By the time Robert Palmer covered Todd Rundgren, as the 1970s came to a close, the latter pioneering Pennsylvanian was one of the most in-demand and respected artist-producers in the business.
A string of massively acclaimed albums by Rundgren in his own name had been accompanied by production credits for such names as Badfinger, Grand Funk Railroad and Daryl Hall & John Oates. He was now even more renowned as the man who oversaw the incredible multi-million-selling sensation that was Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell.
In the spring of 1978, Rundgren had released his eighth solo album Hermit Of Mink Hollow, from which the first single was a gloriously and quintessentially Rundgrenesque piece of melodic pop. ‘Can We Still Be Friends’ deserved far more than its No. 29 peak on the Hot 100, but Palmer — charting at the time with his Double Fun album — was listening.
The Englishman was about to start work on his own next LP at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, and the Rundgren song fitted his blue-eyed soul sensibilities perfectly. The album, Secrets, had been introduced in the summer of 1979 by another well-chosen cover, of Moon Martin’s ‘Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor),’ which became Robert’s second US top 20 hit, after ‘Every Kinda People,’ at No. 14.
Island released his version of ‘Can We Still Be Friends’ as the follow-up, and it entered the Hot 100 on 22 December 1979. It only reached No. 52, in a nine-week run, but the single still helped fuel the success of Secrets, Palmer’s first US top 20 album. Further covers of the Rundgren song soon arrived: others in the same year as Palmer’s included one by English vocalist Colin Blunstone, and Rod Stewart cut his for the 1984 album Camouflage.
Purchase ‘Can We Still Be Friends’ on Secrets here.
Follow the official Robert Palmer Best Of playlist.