Mistaken Musical Identities of the 80s

by Jason Gross @SockofFleagulls

Remember when we didn’t have Google to instantly identify who it was singing a song?

Remember the absolute horror we went through when we heard a song on the radio and the stupid jock would tell us about a sale at the local Montgomery Ward instead giving us a title and artist?

Maybe you had this experience: you and your friends are driving down the road when a song comes on the radio and two or more people go back and forth about who the actual artist is. Gas money, beer money, prized possessions, kitchen sinks; no bet was off limits to prove that you were right!

Even though we do live in a Googlized world, misconceptions about 80s tunes are still rampant like Mogwais at a pool party. Hopefully I can help set the record straight and maybe even help you win some of that beer money back. I’ve pulled the songs in question from Youtube so you can listen to the similarities yourself!


“Lonely Is the Night”

Sounds Like: Led Zeppelin

Actually: Billy Squier

Around the turn of the century, I went through a stretch of discovering classic rock of the 60s and 70s. My new father-in-law (at the time) was a big fan of the Who, Led Zepplin, and many others from that era. I began expanding my knowledge and listening mainly to 96 Rock (now Project 9-6-1) out of Atlanta, Ga. As my knowledge grew, there were still a few songs that I got schooled on. For the longest time upon hearing “Lonely is the Night,” I could’ve sworn I was listening to Led Zeppelin. The guitar riff intro, the Plant-like vocals, the drum rhythm, it’s all there. As you can tell, I wasn’t a fan of Billy Squier but you can hopefully see why I mistook him for Led Zeppelin after being immersed in songs like “D’yer Ma’ker,” “The Ocean,” and “All of My Love.”


“Heat of the Moment”

Sounds Like: Eddie Money

Actually: Asia

Asia had a string of hits on the US Mainstream Rock charts in the early 80s, but was not as successful as Eddie Money. That could be why I’ve heard people mistake Asia’s best known track “Heat of the Moment” for Eddie Money.

I can definitely hear the vocal similarities and the strong rhythm guitar when comparing to songs like “Take Me Home Tonight” and “Shakin’.” Another factor in this mistaken identity is that Asia’s rise to fame was about the time between Money’s first success in the late 70s and comeback in the mid 80s.


“On the Dark Side”

Sounds Like: Bruce Springsteen

Actually: John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band

It seems that many of these songs that come into question are usually the “15 minutes of fame” bands being mistaken for the big boys. Case in point, John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band are known for mainly two songs, “Hearts on Fire” from the Rocky IV soundtrack and “On the Dark Side” from the Eddie & the Cruisers soundtrack.

For someone who might not be familiar with the Eddie & the Cruisers, I can see how they might mistake this song for “The Boss.” If you listen to Springsteen tracks like “Dancing in the Dark,” you can definitely hear similarities. Although it’s hard for me to mistake the vocals, the echoing effect and the killer sax solo are definitely elements of a Springsteen track.


Today I put out an APB on Twitter and Facebook for some other mistaken identities. Here are a few that responded:


“The Great Commandment”

Sounds Like: Depeche Mode

Actually: Camouflage

Depeche Mode is one of the most popular and influential bands in the world. Their distinctive electronic pop sound has helped them sell over 100 million albums worldwide. When you are celebrated that much, it’s pretty much a given that a few bands will try to mimic your sound.

Viper pointed out to me a mistaken identity with Depeche Mode. In 1987, a relatively unknown band from Germany would top the US Dance chart. “The Great Commandment,” the most successful hit for the trio Camouflage, would apparently cause many people to say “Hey, have you heard the new Depeche Mode song? It’s radical!” On Viper’s behalf, I can definitely hear the similarity to Depeche Mode with the heavy synthesizer sound and similar vocal style.


“Oh Sheila”

Sounds Like: Prince

Actually: Ready For the World

Leigh Ann posted another mistaken identity on the RD80s Facebook page that I could see pass for Prince. “Oh Sheila” was one of six tracks by the Ready For the World that cracked the top 10 on the R&B charts from 1984-88, but their mainstream success was mainly limited to it and “Love You Down.”

By the time Sheila was a #1 hit, Prince had eight top 10 hits including two #1s. I can see why this mistake was made with similar style vocals, the Prince-like beat, and synthesizer rhythm being striking similarities.

Hit the comments and share you and your friends’ 80s mistaken identities!


Jason Gross is a child of the 80s and loves to subject his two sons to cartoons, TV, movies, and music from the decade. Currently promoting a M.A.S.K. live-action movie script (co-writer), he also enjoys freelance writing about 80s music & pop culture. Background includes radio broadcasting and B2B direct marketing. Follow Jason on Twitter@SockOfFleagulls and check out Rediscover the 80s!

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