Biggest Cover Versions Of The 1980s

Biggest Cover Versions Of The 1980s

kylie minogue, rick astley
L:  Kylie Minogue. Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images. R: Rick Astley. Photo by Pete Still/Redferns.

The 1980s was a decade of great innovation in music, but it was also a time when many artists looked to the past for inspiration. Among each year’s highest-selling singles were some well-chosen cover versions. Here are the biggest remakes from each year of the ’80s.


Leo Sayer | "More Than I Can Say”

Peak: number 1 (two weeks)

Position on year-end chart: number 8

He’d released a steady stream of music throughout the 1970s, but this lead single from his eighth album, 1980’s Living In A Fantasy, provided future Australian resident Leo Sayer with something he’d never had before: a number 1 hit down under. It was the first time “More Than I Can Say” had visited the top 50, despite a number of previous recordings, including by The Crickets in 1960 and Bobby Vee the following year.


Roxy Music | "Jealous Guy”

Peak: number 1 (four weeks)

Position on year-end chart: number 4

A track on John Lennon’s Imagine album, “Jealous Guy” was recorded by Roxy Music early in 1981 following the singer’s death in December 1980. The Bryan Ferry-fronted band released their cover as a stand-alone single between their Flesh And Blood and Avalon albums, and its success in Australia eclipsed anything they had produced up until that point.


Soft Cell | "Tainted Love” 

Peak: number 1 (three weeks)

Position on year-end chart: number 3

Gloria Jones had recorded the song twice previously – once as the B-side to her 1965 single “My Bad Boy’s Comin’ Home” and again in 1976 when it had started gaining popularity on Britain’s Northern Soul scene. Soft Cell’s version was their second single and, since their debut, “Memorabilia”, had flopped, they were in danger of being dropped if it wasn’t a hit. It went on to be the highest-selling single of 1981 in the UK.


Laura Branigan | "Gloria” 

Peak: number 1 (seven weeks)

Position on year-end chart: number 3

The Italian original by Umberto Tozzi had peaked just inside the top 50 in 1980, but Laura Branigan’s English-language transformation turned “Gloria” into a massive hit. This wasn’t the only song of Umberto’s that Laura remade – she took his 1977 European hit “Ti Amo” to number 2 – while another of her successes, “Self Control”, had also been originally recorded by an Italian singer: Raf.


Julio Iglesias & Willie Nelson | "To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” 

Peak: number 4

Position on year-end chart: number 29

Although the year’s number 9 song, “Girl Just Want To Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper, had originally been demoed by its writer, Robert Hazard, his version wasn’t commercially released, and so this duet is the year’s most successful remake. The song, which provided Julio Iglesias with his English-language breakthrough, had been first recorded by co-writer Albert Hammond in 1975 and also covered by Bobby Vinton in 1980.


UB40 with Chrissie Hynde | "I Got You Babe” 

Peak: number 1 (three weeks)

Position on year-end chart: number 8

Their version of “Red Red Wine” had almost topped the chart in 1983, but UB40 went all the way with a little help from The Pretenders singer with their update of Sonny & Cher’s number 3 hit from 1965. The British reggae band were always much more successful with covers in Australia, with their best performing original track being 1988’s “Where Did I Go Wrong” (number 17).


Bananarama | "Venus” 

Peak: number 1 (seven weeks)

Position on year-end chart: number 4

The song had already been to number 1 in Australia – 16 years earlier for Dutch band Shocking Blue. Girl group Bananarama re-recorded it and took it back to the top of the chart. The trio’s hi-NRG version of “Venus” was their first release with producers Stock Aitken Waterman, who they approached because they were fans of the work they’d done with Dead Or Alive.


Kylie Minogue | "Locomotion” 

Peak: number 1 (seven weeks)

Position on year-end chart: number 1

A singer who would go on to work with Stock Aitken Waterman (who remixed this track for UK release in 1988) started her music career with an update of a song that had reached number 16 in 1962 for Little Eva. The Neighbours star had performed “Locomotion” at a charity fundraiser before signing a record deal with Mushroom Records – and the rest is pop music history.


Rick Astley | "Whenever You Need Somebody” 

Peak: number 3

Position on year-end chart: number 12

“Never Gonna Give You Up” had been one of this biggest hits of the decade, and the British star followed that up with a song Stock Aitken Waterman (them again) had previously given to little known soul singer O’Chi Brown, who’d scraped into the UK top 100 with it in 1985.


Bette Midler | "Wind Beneath My Wings” 

Peak: number 1 (two weeks)

Position on year-end chart: number 11

A song that had been recorded multiple times in 1982-83, including a version that narrowly missed the top 50 for Colleen Hewitt, “Wind Beneath My Wings” finally became a big hit thanks to Bette Midler’s remake for the soundtrack to her film Beaches. As well as its chart success, the cover won Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year at the 1990 Grammy Awards.

Listen to the Beaches Soundtrack on Spotify:

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