513. ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, by Phil Collins

We embark on 1983, then. And we start off with a classic. Well, a version of a classic…

You Can’t Hurry Love, by Phil Collins (his 1st of three #1s)

2 weeks, 9th – 23rd January 1983

I’m a big fan of The Supremes. Who in their right minds isn’t? They only had one (1!) chart-topper in the UK – unlike the States, where they went toe-to-toe with The Beatles for the most #1s in the ‘60s – but they churned out pop gem after pop gem. ‘Baby Love’, ‘Stop! In the Name of Love’, ‘Where Did Our Love Go’, and this ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’. (They loved to ‘love’ in a title…)

All of which is my long-winded way of saying that this song is classic… And, actually, Phil Collins does a decent enough job of covering it. He doesn’t ruin it. He keeps all that makes it great – most notably that much-copied bass intro (which we last heard on the Jam’s ‘Town Called Malice’.) He doesn’t go all ‘eighties’ on us, and he doesn’t strip it back. As a record, it stands out as ‘retro’ among the class of ’82-’83.

In recent months, we’ve seen Captain Sensible, and before him Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin, take fifties and sixties classics and, well, re-invent them. Collins doesn’t do that. But the problem with sticking so close to the original is that it’s clear when it’s not in the same league. Phil Collins is not Diana Ross, in more ways than one. You do wonder why he bothered…? It sounds nothing like his stuff with Genesis, or his biggest previous solo hit: ‘In the Air Tonight’. But then again, it delivered him his first number one. So whatever he was going for worked.

Like The Supremes, Collins had much more (solo) chart success in the USA than in Britain (seven #1s to three). As someone who wasn’t around at the time, he’s always seemed such an unlikely figure for one of the decade’s biggest stars… Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Phil Collins… It just seems weird.

Then I grew up with him as half-laughing stock beloved by estate agents, half-reclaimed hip-hop icon. He’s never been an easy man to categorise, I suppose. And that’s not a bad thing. But, he will be back atop the UK charts again, so we don’t need to sum his career up just yet. This looks like it’s going to be quite a short post; but I don’t think a straight-forward cover such as this needs much more analysis…

Though if even that was too much, here’s my TL;DR: ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ is a great song, and Phil Collins neither ruins it, nor makes it his own.


20 thoughts on “513. ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, by Phil Collins

  1. Yeah, it’s pretty amazing of how big a run the Supremes had in the US with 12 #1s in just 5 years. They might be the greatest example of being able to make a formula work lots of times with a lot of their hits sounding alike but still standing on their own as great classics. My personal favorite Supremes hit to me would be “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” for its proto-disco and even rock-like energy as well as the Vanilla Fudge cover which gets used in lots of intense drama situations like the fight scene in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood. As for Phil Collins’ cover of “You Can’t Hurry Love,” this is a pretty serviceable cover that’s not trying to do anything but recreate a song everyone in the early-’80s would’ve recognized from the ’60s. In his biography, Collins talks about how he felt “You Can’t Hurry Love” was sort of forgotten among the Supremes hits compared to “Stop In The Name of Love” and “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” which is part of why he wanted to cover it along with like a lot of white British boomer men just loving ’60s Motown a lot that he wanted to pay tribute. Looking at it now, you can kind of see Collins’ cover as the beginning or the early stages of the 20-year nostalgia cycle for the ’60s in the ’80s considering ’60s covers and artists from the ’60s would start to dominate more in the decade considering this cover was also Phil Collins’ first US Top 10 hit at #10 and in ’87 would get our own Supremes cover at #1 with Kim Wilde’s take on “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”

    • Hard to say what my favourite Supremes’ song is… ‘Where Did Our Love Go’, maybe, with that stomping intro… Or the maligned by some ‘The Happening’ which is a lot of fun. Inspired by writing this post, I’m thinking to do a post on the other Supremes hits in the UK – they had loads, just no further number ones.

      As for the Collins’ version, I hadn’t actually watched the video when I wrote this post. While the song sounds respectful, in the vid he’s gurning away, harmonising with two other Phil Collinses. It’s annoying, and it knocked the record down in my estimation…

      • Aside from “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” another favorite Supremes hit for me would probably be “Love Child” from 1968. I mean the ones everyone knows like “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Stop In The Name of Love,” and “You Can’t Hurry Love” are all good but those two songs stick out to me more with the greater intensity of the beat and delivery from Diana Ross. With “You Can’t Hurry Love,” that bass rhythm is probably as recognizable as the drum part on “Be My Baby” in that it’s a very easy groove to duplicate and build on.

        I see what you’re saying about Phil Collins. For a lot of younger people, they seem to think of him as the cool and experimental type musician behind “In The Air Tonight” without realizing how many of his hits were full schlock though some I’m fine with. For a modern equivalent, there’s almost an Ed Sheeran type thing to Phil Collins in how weird it is that a plain looking guy with no real striking visual appeal managed to be such an omnipresent pop star as well as both being funny guys and loving Black American music.

      • Phil Collins as the eighties’ Ed Sheeran… I was undecided about him, but that might have tipped me over the edge…

        You shouldn’t discount the Supremes’ post-Diana Ross hits either: ‘Nathan Jones’ is great, as is ‘Floy Joy’… terrible title, brilliant song!

      • Apparently any act that gets compared to Ed Sheeran will immediately turn you off lol.

        What’s funny is that the Supremes did have more hits after Diana left early on in the ‘70s getting as high as #7 for instance with “Stoned Love” which is a pretty fun song yet the Supremes are so tied with Diana Ross that people can’t imagine the Supremes without her and often forget entirely about everything after the ‘60s. There’s a podcast I was listening to lately that was talking about Diana Ross with the first episode about the Supremes which I think you’ll like

      • Thanks for that!

        Yes. Part of me is tempted to just fast-forward 30 years, so that I can start laying into Sheeran’s many #1s with gusto… But I’ll hold fire for now.

  2. The Supremes were Supreme, classic after classic. Phil has his roots in 60s soul as much as progrock, his own songs show that – prob why he got a lot more respect in the usa than the uk where fashion chasing is always a thing. His appeal in the uk was more older music fans, more in the tina turner, simply red vein, also 60s soul based sounds. The video is Blues Brothers pastiche, which was getting well cult by 1983 john belushi having died in 1982. So it ticked a lot of boxes! Plus its a classic song and Phil is a great singer….

  3. The Supremes did indeed record classic after classic, but did rather lose something after Diana Ross left. Having said that, ‘Nathan Jones’ is up there with the best. From the Diana era, one that gets rather overlooked in my view is ‘Love Is Here And Now You’e Gone’. You don’t normally associate Motown and harpsichords!

    • Yes, I don’t think the post-Diana hits are as good as their 64-66 peak, but they still need considering… ‘Love Is Here…’ is a great one too. It charted way too low in the UK!

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  8. I remember, being 4 years old at that time, hearing the Phil Collins version a lot on the radio in Canada. It was a pervasive and joyful sound, so I have a sentimental connection with this song. I remember how we heard a lot of 60s songs on the radio back then and since my parents and aunts/uncles grew up in that era, they played them a lot in parties. Sure, Phil’s version is somewhat a pastiche/homage and may seem irrelevant, but it was done tastefully and the orchestration was excellent. If his goal was to resurrect a someone forgotten classic, he succeed and I can say that part of me liking Motown and Supremes and girls groups is partially a heritage from that.

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