. There have to be more so please add them in the comments. Limp Bizkit (George Michael) and Marilyn Manson (Eurythmics/Depeche Mode) are disqualified. Happy New Year!
Celtic Frost covers Wall Of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio”:
Tom Warrior was always an innovator, taking his music to places that seemed ill-advised if not foolhardy. Who the hell else would open an album with a metal cover of Wall Of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio” four years after the song charted in the United States? The real treat of Celtic Frost’s version is the way Warrior works in his trademark “uhh!” and the goofy voice that says “eating barbequed iguana!” Perhaps a reader can clear up if that’s Martin Ain or Warrior.
Deftones cover Duran Duran’s “Night Boat” and “The Chauffeur”
Dig under the surface of the Deftones catalog and you will find a long-abiding love of the band that released “Wild Boys” and “Union Of The Snake.” Duran squared actually has a solid back catalog, including their influential goth-tinged debut and the chart-topping Rio. Deftones borrowed from both records. Their cover of “Night Boat” accentuates the song’s underlying ominous tone while the “Chauffeur” cover captures the sense of longing and futility oozing from the Duran original. Check out the rare footage of Deftones playing an old hole in the wall in Richmond, Virginia named Twisters.
Fear Factory covers Gary Numan’s “Cars”
Fear Factory was criticized for this cover but could there be a better song for them to reimagine? Numan’s track is a dystopian rant about consumers who are so checked out that they live their entire lives in transit, safe with their air conditioners, radios and oversized coffee mugs. Fear Factory’s music at its best is about what happens when the consumer becomes consumed; man and machine unite and personality disintegrates. Watch The Matrix or read Baudrillard to explore this rabbit hole further. Even better, Numan trades vocals with Burton C. Bell, linking the song directly back to the past.
A.C. covers the ‘Three’s Company’ theme:
Technically this show aired beginning in 1977 but it’s as much a product of the 80s as the 70s, especially with syndication. Also, the A.C. version is done in about 45 seconds. RIP, John Ritter and Seth Putnam. Perhaps they are chatting now on an apartment ottoman in the afterlife.