Entertainment & Arts

Ten hits you may not know were cover versions

BBC Music has launched a survey to find the greatest cover version of all time. DJs and producers have put together a shortlist and fans can vote until Tuesday 21 October.

It is often said that what makes a great cover is the artist having "made the song their own". Here are 10 examples of tracks that have become so synonymous with one act that many people do not realise that it is not the original.

Rockin' All Over The World - Status Quo (1977)

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Image caption John Fogerty recorded Rockin' All Over the World two years before Status Quo
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Media captionCompare John Fogerty's original with Status Quo's version

Rockin' All Over the World was the song that opened Live Aid. But the man who wrote it only played one huge charity concert in 1985, and that was Farm Aid.

Former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty released Rockin' All Over The World in 1975. It missed the UK charts. Status Quo came to cover it two years later after a late-night escapade by guitarist Rick Parfitt.

He was driving under the influence and, after mistaking a postbox for a person, turned on the radio to wake himself up. Rockin' All Over the World came on and the rest is double-denim history.

Bette Davis Eyes - Kim Carnes (1981)

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Image caption Kim Carnes (left) and Jackie DeShannon met at the Songwriters Hall of Fame
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Media captionCompare Jackie DeShannon's original with Kim Carnes' version

The best-selling single of 1981 in the US (spending nine weeks at number one) was originally a 1975 album track by Jackie DeShannon, complete with a big band intro and country-style steel guitar.

The song's co-writer Donna Weiss was pitching songs for Kim Carnes' album and mentioned her old composition. Carnes' keyboardist Bill Cuomo added the icy synth riff and Bette Davis Eyes was recorded in one take on the same night John Lennon was shot.

Within a year, it had reached number one in 31 countries and won Record of the Year and Song of the Year at The Grammys.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper (1983)

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Image caption Cyndi Lauper changed Girls Just Wanna Have Fun into a high-energy pop hit

One of the great feminist pop anthems of the 1980s was originally sung by a man. In 1979, Robert Hazard wrote Girls Just Wanna Have Fun in 15 minutes in a motel bath. His version (in which he sounds uncannily like Razorlight) was about a woman-obsessed lothario.

Four years later, Cyndi Lauper totally changed the meaning, altering the line "All my girls have got to walk in the sun" to "I want to be the one to walk in the sun" and describing it as a song "for all the women around the world to remember our power".

It reached number two on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ray of Light - Madonna (1998)

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Image caption Ray of Light was a number two hit for Madonna in 1998

British Folk duo Curtiss Maldoon only released one eponymously titled album, in 1971, on Deep Purple's record label. Dance producer William Orbit was a fan of their delicate psychedelic song Sepheryn, with its refrain "Quicker than a ray of light".

In 1996, he teamed up with Christine Leach, the niece of one of the duo, Clive Maldoon, to record a version. He played it to Madonna, who adapted it into Ray Of Light, a single Entertainment Weekly described as a "siren-like techno-glitter-ball".

It was only kept off number one in the UK by All Saints with their "double A-side" of cover versions - Under The Bridge and Lady Marmalade.

I Love Rock 'N' Roll - Joan Jett and The Blackhearts (1982)

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Image caption Arrows (left) had two top 40 hits, but I Love Rock 'N' Roll was not one of them
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Media captionCompare Arrows' original with Joan Jett's version

Joan Jett came upon her signature song by watching British children's TV. Touring the UK in 1976 with her first band The Runaways, she saw the power-pop trio Arrows perform the track on their weekly ITV music show.

Arrows' legendary manager Mickie Most was not impressed with the song and made it a B-side.

Jett did the same when she first recorded it in 1979 with Steve Jones and Paul Cook from The Sex Pistols. However, three years later, another version with her new band The Blackhearts topped the US charts for seven weeks and caused plenty of dimes to be put into jukeboxes.

Denis - Blondie (1978)

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Image caption Randy and the Rainbows (pictured left in 2013) sang about Denise in 1963
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Media captionCompare Randy and the Rainbows' original with Blondie's version

Blondie wrote five of their number one singles, but that did not stop them being masters of the cover version. Their breakthrough single Denis was a New Wave gender-swapping take on Randy and The Rainbows' doo-wop hit Denise, which made the US Top 10 in 1963.

Blondie came across the song by their fellow New Yorkers on a K-Tel compilation, changed the sex and added a verse in broken French.

They would also go on to top the charts with The Tide Is High, originally by Jamaican band The Paragons, and have a hit with Hanging On The Telephone, the only single ever released by The Nerves.

Sailing - Rod Stewart (1975)

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Image caption Rod Stewart spent four weeks at number one in the UK with Sailing in 1975
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Media captionCompare The Sutherland Brothers' original with Rod Stewart's version

Only one Rod Stewart single has sold a million copies in the UK, and it started out as flop three years earlier for The Sutherland Brothers Band.

The Scottish duo released Sailing as the second single from their 1972 album Lifeboat. Rod made it the lead single from his own nautically-named 1975 album Atlantic Crossing.

It went on to reach number one and returned to the UK top three the following year when used as the theme to Sailor, a documentary about HMS Ark Royal. The Sutherland Brothers benefited from the exposure as well, making the top five the following year with Arms of Mary.

Got My Mind Set On You - George Harrison (1987)

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Image caption George Harrison wrote a number of hits - but not I've Got My Mind Set On You

In 1963, George Harrison became the first Beatle to set foot on American soil when he visited his sister Louise in Illinois. During this trip, he bought a copy of I've Got My Mind Set On You by R&B singer James Ray.

His 1961 single If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody was already a staple of The Beatles' live shows. In 1987, Harrison decided to return to music after spending much of the 1980s making films. He chose Got My Mind Set On You as his comeback single.

It reached number two in the UK and topped the US chart. James Ray died from a drugs overdose the very year Harrison originally bought his single.

Don't Cha - The Pussycat Dolls (2005)

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Image caption The Pussycat Dolls turned Tori Alamaze's flop into their breakthrough hit

In 2005, the refrain "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" could be heard coming out of radios the world over. The previous year, the original version by Tori Alamaze was such a flop it caused the singer to be dropped by her record company.

Then the decision was made to try and turn the decade-old LA burlesque troupe, The Pussycat Dolls, into pop stars, and the song, written by Cee Lo Green, was to be their first single.

A Busta Rhymes guest rap apart, this version was almost identical, but it reached number one in the UK and number two in the US. Poor Alamaze immediately dubbed them "The Copycat Dolls".

I Write The Songs - Barry Manilow (1975)

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Image caption Captain and Tennille (left) and Barry Manilow did not write I Write The Songs
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Media captionCompare Captain & Tennille's track with Barry Manilow's version

Barry Manilow did not write I Write The Songs. It was composed by former Beach Boy Bruce Johnston and, while Manilow's version won Song of the Year at the 1977 Grammys, it was not even the original.

The song first appeared on Captain and Tennille's 1975 album Love Will Keep Us Together (they divorced this January after 39 years of marriage). The first person to release it as a single was teen idol David Cassidy, who took the track to number 11 in the UK charts in August 1975.

It is not Manilow's only famous cover - Mandy was originally a 1971 top 20 UK hit called Brandy for Scott English. In 1974, Manilow changed the name and had a US number one.

Other hits that were cover versions:

  • Don't Turn Around - Aswad (originally released by Tina Turner)
  • Step By Step - Whitney Houston (Annie Lennox)
  • Hound Dog - Elvis Presley (Big Mama Thornton)
  • Respect - Aretha Franklin (Otis Redding)
  • She's The One - Robbie Williams (World Party)
  • It's Oh So Quiet - Bjork (Betty Hutton)
  • On A Night Like This - Kylie Minogue (Pandora)
  • Superstar- Jamelia (Christine Milton - spent seven weeks at number one in Denmark!)


  • Frank Sinatra's My Way was originally a hit in France two years before his 1969 version. However, it has not been included above as Paul Anka wrote new English lyrics especially for Ol' Blue Eyes and changed the title from Comme d'habitude (As Usual).

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