This morning, I treated my ears to the musical stylings of the Hall & Oates Pandora station on the way to work. They didn’t play one single, solitary H&O song for my entire 20 minute commute. But they did, however, play another amazing 80’s tune: the duet between Genesis frontman Phil Collins and Earth, Wind & Fire singer Philip Bailey, “Easy Lover.”
I admit to being a big fan of this song. If I ever have an 80’s cover band, which I do intend on doing someday, this song will definitely be on the setlist. I will do Bailey’s part, and when by myself, I also do air drums and an occasional air guitar.
I jammed out on this song on the way to work, and then I needed to watch the video. I haven’t watched this video since it was airing on MTV, so I was in for a little bit of nostalgia. Here’s the video so you can follow along with me.
First, the fashions. They are shown in suits, and in their rehearsal clothes. Phil Collins looks like he raided my 68-year-old father’s wardrobe. The sweater vest and ill-fitting khakis just scream “retiree.” All he’s missing is a sun visor and prescription sunglasses. Bailey is sporting a Bill Cosby-type sweater which is not much better, but he at least looks age-appropriate.
Were these guys EVER cool? Or was Phil Collins always a dork? I was too little to know. My first exposure to Collins was when he remade “You Can’t Hurry Love” and I remember comparing him to Squiggy from “Laverne & Shirley.” I was probably 5 at the time, and so when that song came on the radio during the Casey Kasem Weekly Top 40 countdown, I would say, “The Squiggy Song is on!” That’s what I think of to this day if I hear the song.
Back to the video. Aside from the fashions, this video is pretty amazing. The premise is that these two dudes, Phil and Philip, are CLEARLY buddies, which is amazing considering one is an uber-dorky British white guy with no rhythm (evident by his dance moves) and an American black guy from a kick-ass R&B band. Philip is in London, presumably to record this video, so the video is more of a “making the video” if that makes sense. The two buds take a helicopter ride together, then get to rehearsal for the video. A huge crew is at work putting the stage set together, and they produce a set of white risers with some abstract art in the background. I’m pretty sure my son’s fourth grade play had a more complicated set than this.
The “talent” arrives and Philip is in a head-to-toe leather motorcycle outfit. He appears to give some feedback about the set. Then my dad strolls in looking like Charlie Chaplin. Oh, that’s right, that’s not my dad. I keep forgetting. It’s actually Phil Collins. I believe they really tried to showcase what a FUNNY GUY Phil Collins is, so they had him act really over-the-top in all his scenes. He and Bailey embrace like old buddies, even though they were just in the helicopter together.
They take a bunch of goofy photos together. Actually, Bailey looks like he’s taking the photo shoot seriously, while old jokester Collins is the one clowning around. At 1:23, you can really see how high Collins’ pants are. I think Urkel would even tell him to take it down a notch.
At 1:24, one of my favorite moments takes place when Collins is in the stylist’s chair getting a much-needed haircut, and rehearsing his lyrics (didn’t he write this song? he is a HORRIBLE lip-syncher btw) and hands Bailey a brush for him to do his own hair. Ouch! Is it because he’s black, he’s gotta do his own hair? That’s cold, Collins.
They begin a run-through of the song, standing together over a lyric sheet. Collins has really put some gusto into his singing and, to be honest, looks pretty much like I do when I am belting this song out in my car. Straight down to the finger wagging and the facial expressions. Again, even though I’m pretty sure he wrote the song, he has to look at the lyric sheet. Once they’ve nailed this run-through, they move on to a rehearsal on the masterfully-crafted stage. Honestly, if this was the actual video for the song, it would be the most boring video ever. It’s just basically the two of them standing there, shimmying uncomfortably, delivering the lyrics. Couldn’t they afford backup dancers? Since Philip couldn’t even get a makeup person, I’m guessing the answer is no.
Also, I’m pretty sure that Philip has better dance moves than this, but he’s probably holding back because he doesn’t want to make Phil feel bad. At 2:15 he starts to let it out a little bit.
At 2:20, the besties decide to try some hilarious hijinks. They try to knock down their mikes in tandem and it’s an epic fail. Well, Philip nails it but damn Collins can’t even knock his mike down. Maybe his high-waisted khakis have restricted blood flow to his extremities.
After this very rigorous rehearsal, they break for lunch. Phil tries to make idle chatter while Philip just wants to read the damn paper. Some creeper lady dressed identically to the Crocodile Hunter sits one table away and very obviously takes photos of them. I don’t see any actual food on either of their lunch trays, but they are drinking a yellow beverage that is presumably lemonade, as well as Coke, as well as water. I hope they’ve built pee breaks into this video shoot!
Maybe there was vodka in that lemonade and rum in that Coke, because by 2:34, Philip is now acting goofy as hell, trying to teach Collins some very simple choreography. Of course, Collins can’t even handle it, which is probably why they put him behind the drums when he was in Genesis. I won’t even discuss what Collins does at 2:40 because it’s so horrifyingly awkward. But he does follow up that move with hiking his pants back up above his nipples.
Back to the stage rehearsal now where they are refining the choreography. Bailey does a very nice spin move, while Collins claps his hands like a deranged child.
Back to Bailey trying to teach Collins something that resembles the funky chicken. I don’t know. Bailey does some smooth, Earth, Wind & Fire-type move and Collins follows that up with some kind of awful pelvic gyrations. Bailey laughs but I’m sure on some level he is feeling dead inside.
We move to the dressing room, where that old cut-up Collins has found some costumes that look like they could belong to EW&F. He dons some kind of gemstone headband and shows up to Bailey with these Egyptian-inspired outfits. Bailey rolls his eyes and wishes this shoot was over already so he can fly back to America and never have to hang out with this English weirdo again.
The men suit up, but we are treated to a shot of Collins lacing up his Chuck Taylors followed by a mischevious smile. Oh, even when he’s dressed up, that old Collins just knows how to bring the party to any situation.
Looking like a couple of funeral attendees, despite Bailey’s pink pocket square and matching loosely-tied pink tie, this odd couple gives it all they’ve got for the video shoot. Collins misses a couple words because he sucks at lip synch. But what he lacks in accuracy he makes up for in passion and gusto. Bailey delivers a more subtle performance, just trying to get through it so he can leave. This part of the video starts to drag on a bit. Some techs press buttons and slide sliders. Then we’re brought into the rafters of the studio to view the performance through a tiny monitor with the stage in the backdrop. Very scintillating way to end this video. The guys give up on the performance before they even finish singing, and walk off stage together, palling around like the bro’s for life we know they are.
This is such a study in 80’s awkwardness, I don’t think it could be any more perfect. I’m just sad this is the only collaboration between the two. Luckily, Collins gave us many, many more awkward moments throughout his career, but I don’t think any can hold a candle to this performance.
Good song, though.