549. ‘Move Closer’, by Phyllis Nelson

We are deep, deep into the eighties now. As deep as we can go before we start to come out the other end… If I were to take this metaphor to a slightly terrifying level, I’d say we’ve passed through the decade’s throat and oesophagus, and are currently wallowing in some thick 1980s stomach juice…

Move Closer, by Phyllis Nelson (her 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 28th April – 5th May 1985

Although the intro to this next #1 is clanking, churning, production-line eighties, I do like how it hints back towards the girl-groups of the sixties, in the way the drum machine mimics some chickachick-asPhyllis Nelson’s voice too, when it comes in, sounds as if it’s from a different era. The spoken word intro is very retro: Hey baby, You go your way, And I’ll go mine, But in the meantime…

Then she starts to sing, and she’s got a great voice. It’s light, and floaty, quite Diana Ross-y, and quite at odds with the industrial production. But it works. When we’re together… she trills… Touchin’ each other… It’s steamy stuff, an ode to the physical side of a relationship, that culminates in the chorus: Move closer, Move your body real close to mine, ‘Til it feels like we’re really making love…

The windows grow even steamier when you find out that Nelson, who was in her mid-thirties when this record became a hit, wrote it about her relationship with a ‘much younger man’ (Wikipedia’s words, not mine…) I can’t find out exactly how ‘much younger’ the guy was, but still. We have a cougar anthem right here!

I like this, after three or four listens. It’s very ‘of its time’, but there’s something about the slow, deliberate rhythm and Nelson’s bird-like voice that draws you in. Makes you move closer, if you will. And I’m not the only one who has taken their time to appreciate this song – it had a very slow-burning climb to #1. In fact, 1985 has three of the longest-ever (at the time) climbs to top spot. I don’t know what that indicates, but it’s interesting.

‘Move Closer’ probably took its time to catch fire simply because Phyllis Nelson was a complete unknown. She had spent the previous decade recording soul and disco records that failed to chart anywhere, and so took it upon herself to write something herself. In doing so she became the first black woman to write her own number one hit. She’s a one-hit wonder, though – the closest she came to chart success after this was at #81 – and she sadly passed away at the tragically young age of forty-seven, in 1998.

It seems that Nelson and/or her record label didn’t expect much from this record, as there isn’t even a music video for the song (quite a rarity by the mid-80s). Somebody has at least taken the time to make a video of the original song playing over footage of Nelson on Top of the Pops, though, so enjoy that instead…

PS I tried to find a better picture of Phyllis to head this post, I really did…

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11 thoughts on “549. ‘Move Closer’, by Phyllis Nelson

  1. Its a nice track and its always good to see someone get success after not having any for nearly two decades. Ive always found it a bit overplayed on radio uk so its nice to see someone approaching it with fresh ears!

  2. Pingback: 552. ‘Frankie’, by Sister Sledge | The UK Number Ones Blog

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