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Any Major Originals: The 1980s

August 9th, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

Some years ago I ran a long series on the lesser-known originals of big hits. Here we continue a series of mixes that bring many of those originals together, by themes. Previously we’ve had the originals of Burt Bacharach songs, Christmas classics, Elvis Presley (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2). Here are the originals of hits from the 1980s.

One act could have featured twice here: early ‘70s soul group The Persuaders feature here with their quite nice original of Some Guys Have All The Luck, with the famous cover a cautionary tale of what can happen to a perfectly good song when you add ‘80s synths, cocaine and Rod Stewart to it. Not featured is A Thin Line Between over And Hate, later a hit for the Pretenders. But another original of a Pretenders hit features here, the Kinks’ 1964 song Stop Your Sobbing. At this point I notice that the first three tracks on this mix were originally sung by men and covered to commercial success by women.

Perhaps the most famous of these originals is Gloria Jones’ 1965 b-side Tainted Love; a soul track (often falsely said to be a Tamla Motown record) that became a synth classic. It came to the UK by way of England’s Northern Soul scene which thrives on obscure ‘60s soul tracks. Before Tainted Love became a hit, Gloria Jones attained some pop history fame: she was Marc Bolan’s girlfriend and passenger when he was killed in a car crash in 1977.

A couple of tracks here may, to some, be better known in the original. The Labi Siffre original of It Must Be Love is hardly obscure. Still, it is the 1981 Madness cover that was the bigger hit and gets the wider airplay. Madness reached the UK #4 with the song; in 1971, Siffre (one of the first openly gay singers in pop) reached #14 with it. Rather endearingly, Siffre made a cameo appearance in the video for the Madness single (he is a violin player).

Likewise, when teenage singer Tiffany scored her 1987 debut hit I Think We’re Alone Now by performing it at malls, the kids’ parents (seen in the video looking on bemusedly at Tiffany’s exploits) probably recognised the song as Tommy James & the Shondells’ 1967 US #4 hit. And while Tiffany topped the UK charts with her version, the original didn’t chart there. Curiously, Tiffany’s cover was followed at US #1 by another Tommy James cover, Mony Mony by Billy Idol.

Certainly in Europe, the Laura Branigan hit Gloria was better known in Umberto Tozzi’s Italian original from 1978. Branigan had another big hit with an Italian hit: 1984’s Self Control was a Euro hit the same year for RAF.

Some originals were written or co-written by the artist who’d have the hit with them. C’est La Vie, first recorded by soul singer Beau Williams, was co-written by Robbie Nevil who’d have a hit with it in 1986 (followers of the Any Major Soul series may remember Williams as the singer of the slightly overwrought ballad Elvina).

China Girl, a hit for David Bowie in 1983, was originally recorded by Iggy Pop, who co-wrote it with Bowie, in 1977 at a time when both stars dwelled in Berlin to wean themselves off heroin. Indeed, there is a good case to be made that the song is about heroin, a drug sometimes referred to as China White, or about an opiate known as China Girl. In 1983 Bowie revived the song, which in Iggy’s version made few waves, in his besuited Let’s Dance period, polishing it under Nile Rodger’s production, and frolicking to it in the Australian waves in the video.

The Arrows were a short-lived English band on the RAK label, which also gave us the likes of Smokie, Hot Chocolate and Racey (who also feature here), and so were produced by the genius of ‘70s pop, Mickey Most. After two hits – though not this song – the Arrows disappeared. Joan Jett also seemed to disappear after the break-up of The Runaways in the late ‘70s, suddenly reappearing in 1982 with the largely obscure I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll, which she had previously recorded with members of the Sex Pistols. Apparently Jett had known the song since 1976 when, while on tour with the Runaways, she saw the Arrows performing it on TV.

Racey, mentioned above, were the original perpetrators of Toni Basil’s Mickey, though they sang about Kitty. The song was written by RAK’s Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. It was not a hit, and neither Toni Basil nor her record company evidently thought much of it when she recorded it soon after, also in 1979. For two years it languished in the reject tray before some bright spark decided to inflict the number on us, against Basil’s misgivings. They should have listened to the singer.

Some performers of lesser-known originals just had rotten luck. Take Evie Sands, the first singer to record the one-night stand anthem Angel Of The Morning, in 1967. It was on its way to becoming a hit, with good radio airplay and 10,000 copies selling fast. Then the label, Cameo-Parkway, went bankrupt, and Sands’ record sank. A few months later, Memphis producer Chips Moman picked up Angel Of The Morning (which in the interim had also been recorded by English singer Billie Davies) and had the unknown Merrilee Rush record it, backed by the same session crew that played with Elvis during his famous Memphis sessions that produced hits such as Suspicious Minds (itself a cover, as detailed in Elvis Originals Vol. 2). The Seattle-born singer had a massive hit with it, even receiving a Grammy nomination. It soon was covered prodigiously, with P.P. Arnold scoring a UK hit with it in 1968, and Juice Newton has a mega-hit with her 1981 cover (hence the song’s inclusion here). Happily, Sands went on to enjoy some success later.

Around the same time Juice Newton had a hit with Angel Of The Morning, Kim Carnes topped charts with Bette Davis Eyes, for which the song’s subject went out of her way to thank first Carnes and then the songwriters for introducing her to a whole new generation of kids and giving her cool status among her grandchildren. But the first version of it was recorded by Jackie DeShannon, who was not just a fine singer but also a songwriter. She co-wrote Bette Davis Eyes with Donna Weiss, and recorded it in 1975 in a country-boogie woogie style. Her version attracted little attention, but six years later Carnes’ cover became one of the biggest hits in US chart history. As for the titular eyes which warranted a song, apparently they were the product of a thyroid condition Davis suffered.

Produced by Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra, Got My Mind Set On was a cover version that in 1987 gave George Harrison his first big hit since the nostalgic All Those Years Ago six years earlier. With Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty, Harrison and Lynne went on to form the Traveling Wilburys. It is no accident that Harrison’s US#1 and UK#2 hit sounds a lot like a Wilburys song.

Got My Mind Set On you was originally recorded at roughly the same time as the Beatles began their ascent. Indeed, Harrison discovered the song at that time when he bought James Ray’s LP during a holiday to visit his sister in the US in September 1963. R&B singer Ray James was remembered mostly for only one song, and it wasn’t the song Harrison resurrected 25 years later, but If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody, which reached #22 in the Billboard charts. Alas, he struggled to have more hits. James Ray died in 1964, reportedly of a drug overdose. Featured here is the longer album version of I’ve Got My Mind Set On You, on which Ray was backed by the Hutch Davie Orchestra, which Harrison would have heard on the LP he bought (and which is a lot better than his cover). The single version apparently was brutally truncated.

Money’s Too Tight To Mention was Simply Red’s breakthrough hit in the summer of 1985, creating what seemed to be a fresh take on an old soul number. It was, in fact, a cover of a song barely three years old (the Reaganomics reference, of course, hints at that). But even in its original form by the Valentine Brothers, the track sounds like a ’60s throwback, musically and lyrically. The narrative borrows from down-on-luck numbers such as Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come (absent the trace of optimism), and musically you can imagine Otis Redding singing it. Simply Red’s take is not wildly different from the funkier Valentine Brothers’ version. And the iconic exclamation, “Cut-back!” is there in the original. The Valentine Brothers, a duo from Ohio (one of whom, Billy, had been a member of jazz trio Young-Holt Unlimited), never enjoyed much success, their career fizzling out after a couple of albums.

It has never been much of a secret that Chaka Khan’s big 1984 hit I Feel For You was written by Prince, but the composer’s version is not very well known. And, frankly, it isn’t quite as good as Chaka’s (which coincidentally was a hit at the height of Prince’s fame and success on the back of Purple Rain). Prince, on his eponymous sophomore album, sings it with his falsetto, backed by a synth which in 1979 must have seemed cutting edge but now sounds terribly dated. It’s not bad, but the Arif Mardin arrangement for Chaka Khan, with Melle Mel’s rap – which surely did a lot to popularise rap in the mainstream, and which Chaka did not like – is richer, funkier, more fun.

South African-born Mutt Lange has had an excessively long string as a producer and songwriter who gave us the great (AC/DC’s Back In Black), the bad (Bryan Adam’s Everything I Do…) and the ugly (something by Michael Bolton). Before he hit the big time, he was the songwriter and singer of a UK-based band named Supercharge. One of the songs Mutt sang in 1979 was reworked three years later to become Huey Lewis’ Do You Believe In Love.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-covered covers.

1. Arrows – I Love Rock ‘n Roll (1975)
The Usurper: Joan Jett & The Blackhearts (1982)
2. Kinks – Stop Your Sobbing (1964)
The Usurper: Pretenders (1979)
3. Tommy James & The Shondells – I Think We’re Alone Now (1967)
The Usurper: Tiffany (1987)
4. James Ray – Got My Mind Set On You (Parts 1 & 2) (1963)
The Usurper: George Harrison (1987)
5. Gloria Jones – Tainted Love (1965)
The Usurper: Soft Cell (1981)
6. The Persuaders – Some Guys Have All The Luck (1974)
The Usurpers: Robert Palmer (1982), Rod Stewart (1984)
7. Labi Siffre – It Must Be Love (1971)
The Usurper: Madness (1981)
8. Evie Sands – Angel Of The Morning (1967)
The Usurpers: Merrilee Rush (1968), Juice Newton (1981)
9. Jackie DeShannon – Bette Davis Eyes (1975)
The Usurper: Kim Carnes (1981)
10. i-Ten – Alone (1983)
The Usurper: Heart (1987)
11. Supercharge – We Both Believe In Love (1979)
The Usurper: Huey Lewis & the News (1982, as Do You Believe In Love)
12. Umberto Tozzi – Gloria (1979)
The Usurper: Laura Branigan (1982)
13. Iggy Pop – China Girl (1977)
The Usurper: David Bowie (1983)
14. The Reaction – Talk Talk Talk Talk (1977)
The Usurper: Talk Talk (1982, as Talk Talk)
15. Racey – Kitty (1979)
The Usurper: Toni Basil (1982, as Mickey)
16. Jules Shear – If She Knew What She Wants (1985)
The Usurper: The Bangles (1986)
17. Prince – I Feel For You (1979)
The Usurper: Chaka Khan (1984)
18. Valentine Brothers – Money’s Too Tight To Mention (1982)
The Usurper: Simply Red (1985)
19. Otis Clay – The Only Way Is Up (1982)
The Usurper: Yazz and the Plastic Population (1988)
20. Beau Williams – Cést La Vie (1984)
The Usurper: Robbie Nevil (1986)
21. The Crickets – More Than I Can Say (1960)
The Usurper: Leo Sayer (1980)
22. Sam & Dave – I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down (1967)
The Usurper: Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1980)
23. The Paragons – The Tide Is High (1967)
The Usurper: Blondie (1980)

https://rg.to/file/8078c639250340ff2c450b1ea518394c/Orginals_80s.rar.html

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  1. halfhearteddude
    August 9th, 2018 at 10:29 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Rhodb
    August 10th, 2018 at 22:54 | #2

    I remember that series it was great and I still have the shares.

    Great work

    Rhodb

  3. Stonefish552
    August 10th, 2018 at 23:05 | #3

    Mate – another great write up. I covered many of these covers on my now defunct blog site some years ago, but your write up far surpasses what I did. You have one of the few remaining blog sites that are still worth visiting. Keep up the good work!

  4. Jasper
    August 11th, 2018 at 11:05 | #4

    Did Joan Jett and Ian Dury switch their backing bands? I think not… (-:

  5. halfhearteddude
    August 12th, 2018 at 01:01 | #5

    Bah. I’ll fix that error just to spite you :)

  6. August 18th, 2018 at 22:02 | #6

    Some very interesting ones there, Dude – I had no idea Do You Believe In Love? was a cover.

  7. August 20th, 2018 at 21:53 | #7

    Spider is the king of getting ripped off. Two songs from their debut album made it to the charts with other artists – “Change” (John Waite) and “Better Be Good to Me” (Tina Turner). Hopefully they made some money off that; I’d like to hear the rest of the album, but it’s rare.

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