Sep 09


FT + Popular69 comments • 7,695 views

#547, 23rd March 1985, video

The two Phils team up to warn a vulnerable pal off a wicked woman, this intervention requiring a jeepful of mid-decade production flim-flam. “Easy Lover” is full of wannabe hooks – a guitar jab here, a keyboard twinkle there – which collide more than they connect. It stomps and stumbles and hollers about chaotically before pulling itself together just in time for another round of “SHE’S AN EASY LOVER!” – and then it’s off again.

But this is exactly why “Easy Lover” is a cut above most stadium pop of the time – there’s an urgency to it which breaks through its chunky period fictures and grabs you by the expensively tailored collar. A lot of this is down to Philip Bailey: the arrangement tends to calm down a bit when his angry falsetto comes in, and it’s strong enough to carry the song. That frees Collins up to do his hard-knocked everyman bit without the music needing to slow down to fit. An unlikely duet, then, but a canny one.



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  1. 31
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 18 Sep 2009 #

    yes the uk commenteriat’s radar had its OWN RADAR, that’s how on it they were

  2. 32
    Billy Smart on 18 Sep 2009 #

    For all the talk of pop’s new ‘adult’ direction post Band Aid, it must be recorded that myself and all of my 12 year-old boy peers really adored this at the time. It seemed exciting, soulful and even racey – easy lovers being the sort of girls that we might aspire to knowing as soon as puberty started – and we would have liked to have been the confident playboy stars as seen in the video.

    Mind you we all thought that Alison Moyet’s ‘Ole Devil Called Love’ was a work of tremendous sophistication and classiness at this time as well, so what did we know?

    24 years on, and I still have a residual Pavlovian reaction of excitement when this comes on, and then I start to think “I’d much rather be listening to Earth, Wind & Fire” which eventually sours into an irritable “God, this record GOES ON!”

  3. 33
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 18 Sep 2009 #

    yes i ph34r that post-punk was MUCH more in the way of “time to be grown-up now little ones, we have a revolution to be getting on with” than amiable fantasy nonsense like this

  4. 34
    punctum on 18 Sep 2009 #

    #30: I distinctly remember Hosey Barynks (anag) being pretty ecstatic about “Photograph” in particular in the ’83 NME and yes the Leppard/Lange template – the precise reverse of the Sheffield coin which also held the League/Rushent template – should have been better acknowledged at home, both critically and commercially. Unfortunately the charts of the period (as Popular has already documented) were already full of would-be New Popists attempting to Grow Up, viz. Spandau putting all the art to one side and concentrating on being Big Tony Hadley’s Big Cabaret Band (Horn was going to produce True the album but ultimately opted to do Duck Rock instead), Wham! moaning about Don’t Lock Me In ‘Cos I Can Break Down The Door (as Burchill rightly put it at the time, for pity’s sake man you’re nearly twenty, you should have GONE by now!) and Tears For Fears attempting to be old long-haired prog-rockers, so the Defs were totally missed/overlooked – however, this was to be stood on its head in ’87 when they finally broke through here with “Animal” (which is also the obtuse obverse of ACT’s “Snobbery And Decay” from the same year).

    The story with Steve Howe and Pleasuredome was that much of that album’s music was taken from a solo album SH had already started with Trevor, called Lost In The Wired Jungle or something similar, all about falling into a computer and, um, getting lost. At the time, as I understand it, ZTT were pretty keen to sign both James and the Smiths but both passed. Wonder how much further TH would have pushed the guitar thing had he Morrissey and Marr to deal with?

  5. 35
    punctum on 18 Sep 2009 #

    Hosey Barynks lives!

  6. 36
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 18 Sep 2009 #

    haha yes Mr Anag wrote the deathless line (in a famous piece on the jacksons): “Anyone dissing Toto in my presence can politely eff off”: he and Cookie Puss, esp.the latter, certainly had an ear for this kind of material, but it remained their quirk and never really entered the general discussion

    actually BH can’t have sed “dissing” but my copy of the essay is silted way down in my pigpile of research for *my* MJ piece

  7. 37
    swanstep on 18 Sep 2009 #

    @29 Erithian. Thanks. I really enjoy your down-chart commentary – whoops that I stupidly overlooked it this time.

  8. 38
    pink champale on 18 Sep 2009 #

    so philip bailey was a drummer too? that certainly explains the main production idea – let’s make the drums REALLY LOUD. I’m in the like-a-lot crew, though also down with the the don’t have, and don’t much want a copy of my own-ers. as billy says, this didn’t seem at all grown up and sensible at the time – more like hyper exciting noise craziness.

    i don’t think the picture here is from the uk single- my brother had a copy and i remember it as just being both of their names and the title in chunky pastel capitals.

  9. 39
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 18 Sep 2009 #

    hunting around for this this morning there seemed to be a lot of variation: PHILIP BAILEY duets with p.collins vs PHIL COLLINS duets with p.bailey vs PHILIP BAILEY/PHIL COLLINS vs PHIL COLLINS/PHILIP BAILEY

    i wonder if that was an actual marketing decision at the time — on the assumption there was no extant crossover market? — or has grown up since, reflecting merely the priorities of any given P2P bod

  10. 40
    Tom on 18 Sep 2009 #

    #38 I think whoever mentioned Miami Vice has it right – definitely grown-up, but in the cars guns girls and awesome* jackets sense.

    *or so it seemed

  11. 41
    LondonLee on 18 Sep 2009 #

    Regarding the comment above about how 1985 was the year pop stars started dressing like accountants. 1985 was also roughly the year that Next took over the nation’s high streets and everyone started wearing chinos and double-breasted suits as a result. Until Acid House came along this pretty much became the uniform of youth, everyone wanted to dress like a City trader.

  12. 42
    punctum on 18 Sep 2009 #

    …and let us not forget that the (usually hideous, I’m afraid) jacket sleeves had by law to be ROLLED UP.

    The credit problem comes down to the issue of whose album the song comes from. I must say I’ve never got used to the “person A featuring person B” way of doing it; it’s always seemed a bit absurd to me. “David A Stewart Featuring Candy Dulfer”? What, does that mean she’s jutting out of his forehead or something?

  13. 43
    pink champale on 18 Sep 2009 #

    have to say, i’m increasingly coming to the view that the miami vice rolled up sleeves look may, in fact, be awesome after all, though i fear i lack the courage and vision to, ahem, rock it, in public.

  14. 44
    Tim on 18 Sep 2009 #

    I think the only pop stars who *really* started dressing like accountants in 1985 were Dexys. It’s fair to say that it wasn’t a hugely popular look at the time…

  15. 45
    pink champale on 18 Sep 2009 #

    though (on the cover of ‘the director’s cut’ at least) its accountants on a palm springs golf course in 1963. which is not a bad look at all. i imagine ‘mad men’ is this kind of thing, but i’ve never seen it, so possibly not.

  16. 46
    johnny on 18 Sep 2009 #

    generation gap indeed! i think it’s unfair to deride this for being soulless when we’ve had a rash of recent number ones (“you spin me”, admit it or not, is the epitome of soulless) which can easily be characaterized as same. it’s as if some of you have decided you don’t like this, therefore it must be ideologically UNpure, and then work backwards to find convoluted proof of its impurity. throw in some insinuations of prog (the WRONG KIND of prog, even!) and poor phil is sentenced to life on the swing band gang. yet “there’s something going on”, despite being vaguely proggier, is somehow preferable to this!

    poor phil. i don’t even much like the guy but somehow i always feel the need to stick up for him. he exists in some weird twilight world where no one wants to claim him. rockists think he’s too pop, but poptimists don’t think he’s pop enough. so he slogs on, creating inventive prog-pop gems but gets no notice because he has no revolutionary pop image and no revolutionary pop hair.

  17. 47
    Steve Mannion on 18 Sep 2009 #

    That bloke from The Communards also (now a Reverend) springs to mind but it was his specs and sensible haircut as much as anything.

    But for the absolute pits of 80s fashion surely nothing can match what a certain male double-act coming up v soon paraded in.

  18. 48
    Steve Mannion on 18 Sep 2009 #

    re Collins lack of revolutionary pop hair, alas we are still a few years away from ‘Phil’s World Of Wigs’ the highly amusing feature of Record Mirror’s Babble pages.

  19. 49

    “no revolutionary pop hair”: with the best lawyer in the world he could not get off this charge!

    johnny, as the person who made the most of the prog meme above — and described steve howe as the “wrong proggy” guitarist — my point is that this should-could have been MORE proggy: it provides a pale-gleam hint of a place nu-pop could have gone that never quite got realised

    but as i said, i like this, esp.its mildly lep-esque guitars, so maybe yr not really responding to me

  20. 50
    pink champale on 18 Sep 2009 #

    #46 revolutionary pop hair or not, it is a proven fact that no rapper worth his salt can get out of bed in the morning without a blast of the anti-homelessness anthem “another day in paradise”, so all is not lost for poor phil.

  21. 51
    Conrad on 18 Sep 2009 #

    I seem to recall a phase where the NME kept referring to him as Phil College for some reason. I don’t know why, but it made me laugh.

    Perhaps it was the Genesis connection, although of course Phil was never Charterhouse material

  22. 52
    johnny on 18 Sep 2009 #

    #50 – not only that but “in the air tonight” is used by many basketball players as pump-up music, including none other than the mighty lebron james.

    #49 – my comments weren’t directed at you personally, just the general argument against phil college (brilliant pun that). interesting to think about what phil could’ve done for Nu-Pop. i wonder if the genre would still be of interest today if phil collins had been the one to pioneer/perfect it? the CollinsDrums (not just the sound, but actual Phil playing ’em) could’ve improved countless wispy ’80s hits – imagine “How Soon is Now” with *THOSE* drums!

  23. 53
    lonepilgrim on 18 Sep 2009 #

    Re nu-pop/prog – I commented earlier how prog Duran sounded on The Reflex and another (ex) Genesis member was waiting in the wings

  24. 54
    anto on 18 Sep 2009 #

    It’s astonishing to consider just how big a star Phil Collins was for the entirity of the eighties. There were number ones. There was one big hit after another – In the Air Tonight, Against All Odds, Sussudio, Seperate Lives, Another Day in Paradise. He was still with Genesis and they were having proper hits. He was closely involved with Band Aid/Live Aid. He was an A list star in America as well as the UK.
    His LPs sold by the boxload.
    Much-maligned he might be, but Phil Collins was seriously big at this time. I didn’t even know he was a drummer for several years?!?!

  25. 55
    wichita lineman on 22 Sep 2009 #

    The odd credit was due to the parent album being Philip Bailey’s Chinese Wall – I don’t think it was on a Phil Collins album. The album was out before the single. Our Price had it in their jazz section before it charted, where next to no Easy Lover fan would think of looking.

    Re 46: Easy Lover gives the impression of some soulful significance, a seriousness at least, yet is light and forgettable, while You Spin Me Round may be soulless but it has FUN tattooed on its forehead.

    This has more than a whiff of work ethic (so un-pop), which may be why Phil C was wrongly maligned as an arch Tory. Hard to love or hate, really, as others have already said, but from other songs referenced above I’d much rather have seen Ya Mo Be There or Photograph at number one.

  26. 56
    Billy Smart on 27 Sep 2009 #

    Light Entertainment Watch; A brief European promotion stopover for Philip;

    THE LENNY HENRY SHOW: with Philip Bailey (1985)

    THE MONTREUX ROCK FESTIVAL: with Boy George, Talk Talk, Philip Bailey, Culture Club, Dead Or Alive, Elton John, Millie Jackson, Howard Jones, Kenn Loggins, Shakatak (1985)

    THE MONTREUX ROCK FESTIVAL: with Philip Bailey, Culture Club, Dead Or Alive, Elton John & Millie Jackson, Howard Jones, Kenny Loggins, Shakatak, Talk Talk, Paul Young (1985)

  27. 57
    Martin Barden on 27 Sep 2009 #

    re: this thing about such-and-such record keeping another off number one (#27 and others), which has been going on for decades. It always strikes me as being a very flawed argument. It assumes that if the people who bought the record at number one had not bought it, then number two would have been instantly elevated. What if the people who bought the number one record had decided to buy the number three, four or five record instead? All that ‘kept’ whatever record at number two was a lack of record sales. Or other skulduggery…

  28. 58
    mike on 28 Sep 2009 #

    Autobiographical note: this record was at Number One when I dumped my penultimate Gentleman Caller – and it was still at Number One when I started stepping out with my current Gentleman Caller. (We’ll be celebrating 25 years together in April 2010.) I wish it had been a better record, but you can’t have everything!

  29. 59
    Mark M on 1 Oct 2009 #

    I think a number of ’80s fashion strands are getting muddled. Will, at 26, says the two Phils looked like accountants. Possibly off-duty ones. They certainly looked like men who would be happy discussing the fuel-injection on the latest Audis. In the video for Easy Lover, Phil C is actually wearing his suit normally, but Phil B with his strange loose tie and black shirt is doing that early/mid 80s thing of wearing a suit but in a way that says – as a child of the pop era – ‘I’m not wearing a suit like my old dad would’ve worn a suit’.

    And that ties into with the Miami Vice thing. But although the Vice look was very influential in the late-ish 80s, it’s actually at heart rather early 80s, little different from tropical/exotic era Duran Duran of the Rio/Hungry/Save A Prayer videos.

    Dexys (as ever) are out on their own here, with a pastiche of stuffy British finance just pre-Big Bang.

    Next, mentioned by London Lee at 41, were the high street wing of what was to come: the point at which it was no longer deemed necessary to apologise for wearing a business-minded suit, which would probably be a double-breasted one in Prince of Wales check at that. This would manifest itself in the charts with the likes of Johnny Hates Jazz, but we can discuss that more as Tom moves through the decade.

  30. 60
    Tim on 1 Oct 2009 #

    (Mark I think you’re right, apart from Dexys’ look at that time being British finance: the look was more Wall Street, I think (I seem to recall KR being quite open that the clothes were from Brooks Brothers) than British. This is clearer on the sleeve of the most recent reissue of “Don’t Stand Me Down” than it is on the original.)

  31. 61
    Mark M on 2 Oct 2009 #

    Re 60: I bow to your far greater Dexys’ knowledge (and a wise move on their part: Brooks Brothers do do a lovely shirt).

  32. 62
    wichita lineman on 2 Oct 2009 #

    I think the first “they look like accountants” jibe was directed at OMD, possibly by Julian Cope. My memory of this era is that EVERYONE wore cheap suits to go out, and did until house came along. I was living in Peterborough in ’85, super-provincial, but I’m guessing it was the same in most of the UK. You were marked out if you didn’t wear a suit and tie on a friday or saturday night. Polo necks were definitely not the norm.

  33. 63
    James BC on 8 May 2013 #

    When this was posted, the average score given on Popular was 5.512 – a peak that has never been matched (as of Rednex in 1995). It’s been a long, slow decline ever since, score-wise at least.

  34. 64
    Tom on 8 May 2013 #

    That’s fascinating!

    The average OUGHT to end up at 5.5, if I’m grading on a bell curve (which was the rough intention). Obviously it’s going to end up lower, unless I embark on any kind of grand re-marking project – not in the spirit of the thing.

  35. 65
    flahr on 8 May 2013 #

    I refuse to believe this fact until presented with it in GRAPH FORM

  36. 66
    James BC on 8 May 2013 #

    Actually the two joint number ones in the 50s and 60s knocked my calculations out – it’s 5.505, but this is still the peak.

    I have a spreadsheet I could send you, with a graph, if you message jbc_here on Twitter with your email address or something.

  37. 67
    Lazarus on 22 Jun 2015 #

    Just been reading this, an interview with the co-writer …


  38. 68
    wichitalineman on 24 Jun 2015 #

    Even with 30 years distance, the opening line of that interview chills me:

    “At that time, I was pretty much carving a session career out. I’d done some touring with Kenny Loggins, Al Jarreau and Joe Sample. I was getting the party started.”

    Hell’s bells. That’s exactly how early 1985 pop felt to me, working in Our Price, Grafton Centre, Cambridge. Pink and grey cashmere, loud snares, no bass, no hope.

  39. 69
    Gareth Parker on 29 Apr 2021 #

    There is an appealing punchiness to this track which I can get behind. A generous 8 from me.

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