I had a dream last night that I was trapped in a cave for 40 days with only a spark to light my way. Ok, ok, that didn’t happen, but I did dream about writing this article, but I digress. In case you haven’t guessed, this edition of Cover vs Original focuses on the song I Still Believe (Great Design). First recorded by The Call, I Still Believe reached the charts with a cover recorded for The Lost Boys, I Still Believe (Great Design) was also covered by Cyber Rock outfit The Protomen, and even CCM artist Russ Taff (twice). I Still Believe shows a struggling person who refuses to give up hope. Each individual cover of I Still Believe will have you pumped up and want to scream out in hope.
So which cover of I Still Believe is definitive? Which gets our adrenaline pumping the most? Which tells us we can fight vampires, evil spirits, and the principalities of this world? That’s what I’m here to find out! This is Cover vs Original: I Still Believe!
The Call (1986)
As we listen to The Call’s original version of I Still Believe (Great Design), we see a lot of religious imagery. Phrases such as “40 Days” and “I’m turned and tossed, Upon the waves, When the darkness comes, I feel the grave” give us a distinct Biblical feel to the song. Of course, the chorus and title of the song (I Still Believe) lend themselves to biblical allusions. The third verse has no biblical allusions, but still presents a story of hope and faith – despite overwhelming circumstances.
As far as the music, I Still Believe (Great Design) must be one of the most upbeat songs ever written. The uptempo nature of the song lends itself to the lyrics’ themes of hope and faith. The instrumentation is pretty standard for 80s modern rock. A ton of guitars, a ton of keyboards. There’s a great synthesizer solo after the coda! There’s also an interesting feature in the verses, where the singer and guitars serve as a call and answer format, like something out of a traditional spiritual.
Is I Still Believe (Great Design) a religious song? That’s up to the listener to decide, but there’s certainly enough evidence to support this thesis.
Tim Capello (1987)
Confession, I’ve never seen The Lost Boys. Regardless, I know the plot enough to connect the Capello cover to its vampire roots. Yes, I Still Believe (by Tim Capello) is all about vampires! Ok, ok, it’s a little more complicated than vampires, but along with the hope and faith we find in the original version of I Still Believe, we also find desperation and even fear.
Capello didn’t change much from the original. version. The tempo is only altered slightly. There are a few minor keys inserted here and there. With that said, the instrumentation is totally different, and this is what gives us the added dimension of fear and desperation. The keyboards are often played slowly and softly, giving us an ominous feel to the song. in fact, the baseline keys give us the same feeling as a creepy fog in a slasher flick. We know there’s something dark happening. Oh, and of course we have to talk about the saxophone. Tim Capello (Tina Turner’s former saxophonist) belts out some rather murderous notes throughout the song. If you listen closely, you can even hear death-curdling screams via the saxophone parts. Still, the Capello version of I Still Believe is there to tell us don’t give up hope and faith, despite the ever-pressing darkness.
Tim Capello’s I Still Believe might be dark, but it’s there to tell the audience to fight back against evil.
Russ Taff (1987, 2018)
On first listen, Russ Taff’s 1987 version of I Still Believe might sound like a first-wave cover of the original. However, Taff makes it personal! Remember how I said the original can be interpreted as a spiritual song, depending on the listener? Taff takes this route with his cover. Taff doesn’t change much about the song. Even the accompaniment sounds pretty close to the original. What Taff does change, however, is subtle and personal. Taff belts out the song in a way that shows us his cover is about his life and his personal struggles. He even adds on the phrase “They can’t take that away from me,” implying that hope and faith are all he has. Taff also emphasizes every single “I” in the song.
Fast forward a few decades, when Russ Taff re-records the song and uses it as the theme song for the movie of his life. When one uses a song as the theme for their life story, that proves how personal the song is to that person.
Taff works the spiritual angle of I Still Believe, but also makes the song about himself and his journey.
The Protomen (2015)
The first thing I notice about the Protmen’s cover of I Still Believe, they use the whole title. Neither Taff nor Capello uses “The Great Design” in their titles. This hints that The Protomen want their cover to be a nod to the original. However, one of the primary instruments used throughout the song is a saxophone, a clear nod to the Tim Capello version. There’s nothing else that really stands out about this cover of I Still Believe, but these two competing factors make us see an almost zen relationship in the competing versions. We can feel the darkness, we can feel the hope. Perhaps this is what the Protomen have to say with their cover.
The Protomen tell us that there’s room for both the original and the most famous version of I Still Believe (The Great Design).
Which Cover of I Still Believe is a Great Design?
Every version examined today has its merits. You have the spirituality of the original, the darkness of the Tim Capello version, the personal struggles with Russ Taff’s versions, and the zen aspects of The Protmen’s version. Can you really choose a favorite? Ok, so if I were to choose a favorite, I know it would not be The Protomen or Russ Taff. Again, both versions have merit, but the first two versions were just better. Really, I guess it’s a choice between fear and hope. Darkness and light. To be fair, maybe your opinions of saxophones will also play a part in your decision. Still, the decision is yours.