11
May 09

PHIL COLLINS – “You Can’t Hurry Love”

FT + Popular95 comments • 5,190 views

#513, 15th January 1983

The 80s, as a decade, split rather neatly. There’s the early eighties, when the arrival of video and the aftershock of punk and disco turn the charts into a colouring book. There’s the late eighties, when the combination of club music and cheap high street pop radicalises the landscape again. And in between there’s the mid eighties, when…. when….. when people like Phil Collins got very big indeed.

Actually, that’s a bit unfair. But that big glossy slab of years in mid-decade was the time bit-players and hitmakers alike had their chance to become superstars, for good or ill. And in some ways Collins was the most extraordinary of all, the great survivor, who went from playing drums in one of the most famously flamboyant progressive outfits to becoming the very incarnation of everybloke.

Which made him hated, even before his music deserved it: few wanted to identify with the people who they identified as identifying with Phil – aspirational sales reps and middle managers caught up in the beginnings of Thatcher’s economic red shift. And once his music did deserve that contempt, the awful shadow of latter-day Genesis and “Another Day In Paradise” stopped fair consideration of the earlier stuff.

So let’s set the record straight: yes, some 80s Phil Collins hits were very good, and much of the rest is stodgy rather than dreadful. This cover being a solid example – it’s only when you succumb and play the Supremes’ version that it becomes hard to get through. And this isn’t just Phil being incompetent – he always knew exactly what his strengths and skills were. Whereas Diana and the girls played the song from the point of view of sharp operators revelling in the power their newfound mastery of the game handed them, Phil’s more frustrated – he’s only just found out there even was a game. So he’s turned his clumsiness into a feature, not a bug – which explains the song but doesn’t really improve it.

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Comments

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  1. 76
    Malice Cooper on 13 May 2009 #

    Hateful horrible man and appalling predictable karaoke style cover version that he pollutes vinyl with.

    He has made hundreds of records and I can’t think of any that I’d like to hear again

  2. 77
    pinkchampale on 13 May 2009 #

    i’m not sure i can offer any better defence than (a few) others have, but I really like this version and might even [deep breath] like it more than the original. what i think i might like is the cheery absence of reverence. i don’t get any sense that this is phil making a strained kind claim for authenticity and resectability* (hello go west), much less deploying the “sod it, lets do a motown cover” last refuge of every pop star hovering over dumperdom (ms wilde! how good to see you), but think he’s just revelling in the freedom to do what he wants, and what he wants is to do a fairly straightforward cover of a minor motown song. it has to be said though, that it’s been a while since i’ve seen the video, which, if memory serves, is a sustained assault on the viewer’s goodwill.

    i also sort of admire his (slightly chippy, and, let’s face it, largely enforced) indifference to critical respect and, while the repect he supposedly gets from the hip hop fellowship is probably a bit over-egged*, i do like his evident glee at reminding others of it.

    #57 – phil was recently interviewed on bbc4 and, as well as denying he’d ever been a tory, he said that the paintpot thing was entirely coincidental, conceeding only that his subconcious might have been at play.

    #41 – yes, the stardust soundtrack is brilliant, the first three sides of oldies anyway – don’t think I’ve ever listened to the fourth

    *or possibly not, i’ve always been struck that one of the key mayhem-makeers in the standard bit of LA riots footage is wearing an ‘invisible touch’ tour t-shirt.

  3. 78
    mike on 13 May 2009 #

    AndyPandy at #63, on James Hamilton: I’ll tell you something else, shall I? The person responsible for getting Froggy into beat-mixing was none other than… James Hamilton, who experienced an epiphany at New York’s Paradise Garage circa late 1977 (Larry Levan was on the decks, needless to say), came back, banged on about Levan’s genius to all his Southern Soul Mafia DJ mates, and got a bunch of them to come out to NYC with him a few weeks later, to witness Levan from themselves. Froggy was one of the bunch who flew over. First story James ever told me!

  4. 79
    peter goodlaws on 13 May 2009 #

    I rather think that the terrifying fact that we have reached the stage where the NOW albums started is indeed a time for reflection. Reflecting on the fact, perhaps, that it’s all down hill from here?

  5. 80
    AndyPandy on 13 May 2009 #

    Mike at 78:great story and it obviously makes his relatively forgotten status an even more unfair oversight. Its amazing how quickly mixing took off though when I started reading his page in 1979 it was already the main feature of his page and by the time I started going to clubs in 1982 every dj (and not just those on the underground South-Eastern soul/jazz-funk scene)but the most mainstreams DJs in the seediest local dives wouldnt dreamt of not mixing

    Jonathan at 73:MJ was most definitely in the UK at least as big from 1983 as he was a few years later – I think he’d died off slightly by the late 80s.’Thriller’ dominated 1983/84 like probably nothing else before or since.

  6. 81
    Jonathan Bogart on 13 May 2009 #

    Sorry yes I meant The George not MJ!

  7. 82
    Snif on 13 May 2009 #

    #77 – “…a minor motown song”

    Surely not?

    “the Stardust soundtrack is brilliant,….don’t think I’ve ever listened to the fourth”

    Some top Dave Edmunds recordings, if you like his material (a review once described him as “the Dr Who of rock”…it seemed apt)

  8. 83
    Doctor Casino on 14 May 2009 #

    Lot of interesting material in play here but all I have to say is that I just really hate the hell out of this fucking record. Absolute zero for me – and I will rep for several Collins singles! This flat, colorless waste of sound gets played once every ten minutes as background music in American grocery stores, and is most comparable to the frozen chocolate cream pies you can buy there: overfilled with air, trying to be sweet and delicious but actually tasting like nothing at all. A lousy, lousy, lousy thing, maybe not as aggressively unpleasant as “Long Haired Lover” or (name other definitive crap song on this blog) but somehow way more insulting.

  9. 84
    AndyPandy on 14 May 2009 #

    I think there’s a good case for Phil collins ubiquity to have reached its height as late as 1989 when “…But seriously” was released – this remained in the upper reaches of the charts for seemingly aeons and was one of those rare records which was omnipresent on pub juke boxes for months.
    ” …But Seriously” was so much part of the whole cutltural landscape at the time that even dutch pop house acts were having hit records with cover versions at the same time – ie Jamtronik and their version of “Another Day In Paradise”.
    And as someone mentioned Phil Collins was the kind of act that seem to have almost universal appeal for the average aspirational working class young person…as late as the start of the 90s it wouldnt be surprising to be sitting in the work van with someone who listened to the pirates and was to all intents and purposes fully involved in the house/dance scene and find a Phil Collins tape stashed amongst the mix tapes. I remember a similar situation with Dire Straits “Brothers in Arms” a couple of years before when on the pre-house dance scene.

  10. 85

    though for some reason i hadn’t thought of it till this thread, collins seems a bit of an obvious counter to the widely made claim that progrock was somehow upper-middleclass through and through* — collins was a london stagekid** rather than a grammar-school or public-school poshboy, and his first work was all acting work; he was self-taught music-wise (wiki sez he can’t read music and devised a notation of his own!)

    progrock was of course very unfashionable, and — because it had done pretty well in the 70s, with a handful of its stars being vocal about tax rates and threatening become to tax exiles — easy to resent, and hugely over-punished as a result: i wonder how much of the animus against collins is down to him not really fitting

    *which it never was — from the outset it was also an outlet for bright highly musical kids from non-posh backgrounds who wanted to try something different: like punk it’s best seen as a kind of bohemian zone where all kinds were welcome if they respected the rules of the zone (actually much more welcoming than punk, as progs “rules” were musical really, rather than whatever punk’s were: at least until it became addicted to Big Expensive Spectacle)
    **there’s a pretty solid london tradition of working class theatre people

  11. 86

    how much of the animus against collins is down to him not really fitting: not very clear — i mean he doesn’t fit the prejudicial model of progrock in the way that his pals in genesis obviously do… hence, instead of being read as evidence against the model (which was “politically” useful in the in-tribe wars within art-rock) he’s cast as some kind of class traitor (maybe this is where the thatcherite charge comes from also)

    he always seemed a likeably amiable fellow to me, though i never liked genesis one bit and am not drawn to his solo stuff (perhaps i should check out Brand X)

  12. 87
    Billy Smart on 14 May 2009 #

    NMEWatch: Paul Du Noyer, 27 November 1982;

    “One day modern pop stars will reconsider covering classic soul songs, and then they’ll recall the words of Rufus Thomas: “Ah feel so UNNECESSARY!” And then they’ll drop the idea.

    One day.”

    Du Noyer awarded Single of the week to ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ by Fiat Lux. Also reviewed that week;

    Soft Cell – Where The Heart Is
    The Beat – I Confess
    Siouxsie & The Banshees – Melt
    Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Let’s Get This Straight From The Start
    Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Party Party
    Kid Creole & The Coconuts – Dear Addy
    Sisters Of Mercy – Alice
    David Bowie & Bing Crosby – Little Drummer Boy
    Cliff Richard – Little Town
    Marillion – Market Square Heroes
    The Kinks – Come Dancing

    Quite a week!

  13. 88

    plus datapoint that upends all theories ever: THIS!

  14. 89
    pinkchampale on 14 May 2009 #

    doesn’t robin carmody have a theory that (i’m not, I think, paraphrasing or misrepresenting too much) phil collins usurping peter gabriel in genesis *caused* thatcher to triumph over the one nation tories

  15. 90
    AndyPandy on 14 May 2009 #

    Lord at 85: and this prog as uper middle class and punk as not was one of things that pissed me of about punk as (if you exclude street punk/oi which the “tastemakers” loathed even more than prog) from my personal experience punk and prog were socio-economically drawing on the same people ie a few upper working-class, a load of lower middle-class and some more middle middle class (these intra middle class definitions meaning a lot in England).

    Basically the situation would often be dictated by age older brother into prog younger brother at a certain age when punk hit into punk.
    And of course thrown into even starker relief by all the times you read of the two musical interests being features of one persons life ie someone being into prog and then changing to punk…

    I was a bit young for both and probably felt about punk what the punks felt about prog but unlike punk I have grown to appreciate certain prog from the time when it really was progressive (c1968-75)

    …and defintely not the caricature it had become by the late 70s ie new-prog bands thinking it was all about shitty songs about elves, fantasy art work, loads of time signature changes and no tunes – which if there was one thing this music wasnt was progressive in any way..

    Educationally the kind of children who went to grammar schools and then were in the top streams of better comprehensives when the grammar schools started to disappear.

    And completely different from the kind of school I went to from 11-16 ie one of the remaining secondary moderns, where 95% were solid unreconstructed ‘all-day-doing-car-maintenance-type-syllabuses’ working class kids just about the same 95% hated punk and prog or to be more honest didnt give a shit about either.

    When I went there a lot were still Teds/Rockabillies (this was the mid-late70s!), then as us younger kids came up they all became Madness loving skins and then left as soulboys/casuals. Punk or prog didnt come into it.

  16. 91
    wichita lineman on 14 May 2009 #

    Re 85 I’d always had Phil C down as a mockney on a par with Park Life Albarn (see Buster). But I can’t find anything to prove this one way or the other. I am, however, most impressed that he ALMOST got a part in Sid and Marty Krofft’s Bugaloos:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOHXPZCGN7c&feature=related

    The advent of NOW! of course means the death knell for K-Tel and Ronco. But the first NOW! didn’t appear until xmas ’83 so there are still a few things like Headline Hits to come (not at home, can’t check which was the current K-Tel comp but I don’t think YCHL was on any of them).

  17. 92
    intothefireuk on 14 May 2009 #

    This was definitely a bit of a watershed for me. Circa 1975/76 My teen self had begun to discover Genesis and subsequently prog in a pretty big way. This in turn led to attending a number of Phil-led Genesis gigs (I was mightily pissed off I’d missed seeing Gabriel in his prime). Consequently I was more than a little familiar with dear Phil before he knocked out the solo stuff. Which is about where I jumped ship with Genesis – actually it was after ‘Duke’ where-in Collins laid seige to the Genesis sound and they churned out the soul inflected ‘Misunderstanding’ which was more than I could bear at the time. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem whatsoever with soul, being a Bowie fan as well I was equally horrified by the earlier ‘Young Americans’ – more of him later. Phil’s first solo LP was good but again the soul cross-over tunes irked. By the time he released this effort my patience had all but snapped. He is a great drummer, he is also an excellent singer and I will always have a soft spot for him, but he just doesn’t do soul.

  18. 93
    lonepilgrim on 15 May 2009 #

    re #90 I’m pretty sure that my experience was common to many – that punk was not the Year Zero or bonfire of the prog vanities of popular myth. As a teenager in the 1970s my record collection had been purchased with pocket money and wages from Saturday jobs so I was not willing to throw out my old albums when punk came along – although they weren’t played as much. However at the same time that I was buying ‘punk’ singles (a pretty broad definition including Pistols, Magazine, X- Ray Spex but also Elvis Costello) I was also buying Dub, Disco, Steely Dan, Grateful Dead, Parliament, etc. The only ‘punk’ albums I bought were ‘Marquee moon’ by Television and ‘Horses’ by Patti Smith – both of which have as many pretensions as some prog albums.
    A lot of prog seems to shy away from the libidinal and social qualities associated with rock and pop – which is probably why it appeals to gawky adolescent males. Those tricky time changes mean there’s no danger of having to dance.
    Genesis were never that progressive and after Peter Gabriel left they effectively became a tribute act – they abandoned the tougher sounds of ‘The Lamb lies down on Broadway’ and returned to the more pastoral, literary qualities of their earlier work. Eventually they would adopt a more poppy approach that would make them almost indistinguishable from Phil Collins solo work.

  19. 94
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 15 May 2009 #

    haha ‘Horses’ — which is one of my favourite records of all time evah — has MORE pretensions than any prog work i can quickly think of, INCLUDING elp’s “works vol.1”

  20. 95
    Mark M on 30 Aug 2011 #

    Re 32 (and others): In the context of a wedding disco the other night, A Town Called Malice, Collins’ version of You Can’t Hurry Love and Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go did roll fairly seamlessly into one another, the ideological distinctions of the time less important the similarity of the (retro then, double retro now) beats.

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