Jul 10

PHIL COLLINS – “A Groovy Kind Of Love”

Popular120 comments • 5,399 views

#614, 10th September 1988, video

All cover versions flirt with anachronism but in this case it’s baked in before the record’s even left the sleeve: that word “groovy”. Linguistically switched-on for 1965, the Mindbenders’ brightly confident original now sounds caught in time: pop loosening up a little but still riding a beat group fad. Phil Collins, on the other hand, approaches the word and the song hesitantly, as if reaching for long-unfamiliar slang of his youth to describe an idea – love – which also might be lost somewhere in his past.

As I’ve said before this was pretty much the point of Phil Collins in the 80s, a stolid everyman who could channel blokish emotions without ever risking his rather stodgy masculinity. A quick rewind back to Chris De Burgh tells us how awful this approach could be, and for the second time Collins has hit the top with a cover that lands safely on “bearable”. In fact “A Groovy Kind Of Love” gets a more interesting reading than Phil’s bluff charge at “You Can’t Hurry Love”: he sounds like a man remembering a song and a feeling, rather than thumping away at one.

The video makes this meta-cover approach more explicit, with the extra twist that Collins seems to be in a darkened studio-cum-prison, remembering his own performance in Buster. Phil played the title character, train robber Buster Edwards: maybe the film, which I’ve never seen, moved away from a “loveable rogue” approach but the publicity (and this record) surely didn’t. It’s ultimately let down by its arrangement, swamped by echoed pianos and synthesised strings. The strings are particularly unpleasant, evoking not the brash world of 60s pop but the near future of the blockbuster rom-com. If Phil Collins could turn 60s pop into AOR, why couldn’t anyone else with a soundtrack to promote do the same? The consequences, some years down the line, will be thoroughly un-groovy.



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  1. 31

    it’s probably more like “music for people woho would like to like music but are too timid to commit to what they believe liking music commits them to” <-- snappy eh! i should be a critic or something! i think i would also argue that phil's reasons for making this -- as someone with a firm if niche-bound cognoscenti'd grasp of the aesthetics of music, as well as a can't-go-back sense of punctum's "ghost of the 60s" argument -- don't necessarily exactly overlap with the reasons people liked it: who weren't musicians and EVEN IN THE 60S felt left out of the grooviness... "but here's someone big and famous who likes this nice tune and so do i" "trendproof" is a fascinating concept: if thefatgit is correct, then when we call music "timeless", what it turns out we mean is it exhibits timidity-as-form! (but would cullum or buble adopt a melody of this kind? i suspect not: but am happy to be proven ignorant... ) (it's not like i've been listening to them)

  2. 32

    incidntally how do you say his name? i want it to be bubbly (or actually MICHAEL BUBBLE) but i imagine it’s “boo-blay”

  3. 33

    “music for people woho would like to like music but THINK OF THEMSELVES as too timid or timebound to commit to what they believe liking music commits them to” <-- improved (in the sense of "made worse")

  4. 34
    thefatgit on 7 Jul 2010 #

    I believe there’s an accent on the final “e” of Buble (grave or acute, not sure which) so “boo-blay” is indeed how it would sound.

  5. 35

    I was hoping it was a silent accent :)

  6. 36
    wichita lineman on 7 Jul 2010 #

    Stuck at no.3 behind Phil and the next no.1 was Womack & Womack’s Teardrops, which is possibly the opposite of a ‘pretty, mobile melody’ while still being (kind of) hummable. It has an incredibly subtle, stumbling tune, walking in circles, and an instrumental break that makes a virtue of drizzly emptiness – just two muted electric piano chords and a backing vocal that holds its head in its hands. Lyrically it describes how hard it is to listen to old records and hear them the same way you did when you were younger, carefree and feckless. Maybe one of those records is the Mindbenders’ Groovy Kind Of Love.

    Now! watch: this was on Now 13, sat between the chicken soup of Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy and Breathe’s Hands To Heaven. Ian from Breathe has just provided me with some lovely living room furniture for my record collection (it still doesn’t contain Hands To Heaven, though).

  7. 37
    punctum on 7 Jul 2010 #

    Not the biggest fan of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” but chicken soup?

    “Teardrops,” which boasts the most resolute minimalist instrumental solo of any pop song since “Boredom” by the Buzzcocks and, according to the sleevenotes of Now 13, outsold a good proportion of its year’s number ones.

    Alarm bells go off when I hear “music for people who don’t like/would like to like music” in any context or with any attempt at qualification since (a) it falls on sad musical omnivores like me to proclaim “well, how do YOU know they don’t like music?” and (b) it’s the exact reverse and the precise premise for situations where the Guardian has a crack at Kid A or Metal Machine Music for the hundredth thousandth millionth billionth trillionth zillionth time, sniggering “ooh, what were we thinking? Aren’t we such better PEOPLE by admitting that we preferred ELO and Supertramp all along?” and so nothing is resolved or moved forward.

  8. 38
    LondonLee on 7 Jul 2010 #

    ‘Teardrops’ would be a 9 or 10 from me.

    I say “groovy” quite a lot, mostly in an effort to replace the overused and devalued “cool”

  9. 39
    vinylscot on 7 Jul 2010 #

    “Teardrops” obviously a 9 or 10, so what score for their “Love Wars” from five years earlier?

    I always felt “Love Wars” was slightly superior because “Teardrops” possibly sounded a little too similar to it.

  10. 40

    s0d it i had an elaborate quizzical and amazing response to tom and punctum written out at great length and the internet ate it! basically it was along the lines of “in the late 80s phil collins took over the role of the hot hits as-played-by comps — OR DID HE?” … and more on this on LJ in coming days, punctum, it is all swirling confused round my head

    alarm bells noted, i was thinking much the same during my swim just now: in my original post i wasn’t doubting that this is music which people are liking, and i don’t yet think it crosses an alarmed line — perhaps the problem threatens to arise as soon as the claim goes forward that such-and-such is liked for ANY essentially negative reason, even if it’s basically a negative reason the likers are largely applying to themselves? (music for people who assume they’re somehow excluded from something…?)

  11. 41
    Tom on 7 Jul 2010 #

    Yeah I like “Love Wars” more than “Teardrops” too, both would score very highly – the former has a bit more drama, which is an unfair criticism in some ways as “Teardrops” crushed lack of drama is precisely the point.

  12. 42
    Tom on 7 Jul 2010 #

    #37 yeah it sets alarm bells off for me too, doubly so because it’s such a successful idea (see my latest Pitchfork column for more on this), which is why I was interested in what Mark seemed to be getting at.

    One thing I read in Mark’s idea is of constructing music (in general) as a fandom, and seeing the PeopleWhoDon’tLikeMusic as being outside this fandom. I.e. yes, they enjoy music and listen to it but they’re not part of “music fandom”.

    In other fandoms, the relationship of fans to non-fans can be contemptuous and adversarial but it’s also a lot more subtle than that: the fan is generally aware of how large fandom is as a proportion of the reader/viewer/listenership as a whole, and this colours their construction of non-fandom. In the admittedly quite unusual case of Doctor Who, for instance, the supposed reaction of non-fandom to the series is a stick for fans to beat creators with: the fan attitude is often one of perpetual desperation that their show will be taken away from them again, so anything which might reduce the “wider audience” is cause for concern. Here the non-fan is still an Other but it’s also an other upon whose goodwill the existence of the fan-object is dependent!

    (The music industry has TRIED to establish this link in music fans’ minds – in order to fund the Kid As you need the Bubles – but it’s never taken hold. In any fandom there’s always an exclusionist tendency – the people who say “fuck the wider audience, we don’t need them” – and this is taking hold in music I think, which perhaps explains why I hear the ‘people who don’t like music’ formulation more and more.)

  13. 43
    Erithian on 7 Jul 2010 #

    I’ll second what Mike said in his first paragraph at #10. Phil Collins was 15 when the Mindbenders’ original first came out, and was now – well, a home-owning married, second time around. But only 37, hardly the age for pipe and slippers. It’s a sensitive reading aimed at giving more meaning to a simple pop song, and such efforts are often fraught with danger! It duly turns out pretty boring, and if you’re talking videos with prison cells and clanking keys, give me the Stones’ “We Love You” any day – but on the other hand it had a constituency that liked it and no doubt still does (cf the comments on the YouTube clip), and who are we to mock?!

    Bonus point for the great Julie Walters on the video though.

    Oh, and “groovy” – has anyone really used the word unironically since about 1973?

  14. 44
    Erithian on 7 Jul 2010 #

    Two thoughts about fandom versus non-fandom
    – in the Doctor Who context, Russell T Davies in his “Writer’s Tale” is fairly dismissive of the reactions of fans on the likes of the Outpost Gallifrey website, mainly because he’s the fanboy who got to resurrect the series and they’re not!
    – and in the context of football, your “fans v non-fans” distinction reminded me of the grumble of a lifelong fan during Euro 96 – “I’m sick and tired of explaining the offside rule to girls called Fiona with St George crosses painted on their faces singing about thirty years of hurt” – in other words, I’ve stood by footy through the fallow years, and now that the game’s trendy again I resent the Jenny-come-latelys because I worry about being taken for granted by the people chasing the new audience.

  15. 45
    punctum on 7 Jul 2010 #

    As for Bon Jovi; anyone in the Hyde Park/Royal Albert Hall/South Kensington area one Saturday summer evening a few years ago would have witnessed the spectacle of S Reynolds, D Stubbs, K Eshun, Woebot and myself (among others) cheerily walking up the road howling out “Livin’ On A Prayer” in tandem with the Actual Bon Jovi who were at that moment playing an open-air gig in t’Park. And totally losing our credibility, thank the Lord. Photographs exist.

  16. 46
    thefatgit on 7 Jul 2010 #

    I tend to get the impression from YouTube comments boxes that Fans* (well at least the most vocal) of a certain “Kid A” persuasion or “Wish You Were Here” persuasion, (although not exclusively so…Kanye West also has his army of robot acolytes) the most rabidly loyal if you like, tend to exclude other forms and genres of music in an attempt to prove that they are the most loyal/worthy. These people then seem to justify their opinion by pouring scorn on anyone who offers an unfavoured opinion, even from within the fanbase.

    *Such fans could fit Mark’s descriptions in comments above.

  17. 47

    surely part of the “let’s take it beyond a fandom” impulse is to try and escape all the self-contradictory faff sedimented into that foopball-fan response, which is indeed somewhat sedimented into all fandoms, in difft degrees — which is “FOOPBALL IS GREBT! IT SHOULD BE MORE POPULAR!! Except yeah but no but yeah but no but yeah but no but…” (ie new fans will always need the offside rule explaining — it’s your job, old fan! but it turns a pleasure into a chore! but without that chore the pleasure will change to a pain! why can’t everything be as it were when i was a nipper! you hated being a nipper! etc)

  18. 48
    Rory on 7 Jul 2010 #

    @43 On unironic groovyin’: despite mentioning its “ironic-yet-cool” appeal in the ’80s, these days I’m like LondonLee, using it as a less-hackneyed alternative to “cool” (although I use that too). If you avoid the drawn-out groooovy of ’70s cliche, it takes on a different flavour.

  19. 49
    intothefireuk on 7 Jul 2010 #

    Phil eases his way through The Mindbenders 60’s classic A Groovy Kind Of Love with very little effort. It’s pleasant and mildly comforting and I prefer it to his upbeat efforts which tend towards awkward pop. I had/have no problem with Collin’s voice which I knew of old through his many years in Genesis but his choice of material and associated arrangements, in fact the whole band’s choice of material in the 80’s, left a lot to be desired.

    It’s almost impossible to explain why Phil was so big in the 80’s (or Dire bloody Straights for that) but that’s what happens when you let the great unwashed buy records.

  20. 50
    lonepilgrim on 7 Jul 2010 #

    @49 re ‘why Phil was so big in the 80’s (or Dire bloody Straights for that)’

    I think there were a number of contributing factors:

    1. the rise of the CD player – the platform for the music became a status symbol again – and these acts benefitted from this
    2. Baby boomers with disposable income – the ideal audience for these acts who were seen as both edgy and safe (hard to believe – but I saw DS when they were a support band for Talking Heads and PC had his prog past)
    3. Radio 1 was still dominated by the DJs from the 60s and 70s and who favoured this music
    4. the youth market was increasingly fragmented – spending their money on indie and dance music that was unlikely to trouble the charts

  21. 51
    wichita lineman on 7 Jul 2010 #

    Re 46: I think you’re right. And, away from the safety of the bedroom, away even from the gangs singing Livin’ On A Prayer in tuneless unison, Numanoids used to put into practise at clubs all over the country. One at a time! None more devoted. Were they even allowed to like other music? (thinks: this was quite possibly covered on Cars/AFE posts).

  22. 52
    wichita lineman on 7 Jul 2010 #

    ..put FANDOM into practise, that is.

  23. 53
    LondonLee on 7 Jul 2010 #

    For my sins I saw Dire Straits at Wembley in the early 90s (I got a free ticket! Honest!) which must be the most boring, personality-free concert I’ve ever been too. I knew rock and roll was dead when I saw that the gig was sponsored by Philips and you couldn’t smoke in the hall.

    I really wouldn’t want to choose between ‘Teardrops’ and ‘Love Wars’ but if you held a gun to my head I’d go with the former, I like it’s almost thrown-together warmth and how something so seemingly casual can be so damn…groovy, especially the 12″. Love that whole album really, more than the ‘Love Wars’ long-player.

  24. 54
    Conrad on 8 Jul 2010 #

    Teardrops is exquisite. A 10. Love Wars is the warm up.

    Dire Straits’ first two albums are terrific – JJ Cale, Steely Dan and something more besides; romantic and soulful

    The problem with Dr Who is not rooted in a fan/non-fan issue. The problem with contemporary Dr Who is that 1) it’s made by contemporary BBC, and therefore suffers from feeble licence fee appeasing, bbc worldwide demographic pleasing, and a smug sense of its own self importance; and 2) its a very strong format which frequently means laziness and cliche in exceution (occasionally a great script or idea will transcend all this).

    It was rarely consistently good in its old incarnation, although of course I loved it as a kid.

    Oh, and this Phil Collins record is very dull

  25. 55
    punctum on 8 Jul 2010 #

    #49 – expressions like “that’s what happens when you let the great unwashed buy records” are unhelpful.

  26. 56
    punctum on 8 Jul 2010 #

    The problem with contemporary Dr Who is that it was good until it thought it was good.

  27. 57
    Mike Atkinson on 8 Jul 2010 #

    “Teardops” just nudges ahead of “Love Wars” for me as well. I played it a couple of times at the club; it filled the floor on the first week, and all but emptied it on the second week. Tricky record to sequence; well over 130bpm as I recall, and you didn’t get many of those to the pound in 1988.

  28. 58
    punctum on 8 Jul 2010 #

    1991 was a different story. I once managed to segue the track very successfully into “Anasthasia” by T99.

  29. 59
    rosie on 8 Jul 2010 #

    I have a fine collection of Dire Straits albums, but then I haven’t had my shower yet this morning.

    As Conrad says, the first two DS albums are pretty terrific, as are parts at least of the third and fourth. I remember being disappointed when the single of Private Investigations didn’t make the distance. I drew the line at Brothers in Arms and in my mind Dire Straits really belong to the 70s but I guess their success in the 80s was a result of the demographic of Dire Straits fans having a large overlap with the demographic who could afford the new CD technology. DS’s style being well-suited to CD.

    I ‘ad that Mark Knopfler living round the corner from me for much of the 80s. He, like me, used to patronise Geales’ cheap, cheerful, chaotic and generous sit-down fish-and-chip emporium behind the Gate Cinema. Geales was taken over by a “Leisure Consortium” in the 1990s and became expensive, miserable, regimented and mean, and connoisseurs were better directed to Costa’s in the next street over. My information, however, is long out of date.

    The Mindbenders’ version of AGKOL is part of my growing up and that Eric Stewart was a bit tasty. Phil adds nothing to it.

  30. 60
    punctum on 8 Jul 2010 #

    You’ll be pleased to know that “Private Investigations” made number one on the NME chart.

    Geales is still in existence and still expensive, miserable, regimented and mean. For our money you can’t beat Johnnie’s Fish Bar in World’s End which apparently Mick ‘n’ Keef used to frequent back in their immediate pre-fame days when they lived in Edith Grove, nicked neighbours’ milk bottles, &c.

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