Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

Help support this site! Consider clicking an ad from time to time. Thanks!

« Go Back to Previous Page «  

Category: 1980s

Radio Free Europe

First recorded by R.E.M. (1981).
Hit version by R.E.M. (US #78 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Radio Free Europe’ was written by R.E.M., and was first recorded and released in 1981 as the group’s debut single on the short-lived independent record label Hib-Tone. The single received critical acclaim, earning the band a record deal with IRS Records. R.E.M. then re-recorded the song for its 1983 debut album on IRS, Murmur.

“R.E.M. formed in Athens, Georgia in 1980. The band quickly established itself in the local scene. Over the course of 1980 the band refined its songwriting skills, helped by its frequent gigs at local venues. One of the group’s newer compositions was ‘Radio Free Europe’. The other members of the band were reportedly awestruck when they heard the lyrics and melodies singer Michael Stipe had written for the song. By May 1981 the band added ‘Radio Free Europe’ to its set-list.”


First recorded by The Textones (1980).
Hit version by The Go-Go’s (US #8/CAN #23/AUS #43/SWE #18/NETH #32 1982).

From the wiki: “‘Vacation’ was written by Karen Valentine and first recorded by her group, The Textones, in 1980 for release in the UK. The Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin recalls [from]:

”Vacation’ was Kathy’s song, and Kathy was the last Go-Go to join. She joined at the beginning of ’81 and she brought that song with her from her band, The Textones. We really loved the song, but it didn’t really have a chorus. So Charlotte and I ended up working with Kathy a little bit more on the song, and sort of Go-Go-fying it.’

“The Go-Go’s recording charted Top 10 in the US but did not have any impact on the UK Singles chart.”

All the Man (That) I Need

First recorded (as “All the Man I Need”) by Linda Clifford (1981).
Hit versions by Sister Sledge & David Simmons (R&B #45 1982), Whitney Houston (US #1/MOR #1/R&B #1/CAN #1/UK #13 1991).

From the wiki: “‘All the Man That I Need’ is a song written by American songwriters Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore with Linda Clifford in mind when they wrote the song. The song was first recorded by Clifford in 1982 as ‘All The Man I Need’, for her album I’ll Keep on Loving You. It was released it as a single, but it failed to chart.

No More “I Love You’s”

First recorded by The Lover Speaks (UK #58 1986).
Hit versions by Annie Lennox (US #23/UK #2 1995), Nicki Minaj (sampled in “Your Love” US #14/R&B #4/UK #71 2010).

From the wiki: “‘No More I Love You’s’ was written by Joseph Hughes and David Freeman, and was first released by their band, The Lover Speaks, in 1986. Released as a single, the original peaked at #58 on the UK Singles chart. The song was covered almost a decade later by former-Eurythmic Annie Lennox and was the first single released from her second studio album, Medusa.

Come Back and Stay (Paul Young)

Written and first recorded by Jack Lee (1981).
Hit version by Paul Young (US #22/UK #4/GERM #1/IRE #3/BEL #1 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Come Back and Stay’ was written and first recorded in 1981 by Jack Lee (‘Hanging on the Telephone‘), who had earlier formed the seminal, yet short-lived Los Angeles power pop trio The Nerves.

“In 1983, singer Paul Young released his cover as a single from his album, No Parlez, and it became an international hit, including Young’s first US Top 40, peaking at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100.”

Thing Called Love

Written and first recorded by John Hiatt (1987).
Hit version by Bonnie Raitt (US Rock #11/UK #86 1989).

From the wiki: “‘Thing Called Love’ was written and first recorded by John Hiatt in 1987, featuring Ry Cooder on guitar and Nick Lowe (‘Cruel to Be Kind‘) on bass. The album on which it appeared, Bring the Family, was recorded in four days after McCabe’s Guitar Shop booker John Chelew convinced Hiatt that ‘Thing Called Love’, ‘Thank You Girl’, and ‘Have a Little Faith in Me‘ were some of his best songs.

“Hiatt was recently sober but had burned so many bridges in the music industry he did not think he had a chance of continuing his career. He had been dropped by his label and ‘wondered if I was worth a damn.’ Demon Records in England still loved his work and pledged about $30,000 if he wanted to record; A&M Records would picked up the finished disc for distribution in the US.

The Best

First recorded by Bonnie Tyler (UK #95/NOR #10/POR #10/SPN #34 1988).
Other hit version by Tina Turner (US #15/UK #5/CAN #4/AUS #2/SPN #2/NOR #5 1989).

From the wiki: “‘The Best’ is a song written by Mike Chapman (‘Mickey‘) and Holly Knight (‘Better Be Good to Me‘), originally recorded by Bonnie Tyler on her 1988 release Hide Your Heart. The single reached #10 in Norway and Portugal, #34 in Spain and #95 in the UK.

I’ve Done Everything for You

Written and first recorded by Sammy Hagar (1978| UK #36 1980).
US hit version by Rick Springfield (US #8 1981).

From the wiki: “‘I’ve Done Everything for You’ was written by Sammy Hagar, and was a staple of Hagar’s live performances as early as 1977. A live recording of the song appeared on Hagar’s 1978 album All Night Long and was released as a single. It did not chart in the US but was a UK Top 40 hit in 1980.

“A cover version of the song appeared on Rick Springfield’s 1981 international breakout album Working Class Dog. Springfield’s single reached the US Top 10. Following the success of the Springfield version, Hagar recorded a studio version of ‘I’ve Done Everything for You’ for inclusion on his 1982 greatest hits album. Rematch.”

Harden My Heart

First recorded by Seafood Mama (1980).
Hit version by Quarterflash (US #3/ROCK #1/UK #49/AUS #6/NZ #12 1982).

From the wiki: “‘Harden My Heart’ was originally released as a single in early 1980 by Seafood Mama, Quarterflash’s predecessor band. That recording featured a more sparse instrumental arrangement but also a more dramatic vocal arrangement than the later hit version. The original single was a regional success on radio stations in the Pacific Northwest.

“After changing the group name, Quarterflash released their self-titled debut album in 1981 on which was the new version of ‘Harden My Heart’. This version, produced by John Boylan, was released as the album’s first single, in September 1981, which peaked in the Billboard Top-5 and topped the Mainstream Rock chart in early 1982.”

Better Be Good to Me

First recorded by Spider (1981).
Hit version by Tina Turner (US #5/R&B #6/UK #45/CAN #6/AUS #28/NZ #22/IRE #22 1984).

From the wiki: “‘Better Be Good to Me’ was written by Mike Chapman (‘Mickey‘, ‘Kiss You All Over’), Nicky Chinn and Holly Knight, and enjoyed its greatest commercial success on Tina Turner’s solo album, Private Dancer.

“The song had originally been released in 1981 by Spider, a New York City band that included co-writer Knight as a member. Chapman is an Australian record producer and songwriter who was a major force in the British pop music industry in the 1970s and early 1980s. He created a string of hit singles for artists including Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Smokie, Mud, and Racey, and later produced breakthrough albums for Blondie and The Knack.

Our Lips Are Sealed

Co-written and first recorded by The Go-Go’s (US #20/UK #47/CAN #3 1981).
Other hit version by Fun Boy Three (UK #7 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ was written by The Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin and Fun Boy Three singer Terry Hall (formerly of The Specials). The Go-Go’s supported The Specials on the latter’s 1980 US tour. According to Wiedlin, she and Hall had had an affair despite him having a girlfriend and this led to correspondence between Wiedlin and Hall about his ‘complicated situation’ from which the two pulled lyrics for the song. ‘Lips’ was first recorded by The Go-Go’s (and produced by Richard Gottehrer, who had co-written and helmed the recording of The Angels’ ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ 18 years earlier) as the opening track on their 1981 album Beauty and the Beat and served as the group’s debut American single in June 1981. In 1983, Hall’s band, Fun Boy Three, released a more ominous-sounding cover of ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’. Issued as a UK single, the track became Top 10 there, and remains the best-known version of ‘Lips’ in that country and on the Continent. In 2000, Rolling Stone named ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ one of the 100 Greatest Pop Songs of All Time.

Living in America

Co-written and first recorded (as a demo) by Dan Hartman (1984).
Hit version by James Brown (US #4/R&B #10/UK #5 1985).

From the wiki: ‘Living in America’ was written and first recorded as a demo by Dan Hartman (‘I Can Dream About You‘) in 1984, and posthumously released in 1994 on the album Keep the Fire Burnin’. Hartman produced both his original demo and the James Brown cover that would be used in the movie and on the soundtrack album for Rocky IV. ‘Living in America’ would be the last of Brown’s forty-four hit recordings to appear in the Billboard Top 40. (Also, Stevie Ray Vaughn played guitar on both the cover and original recordings!)”

Should I Do It

First recorded by Tanya Tucker (C&W #50 1981).
Other hit version by The Pointer Sisters (US #13 1982).

From the wiki: “‘Should I Do It’ was written by Nashville songwriter Layng Martine and was first recorded by Tanya Tucker in 1981. The Pointer Sisters covered the song with greater chart success in 1982, releasing it, after ”Slow Hand’, as their second single from Black and White (1981).”

C’est la Vie (Robbie Nevil)

First recorded by Beau Williams (1985).
Hit version by Robbie Nevil, co-writer (US #2/UK #3/CAN #1/AUS #4 1986).

From the wiki: “Written by Robbie Nevil with Duncan Pain and Mark Holding, ‘C’est la Vie’ was first recorded by gospel singer Beau Williams for his 1985 album Bodacious!

I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do)

First recorded by Lulu (1979).
First single release (as “I Could Never Miss You More”) by Melba Moore (1980).
Also recorded (as “I Could Never Miss You”) by Bobbi Walker (1980).
Hit version by Lulu (US #18/UK #62 1981).

From the wiki: “‘I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do)’ was written by Neil Harrison and first appeared on Don’t Take Love For Granted, Lulu’s 1979 album released on Elton John’s The Rocket Record Company label, produced by Mark London. London had been the co-writer of Lulu’s major hit, ‘To Sir, With Love’, and was also the husband of Lulu’s longtime manager, Marion Massey.

“Although ‘I Could Never Miss You’ was not issued as a single in 1979, the track garnered some attention after being covered in 1980 by both Melba Moore (as ‘I Could Never Miss You More’) and Bobbi Walker (as “I Could Never Miss You”). In the summer of 1981, after acquiring rights to the original recording, Alfa Records released the Lulu original as a single that charted in the US Top 20.”

Who Let the Dogs Out

Based on “Pump Up the Party” by Hassan (1987).
First recorded (as “Who Let the Dogs Out”) by Miami Boom Productions (1992).
Hit versions by Anslem Douglas (1998), Baha Men (US #21/UK #2/AUS #1/NZ #1/IRE #2 2000).

From the wiki: “‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ was based on Stevie B’s ‘Pump Up the Party’, recorded by Hassan in 1987. ‘Party’ opens with the lyric ‘Who’s running this doghouse? Who? Who? Who? Who?’

“The song was then recorded in 1992 – now titled ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ – by Miami Boom Productions.

“The 1998 calypsoca recording by Anslem Douglas (it was used for the 1998 Trinidad and Tobago Carnival season), titled ‘Doggie’, came to the attention of producer Steve Greenberg who would then have his group, Baha Men, cover the song for the Rugrats in Paris: The Movie movie and soundtrack album. The Baha Men recording was released it as a single in 2000, and would go on to become the band’s first hit in the US and the UK.”

The Old Songs

Written and first recorded by David Pomeranz (1980).
Hit version by Barry Manilow (US #15/MOR #1/UK #48 1981).

From the wiki: “David Pomeranz (‘Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again‘) wrote ‘The Old Songs’ in 1977 with Buddy Kaye, a Tin Pan Alley songwriter of great note in the ’40s and ’50s (‘The Alphabet Song’, ‘Speedy Gonzales‘), ‘timeless songs, big hits for him,’ according to Pomeranza. ‘He and I got together, we wrote 6 songs together at that time, and ‘The Old Songs’ was one of them. We had written it for Jennifer Warnes – she must have passed on it. I had recorded it on my Atlantic album, and Barry had heard my album, heard the song, and then decided that he would record it, too.'”

We Got the Beat

First recorded by The Go-Go’s (DANCE #35 1980).
Hit version by The Go-Go’s (US #2 1982).

From the wiki: “Written by the group’s lead guitarist and keyboardist Charlotte Caffey, and considered to be their signature song, ‘We Got the Beat’ was first recorded in 1980 and released in July as a single in the UK on Stiff Records (available in the US, then, only as an UK import). The song’s single release brought the Go-Go’s underground credibility in the UK. The song climbed to #35 on the US Hot Dance Club Play chart due to its popularity in clubs as an import.

“From, Jane Wiedlin remembers, ‘[B]efore we got our record deal with IRS, we actually put out one single in England so that when we toured we had something to sell, and we had like a one single deal with Stiff Records, who were the record company that had signed The Specials and Madness – we also toured with Madness in England. And then that single was a previous version of ‘We Got The Beat’. So, I guess technically that was our first single.’

Baby Can I Hold You?

Written and first recorded by Tracy Chapman (US #48/MOR #19/CAN #27 1988).
Also recorded by Neil Diamond (1989), Sanchez (1989).
Other hit versions by Boyzone (UK #2/IRE #2/NZ #11/DAN #2 1997), Tracy Chapman & Luciano Pavarotti (UK #3 2001), Ronan Keating (GER #42 2005).

From the wiki: “‘Baby Can I Hold You?’ was written by Tracy Chapman, and first recorded for release in 1988. The song reached the Top 50 in the US but peaked at only #48, failing to become Chapman’s second Top 40 hit. Chapman subsequently re-recorded the song as a duet with Luciano Pavarotti for the CD Pavarotti and Friends for Cambodia and Tibet. ‘Baby Can I Hold You?’ was also re-released as a single in promotion of Chapman’s hits package Collection in 2001 and, this time, reached #3 in the UK. Neil Diamond recorded the song for his 1989 album, The Best Years of Our Lives and became the first of many artists to cover the song.

Till I Loved You

First performed by Placido Domingo, Dionne Warwick & Gloria Estefan (1988).
Hit versions by Barbra Streisand & Don Johnson (US #25/UK #15 1988), Placido Domingo & Jennifer Rush (UK #24 1989).
Also recorded by Placido Domingo & Gloria Estefan (Spanish, 1989), Placido Domingo & Simone Bittencourt de Oliverira (Portuguese, 1989)

From the wiki: “‘Till I Loved You’ was composed for the never-staged musical Goya: A Life in Song, based on the life of the Spanish artist Francisco Goya. The original recording was sung by tenor Plácido Domingo with American singers Dionne Warwick and Gloria Estefan. The song was covered (although released first in the US) as a duet by Don Johnson and Barbra Streisand, and appeared on Streisand’s 1988 album of the same name and, later, on her 2002 compilation, Duets. As a single, the Streisand/Johnson recording reached #16 in the UK and #25 in the US.

“‘Till I Loved You’ was subsequently released, in 1989, also as a single by Domingo with another collaborator to the album, Jennifer Rush (‘The Power of Love‘), charting only in the UK.

“Domingo also recorded a Spanish-language single of the song with Gloria Estefan titled ‘Hasta amarte’, and a Portuguese version, ‘Apaixonou’, with Simone Bittencourt de Oliveira.”

Solitaire (Branigan)

First recorded by Martine Clemenceau (FRA #50 1981).
Also recorded (as “Immer Mehr”) by Milva (1982).
Hit version by Laura Branigan (US #7 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Solitaire’ originated as a 1981 recording in French by Martine Clemenceau for whom ‘Solitaire’ was a modest hit in France, peaking at #50 on the French Pop chart. Written by Clemenceau herself, the French version of ‘Solitaire’ concerned a recluse who shuts himself away from a world moving toward nuclear war. In 1982 ‘Solitaire’ was also rendered in German as ‘Immer Mehr’ and recorded by Milva.


First recorded by Guinn Family (1986).
Hit version by Vanessa Williams (US #8/R&B #1/UK #74 1989).

From the wiki: “‘Dreamin” is a song written by Lisa Montgomery and Geneva Paschal and originally performed by the family group Guinn in 1986. In 1988, Vanessa Williams recorded the song and released it as the lead single from her debut album, The Right Stuff. ‘Dreamin” became her first #1 R&B hit and her first song to chart Top 40.”


First recorded by Michael Des Barres & Holly Knight (1983).
Hit version by Animotion (US #6/UK #5/CAN #7/NZ #10 1984).

From the wiki: “‘Obsession’ was originally written and recorded as a duet by songwriter Holly Knight and musician Michael Des Barres in 1983. This version was prominently featured in the 1983 film A Night in Heaven. The song was featured on the film’s soundtrack, but did not receive enough attention to warrant much radio play or a place on any Billboard charts.

“In 1984, the Los Angeles-based Synth-Pop band Animotion covered the song for their self-titled debut album. This version became a massive success – Top-10 in the US, UK and Canada – and it remains Animotion’s biggest hit.”

You Should Hear How She Talks About You

First recorded (as “You Should Hear (How She Talks About You)) by Charlie Dore (1981).
Hit version by Melissa Manchester (US #5 1982).

From the wiki: “‘You Should Hear How She Talks About You’, first recorded by Charlie Dore (‘Pilot of the Airwaves’) for her 1981 Listen! album, was written by Dean Pitchford and Thomas R. Snow. Arif Mardin produced Manchester’s 1982 recording, describing the track as ‘a real departure for Melissa because it has a New Wave dance quality [even though] she had been best-known previously for her ballads’ (‘Midnight Blue’, ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud‘). A 1985 interview with Manchester would state she remembers having ‘to be dragged kicking and screaming into [the] studio to record…’You Should Hear How She Talks About You’.’ Manchester’s recording reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1982 to become Manchester’s highest-charting record.”

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.