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