I’ve been a DJ since the ‘70s. I’m also a bona fide music fanatic who gets a kick out of turning people on to stuff they’ve never heard before.

For a long time, when cassettes were king and “mixtapes” were all the rage, one of my favorite pastimes was to fill up one of those long-ass 120 minutes Maxells with original and cover songs, played back to back. I would really go out of my way to find obscure covers of very well-known songs, then I’d get my friends together and have listening parties where we would discuss the songs with each other for hours on end.

Yeah, it sounds incredibly nerdy. But damn, it was fun.

The other day, in a fit of nostalgia, I retrieved an old box of tapes that had taken up permanent residence in the back of my closet. So, who wants to play with me — Original vs. Cover?

SONG: I Want Candy
ORIGINAL: The Strangeloves (1965)
COVER: Bow Wow Wow (1982)

 THE ORIGINAL

 I first remember hearing this on my local college radio station when I was 10.

It was the summer of 1975. I was riding my bike to the pool and this jumped out of the transistor radio I had tied to my handlebars with a bungee cord.

BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM-BOOM!

That bass drum that starts the tune, the other drums roll in with the “Bo Diddley Beat,” and then the guitar lick that shreds a little. I was bipping and bopping while pedaling away in time -– so much fun!

Listening to this now, with adult ears, it’s still super fun, but the mix is a little cloudy. It needs more treble, but I’m shaking my hips to it while sitting in my chair.

THE COVER

An interesting choice for the new wave band, and they made it work. They didn’t change much except for the pronoun in the lyric —  “I know a guy who’s tough but sweet” — from female to male. They also added a tambourine, louder bass, and some shouts at the end.

The production is a lot cleaner and brighter than the original, it feels a smidge faster and Annabella’s voice is bubbly and chirpy, like a cheerleader. But besides that, it’s not an earth-shattering cover.

WHO DOES IT BETTER?

This is a bit of a tough call, but it’s a tie. The original sounds dull, but I dig the deep drums and the horn section. The cover is brighter, but it doesn’t hit me like the deep groove of the original.

I like them both equally.

NOW YOU DECIDE!

About Author

Crystal is today's black Renaissance woman. She lives in Harlem, is always up for a new experience, is a magnet for all kinds of crazy, and smells like fresh flowers.

2 Comments

  1. Dave Arbiter on

    Crystal, usually I go with the original in your pieces, but I absolutely loved Bow Wow Wow and their take on this. I loved how they mixed the Bo Diddley beat up with the Burundi beat. I was crazy about Matthew Ashman’s insane guitar tone. I wished Annabella Lwin wasn’t so darn young. In fact, I didn’t even know it was a cover until maybe 10 years ago when I heard Little Steven play the Strangeloves version. Theirs is a cool song, Bow Wow Wow’s is classic!

  2. Cover is way better in my opinion. But that song has a lot more resonance for me being an 80s kid. I also had a HUGE crush on Annabella Lwin, had a poster of her in my room.

    There was also a local music video show that I think came on Friday nights that used that song in the opening credits… I didn’t have MTV at the time so i watched it all the time.

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