It’s a strange sad affair

PalmerStillBeFriendsOn 2 February, 1980, Can We Still Be Friends” by Robert Palmer peaked at #52.

Before you listen to “Can We Still Be Friends” as performed by Robert Palmer, you should go listen to the original by Todd Rundgren, which hit #29 in 1978.

You may not agree with me, but I hope you can appreciate why I think the Robert Palmer version is a pale imitation.  Don’t get me wrong, he at least approaches covering a song the right way — this version is recognizable to people who know the original, but it’s different enough that you can tell it’s a different interpretation.  The problem I have is that Robert Palmer is just stumbling clumsily through the lyrics.  The original is sad, but liltingly light; it feels like a phone conversation between two people who have spent a lot of time together — have gone to Hell together — and have grown apart, who are ready to go live their separate lives, but still like each other enough to be happy together as, well, friends.  The Robert Palmer version is slow and plodding, as if sung drunkenly by a moony wall street type who’s been turned down for a third date.  Todd Rundgren wants to get on with his life; Robert Palmer just wants to get back into her life, regardless of what he’s saying.

Regardless, even Robert Palmer’s version sounds more sincere than the version by Rod Stewart released in 1984.  Ugh.

 

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You came up on me like a landslide

RaittOn 12 January 1980, “You’re Gonna Get What’s Coming by Bonnie Raitt peaked at #73. 

I suppose that “You’re Gonna Get What’s Coming” is intended to be a rip-roaring road-trip anthem, something along the lines of “Born to Be Wild“, but I’m just not feeling it.  Don’t get me wrong — the lyrics are clever:  There’s something simultaneously smart and racy about a line like “In all this heat it’s a job keepin’ cool, and I could fry an egg on you” that makes you know you’re listening to something more than your usual radio-fodder.  But when Bonnie Raitt sings that she had a Thunderbird outside that she wants to light, the way she does sounds more like she’s got something smoother and tamer, like, I don’t know… a silver Honda Accord.  I can’t really blame her though; the song was written and recorded a year earlier by  Robert Palmer, and that version is even less rocking than this one.  I don’t know if the song’s just not rugged enough to really rise to its aspirations or if Robert and Bonnie aren’t the right singers to be growling about frying eggs on their navigator’s abs, but either way, this song falls a bit flat.