547. ‘Easy Lover’, Philip Bailey with Phil Collins

I do like an intro with a sense of purpose, with a bit of drama to it. This next number one has such an intro…

Easy Lover, by Philip Bailey (his 1st and only #1) with Phil Collins (his 2nd of three #1s)

4 weeks, from 17th March – 14th April 1985

To be honest, the rest of the song doesn’t quite live up to the theatre provided by the drums and power chords of the opening ten seconds. It sounds as if we could be shaping up for a proper classic… As it is, we have to settle for fun yacht rock.

Is this yacht rock, though? I have to admit that’s a genre I struggle to place. It always makes me think of Duran Duran’s ‘Rio’… But is that yacht rock, or is that just rock with a yacht in the video…? I think ‘Easy Lover’ is glossy and catchy enough to be yacht rock. She’s an easy lover, She’ll take your heart but you won’t feel it… It’s light and breezy – the woman sounds fun, rather than dangerous – perfect for a cruise along the southern Californian coastline.

Unlike some recent chart-toppers, though, the gloss doesn’t render this song too dull. Philip Bailey’s verses are almost funky, and his falsetto has an edge to it. Phil Collins provides a counterbalance, growling out his lines on the bridge… Now don’t try to change it just leave it… and his presence is presumably why the drums are front and centre here. You get the feeling that the pair had fun recording this, maybe even trying to outdo each other, and that adds to the enjoyment. Meanwhile, the guitar solo verges on proper hard rock.

This is a song I didn’t much know beyond the chorus. It’s a good one, though. Fun and lighthearted, clearly born of the mid-eighties but not drenched in the sound and recording techniques of the time. It still sounds pretty fresh thirty-five years on. On paper, a former member of Earth, Wind & Fire collaborating with a former member of Genesis doesn’t sound all that promising, given there wasn’t a huge amount the two bands had in common, but there you go…

Philip Bailey didn’t quite manage the same level of solo success as Phil Collins: ‘Easy Lover’ was his only significant hit away from the day job. And I wonder, is this the only occasion on which two people with the same first name have shared a #1 record…? It feels like something that must have happened more than once, but nothing springs to mind… Oh, and while we’re at it, let me know if you think this is yacht rock, or not, as well…

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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.

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