All of the following songs were big hits in the 1980s, but it wasn’t the first time they were released — they were all cover versions of other artists’ songs. And, in many cases, they surpassed the success of their predecessors. Did you know all of these songs were covers?
1. I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll was originally released in 1975 by the British band the Arrows. After seeing the Arrows perform the song on television while she was touring England with the Runaways, Joan Jett recorded a version in 1979 with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols. That version was released as the B side to You Don’t Own Me. In 1981, Jett re-recorded I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll with her band, the Blackhearts. The 1981 version hit pop chart pay dirt, spending seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
2. Obsession by Animotion
American synthpop band Animotion had their biggest hit in early 1985 with the song Obsession, but theirs wasn’t the first version of the song. It was written and originally recorded by Holly Knight and Michael Des Barres in 1983. Knight and Des Barres’ version appeared on the soundtrack for the movie A Night in Heaven, starring Christopher Atkins and Lesley Ann Warren. Animotion’s version, however, was the success story; it reached the Top 10 in several countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany.
3. Hazy Shade of Winter by the Bangles
The Bangles had been performing a cover of the 1966 Simon & Garfunkel song A Hazy Shade of Winter in concert for several years before they recorded a version for the Less Than Zero soundtrack. Released in 1987, the Bangles version peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, surpassing the success of the original, which had peaked at No. 13.
4. Cum on Feel the Noize by Quiet Riot
In 1983, heavy metal band Quiet Riot released the single Cum on Feel the Noize, a cover of a song recorded a decade earlier by the English glam rock band Slade. The original version was a No. 1 hit for Slade in the United Kingdom, but the band was relatively unknown in the United States. Quiet Riot’s version brought the song to a U.S. audience, reaching No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
5. Red Red Wine by UB40
According to UB40, the band didn’t realize they were covering a Neil Diamond song when they recorded a version of Red Red Wine in the early 1980s. They were only familiar with Tony Tribe’s reggae-style version, released in 1969. In fact, Diamond wrote the song and released it in 1968 on his second studio album, Just for You. Though not the first to release it, UB40 had the most success with the song; their version reached No. 1 in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
6. Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind) by New Kids on the Block
The New Kids didn’t have to sing a power ballad to make young girls swoon in the 1980s, but it certainly didn’t hurt. In 1989, they released a cover of the Delfonics’ Grammy Award-winning love song Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time). Released in late 1969, the Delfonics version reached No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 on the Billboard R&B singles chart. The New Kids version peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100.
7. I’ve Done Everything for You by Rick Springfield
Australian rocker Rick Springfield became an international success in 1981 with his fifth studio album, Working Class Dog, which included the No. 1 hit single Jessie’s Girl. His follow-up to Jessie’s Girl was another single from Working Class Dog, I’ve Done Everything for You, which spent two weeks at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Springfield had borrowed the song from Sammy Hagar, who wrote it and included it on his 1978 live album, All Night Long. Hagar’s version was released as a single, but it failed to chart.
8. I Think We’re Alone Now by Tiffany
As young Tiffany fans were packing shopping malls across America in the late 80s, many were unaware that she wasn’t the first to record her hit single I Think We’re Alone Now. It was originally released in 1967 by Tommy James and the Shondells. The original was a success on the charts, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, but Tiffany’s version surpassed it, spending two weeks at No. 1.
This wasn’t the only time an artist had success with a Tommy James and the Shondells song in the 1980s — Joan Jett and the Blackhearts reached the Top 10 with a cover of Crimson & Clover, and Billy Idol went all the way to No. 1 with his version of Mony Mony.
9. You Keep Me Hangin’ On by Kim Wilde
The Supremes had a No. 1 hit on their hands in 1966 with the single You Keep Me Hangin’ On. Twenty years later, British singer Kim Wilde completely reworked the song — and had a No. 1 hit on her hands. It would become the biggest hit of Wilde’s career, hitting the top spot on the charts in several countries.
10. Tainted Love by Soft Cell
American artist Gloria Jones originally released a Motown-influenced version of Tainted Love in 1965 as the B side to her single My Bad Boy’s Comin’ Home — with little success. In the 1970s, her version of Tainted Love experienced a rebirth in the British club scene, so she re-recorded it and released it as a single in 1976 — but again, it failed to chart. The third time proved to be the charm for the song Tainted Love when English duo Soft Cell recorded a drastically different version of it. Released in 1981 in the United Kingdom and the following year in the United States, Soft Cell’s version reached No. 1 and No. 8 in those countries, respectively.