Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.
A newly elected, telegenic-but-polarizing, anti-establishment Republican president. A charged political climate on both sides of the Atlantic. A backlash from progressives in the music and entertainment community. Sound familiar? Yes, folks, we’ve seen this before!
As Ronald Reagan stepped on to the world stage in 1981, Martyn Ware, Ian Craig Marsh, and Glenn Gregory were readying their eventual UK gold-selling debut album Penthouse and Pavement. Keyboardists Ware and Marsh, recently split co-founders of the Human League, joined with fellow Sheffield native and vocalist Gregory to form a new synth-pop outfit named for a fictional band from the novel A Clockwork Orange. Their first single, the frenetic “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang,” became a Top 30 US dance club hit in 1981, but not before being banned by the BBC in the UK over concerns of libel, in particular for the line “Reagan’s president-elect/Fascist god in motion.”
The classic track features Gregory’s velvety vocals over high beats-per-minute electronic percussion, combined with funky guitar, “slap” bass, sax, and synth effects. The still-active band’s website tells us that the song became NME’s record of the week while happening to mention, albeit as comic denunciations, the words “fascist,” “Hitler,” and “racist.”
Time has inspired a handful of musically evolved cover versions. The more recent attempts, if not (ironically) from Germany, do include some updated political sentiments. As it stands…
Poster Children’s version is good
Blackout Country’s version is better.
Kitten & The Hips’ version is best.
Poster Children – (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (Heaven 17 cover)
The intense, unrelenting, industrial rock version from these 30-year mid-western indie veterans keeps the fast pace of the original, but with a darker tone. Their 2004 On The Offensive EP consists of “Political covers for a political season.”
Blackout Country – (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (Heaven 17 cover)
The “Indie Rock & Psychedelic Pop” duo from Berlin slows it down in this goth-rocking 2016 version with added synth and keyboards. Mr. BlackOut sounds like a German Jeremy Irons.
Kitten & The Hip – Walter Ego Fascist Groove Thang (Heaven 17 cover)
This alt/indie trio slows it down even further, this time to a funky through-the-mud crawl. Released earlier this year, deep-voiced Ashley Slater swaps out the “Reagan’s president-elect” line with his “Trump is in the White House,” but that’s minor compared to the massive reworking by the super-hot dance band. Slater is known for his work with Norman “Fatboy Slim” Cook. Partner/singer/wife/lap-dancer “Kitten” Quinn was featured in the auditions for The X Factor 2014.
Information Society – (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (Heaven 17 cover)
This techno homage from early 2016 builds slowly, then includes samples of George W. Bush and Sarah Palin late in the mix on their packed-with-covers Orders of Magnitude album. Later, the Minneapolis music collective removed those and added Donald Trump to their “Inertia Versus The Crusher” remix.
Technogod – (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (Heaven 17 cover)
Not just another techno take. Italy’s Technogod strips the social commentary and packs on the power to stand tall for this 1996 electro-industrial effort.
- On the road: Red Hot Chili Peppers paid their respects during a Sheffield tour stop. (2011).
- More from Deutschland: fast darkwave version from Deine Lakaien (1999); Devo-styled noir video from Boy Division (2012)
- On TV as it is in Heaven 17: updated live version at Abbey Road for BBC 6 Music. (2010)