Mistaken Musical Identities of the 80s

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by Jason Gross @SockofFleagulls

in Music, The 80s

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!

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

eclectik March 22, 2012 at 6:58 am

Ahhh those were the days
The other thing is while knowing the artist was important, we were at a place where it was just good music and we enjoyed the songs as they came on

… moreover we were less upset that people sounded similar, we were just happy with good songs

Now everyone sounds alike AND the songs are awful

… I want my MTV!

Sting … No ZZ Top … No Dire Straits



Jason G March 22, 2012 at 8:06 am

…and the variety of music as well. Not this recycled garbage that they try to pass as “new.” There are a few artists now that are original, but I agree that many sound alike.
I’m constantly on the lookout for new music that sounds like it came from the 80s/early 90s era…but it’s hard to find!!


ShezCrafti July 14, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Are you on Spotify? If so we should do some track-sharing. 🙂


Bobbi October 4, 2013 at 2:31 pm

It’s still more or less like that…don’t get caught up in golden age syndrome it’s not good for you or the people around you! Regardless, as Frank Zappa said “Music is the Best”.


Carl Weathered October 4, 2013 at 2:34 pm

it’s also funny to see people who grew up in the 80’s now with the mentality of people from the 80’s who grew up in the 50’s (ie THEIR parents)


Jennifer Schulting March 22, 2012 at 8:23 am

Good read.

And yes I do remember these songs and trying to get the lyrics right.

Google, I use it on the regular to set myself straight when I hear a new song and want to know the lyrics/artist.


Dex March 22, 2012 at 8:44 am

There’s an awesome site yes.com that logs radio station tracks. You can look up your station by call letters and as long as you remembet around what time you heard it, you can find it. I’m not sure the breadth of the stations they cover but it’s always worked for me.


Jason Gross (@SockOfFleagulls) March 22, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Nice resource!!


zedhatch March 23, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Bob marley for “don’t worry be happy” by bobby mcfarin, got in a fight with my kid over that one cause some idiot mislabled the MP3 she downloaded.


TomMathias2 March 29, 2012 at 9:59 am

Even more fun were the arguments over lyrics, my favorite is one my wife copped to from when she was a kid “hot spare-ribs are in your cereal bowl” for “we are spirits in the material world”


Howie Decker March 29, 2012 at 10:44 am

HAHA!! Nice. Tom, if you haven’t already – check out Jason’s (the author of this post) site Rediscoverthe80s.com – he frequently posts Misheard Lyrics of the 80s – right up this alley! Thanks for the comment Tom!


Jason Gross (@SockOfFleagulls) March 29, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Love it!! I thank my wife alot for misheard lyrics, but rarely (and smartly) ever give her the credit.


ShezCrafti July 14, 2012 at 10:16 pm

You’ve just described every argument I’ve ever had with my older sister. Well done.

This also reminds me of the Napster days when mislabeled ID3 tags were going around like herpes. I can’t tell you how many times I downloaded ABC or Naked Eyes songs that were labeled as Duran Duran.


Jason G July 14, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Yes, I remember those days as well. Some were ridiculous.

I did download Spotify at one point but haven’t used it much. Might have to revisit now! 🙂


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