Kylie Minogue Reflects on Her 'Loco-Motion' Cover and the Pop Song's Music Legacy (Flashback)

Kylie Minogue poses with a train to promote 'The Loco-Motion' in 1988.
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Kylie Minogue was already on the right track when she recorded her cover of "The Loco-Motion" in 1987. The dance anthem kicked off a decades-spanning career and one of the most passionate fan bases in music history. 

When the Australian singer was a year into the phenomenon surrounding her debut single, she reflected on the unlikely catalyst for her crossover from teen soap star to pop music’s next big thing. 

“Aside from ‘Loco-Motion's interesting history with Little Eva and Grand Funk Railroad, I have my own personal history,” Minogue explained to ET in 1988. “It seems to be one of those songs that people know subliminally. Everyone picks up on the chorus. People know it from somewhere.”

Split image with photos of Little Eva and Grand Funk Railroad.
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Penned by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, the track first hit airwaves in 1962 courtesy of pop singer Little Eva (real name Eva Boyd), which later hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Twelve years later, rock band Grand Funk Railroad’s rendition followed suit by topping the charts. 

The following decade, Minogue was starring on the drama series Neighbours, which many described for American audiences at the time as a cross between Dallas, Dynasty and England’s long running Eastenders. In the midst of her TV success, Minogue found herself in a unique opportunity to showcase her vocal talent with an impromptu performance in front of thousands.

“A few of us from [Neighbours] were asked to help out at a football benefit concert,” Minogue recalled. “We sang a song and we were really nervous. We ended up having such a great time that we wanted to do another song. My suggestion was ‘Loco-Motion.’ I knew the words, because I had a Carole King songbook. And the band knew the track. The backing was simple.”

Kylie Minogue poses with another train to promote 'The Loco-Motion' in 1988.
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The performance made such an impact that Minogue was approached to record her first studio album, Kylie, with the cover as its lead single and retitled "Locomotion." For the song’s international release the following year, another edition was recorded and reverted back to its original moniker, "The Loco-Motion." 

“America, to me, is so big,” Minogue said of her worldwide press tour. “It's a real, new challenge, because you don't have the series that I'm known for in England and Australia. It's exciting to be here and things are feeling really good.”

Minogue’s rise to stardom invited comparisons to fellow Aussie triple-threat Olivia Newton-John, and with the help of her other hit single, “I Should Be So Lucky,” she quickly became a sensation in her native Australia (for some fun visual context, see Rose Byrne’s epic #TBT below). And yet, she admitted at the time that making the transition from actress to singer was an enormous career risk.

“In Australia, it was really difficult at the start when I released ‘Locomotion,’ because it could have been great for my career. It could have been detrimental,” Minogue noted. “It's only now the Australians are starting to believe that I can sing, maybe I do have talent and that it's not all manufactured. It's taken a long time. I know people have to prove themselves, but I'm not out there to prove it for other people. I'm doing it because I want to prove it to myself and because I enjoy it.”

Kylie Minogue poses in front of the Hollywood sign in 1988.
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While Minogue’s cover failed to complete the hat trick of reaching number one on the U.S. charts like its predecessors, the track still landed at number three, which forged "The Loco-Motion" song’s unique distinction of appearing thrice in the top three in separate decades.

Years before her numerous best selling albums, GRAMMY win and countless sold-out concerts across the globe, Minogue, at age 20, was prepared to remain level headed amid her success.

“I tend to have my own little philosophies and one of them, I guess, is to remember this is a job,” she insisted. “I've had great fun over the last couple of years. I've worked my little bum off, but it's been great fun and I'm fully aware this can end tomorrow… I guess I'm just enjoying it while it's here.”

Across her 35 years as a pop icon, Minogue endured some mixed feelings about "The Loco-Motion," but she eventually learned to welcome her association with the song.

“I think it was a little awkward to do it for a number of years,” Minogue told Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live in June. “We did a disco version of it on the Golden Tour in 2018, which was super fun. And now, when I do it at certain gigs, it’s such a smash. There’s people doing dancing lines, and it’s so of it’s time, you have to just kind of embrace it.”


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