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Which '80s remakes of No. 1 pop songs also became top hits?


Which '80s remakes of No. 1 pop songs also became top hits?
Album Cover Image Courtesy of London Records
Question: Which '80s remakes of No. 1 pop songs also became top hits?
This particular phenomenon has rarely happened in pop music, but somehow the '80s managed to produce three occurrences within a two-year span. In fact, only nine times have separate artists recorded versions of the same song that each reached the top of Billboard's pop charts. And just who are these groundbreaking artists? Bananarama, Club Nouveau and Kim Wilde. Why, of course! So, which exactly are the three songs remade in 1986 and 1987 that hit number one in two versions by different artists?
Answer: Despite a general lack of connectedness between pop music of the '60s and '70s and the newly successful '80s MTV era, the most successful remakes of the '80s drew heavily from R&B and early rock and roll styles. Maybe it's not terribly surprising that one of these most successful of remakes originally came from the Motown machine, but an obscure Dutch band seems like an especially unlikely source. Nonetheless, Shocking Blue took "Venus" to No. 1 on the Billboard pop charts in 1970, and in 1986 female British trio Bananarama equaled the feat with its slightly flashier reinterpretation of this classic ear candy. It was appropriate for this tune to be sung by an all-female group anyway, as who but the fairer sex would be better qualified to sing about the wiles of the Goddess of Love?

Bill Withers' gentle soul classic "Lean on Me" was nearly perfect in its initial 1972 chart-topping incarnation, so it's probably a good thing that Club Nouveau reinterpreted it rather drastically to reach No. 1 in 1987. With the addition of hip-hop rhythms and a synth-heavy production, the group manages to tap into the simple essence of the song even while fitting it into an entirely separate era. The original remains quintessential, of course, but the later version probably helped expand the audience for a deserving composition.

British pop singer Kim Wilde was certainly not the first (or last) to remake the 1966 Supremes classic "You Keep Me Hangin' On," but she was most successful, at least on the pop charts. Taking a Motown track and maximizing its appeal for a post-new wave pop audience may seem like a stretch of sorts, but Wilde's modern bubble-gum approach works remarkably well. Once again, new audiences can provide a major boost to pop remakes, but that alone can't explain how these three re-recordings managed to achieve such a rare feat. Oh well, the magic of the '80s will always be somewhat mysterious and inexplicable.

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