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.

Hall & Oates and more...

 
Bow Wow Wow - "I Want Candy" (1982)

The Strangeloves were a New York-based band that scored one major hit: "I Want Candy" reached #11 in 1965. Nearly two decades later it was resurrected by Bow Wow Wow, an English band put together by the late Malcolm McLaren, one of the most influential architects of the punk rock movement in the UK. Bow Wow Wow consisted of former members of Adam and the Ants and the young vocalist Annabella Lwin, who was only 15 when "I Want Candy" was released in 1982. It was never a big hit for the band in America, stalling out at #62, but "I Want Candy" received plenty of MTV airplay and has become a new wave essential.

 
Laura Branigan - "Gloria" (1982)

Powerhouse vocalist Laura Branigan scored three Top 10 hits in the US, and they all were covers of songs originally recorded by European artists in their native language. Branigan's 1984 smash "Self Control" was originally a hit for the Italian artist Raf, and the Top 10 "Solitaire" from 1982 was a minor hit for French vocalist Martine Clémenceau the prior year. Branigan enjoyed her greatest success in 1982 with the high-energy pop/disco classic "Gloria", a song co-written and originally recorded in 1979 by Italian artist Umberto Tozzi. Branigan's version hit #2 in the US and remains an '80s classic.

 
Kim Carnes - "Bette Davis Eyes" (1981)

Before Kim Carnes turned "Bette Davis Eyes" into one of the great singles of the '80s, Jackie DeShannon co-wrote and released the song in 1974. Her jaunty melding of R&B with some country elements couldn't be more different in tone that Carnes' starkly powerful new wave/rock classic that spent nine weeks at #1 in 1981. The arrangement is simple and stark, just a heavy backbeat and bass, a simple rhythm guitar, quavering lines of synth, and bits of electronic percussion mimicking handclaps, sometimes echoed by the guitar. Her nuance and phrasing are perfect at every turn. From a growl to a conspiratorial half-whisper, Carnes knows how to use her raspy voice to wring every last bit of drama from the song. Listen to the attitude she injects in lines likes, "She'll expose you / when she snows you / off your feet with the crumbs she throws you / She's ferocious / and she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush."


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Cher - "I Found Someone" (1987)

Turnabout is fair play. Laura Branigan's biggest hits were all covers of songs previously released by European artists. Written by Michael Bolton, Branigan's version of "I Found Someone" was barely a blip on the US pop chart, managing to reach #90. But the song was not forgotten, and it became Cher's big comeback single. The first single from her self-titled 1987 release, Cher's version was her first Top 40 hit since 1979, reaching #10. "I Found Someone" righted the ship on Cher's floundering music career and set her up nicely for future success with hits like "We All Sleep Alone" and "If I Could Turn Back Time".

 
Hall & Oates - "Family Man" (1983)

When Daryl Hall and John Oates released "Family Man" as a single in 1983, they were riding a string of hits, including two straight from their 1982 album H20: the #1 classic "Maneater" and the Top 10 ballad "One on One". Hall and Oates primarily wrote their own material, but they were known to throw in the occasional cover, such as their hit remake of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" in 1980. The third single from H20, "Family Man" was originally co-written and recorded by Mike Oldfield (of "Tubular Bells" fame) and Maggie Reilly for Oldfield's 1982 album Five Miles Out. The original became a minor hit in the UK, reaching #45, but it took Hall and Oates to turn the song into a smash, going all the way to #6 in the US and becoming one of a remarkable 16 Top Ten hits for the duo.

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