May 09

PHIL COLLINS – “You Can’t Hurry Love”

FT + Popular96 comments • 7,225 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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  1. 31
    LondonLee on 11 May 2009 #

    I should add that I did really enjoy the Blues Brothers film*, what I hated was the bloody soundtrack album with Belushi and Ackroyd’s lumbering shouty cover versions** that got way too much play on pub jukeboxes round my way at the time.

    *Though I preferred The Commitments.

    **Yes, I know the original Stax/Atlantic band plays on them. They still sound crap though.

  2. 32
    Kat but logged out innit on 11 May 2009 #

    In my head this sounds a much closer relative to ‘A Town Called Malice’ than the original Supremes number (having a listen just now, there’s no organ but clearly my brain has just filled it in). Obviously the Jam are hankering after the same memories, but they seem to be ‘doing it wrong’ in the same way that Phil is here.

  3. 33
    Snif on 11 May 2009 #

    “…the use of old songs on film soundtracks (another thing that seems to have dwindled in the 00s)…”

    Probably because there aren’t any songs left to use.

  4. 34
    Pete on 12 May 2009 #

    There are plenty of old songs slathered over soundtracks at the moment. However what the 80’s had which we don’t now, is a sense of “discovery” of those records. The ads playing Percy Sledge really were initially the only opportunity the kids had back then to hear them until the re-release kicked in, unless they were vinyl junkies scouring the local record stores.

    This all changes with the advent in the UK of Gold Radio stations (Capital Gold started in 1988), CD re-releases which then allowed endless niche compilation albums where a lot of the rare stuff could be found. These days bashing it into spotify does the work. I think the chances of a re-release (if such a thing even exists these days with mp3’s being constantly available) topping the charts without some massive media event surrounding it is unlikely. Possibly getting a little ahead of ourselves here though.

    @30: Well he would say that wouldn’t he. Sadly I can’t find any evidence either, or evidence that my second choice Noel Edmonds ever said it either!

  5. 35
    ace inhibitor on 12 May 2009 #

    tom yr obviously right about the neat 3-way split in 80s culture which also corresponds all too neatly to the three ages of thatcherism. On ideological grounds I think we can safely declare all cultural products of the period from early 83 to early 87 to be intrinsically worthless, whatever their apparent formal or technical merits. I move that you abandon the original project and fast forward now.

  6. 36
    peter goodlaws on 12 May 2009 #

    I simply could not see the point of this. Little bald bloke from Genesis taking off Diana Ross whilst gurning like Pa Broon on You Tube. Once again I would suggest an older demographic as regards the buyer of this one. I could not imagine teens getting excited, even those for whom this was for all intents and purposes a new song. The only thing to say, really, is a hearfelt thanks to Collins for getting rid of R&R.

    # 16 – Nothing really to say about the interlocking or otherwise tastes of white and black music fans but can’t agree about Oona King, who has become more well known since she got stuffed by that delightful George Galloway than she ever was as an MP. Miss King is extremely nice but she’s the ultimate product of the Islington Blair brigade – isn’t she a god daughter of Antonia Fraser? As such, there’s not a doubt in my mind that she would have been mired completely in shite just like everyone else appears to be on all sides of what will be known in years to come as the Rotten Parliament.

  7. 37
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 12 May 2009 #

    (Lady) Antonia Fraser is an authentic blue-blood aristocrat and not-that-good historian who married the late Harold Pinter, authentic East End Jewish working class, made good as groundbreaking playwrite and v.sweary poet, and a biting critic of the Blair govt re the war to boot, so it’s a bit nuts to decribe Fraser as part of the “Islington Blair” set — whether or not Oona King is (for other reasons).

  8. 38
    snoball on 12 May 2009 #

    Nine year old me was already familiar with the Supremes version, with it’s lightness and harmonies. Collins was stodgy and leaden in comparison.

  9. 39
    Erithian on 12 May 2009 #

    Peter #36: Without wishing to go too far off-topic, the episode in Oona King’s autobiography when she refuses on principle to write an Evening Standard article slaughtering Ken Livingstone – and is told by Alistair Campbell: “It’s not the end of your political career, Oona. Just the next five years” – suggests she wasn’t that much of a Blair insider. And she clearly slogged her guts out for her constituents, you wouldn’t have seen her in the Big Brother house!!

  10. 40
    peter goodlaws on 12 May 2009 #

    #37 – Perhaps I should have phrased it to say that Oona King is the ultimate product of the Islington Blair brigade and ALSO the god daughter of Antonia Fraser. Certainly I recognise that Pinter did his pieces with Blair over the war. Too bad that Oona King voted for it, which is exactly why Galloway targeted her. And indeed stuffed her.

    #39 – No, far too pleasant for the Big Brother house and since I suspect she still has a career in front of her, an appearance on that vile and ignorant show (the shelf life of which must surely be soon be running out now) would, I think, be something which might well have come back to bite her on her cute little booty. Stand by for Jacqui Smith’s appearance, however!

  11. 41
    wichitalineman on 12 May 2009 #

    Re how Phil Collins became “a poster boy for the 80’s boom generation”. Technology? The more I dig into pop history the more I reckon it is possibly the greatest influence on pop culture turning points. I was working in a record shop at the time, and the advent of the cd made Dire Straits and Phil Collins (specifically Brothers In Arms and No Jacket Required) very desirable for showing off your fancy new hi fi. This meant Phil C’s popularity spread beyond middle management into aspirational youth (which made up 90% of the teen/20s population in Peterborough). Phil’s giant head on his cd covers suggested a patina of class that matched similarly ugly/shiny midi systems. C86 happened for a reason y’know… but I’m getting ahead of the game here.

    This doesn’t explain a 1983 number one, but for Phil’s early success there seems to be general agreement that Face Value is one of the rawest break-up albums ever (whether you think its dazzlingly self-pitying or not), while You Can’t Hurry Love was a novelty number one. To me, more than familiar with the original at the time – time plays tricks on how your ears hear music – it sounded very similar to the Supremes’ version except with Phil singing, ie pretty much anyone who’d thought of covering YCHL could’ve scored the number one.

    Re Blues Brothers. It’s not blackface is it? But it still makes me feel uncomfortable in a similar way. The soundtrack did a similar job to That’ll Be The Day and Stardust in the 70s, both hugely influentional on introducing my generation to songs like, errm, My Generation, One Fine Day and The Letter (on Stardust) and a swathe of 50s r’n’r like Book Of Love, I Love How You Love Me, Runaway, Bony Maronie on TBTD.

  12. 42
    Pete Baran on 12 May 2009 #

    I think you are right about the technology (and again therefore another aspirational link as CD’s were very aspirational mid eighties). Of course Phil Collins oversized bonce would also have been a lot smaller on a CD case, so there is an additional motivation!

    But YCHL is a great song competently performed with a guaranteed promotional budget. It still only feels like a number ten but that’s the charts for you. I would have preferred A Winters Tale though. It may have convinced David Essex to complete his project of recording a track of every Shakespeare play.

  13. 43
    Billy Smart on 12 May 2009 #

    3 great songs that share titles with great plays;

    Hedda Gabler: John Cale
    Seagull: Ride
    Look Back In Anger: David Bowie

  14. 44
    mike on 12 May 2009 #

    Re. AndyPandy at #30 – always good to stumble across a reference to James Hamilton! The first time I met him (in 1994, just after he started dating my stepmother), I was surprised to hear him speaking so fondly of Phil Collins… but then Phil was a bit of an old soulboy at heart, with enough good taste to hire Earth Wind & Fire’s brass section for Face Value (and a damned fine contribution they made too), and an abiding love of Motown that places this cover in the box marked “affectionate tribute”. Collins has gone on the record as saying that somewhere in the early-to-mid 80s, he reconnected with his love of pop, and Motown in particular, and that this informed his switch from tricksy jazz-prog syncopation (bye bye, Brand X) to simple backbeats.

    And there was a fair bit of Motown re-discovery going on in the charts of early 1983, as James Hamilton noted approvingly in one of his Record Mirror columns of the day – the JoBoxers’ “Boxer Beat” and Tracie’s “The House That Jack Built” spring immediately to mind – so if the likes of Paul Weller were allowed to re-appropriate, then it only seems fair to extend the permission to Phil.

    I absolutely adored Phil’s “You Can’t Hurry Love” when it came out, and I played it constantly for the first two or three weeks after I bought it. I’ve sometimes struggled to remember why, but I think Tom nails something useful when he says “Phil’s more frustrated – he’s only just found out there even was a game.” Perhaps it was that subtle shift of female-to-male interpretation that drew me in… for wholly personal reasons, as I was experiencing some intense romantic frustrations at the time, and saw the whole sphere of relationships as a game that I was desperately eager to start playing.

  15. 45
    Pete Baran on 12 May 2009 #

    3 above average songs that share their name with plays

    Once In A Lifetime: Talking Heads
    Death of a Salesman : Low
    The Caretaker : Johnny Cash

    (Waiting For Godot by Millenium’s hair metal trappings seems to miss much of the subtlety of the original).

  16. 46
    Billy Smart on 12 May 2009 #

    ‘Hamlet (Pow Pow Pow)’ by The Birthday Party is probably the acme of Shakespeare songs.

  17. 47
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 12 May 2009 #

    shakespeare via tarantino!

  18. 48
    Martin Skidmore on 12 May 2009 #

    I think the CD and aspirational points are good ones, and I recall Patrick Bateman enthusing at length about a Phil Collins album in American Psycho.

    I have no objection at all to white people covering black music – the Rolling Stones are a strong contender to be my favourite band of all time, and they built their career on that. I still dislike this record because it seems a crappy cover of a lovely original. Nothing much wrong with the music, but as snoball says at #38, Phil is stodgy and leaden. I think there are thousands of people who could have given us a better vocal.

  19. 49
    Steve Mannion on 12 May 2009 #

    What makes his voice stodgy/leaden? Is it just the context of there being a previous much lighter (too light?) female vocal, or is Phil’s voice here somehow struggling more with the upbeat production here? it’s probably one of the fastest songs he ever released so maybe.

  20. 50
    LondonLee on 12 May 2009 #

    Is the point where Phil’s generation of rockers learned that you should wear shoes with a suit and not trainers? It used to wind me up no end seeing them in these dead expensive Armani suits with a pair of bloody Reeboks on.

  21. 51
    wichitalineman on 12 May 2009 #

    To Be Or Not To Be by BA Robertson is probably the worst Shakespeare-related hit. Shakespeare And All That Jazz is a very jolly, recommended pop/jazz concept album by Johnny Dankworth/Cleo Laine.

    I don’t know if stodgy is the right word, but there’s no crisper, lighter voicer than Diana Ross’s (always cuts through on AM/medium wave radio), so growly Phil is bound to sound a bit like a dentists drill by comparison.

    Re Motown Redux. Heartache Avenue by the Maisonettes from a few months earlier may may well have floated Phil’s boat. It still stands up when played out (as does Vanessa Paradis’s Be My Baby in this tricky sub genre). As for the Jo Boxers (the unlikely missing link between Subway Sect and Earl Brutus), Just Got Lucky is their best moment, about as close to Dexy’s as any of the pretenders got. Great opening line: “Your technique it leaves me weak”.

  22. 52
    Pete Baran on 12 May 2009 #

    Does Shakespeare And All That Jazz have the track where Cleo scats all the names of the Shakespeare plays over a jaunty jazz backing that Danny Baker plays occasionally. That is one crazy record.

    Gold Radio seemed a perfect bedfellow for this whole new digital age. In consigning sixties music to the crackly AM band it seemed to stress that what the mid eighties had to offer was a sonic breakthrough in sound fidelity rather than anything groundbreaking musically. It did seem a shame to ringfence that music though.

  23. 53
    Tom on 12 May 2009 #

    #51 – Stratford on Av-ee-on? Must try harder, BA.

  24. 54
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 12 May 2009 #

    i think there’s historically a hi-fi lo-fi format antagonism at work within music, with the “smooth” sounds coming to manifest as one type of class signifer and the “rough” sounds as another — except with a constantly shifting definition of “rough” and “smooth”, as new techniques and new technologies arrive (and as each generation becomes more comfortably familiar with their own established tastes: even people who crave an endless succession of RADICAL RUPTURE don’t actually hear it was rupture themselves; they hear it through the imagined ruptured ears of an imagined Other) (which Other is often actually more bored than disrupted)

  25. 55
    CarsmileSteve on 12 May 2009 #

    #48 dammit martin, i was going to mention patrick bateman!

    can’t belive it took 48 posts to get there though…

  26. 56
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 12 May 2009 #

    bateman is a super-interesting signifier here, as his liking for what’s routinely coded smooth is locked (in that fiction) into his ultra-outsider coding — by the world — as non-smooth (by which i mean that being a serial killer is NOT really generally associated, except perhaps satirically, with aspirational yuppie blandness…

  27. 57
    wichitalineman on 12 May 2009 #

    Of course! American Psycho! It made sense, too, not just a “flock of seagulls” type period gag. Shoot me down if I’m exaggerating but when P Collins had his breakthrough residency on the Jasper Carrott show circa Face Value, he wore a Middlesbrough FC top and had pot of emulsion and a paintbrush on the piano because his wife had left him for a painter and decorator from Middlesbrough. If I was her, I’d have been genuinely scared.

    Re 54: Good point. This makes Phil C the Mantovani of the 80s, doesn’t it?

  28. 58
    Brian on 12 May 2009 #

    ALthough I really liked the first two solo albums ,I always thought that Phil’s greatest strength was as great writer of ballads. I have a theory that he learned this particular craft while produing and playing on a couple of John Martyns’s albums during which they were both going through a divorce. Can’t prove it though – but it would rub off.

    YCHL , was just a novelty and not really indicative of the material on the first 2 solo albums.

    I saw Phil at Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto touring “Face Value” , with Chester Thompson drumming ( as Phil sang ) and with a full horn section ( check the the instrumentals on the CD ) and Daryl Streumer on guitars…… , and the show was fantastic, although they ran out of numbers to play after many encores !

  29. 59
    Billy Smart on 12 May 2009 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: I can’t find a list of guests for ‘Carrott’s Lib’, but Phil Collins has certainly done the rounds of British television studios;

    AL MURRAY’S HAPPY HOUR: with Phil Collins, Fiona Phillips, New Kids On The Block, Philip Glenister (2008)

    ASPEL & COMPANY: with Liza Minnelli, Phil Collins, Wayne Sleep (1986)

    ASPEL & COMPANY: with Phil Collins, Kiri Te Kanawa, Tom Hanks (1988)

    ASPEL & COMPANY: with Lauren Bacall, John Sessions, Phil Collins (1993)

    THE BRITISH RECORD INDUSTRY AWARDS: with Phil Collins, Huey Lewis And The News, Kate Bush, Tears For Fears (1986)

    DES O’CONNOR TONIGHT: with Phil Collins, Phillip Schofield, Wet Wet
    Wet, Naomi Campbell (1994)

    DES O’CONNOR TONIGHT: with Shirley Bassey, The Spice Girls, Phil Collins, Dave Allen, Bill Bailey (1996)

    JOAN RIVERS: CAN WE TALK?: with Peter Cook, Phil Collins, Samantha Fox, Kenneth Williams, Dudley Moore (1986)

    THE KUMARS AT NO.42: with Phil Collins, Roy Wood, Anne Robinson (2004)

    THE LAST RESORT WITH JONATHAN ROSS: with Steve Nieve and the Playboys, Phil Collins (1988)

    LEO SAYER: with Phil Collins, Imagination, Linda Ronstadt, Garth Crooks (1983)

    MARK LAWSON TALKS TO…: Phil Collins (2009)

    ONE HOUR WITH JONATHAN ROSS: with Phil Collins, Steve Nieve (1989)

    PARKINSON ONE TO ONE: with Phil Collins (1988)

    POP QUIZ: with Dave Gilmour, Midge Ure, Ian Gillan, Phil Collins, Elkie Brooks, Barry Mason (1981)

    POP QUIZ: with Phil Collins, Robert Plant, Colin Moulding, Bill Bruford, Suzi Quatro, Geoff Deane (1982)

    POP QUIZ: with Phil Collins, Elvis Costello, Huey Lewis, Midge Ure, Nick Lowe, John Martyn (1984)

    ROOM 101: with Paul Merton, Phil Collins (2005)

    THIS IS YOUR LIFE: Phil Collins (1988)

    THREE OF A KIND: with Phil Collins (1983)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Paula Yates, Alex Cox, Phil Collins, Victor Kiam, Pina Palladino, Tony Beard, Go West, Muriel Gray (1985)

    WOGAN: with Ronnie Barker, Diana Rigg, Phil Collins, Nigel Dempster (1983)

    WOGAN: with Phil Collins, Brian Johnston, Ruth Madoc, The Pointer Sisters, Rory Bremner (1985)

    WOGAN: with Black, Phil Collins, Kit And The Widow, Cherry Lansing, Barbara Speake (1988)

    WOGAN: with Phil Collins, Trevor Eve, Elizabeth Quinn (1990)

  30. 60
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 12 May 2009 #

    i never read the novel but the film is pretty good given the obvious problems of the territory — directed, of course, by mary harron, who wrote a great piece on the velvet underground for nme in i think the late 70s, when they were just getting to be semi-mainstream canon over here (she also made the valerie solanas film i shot andy warhol)

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