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Top 20 80s Cover Versions



Cover versions are sometimes bad, sometimes great. Here’s Classic Pop’s rundown of the very best cover versions of some of some of the 80s’ very best songs.

Cover versions

It’s a testament to the skyscraping songwriting achievements of the 1980s that its music is constantly being revisited by today’s artists. Since 31 December 1989, the highlights of that decade have been continually plundered by singers and bands eager to capture a little of that 80s magic. Some are by artists who lived through that special decade, while others are by those that weren’t even born back then. Here, then, is our pick of the best cover versions of 80s hits. Strap in tight…

Our countdown of the Top 20 80s cover versions

Sonic Youth – Into the Groove
Original: Madonna

Credited to Ciccone Youth, this improbable Madonna cover by Noo Yoik noiseniks Sonic Youth was cut from The Whitey Album, an LP built around their fascination with the Material Girl. We’ve chosen not their take on Burning Up but their version of Maddie’s 1985 smash, Into The Groove.

Staggeringly, it’s as loyal to the discordant, feedback-heavy Sonic Youth sound as it is the pop majesty of Madonna. Her opinion of this most unique of refits, however, remains sadly unknown.

M WardLet’s Dance
Original: David Bowie

Let’s Dance is one of David Bowie’s slickest tracks, a glorious, clear-eyed slice of party-funk that won him his biggest hit in years. M Ward’s 2007 cover version, recorded for Taika Waititi’s comedy flick Eagle Vs Shark, strips back all of that Nile Rodgers tinsel, reclaiming it as a tender folk-blues number.

It’s worth checking out the covers album Ward made in 2014 with Zooey Deschanel, Classics, under their She & Him alias, where they revisit 13 favourite songs with the help of a 20-piece orchestra.

Calexico – Love Will Tear Us Apart
Original: Joy Division

There have been oh-so-many cover versions of Joy Division’s signature number (including Squarepusher, José González, Fall Out Boy, Nouvelle Vague, Soul Asylum and, of course, Paul Young), but our pick comes from alt-country oddballs Calexico who recorded this Americana-inflected take in 2005.

Audaciously refashioning the central melody, it’s a rosier, sunnier version than the introspective, intense original and no worse for that. Quite what Ian Curtis would have made of it, though, is another thing.

Nada Surf – If You Leave
Original: OMD

Recorded originally for John Hughes’ cult romcom Pretty In Pink, If You Leave became Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s highest-charting single in the US, where it peaked at No.4 in May 1986. When noughties teen drama The OC fashioned an episode around Hughes’ film, they reached out to alternative rock band Nada Surf to cover OMD’s iconic, movie-closing track.

Jettisoning the towering synths of the original, they give the song a lovingly indie makeover.

The Flaming Lips With Stardeath And White Dwarfs – Borderline
Original: Madonna

Recorded in 2009 for a Warner Bros tribute album by sonic adventurers The Flaming Lips and experimental crackpots Stardeath And White Dwarfs, this unsettling version of Madonna’s 1984 classic turns the song inside out.

A scuzzy, disorientating take, it hoovers out all the pop and reinvents the song as some kind of avant-garde noise project – a sort of sweaty, night terrors take on La Ciccone’s rainbow-hued original.

Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal
Original: Michael Jackson

The awfully-named Alien Ant Farm have failed to make much of an impact after this, their – admittedly dope – debut single.

A guitared-up take on Jacko’s 1988 dance classic, it was certainly an MTV favourite in the early noughties (with its video depicting frontman Dryden Mitchell frolicking with a pet monkey and pastiching Jackson’s iconic crotch grab) and propelled the simple-headed frat-rockers to No.3 on the UK singles chart.

STRFKR – Girls Just Want To Have Fun
Original: Cyndi Lauper

It’s worth noting that Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 single was itself a cover of a song written and first recorded in 1979 by new wave muso Robert Hazard (he reportedly dashed off the track in just 15 minutes whilst in the tub). Lauper, however, took the number to soaring chart heights, creating an effervescent feminist anthem.

Three decades later, indie outfit Starfucker (politely abbreviated to STRFKR) put out this sympathetic cover, retaining the bouncy fun of Lauper’s version while dialling back the synths.

Read our Classic Album feature on Cyndi Lauper’s She So Unusual here.

Ian Brown – Billie Jean
Original: Michael Jackson

“You’re never going to improve on a Michael Jackson song if you cover it,” so proclaimed former Stone Rose Ian Brown, a brave man who took on not just one, but two Jacko classics at the turn of the millennium. A fully Brownified take on Jackson fave Billie Jean was released as a double A-side with his similarly idiosyncratic version of Thriller.

Eschewing Quincy Jones’ silky production for his own trademark do-it-yourself home-studio sound, Brown’s cover acquits itself nicely.

Johnny Cash – Personal Jesus
Original: Depeche Mode

The Man In Black’s American Recordings series threw up a plethora of bang-up covers, some blindingly obvious and some that were, for a sexagenarian country legend, rather more leftfield. It was producer Rick Rubin who suggested this sleazy, sinister cut off Depeche Mode’s Violator album for Cash’s 2002 long-player, American IV: The Man Comes Around.

Cash mined something very different for his bluesier interpretation, calling it “probably the most evangelical gospel song I ever recorded.”

Read our Classic Album feature on Depeche Mode’s Violator here.

Weezer – Africa
Original: Toto

In December 2017, a Twitter account was set up with the sole purpose of convincing American alt-rockers Weezer to wax a version of Toto’s MOR favourite Africa. Just to be contrary, the band first put out a cover of Toto’s Rosanna, before succumbing and releasing their irony-heavy version (they even brought in “Weird Al“ Yankovic to replace singer Rivers Cuomo in the video) of Africa in May 2018.

The song netted the band their biggest hit since 2006. Result.

Faith No More – I’m Easy
Original: The Commodores

We can’t imagine Faith No More are particularly happy now, 27 years down the line, that I’m Easy remains their biggest worldwide hit. Although they were most likely pissing themselves in the studio, it’s a surprisingly – no pun intended – faithful cover of the Lionel Richie-composed original.

Which is probably why their fans detested it so much, regularly flipping the band the finger when they played it live. Originally released in 1977, we’re sneaking this in on the basis of its reissue a decade later.

The Postal Service – Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)
Original: Phil Collins

Phil Collins’ chart-conquering power-ballad has been covered umpteen times, mostly by bands and singers who do little to put their stamp on it (we’re looking at you, Mariah Carey and Westlife).

That’s not an accusation you could ever lob at electro laptop misfits The Postal Service – they being Death Cab For Cutie vocalist Ben Gibbard and DJ Jimmy Tamborello – who delivered this appealingly angular reinterpretation for the 2004 big screen thriller Wicker Park.

Foo Fighters – Down in the Park
Original: Tubeway Army

The characteristically doom-laden Down In The Park was the first single to be released from Tubeway Army’s sophomore album, Replicas. Despite bombing commercially, it’s something of a goth favourite, with starry-eyed versions by Marilyn Manson and Christian Death, alongside this take by Dave Grohl and co.

Replacing the ominous synths of the original with a wall of guitar noise, it was recorded for a 1996 LP titled Songs In The Key Of X: Music From And Inspired By The X-Files.

Muse – Hungry Like The Wolf
Original: Duran Duran

Sometimes when a song is so faultless, it would be almost sacrilegious to perform radical surgery on it. It’s clear then that Devonian space-rockers Muse were hot and heavy for Duran Duran’s 1982 original, so where’s the harm in doing a straight, loving, well-performed cover?

The trio first aired the song during a live TV appearance in 2018, a performance so well received that, only a few months later, they released a studio recording exclusively on Spotify. Go listen. Now.

Paloma Faith – Never Tear Us Apart
Original: INXS

It takes a particularly fearless artist to take on the mighty, untouchable Michael Hutchence, but Paloma Faith’s gender-swapped version of the INXS classic Never Tear Us Apart, recorded for a John Lewis ad in 2012, stands almost as tall and proud as the 1988 original.

Seductive and sexy, with a cool Western guitar bridge and a powerfully soulful vocal from one of pop’s most cherished eccentrics – it’s a must-hear cover that can be found on her second studio album, Fall To Grace.

No Doubt – It’s My Life
Original: Talk Talk

Talk Talk’s version of It’s My Life didn’t even make the Top 30 in the States, so when Californian ska-rockers No Doubt chose the song to record in 2003, they didn’t have to deal with too many people giving them grief for vandalising a classic.

Though it misses the sulky melancholy of the original, No Doubt’s version is a pleasingly synth-soaked, club-friendly reinvention of one of Mark Hollis’ most sublime tracks. The song reached No.10 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining on the chart for 28 weeks.

Read our Album By Album feature on Talk Talk here.

The Futureheads – Hounds of Love
Original: Kate Bush

There are precious few Kate Bush covers (I mean, who would even dare?) and even fewer ones that managed to prick the Top 10, with the unlikely exception being northern post-punks The Futureheads who scored a No.8 hit with this guitar-coated version of Dame Kate’s 1986 classic (which, somewhat outrageously, only managed a No.18 placing in the UK).

Despite being named Best Single Of 2005 by the NME it was, tragically for The Futureheads, their last ever Top 10 placing.

Read our Lowdown feature on Kate Bush here.

Hot Chip Dancing in the Dark
Original: Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen’s brand of blue-collar earnestness couldn’t be more distanced from the dorky, bedroom-dwelling, über-arch output of electro noodlers Hot Chip, so there was never any chance that their version of The Boss’ 1984 classic would sound even remotely similar.

Replacing Springsteen’s testosterone-drenched vocals with that of lady-voiced man-child Alexis Taylor, it’s a geeky reclaiming of a song that no speccy, pasty-faced dork would have gone anywhere near before.

The Be Good Tanyas – When Doves Cry
Original: Prince

The most ear-catching covers are often when a band from a completely different corner of the musical spectrum take on a song from a genre far away from their own. So it was when Canadian folkies The Be Good Tanyas picked Prince’s When Doves Cry for a hidden track on their 2006 album Hello Love.

The band’s no-frills, Frazey Ford-fronted cover is slower and more delicate, but still boss, a testament to the stately brilliance of the Purple One’s 1984 original.

Read our Top 10 Prince songs feature here.

Michael Andrews & Gary Jules – Mad World
Original: Tears For Fears

Sometimes a cover can dwarf the original so much that it’s the first version that tends to get mistaken as the reboot. So it is with Mad World, the original of which, by Tears For Fears, peaked at No.3 in the UK in 1982. But Michael Andrews and Gary Jules’ achingly melancholic, bare-bones cover, recorded for the Jake Gyllenhaal-fronted sci-fi flick Donnie Darko, became an unlikely Christmas No.1 at the end of 2003.

When Adam Lambert sang Mad World on American Idol in 2009, it wasn’t Tears For Fears’ version that he performed.

Read more: Top 20 Posthumous Releases



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Listen to (Feels Like) “Heaven” (Fiction Factory Cover) by Roosevelt




Should you be searching for a thoroughly decent indie electronic-pop album to wrap your ears around at the moment. A good one to look at that might have skipped your notice is “Polydans” by the German producer Roosevelt. In comparison to his first two albums. I haven’t spoken an awful lot about “Polydans“, his third one (released in March). Let me share some feedback on it now. This release locks in with spirit of the 80s. Production-wise, the album remains consummate in its entirety. And the body of work is unskippable throughout. With the stats totted up, streaming figures suggest the track “Strangers” has proved most popular. I am sticking with calling out my first choice, “Sign“, as a standout, that I wrote about on the blog.

The reason why I am writing about Roosevelt today isn’t to share a quick outline of the latest album. I wanted to bring his sparkly cover version of the Fiction Factory, 1983, top 10 chart-topper track (Feels Like) “Heaven” to your attention which appears as a bonus track on the Deluxe Edition.

Listen on Apple Music

According to the internet, there have been 18 recordings of (Feels Like) “Heaven” by different artists. Roosevelt’s glittery, upbeat makeover comes in as #19. What I like about the new interpretation of the song it is significantly different in style to the darker new-wave vibes found on the original Fiction Factory edit.

I think the Roosevelt version of the track will go down a treat when played live. He starts a US tour next week and will eventually snake it’s way over to Europe next year.

(Feels Like) “Heaven” is out now – Find it ONLY on the deluxe edition of “Polydans“. (One of 8 bonus tracks)

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Listen to “Sweet Talker” by Years and Years and Galantis




The thing about Galantis is. I pretty much know what to expect from the Swedish dance hit-makers because their signature sound is easily identifiable. The thing with a Years & Years and Galantis collaboration is. I pretty much can guess how it will pan out musically as well. Had they not delivered a bona fide dance banger like “Sweet Talker” is. I may have needed to send them over some serious questions. What I do like, though, on Years and Years part. The upcoming album “Night Call” seemingly, covers more ground in a music sense than the previous projects. Because as I have noticed with the singles to date. “Starstruck“, “Crave“, and now “Sweet Talker“, the styles explored differ vastly.

I am the kind of music listener who likes to play dance tracks in the winter months to help keep the winter blues at bay. Therefore, I am happy, “Sweet Talker” is the euphoric, fist punching anthem I was hoping for. I am also glad that the track includes a big orchestral arrangement by way of embellishment. Without this, it may have sounded too similar to Whigfield’s seminal bop “Saturday Night“, methinks.

Listen on Apple Music

It genuinely pleases me both the lyrics and narrative of the track are self-explanatory. There is a time and a place for tracks steeped with lyrical depth. “Sweet Talker” just isn’t one of them. It’s a dance track, through and through, of the kind that needs to be played turned up loud. That is all.

If you were looking for some exciting Years & Years news. Olly has exclusively revealed in an interview with Radio One DJ Clara Amfo. (In a chat during “Sweet Talker” premiere as Hottest Record In The World) He will be hosting this years’ New Year’s Eve celebrations on the BBC. (In previous years, there have been special live concerts from Queen and Adam Lambert, Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow.) Olly teased he will be counting us down to midnight playing Years & Years tracks (duh!) and some covers. There will be some extra special guests making an appearance also.

This, New Years Eve. With Years & Years on the television I have no reason to go out. I will definitely need to get some special snacks in, though.

Years & Years third album “Night Call” comes out via Interscope Records on January 7th, 2022. – Pre-order HERE

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NOW That’s What I Call Electronic coming this January




NOW That’s What I Call Electronic
NOW That’s What I Call Electronic cover

Synth-pop fans rejoice, as NOW have announced a major 78-track 4CD compilation of the very best in electronic music.

NOW That’s What I Call Electronic will feature songs from artists such Queen, Blondie, Duran Duran, Eurythmics, ABBA and more.

The album showcases, it says, “the emergence of synth-pop as a dominant sub-genre of new wave”. 

Containing such classic tracks as Visage’s Fade To Grey, Japan’s Quiet Life, Ultravox’s Vienna through to OMD’s Enola Gay and Paul Hardcastle’s 19, it promises to be a comprehensive history of synth-pop.

NOW That’s What I Call Electronic is released 7 January 2022.

Read more: The story of That’s What I Call Music


CD 1

  • Queen – Radio Ga Ga
  • New Order – Blue Monday                  
  • Eurythmics, Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart – Love Is A Stranger
  • Ultravox – Vienna 
  • Visage – Fade To Grey
  • Japan – Quiet Life
  • Soft Cell – Tainted Love
  • The Human League – The Sound Of The Crowd
  • Duran Duran – Planet Earth
  • Spandau Ballet – To Cut A Long Story Short          
  • Gary Numan – Cars
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Enola Gay
  • Landscape – Einstein A Go-Go
  • Tears For Fears – Mad World
  • Heaven 17 – Temptation
  • Blancmange – Living On The Ceiling
  • Fiction Factory – (Feels Like) Heaven
  • The Lotus Eaters – The First Picture Of You
  • A Flock Of Seagulls – I Ran (So Far Away)
  • Yello – The Race

CD 2 

  • Donna Summer – I Feel Love (12” Version)
  • Chaka Khan – I Feel For You 
  • Freeez – I.O.U. 
  • Shannon – Let The Music Play 
  • Company B – Fascinated                           
  • The S.O.S Band – Just Be Good To Me
  • Nu Shooz – I Can’t Wait                            
  • The Pointer Sisters – Automatic 
  • Man 2 Man – Male Stripper
  • Patrick Cowley feat. Sylvester – Do You Wanna Funk
  • Liza Minnelli – Losing My Mind
  • Eighth Wonder – I’m Not Scared
  • Animotion – Obsession
  • Trans-X – Living On Video 
  • Dazz Band – Let It All Blow 
  • Harold Faltermeyer – Axel F (From “Beverly Hills Cop” Soundtrack)
  • Art Of Noise – Close (To The Edit) 
  • Malcolm McLaren – Buffalo Gals 
  • Joe Jackson – Steppin’ Out

CD 3

  • ABBA – Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)
  • Blondie – Atomic 
  • The Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star
  • M – Pop Muzik
  • Paul Hardcastle – 19
  • Falco – Rock Me Amadeus (The American Edit)
  • Phil Lynott – Yellow Pearl (First 7″ Remix)
  • Kim Wilde – Kids In America
  • Altered Images – Don’t Talk To Me About Love
  • a-ha – Take On Me
  • Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder – Together In Electric Dreams
  • Howard Jones – New Song
  • Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t It Be Good 
  • Limahl – Never Ending Story  
  • Thompson Twins – Love On Your Side
  • Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance
  • Kon Kan – I Beg Your Pardon (I Never Promised You A Rose Garden)
  • Peter Schilling – Major Tom (Coming Home)
  • Midge Ure – If I Was 
  • China Crisis – Christian
  • Jan Hammer – Crockett’s Theme (From “Miami Vice II” Soundtrack)

CD 4 

  • Dead Or Alive – You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) (Performance Mix)
  • The Human League – Love Action (I Believe In Love)
  • Propaganda – Dr Mabuse
  • The Cure – The Walk 
  • Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart                    
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Messages
  • Our Daughter’s Wedding – Lawn Chairs
  • Iggy Pop – Nightclubbing
  • Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy
  • Erasure – Drama!
  • Scritti Politti – Absolute
  • The Associates – Party Fears Two
  • Furniture – Brilliant Mind
  • Talk Talk – It’s My Life                               
  • Simple Minds – Glittering Prize 
  • Swans Way – Soul Train
  • The Passions – I’m In Love With A German Film Star
  • Soft Cell – Say Hello, Wave Goodbye




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