Just when I’d made such a big point about us being past the gloopiest years of the decade…
A Groovy Kind of Love, by Phil Collins (his 3rd and final #1)
2 weeks, from 4th – 18th September 1988
It’s Phil, a keyboard, some subtle background strings and percussion, all drenched in glossy, echoey reverb. Only three and a half years have passed since his last #1 – ‘Easy Lover’ – but already Phil Collins feels old-fashioned and left behind by this dancey, sample-heavy era. This feels very 1985… And the use of ‘groovy’ in the title is worth suing for false advertising!
Not that it’s terrible. There’s always space in the musical landscape for a smoochy ballad. It’s just fairly dull, and the lyrics are delivered so slowly that their clunky rhymes stand out even more: When I kiss your lips, Oooh I start to shiver, Can’t control the quiver, -ing inside… When you think of Collins’s hits that didn’t make the top – ‘In the Air Tonight’ and ‘Against All Odds’ both peaked at #2 – you might wonder why this unremarkable one made it.
But then Phil Collins isn’t the only artist to be unfairly represented by his chart-toppers. Sometimes there’s a lull at the top, and something understated and gentle can take over for a couple of weeks. It was also on the soundtrack to the movie ‘Buster’, which I’m guessing helped as well.
For something more interesting we must delve into the history of ‘A Groovy Kind of Love’, which I had never realised dated back two decades, to a #2 hit in 1966 for Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders. (The use of a term like ‘groovy’ makes much more sense in the mid-sixties…) I prefer that version, also a ballad, purely because it sounds like it’s from the 1960s (snappy and guitar-led) and not the 1980s, and I’m biased. Sorry! Meanwhile, the melody is based on a piece by 18th century Italian composer Muzio Clementi, instantly propelling this innocuous ballad into the top two or three oldest #1s, ever. Who knew?
Phil Collins won’t be topping the charts again, but his career will keep ticking away throughout the ‘90s and 00’s, despite him becoming a bye-word for ‘uncool’. It probably didn’t help that he always looked, to me at least, like one of my dad’s old school friends. However, he regained some respect from the hip-hop community, of all places, and still tours despite various health problems. Nowadays his influence is much more recognised, and rightly so. For what it’s worth, he’s the world’s 2nd richest drummer, behind Ringo Starr.