“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty-odd years.
“The Reflex” was Duran Duran’s first single to top the American charts, in 1984, and remains one of their most-streamed tracks on Spotify. Despite all that, though, it hasn’t generated as many covers as you’d think. Covers database SecondHandSongs lists almost three times as many covers of “Hungry Like the Wolf.” And “Ordinary World.” And “A View to a Kill.”
The first cover of note lasts, by my count, exactly nine seconds. In the polka medley on his 1985 album Dare To Be Stupid, “Weird Al” Yankovic incorporated a small snippet of a polka-fied “Reflex.” It goes by so fast that, despite having heard this medley probably a thousand times, I had to skip around for a while until I found it. It comes in around 2:50. He sings it like a sheep for some reason.
The first really notable cover – and I’m using the word in the sense that Pearl Harbor was a “notable” event in American history – comes from Less Than Jake. When I was doing interviews for my book around tribute albums (ahem), I was often asked about the worst tribute album ever. One I often cited was “that 1997 tribute album where a bunch of ska bands play Duran Duran.” I always felt slightly guilty holding this up as an obviously terrible idea, because I love the audacity of nutty genre-crossing concepts. But this one was sadly just as bad as it sounds, and Less Than Jake’s “The Reflex” shows you why.
Fivesnatch was an alt-rock band in Japan that released a couple albums in the late ’90s. Judging by the dearth of information online, and the very few plays on the YouTube video of their discography, they didn’t make it big in their own country, much like anyone else. I dig their percussion-driven “The Reflex” though, bringing in elements of jazz and post-rock underneath the thick accents.
The biggest name to cover “The Reflex” – by far – is Kylie Minogue. She recorded it alongside Ben Lee for an Australian tribute album called The Songs of Duran Duran: UnDone, where they are the biggest names by a mile. The production reads extremely ’90s – think Garbage meets trip-hop – but it works.
The subtitle of Big Metal Thing Vol. 2 is A Metal Tribute to Duran Duran, which gives you an idea what you’re in for here. …So Hate Is… is apparently an Italian metal band that exclusively does Duran Duran songs (the Duran website has a short Q&A with them). Their odd name is a pun on “So 80s,” which I guess works, though I don’t understand why the double ellipses are necessary. If there’s a metal tribute to the Bee Gees, though, why not Duran Duran?
And, other than a bunch of unmemorable and interchangeable a cappella covers, that’s about it. If you want more “Reflex” though, there’s a good mini-doc on YouTube with Duran Duran and Nile Rodgers.