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20 Songs You Might Not Know Were Covers

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Fanpop.com

When a song becomes popular, sometimes people forget (or are unaware) that the new hit actually originated with another artist. The popular cover might be ahead of its time or re-arranged with a fresher, more modern take, but somehow it managed to find a bigger audience than the original. 

1. “Torn” — Natalie Imbruglia (1997) // Ednaswap (1995)

The Cover

The Original

In 1997, pop star Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” was a No. 1 hit throughout Europe, the United States, and her native Australia. But the song was first performed and recorded by Los Angeles-based alternative band Ednaswap for their 1995 self-titled debut.

A number of recording artists throughout the years have covered the song, but Imbruglia’s version is the most successful and popular iteration of the hit single, and it earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

2. “Don’t Turn Around” — Ace of Base (1994) // Tina Turner (1986)

The Cover

The Original

Swedish pop group Ace of Base released a hit single titled “Don’t Turn Around” in 1994. The song reached the #4 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the pop group’s third hit song after “All That She Wants” and “The Sign.” Songwriters Diane Warren and Albert Hammond (of “It Never Rains in Southern California” fame) originally wrote “Don’t Turn Around” for Tina Turner and were disappointed when the record label relegated it to the B-side of the single “Typical Man” in 1986.

Neil Diamond also covered the song in 1992, but Ace of Base’s version is the most popular.

3. “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” — Cyndi Lauper (1983) // Robert Hazard (1979)

The Cover

The Original

Cyndi Lauper’s first hit single as a solo artist, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” reached the No. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983. Lauper was nominated for two Grammys for the song, including Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Performance. Self-proclaimed Country-Western fan Robert Hazard originally wrote and recorded “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” as a demo for his band Robert Hazard and the Heroes in 1979. (Hazard never released his version, though.)

4. “Tainted Love" — Soft Cell (1981) // Gloria Jones (1965)

The Cover

The Original

In 1965, American singer Gloria Jones recorded the original version of “Tainted Love” as the B-side to the single “My Bad Boy’s Comin’ Home.” The song was a commercial failure, but gained a small cult following in underground British nightclubs in the late '70s. English synth-pop duo Soft Cell recorded a modern version of “Tainted Love” in 1981. Soft Cell’s version was a No. 1 hit in eight countries, while it reached the No. 8 spot in the United States in 1982.

5. “Respect” — Aretha Franklin (1967) // Otis Redding (1965)

The Cover

The Original

In 1965, Otis Redding wrote and recorded the song “Respect." Two years later, R&B singer Aretha Franklin popularized it, and the song became her signature. Both versions have the similar lyrics (though Franklin's added the "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" chorus to the song), but Franklin’s invokes female empowerment while Redding’s is a euphemism for sex. 

6. “I Love Rock 'n' Roll” — Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (1981) // Arrows (1975)

The Cover

The Original

Alan Merrill and Jake Hooker—the frontmen of the British rock band Arrows—wrote and recorded the anthem “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” in 1975. The song got the band a TV appearance on the show 45, which eventually led to the band getting its own TV show based on their performance of the song. In 1976, while she was on tour in England with her band The Runaways, Joan Jett watched Arrows perform the song on their show.

Then, in 1981, Joan Jett recorded a version of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” with her new band The Blackhearts. It became a No. 1 hit single in the United States for seven weeks and was certified platinum when it sold over one million units.

7. “Nothing Compares 2 U" — Sinead O’Connor (1990) // The Family (1985)

The Cover

The Original

Music icon Prince wrote and originally recorded the song “Nothing Compares 2 U” for his side project The Family in 1985. While the song received little recognition, Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor popularized it in 1990. O'Connor won three Moonmen Awards at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards for Video of the Year, Best Female Video, and Best Post-Modern Video.

8. “Hey Joe” — The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1966) // The Leaves (1965)

The Cover

The Original

While the authorship of the song “Hey Joe” is ambiguous and unclear, the earliest recording of the song dates to 1965, by the California-based garage band The Leaves.

“Hey Joe” was a modest hit for The Leaves, but it was The Jimi Hendrix Experience's first hit single overseas in 1966. It peaked at No. 6 on the U.K. Singles Chart in 1967, but it failed to gain any recognition in the United States. Over the years, the song became iconic; Rolling Stone placed it at #201 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

9. “It’s Oh So Quiet”— Björk (1995) // Betty Hutton (1951)

The Cover The Original

In 1995, Icelandic solo artist Björk released a cover song titled “It’s Oh So Quiet,” which American actress/singer Betty Hutton first recorded in 1951. The song was a B-side to Hutton’s single “Murder, He Says.”

“It’s Oh So Quiet” remains Björk’s biggest hit, peaking at the No. 4 spot in the United Kingdom. The song’s popularity was partly due to director Spike Jonze’s infectious music video that included large dance numbers and sweeping camera movements.

10. “Manic Monday” — The Bangles (1986) // Apollonia 6 (1984)

The Cover

The Original

Prince wrote “Manic Monday” for his female trio band Apollonia 6 for their self-titled debut in 1984. Ultimately, he pulled the song from the album and later offered it to the band The Bangles under the pseudonym “Christopher,” a character he played in the 1986 film Under the Cherry Moon. “Manic Monday” was a huge hit for The Bangles, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 list—just behind Prince and the Revolution’s “Kiss.”

11. “Hound Dog” — Elvis Presley (1956) // Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton (1953)

The Cover

The Original

Songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote “Hound Dog” for Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton in 1953. While Thornton’s original version was a No. 1 hit on the R&B charts for seven weeks, Elvis Presley’s iteration immediately became the most popular after its 1956 release. Presley’s version was a crossover success that spent 11 weeks on the top of country, pop, and R&B charts simultaneously. “Hound Dog” was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.”

12. “Cum On Feel The Noize" — Quiet Riot (1983) // Slade (1973)

The Cover

The Original

In 1973, British glam rock band Slade released “Cum On Feel The Noize," which went straight to the top of the charts in the United Kingdom and Ireland and was a top 10 single throughout parts of Europe. Ten years later, American heavy metal band Quiet Riot recorded and popularized song in the United States. The single reached the No. 5 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

13. “I Want Candy" — Bow Wow Wow (1982) // The Strangeloves (1965)

The Cover

The Original

American music producers Bert Berns, Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein, and Richard Gottehrer recorded a bubblegum pop tune titled “I Want Candy” in 1965. Donning shaggy wigs and zebra-print vests, Feldman, Goldstein, and Gottehrer took it upon themselves to perform the song as the faux Australian pop trio The Strangeloves. In 1982, British New Wave band Bow Wow Wow released “I Want Candy,” with its music video receiving heavy airplay and rotation during the early days of MTV. Although Bow Wow Wow would have many admirers throughout the years, including Red Hot Chili Peppers and No Doubt, this was the band’s only hit song in the U.S.

14. “I Think We’re Alone Now" — Tiffany (1987) // Tommy James and the Shondells (1967)

The Cover

The Original

In 1967, American songwriter Ritchie Cordell wrote the single “I Think We’re Alone Now” for the rock band Tommy James and the Shondells. The song was a hit, reaching the No. 4 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Twenty year later, “I Think We’re Alone Now” was popularized by teen recording artist Tiffany, whose version reached the top spot on Billboard’s list for two weeks. Its music video launched the then-16-year-old into pop music stardom. Interestingly, Tiffany's song was replaced at No. 1 by Billy Idol’s “Mony Mony,” another cover of a Tommy James and the Shondells single.

15. “When The Levee Breaks" — Led Zeppelin (1971) // Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie (1929)

The Cover

The Original

In 1971, British rock band Led Zeppelin re-arranged and popularized the song “When the Levee Breaks” for their fourth album, which is referred to as Led Zeppelin IV. Husband and wife singer-songwriters Kansas Joe McCoy & Memphis Minnie originally recorded “When the Levee Breaks” as a blues song in 1929 about the Great Mississippi Flood that took place a few years earlier. But Led Zeppelin’s arena rock anthem became an iconic piece of music from the '70s, and the song would go on to be highly influential among rock bands and hip-hop artists since its release.

16. “Hard To Handle” — The Black Crowes (1990) // Otis Redding (1968)

The Cover

The Original

Posthumously released on the aptly titled “The Immortal Otis Redding” in 1968, “Hard To Handle” was a fitting single for a legendary musician. While the single only reached No. 38 on the R&B charts, a cover by the Georgia-based band The Black Crowes was their breakthrough single—it reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks in 1990.

17. “I Swear” — All-4-One (April 1994) // John Michael Montgomery (1993)

The Cover

The Original

American songwriters Gary Baker and Frank J. Myers wrote the love ballad “I Swear” for country music recording artist John Michael Montgomery, who released it in December 1993. The single reached the No. 1 spot on the U.S. Hot Country Singles and Tracks chart, and crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100, hitting No. 42.

A few months later in April 1994, the R&B quartet All-4-One released their rendition of “I Swear,” which became a bigger hit than the original. Their version reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 and was certified Platinum by the end of 1994.

18. “Don’t Cha” — The Pussycat Dolls (April 2005) // Tori Alamaze (March 2005)

The Cover

The Original

In March 2005, recording artist Tori Alamaze released “Don’t Cha” as her debut single. When the song failed to gain mainstream attention, Universal Records dropped Alamaze from their label and the song’s producer CeeLo Green gave the song to the girl group The Pussycat Dolls.

Just one month later, The Pussycat Dolls released “Don’t Cha” as their debut single, and the song received positive reviews and reached No. 2 on Billboard. The Pussycat Dolls’ version went on to sell more than 6 million copies worldwide, while Alamaze was all but forgotten.

19. “The Tide Is High” — Blondie (1980) // The Paragons (1967)

The Cover

The Original

The Paragons were a Jamaican ska/rockstead band whose vocal harmonies were influenced by American soul and R&B groups. In 1967, they released a single called “The Tide is High,” written by band member John Holt. Thirteen years later, Blondie guitarist Chris Stein discovered the track on a reggae compilation album he’d bought in England. Blondie recorded it for their Autoamerican album, adding strings and a horn section (borrowed from Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show band). “The Tide is High” went on to become Blondie’s second No. 1 single.

20. “Black and White” — Three Dog Night (1972) // Greyhound (1971)

The Cover

The Original

“Black and White” was written in 1954 by David Arkin and Earl Robinson in response to the Brown vs The Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court decision that outlawed racial segregation in U.S. public schools. Several artists recorded the tune—Pete Seeger and Sammy Davis Jr. among them—but a British reggae group called Greyhound took it to the U.K. Top 10 in 1971. A year later, American band Three Dog Night recorded the song and topped both the Billboard pop and easy listening charts.

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17 Electric Facts About MTV Unplugged
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Michael Stipe of R.E.M. goes Unplugged.
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Making its debut in 1989, MTV Unplugged—in which famous musicians perform stripped-down arrangements of their biggest hits—was a hit for both the cable network and the music industry, particularly in the early- to mid-'90s. Though it lost its regular time slot in 1999, in the near-20 years since, a handful of artists have popped in for brief revivals. But now it looks as if Unplugged is ready for a reboot; MTV has announced that the series will be back beginning on September 8, 2017, with Shawn Mendes as its first guest. In the meantime, here's a look behind the scenes of the music series that became a phenomenon.

1. OPINIONS VARY ON WHO CAME UP WITH THE IDEA.

Singer/songwriter Jules Shear has said that he came up with the concept for MTV Unplugged to promote his acoustic album, The Third Party. In 1992, The New York Times wrote that Shear was inspired by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora's two-song acoustic set at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards.

That's all well and good, but producers Jim Burns and Bob Small claim they got the idea for MTV Unplugged after Bruce Springsteen treated the two—and the thousands of other fans at one of his concerts—to a final encore featuring just himself and his acoustic guitar. (Springsteen would find his way onto Unplugged in 1992.)

Executive producer Joel Gallen has referred to Unplugged as his "baby" as well and, like Shear, was inspired by Bon Jovi and Sambora's VMA set, which he called a "jumping off point." In I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, Small said: “Please do not credit Bon Jovi for creating Unplugged. Jon Bon Jovi thinks he was the inspiration for it. He wouldn’t even do the f***ing show until almost 20 years later.”

2. BOTH HBO AND PBS SAID NO.

HBO passed on Unplugged when Shear proposed the concept to the pay channel. Burns and Small pitched the series to PBS after MTV initially said no. PBS simply echoed MTV and HBO. It was only when Burns and Small ally Judy McGrath got a promotion at MTV that a pilot got a greenlight.

3. IT WAS A CHEAP PILOT TO SHOOT.

Bob Small said he had just four hours to set up for the Unplugged pilot, with another four hours to film it—and all on a budget of $18,000. "I couldn't get money to hire a director," Small said. "They said, 'You direct it.'"

4. THERE WAS A HOST FOR THE FIRST 13 EPISODES.

None other than Jules Shear was the undisputed master of ceremonies for the first season. He also joined in on some songs.

5. THE FIRST GUESTS DIDN'T QUITE GRASP THE CONCEPT OF UNPLUGGED.

Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford from Squeeze were the stars of the first episode, which aired on November 26, 1989. But they were unprepared. "Chris and Glenn showed up for rehearsal with electric guitars," Alex Coletti, who would end up producing the show through 2001, recalled. "I said: 'Very funny, guys. Where are the acoustics? It’s Unplugged.' They looked at each other and went, 'Riiight… Make a phone call, quick!'"

6. PRODUCERS SCRAMBLED TO GIVE JOE WALSH ACTUAL FRIENDS.

"The fifth episode was billed as Joe Walsh and Friends, and Joe showed up with only one friend—Ricky, his bass player," Coletti remembered. "We thought it meant his famous friends, but apparently that got lost in translation." Walsh had been a member of The Eagles, who had an infamous falling-out, but Walsh's claim of buddies gave MTV employees false hope. Producer Bruce Leddy found Dr. John recording at a neighboring studio and convinced him to come on and be Walsh's "friend."

7. DON HENLEY WAS NOT HAPPY THAT WALSH PLAYED "DESPERADO."

Walsh's former Eagles bandmate wrote "Desperado," as well as a three-page fax explaining to MTV that he didn't want Walsh to play it and he was refusing permission to air the performance. It was after the fax that the network invited Henley to come on the show himself to perform it. Henley was the first artist to get an entire half-hour on his own as the only artist, which quickly became the status quo for Unplugged. In 1994, when The Eagles reunited, they appeared on an MTV Unplugged special.

8. LL COOL J HAD NEVER WORKED WITH A LIVE BAND BEFORE.

The first Unplugged featuring rap artists took place in 1991. Pop's Cool Love backed LL Cool J, MC Lyte, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest. “[It’s like] you drink milk for 10 years and then [you have to] drink fruit punch,” Quest's Q-Tip said about performing with the band. “It’s not that the fruit is bad, but you have to get used to it.”

But LL seemed able to adapt. "We rehearsed the night before and LL Cool J had never worked with a live band," Coletti said. "Before long, he was calling the shots like he'd been doing it his whole life."

9. LL COOL J KNOWS YOU SAW HIS DEODORANT.

"People have teased me about the deodorant for years, but I love it," he said. "It was raw! It was nasty! At least you know I wasn’t stinking.”

10. PAUL MCCARTNEY WAS THE FIRST ARTIST TO OFFICIALLY RELEASE HIS UNPLUGGED SET.

Before Paul McCartney, no other Unplugged artist body had thought to release their acoustic set as an album. But after he performed in 1991, the former Beatle was worried about it getting out to the masses illegally. “I figured that as Unplugged would be screened around the world there was every chance that some bright spark would tape the show and turn it into a bootleg, so we decided to bootleg the show ourselves," he admitted. "We heard the tapes in the car driving back. By the time we got home, we’d decided we’d got an album—albeit one of the fastest I’ve ever made.” He even titled the live performance collection Unplugged (The Official Bootleg).

11. ERIC CLAPTON WAS HESITANT TO RELEASE HIS SHOW AS AN ALBUM.

"Slowhand" performed to acclaim in 1992, but he initially didn't think it was good enough to be released officially as a CD. So naturally, his live album Unplugged won the Grammy for Album of the Year. His "Tears in Heaven" performance in particular won Song and Record of the Year. Two years later, Tony Bennett followed suit, winning the 1994 Album of the Year prize for his time on the show.

12. NEIL YOUNG WALKED OUT ON HIMSELF.

Neil Young's Unplugged was supposed to have been taped at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York on December 12, 1992. Instead, on that night—at that venue—the audience saw something they would probably never forget: Neil Young walking out the door after numerous mistakes. The "stunned" crew members managed to get him to come back to try again that night. Young opted to junk the performance entirely, and tried again two months later—this time with a band, and with much more success.

13. TORI AMOS WALKED OUT, TOO.

Amos was thrown off and "couldn't harness the energy." But unlike Young, she was able to walk back onstage, perform, and not have to try again with another set on a different night. As the singer/songwriter remembered it, she and her manager paced "beneath the MTV thing" backstage thinking about the problem. "Then my [lighting director] came down and said, 'Something just doesn't feel right. I can’t put my finger on it,'" Amos told Worstgig.com. "For 700 shows over the five years (prior to that), I'd played with the lights down. So all the lights were up to catch the audience and I felt like somebody was watching me take a shower. So they dimmed the lights, I felt better. By that point because I'd made the choice to stop it and make some changes, I felt like I began again. And I turned the whole show around."

14. ALEX COLETTI FOUGHT TO CUT "THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD" FROM NIRVANA'S EPISODE.

"Maybe I shouldn't give this secret away, but I built a fake box out in front of the amp to make it look like a monitor wedge," Coletti admitted to Guitar World in 1995. "It's an acoustic guitar, but he's obviously going through an amp," he added, talking about the now iconic David Bowie cover. "I actually fought pretty hard to leave that song out [of the final edit of the show], because I felt it wasn't as genuine as the rest of the songs. But I'm a huge Bowie fan, so I couldn't fight too hard against the song."

15. DAVE GROHL WAS ALMOST UNINVITED TO NIRVANA'S SHOW.

The Nirvana drummer remembered that it was a minor miracle that the band's Unplugged performance went so well. “That show was supposed to be a disaster,” Grohl said. “We hadn’t rehearsed. We weren’t used to playing acoustic. We did a few rehearsals and they were terrible. Everyone thought it was horrible. Even the people from MTV thought it was horrible. Then we sat down and the cameras started rolling and something clicked. It became one of the band’s most memorable performances.”

As Coletti told it, Kurt Cobain was thinking of just replacing Grohl behind the kit, or maybe not using a drummer at all. “What I didn’t know was up until the day [of the Unplugged performance], there was talk of Dave [Grohl] not playing at all in the show,” the producer revealed in 2014. “Kurt wasn’t happy with the way rehearsals were going; he didn’t like the way Dave sounded playing drums with sticks."

But Grohl turned up the day of filming, and Coletti gifted him some brushes and sizzle sticks to give his drumming a softer sound. "I was afraid Dave would just roll his eyes, like, 'Oh great, the a**hole from MTV is trying to be my friend,'" the producer remembered thinking. "But instead he opened the package and said, 'Cool, I've never had brushes before. I've never even tried using them.'" The album Unplugged in New York won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 1996. It was the band's lone Grammy win.

16. YES, THEY TRIED TO GET ROBERT PLANT AND JIMMY PAGE TO PLAY "STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN."

The Led Zeppelin bandmates reunited in 1994 for the Unplugged special: No Quarter: Robert Plant and Jimmy Page Unledded, which at the time was the highest-rated episode of the series ever. MTV suggested they film it in Queens, New York. Plant suggested Morocco and Wales because it was where he wrote "Kashmir" and "Down by the Seaside," respectively. Network executives explicitly requested "Stairway" but were shot down. "I think we're in a disposable world and 'Stairway to Heaven' is one of the things that hasn't quite been thrown away yet," Plant said in 1994. "I think radio stations should be asked not to play it for 10 years, just to leave it alone for a bit so we can tell whether it's any good or not."

17. LIAM GALLAGHER HECKLED HIS BROTHER.

Oasis lead vocalist Liam Gallagher backed out of the Royal Festival Hall gig in London at the last minute due to a "sore throat," so songwriter/guitarist/brother Noel took over the vocal duties. Noel would later disclose that Liam in fact appeared an hour before showtime "sh*tfaced," and when he tried to sing it sounded "f**king dreadful." Liam watched the performance from the balcony and at times jeered the band. Noel told him to shut up. Coletti thought it was all for the best. "There's something when the songwriter himself sings it. Maybe he's a little more connected to the song."

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