Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

There were many smash hit cover versions during the ‘80s of songs famous enough that most fans were aware they were covers. Some examples include David Bowie and Mick Jagger's "Dancing in the Street", Pet Shop Boys' "Always on My Mind", Billy Idol's "Mony Mony", "Venus" by Bananarama, Cyndi Lauper's "What's Goin' On", Club Nouveau's "Lean on Me", "I Think We're Alone Now" by Tiffany, UB40's "Red Red Wine", the Bangles' "Hazy Shade of Winter", Kim Wilde's "You Keep Me Hangin' On", Quiet Riot's "Cum on Feel the Noize", "Funky Town" by Pseudo Echo, just to name a very few.

However there were also many big hits that many fans might not have realized were covers, either because the original versions are obscure, or perhaps they had been hits but had faded away from public awareness. Below are 20 classic singles of the ‘80s that many may not have realized are covers, and some of them might surprise.

 
Animotion - "Obsession" (1984)

Singer/songwriter Holly Knight, who enjoyed substantial success in the '80s writing hits for other artists like Pat Benatar's "Love Is a Battlefield", "Never" by Heart, and "The Warrior" by Scandal just to name a few, first released the track "Obsession" as a duet with singer Michael De Barres in 1983. Despite placement on the film soundtrack for A Night in Heaven, the song failed to ignite. A year later it was recorded by Los Angeles-based new wavers Animotion, who took their synth-driven version of the song to #6 in the US and into the Top 10 around the world. It became the band's signature song and one of the ‘80s most iconic singles.

 
Toni Basil - "Mickey" (1982)

Who knew that "Mickey" was once "Kitty"? British power-pop combo Racey are best known for their smash UK singles "Lay Your Love on Me" (1978) and "Some Girls" (1979). However, it was the track "Kitty" from the band's 1979 debut album Smash and Grab that became a pop-music phenomenon -- just not for them. Singer/choreographer Toni Basil changed the name to "Mickey", donned her cheerleading gear in a video that was in near perpetual rotation on MTV, and scored a #1 smash in 1982.

 
Pat Benatar - "All Fired Up" (1988)

Pat Benatar was one of the ‘80s most consistent hitmakers early in the decade, but as the ‘90s approached, she began to lose her commercial momentum. Her last every Top 40 hit came in 1988 with "All Fired Up", a blazing rocker from her album Wide Awake in Dreamland. She delivers a terrific performance and absolutely owns the song, but she had no hand in writing it. It was first a 1987 single by the obscure Australian band Rattling Sabres. Their original recording was a minor hit in Australia and was ultimately the band's only brush with success before disbanding.

 
Big Pig - "Breakaway" (1988)

American R&B singer Chuck Jackson, an inductee into the Official Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame, is best known for his 1962 single "Any Day Now", which hit #2 on the US R&B chart and #24 on the pop chart. His 1973 single "I Can't Break Away" failed to achieve similar success, but 15 years later the funky soul tune was morphed into heavily rhythmic electro-pop by the Australian band Big Pig. They released it as "Breakaway" from their 1988 album Bonk. The song was a Top 10 smash in their native country and also received significant play on MTV in the US, thanks in part to its inclusion on the soundtrack to the 1989 comedy Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

 
Blondie - "The Tide Is High" (1980)

Jamaican reggae band the Paragons recorded their obscure single "The Tide is High" in 1967, but it didn't become a major international hit until Blondie released it as the first single from their 1980 album Autoamerican. Blondie's sexy reggae-light rendition, featuring a flirty and playful vocal by Debbie Harry, soared to #1, becoming the group's third US chart-topper following "Heart of Glass" and "Call Me".

Next Page

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image