Bonnie Tyler’s biggest hit, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is a power ballad that embodies of so much of what made the ’80s the ’80s. The lyrics are melodramatic, the recording might have a few too many instruments on it, Tyler really sings the song, and the accompanying video is full of big hair, wind machines and absurd visuals. “Total Eclipse” was written by Jim Steinman, the songwriter most famous for launching Meat Loaf’s career. His lyrics can be just a tad over-the-top – he originally planned to write “Total Eclipse” about vampires. (Of course he did.) But Tyler’s gritty voice sells Steinman’s words, and she takes what could have been full-on camp and makes it feel impassioned and real.
Follow all our Best of 2017 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.
Year-end lists are a time to look back. That’s something we’ve been doing a lot of this year.
See, we turned ten years old in 2017 – practically ancient in internet-blog terms – so we’ve indulged in what we feel is well-earned nostalgia. At the beginning of the year, each of our writers picked the ten most important covers in their life (see them here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). We even listed the ten most important covers in Cover Me‘s life, from the song that inspired the site to our very first Best of the Year winner.
Then, to cap things off, in October we commissioned a 25-track tribute to the cover song itself – which you can still download for free. We love the covers everyone contributed so much, incidentally, that we didn’t consider them for this list. It’d be like picking favorite children – if you had 25 of ’em.
Oh, and have I mentioned I wrote a book? … What’s that you say? I mentioned that constantly? Well, I’m quite proud of it. It’s called Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time and it makes a great Christmas gift and – ok, ok, I’ll stop. You can find plenty more about it elsewhere.
Suffice to say, there’s been a lot of looking back this year. And we hope you’ll indulge us this one last glance rearward before we leap into 2018. Because if it’s been a hell of a year for us, it’s certainly also been a hell of a year for the cover song in general. Some of this year’s list ranks among the best covers we’ve ever heard, period. So dig in, and thanks for your support this past decade.
– Ray Padgett
Saint Saviour is an atmospheric/electronic cover producing machine. Over the past year or so, we have featured four covers by the pop seamstress. Her most recent cover, a subdued take on Bonnie Tyler‘s power ballad “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” is a fantastic addition to her quickly growing cover catalog.
Live Collection brings together every live cover we can find from an artist. And we find a lot.
The recent release of Easy Wonderful has given Guster fans reason to fall in love with them all over again. As their album title insinuates, they have an agreeable sound that resonates with you and has aged well over the past (almost) 20 years. If the Beach Boys went to college in the 90’s, added some bongos, and stayed out of the sun, Guster is what they would sound like.
Featured on soundtracks like Life as a House and Wedding Crashers, their songs can pull at the heartstrings as you croon along with them. On the other hand, they are better known for their laid-back, wisecracking personalities that beam from the stage and infect their fans. During their years of touring, they have taken on many cover songs with both their sensitive and playful dispositions (but mostly the latter). Typically at the end of a show, Guster will rile up the crowd with a number from Madonna, Talking Heads, or whoever sings the “Cheers” theme song (Portnoy) and get everyone involved. Most of the time, it’s just an excuse to get drummer Brian Rosenworcel out in front showing off his questionable vocals, calling in the crowd for backup. It’s just like being at a karaoke bar.
Cover Commissions is a monthly series in which a featured artist covers a reader-selected song for this blog. Any artists interested in participating, email me at the address on the right.
I consider one month a fast Cover Commissions turnaround, but this is just ridiculous. The polling for Tinyfolk’s Commissions closed just one week ago and we’ve already got the finished cover. Two versions of it in fact. Plus a bonus track!
Voting almost hit a three-way tie between Taylor Swift (“You Belong With Me”), Elton John and Jeremy Irons (“Be Prepared”) and Bonnie Tyler (“Total Eclipse of the Heart”), but in the end the ‘80s fans won out. Maybe synth solos are more popular than previously believed or maybe folks had seen the recent “literal video” for “Total Eclipse” that’s been making the rounds.
Taking on any song by legendarily epic songwriter Jim Steinman is a daunting task to be sure. There’s a reason there aren’t many “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” covers out there. Tinyfolk’s Russ Woods describes how he approached Bonnie’s epic ballad:
I’m pretty glad this got picked. I’m a huge Jim Steinman fan. I love his work with Bonnie Tyler, Meat Loaf, and yes, even Celine Dion. I’ve seen Streets of Fire, and own a CD of music from the German-language musical Tanz Der Vampire that Steinman scored. I’ve never covered one of his songs because they’re huge and epic and kind of intimidating. I put this on the list as a way to force myself to try it if it got picked. And it did.
We ended up with two different takes, one a bit dancier and one a bit folkier. Both involve me having to use the far extremes of my vocal range more than any song I’ve ever recorded. James Eric and I recorded them on Sunday after finishing up recording the new Tinyfolk album, Black Bears, which he produced. So, big thanks to James Eric, aka Garden on a Trampoline, for helping out.
Just like James did for us a year ago with his two versions of Devo’s “Beautiful World” and one of MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” (download them here), Russ has sent in not one cover, but three. First up, the Commissions winner. Turn around…
Tinyfolk ft. G.O.A.T. – Total Eclipse of the Heart (Dance Version) (Bonnie Tyler)
Tinyfolk ft. G.O.A.T. – Total Eclipse of the Heart (Folk Version) (Bonnie Tyler)
Apparently still having time to kill, Tinyfolk also tackled one of the other poll options: “Do Your Best.”
Tinyfolk – Do Your Best (John Maus)
These mp3s may be freely shared with the artist’s blessing. Post them on your blog, send them to your friends, tweet them to the world. When you share these though, please include a link to this site. Check back for future Cover Commissions installments.
Part two of our 80’s tribute series, we follow up all the rockin’ with a little new wave pop.
Jake Shimabukuro – Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper)
The smooth Hawaiian sounds of Jake’s ukulele became a youtube hit with his While My Guitar Gently Weeps cover, but this take is almost as soulful. I wish the lounge background music was stripped though.
KT Tunstall – Walk Like an Egyptian (The Bangles)
A live take here, it’s not too dissimilar to the original, but fun nevertheless. Tunstall says she chose to cover it because of its musical similarity to her single “Hold On.”
Johnny Cash – Personal Jesus (Depeche Mode)
Another classic off the same album that brought the world “Hurt,” this one is a little faster paced. The rollicking piano backs Cash’s broken but forceful vocals.
Norman Palm – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper)
Sensitive but not pathetic, the guitar harmonies match the vocal ones on this quiet take that would sound like a completely legit song if you ignored the lyrics.
Adam Selzer – Like a Prayer (Madonna)
Dark piano adds a gothic touch to this outtake that gets all touching for the chorus.
Fabienne Louves – She Works Hard for the Money (Donna Summer)
A Swiss German cover here, it’s electro-disco-fun in a language you can’t understand. Hurray!
Kevin Davis – 99 Red Balloons (Nina)
No synths or drum machines here, the riff is taken over by a harmonica. I wish they’d done the German version, but you’ve probably had enough of that after the previous song.
Der Tanz Der Vampire – Totale Finsternis (Total Eclipse of the Heart) (Bonnie Tyler)
Like the original only even more orchestrally epic, this song was rewritten by Jim Steinmen for his German vampire musical. It’s a dark and Gothic bloodsucking love duet that totally eclipses the original. The musical had a brief Broadway run in 2003, but having been rewritten as a camp number was a huge flop. Just go and watch a video of an abridged version from the original Austrian production to understand.
Bat for Lashes – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (Eurythmics)
A thumping, echoey version, it’s trippy psychedelia for the electronic millennium.
The Editors – Road to Nowhere (Talking Heads)
An Americana-inflected take, it starts out with a powerful voice and little else and builds from there into an acoustic power ballad.