Our Revenge of the 80s Radio show is counting down the Top 50 Classic Alternative Cover Songs. The explanation and criteria can be found here in part one of our series. Here are #s 21-30:
30. “Stand By Your Man” – The Plasmatics/Lemmy
After a rather superb collaboration with the band Girlschool, Lemmy and the guys from Motorhead contacted The Plasmatics to do some work together. The result was an EP featuring Lemmy and Wendy O. WIlliams covering the gentle easy-listening country song “Stand By Your Man.” The cult hit did not, however, some without some in-studio turmoil: It reportedly took some time to get Williams’ vocal track down perfectly and Motorhead guitarist Eddie Clarke (who was producing the track at the time) quit the band in the middle of the recording session. producers Rod Swenson and Dan Hartman took over to finish the three-track EP, which included each band covering one of the other group’s songs. After Williams’ suicide, Motorhead dedicated a track from their 1999 live album, Everything Louder than Everythng Else, to her. Lemmy continues to be a revered figure amongst rockers and has camieoed in several video. Butt-Head was right when he said: “He’s Lemmy. He can walk into any damn video he wants!”
29. “Spirit In the Sky” – Doctor and the Medics
This track was already considered on the cutting edge when Norman Greenbaum recorded it in 1969. He used heavy guitars with some tambourines, hand clapping and a gospel trio to give it a standout sound amongst the more mellow hits of the time. Fast Forward to 1986, when a UK band that was formed on a five pound bet made it their breakthrough hit. Doctor and the Medics earned heavy airplay on MTV that year, partially on the song’s merits and partially on the colorful video with th 8′ 8″ Doctor wearing heels and climbing up imaginary ladders. Currently The Doctor is playing gigs with his most recent Medics lineup and will be celebtating the group’s 30th anniversary in 2012.
28. “Suspicious Minds” – Fine Young Cannibals
Gaining notoriety with their smash “Johnny Come Home,” the jazz-influenced Fine Young Cannibals peculiraly chose to release this cover of Elvis Presley‘s hit with a little help from Jimmy Sommerville. Both tracks rose high on the UK charts. Their videos were well received on MTVs 120 Minutes show, leading them to US chart success with their 1989 album, The Raw and the Cooked. Aside from the trademark close-ups of Roland Gift, the video is most memorable for the shiny suits the band sported througout most of its second half.
27. “These Boots Were Made For Walking” – Boomerang
After leaving Kid Creole and the Coconuts in 1985, Adriana Kaegi and Cheryl Poirier, formed their own band with Perri Lister (who was a Coconut for a very short time n the past). As Boomerang, they released their self-titled album in 1986. While the LP was a quite spectacular compilation of pop-friendly performances influenced by motown, 60s-era girl groups and their work with KCC, it did not receive the airplay it deserved from mainstream radio. Their powerful versoin of Nancy Sinatra‘s signature hit, “These Boots Are Made For Walking” features the ladiies’ dazzling vocals, well-placed horns and heavier guitar. It still blows Jessica Simpson out of the proverbial water, and Boomerang didn’t need the help of autotune.
Of the three, Kaegi continues to perform and produce music, specializing in downbeat electronica. After releasing her album, Tag, in 2009, Adriana has been collaborating with star producer Ron Rogers on new tracks and dance mixes.
26. “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” – The Alarm
John Lennon‘s Christmas classic was redone rather well by The Alarm. Mike Peters harsh lead vocals sharpen the charming protest-song-turned-holiday-standard as the Welsh band lives on in the US and UK as their cover continues to be played in regular rotation on most music radio stations every December. IN recent years, Peters has been releasing material with a new band called The Alarm MM. In 2008, Guitarist Dave Sharp formed his own band, AOR – Spirit of the Alarm.
25. “Days” – Kirsty MacColl
A rare cover that peaked at the exact chart position as the original. Irish songbird Kirsty MacColl’s version of “Days” hit #12 on the Billboard UK chart, as the Kinks did with the song in 1968. MacColl gives the classic rock tune a dose of traditional Irish music flavor and adds the kind of gracefullness that can only come from her gifted voice. Her video combined a beautiful country setting with a little cartoonish slapstick fun. After her untiely death whlie on vacation in Mexico in 2000, MacColl continues to be missed and remembered fondly by friends, peers and fans. A recent event in London, the 10-10-10 Concert for Kirsty, was held by her fellow musicians to benefit MacColl’s favorite charity, The Music Fund for Cuba.
24. “Green Door” – The Cramps
The Cramps, led by Lux Interior and Poison Ivy Rorschach, performed plenty of covers of pre-1960 music (including a particularly interesting version of “Shortnin’ Bread” but took the melodic Bob Davie/Marvin Moore piece to an enjoyably disturbing eerie level with their 1981 recording. Hearing Lux’s voice sing with Poison Ivy’s guitar gave the impression that Bobby Pickett‘s Monster Mash Party was going on behind the mysterious door in question. The only catch to this song is: why would anyone want to keep The Cramps out of any party? Lux Interior passed on suddenly in February of 2009 due to a tear in his hear’s aorta.
The song was a hit for Jim Lowe in 1956, keeping the number one position on the Billboard Top 100 for three weeks between two Presley songs. An honorable mention should go to Shakin’ Stevens, who released his own cover of “Green Door” in 1981 and charted with it in the UK.
23. “Eloise” – The Damned
The Damned were known as one of UK punk’s pioneer bands. They were also not afraid to step outside of the genre for a few tracks. Their cover of Barry Ryan‘s 1968 bombastic smash turned out to be their top chart success. How did they do it? The plan was cunning, yet simple: perform it in a more over-the-top manner with a few changes: they did not use an orchestra accompanyment as the original did and Damned vocalist Dave Vanian sings mostly in a lower register than Ryan and did not use a falsetto while singing Eloise’s name. Vanian and Captan Sensible currently lead the present constitution of The Damned, rounding out the lineup with longtime punks Monty Oxy Moron, Pinch and Stu West. Rat Scabies has recently been playing drums with The Members.
22. “LIfe Is Life” – Laibach
While very popular in Eastern Europe and respected as musicians around the world, Laubach is often misunderstood by many who do not understand their act. The group mixes elements of early punk, metal, classical and oi music with lead singer Milan Fras’ famously gruff vocals. They are part of a Slovenian art collective called Neue Slowenische Kunst, from which they bring in guest musicians for some tracks. They are known for taking nice, unassuming pop songs and turning them into something that would seem to have a heavier meaning with a more threatening tone, which is their true charm. With “Life Is LIfe,” Laibach took Opus‘ trite, meaningless pop track and humoriously created a profound, moving piece out of it. They also have a version in their native language, “Lieben Heist Lieben,” that features a snappy guitar solo. Other notable work by Laibach includes covers of “War,” “Indian Reservation,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” and almost every track in the Beatles‘ Let It Be album placed in their own CD with the same name – except for the title track.
21. “I Fought the Law” – The Clash
The Bobby Fuller Four‘s hit was a perfect fit for the hard-driving punk sound of The Clash. The cover first appeared on the band’s The Cost of Living EP; it garnered a good amount of radio airplay when the track was released in the US soon afterward. In addition to playing a significant role in The Clash’s history, US military forces played their “I Fought the Law” as part of a montage of loud rock music to help them add pressure on Panamanian Dictator Manuel Noriega to surrender to them in 1989 as part of Operation Just Cause.