Saturday, March 5, 2011


Yesterday, Phil Collins was a trending topic on twitter due to an interview he did with a magazine called FHM that has been repeated in a number of places, including the UK's The Telegraph.  Rolling Stone recently did a in-depth (and overdue) piece on him, and just re-posted it to their website (most likely to cash in on the recent interest in the man). He didn't really say anything new to FHM, but now people are talking about his "retirement."

I'm a fan. Not a post-ironic, snickering, hipster fan, but a fan. I loved him as the drummer of Genesis when Peter Gabriel was the frontman. I am definitely a fan of his era as frontman of Genesis. I enjoy a lot of his solo work (generally his earlier stuff, but every album has good songs).  His drumming on other people's albums often kicked ass: I just listened to Robert Plant's first two solo albums, 1982's Pictures at Eleven and 1983's The Principal Of Moments. At that point, Phil was the frontman of Genesis and just launching his solo career.  I don't know why he felt the need to be anyone's drummer, but his playing on those albums is awesome. I love his playing on Peter Gabriel's early albums.  And he played for cred-heavy dudes like Brian Eno, Robert Fripp and John Martyn.  (Suck it, haters.)  He produced great pop singles for other artists: Frieda's "I Know There's Something Going On," and Adam Ant's "Strip" and Howard Jones' "No One Is To Blame" and yes, Phillip Bailey's "Easy Lover." A few years ago he went on his "First Final Farewell Tour," which was hugely successful. Then he reunited with Genesis for a tour that was a proper way to close the book (no one really knew that he was leaving the band after their 1992 We Can't Dance tour). It was huge. He's suffered injuries and health problems, he's 60, has NOTHING to prove, so this seems like a logical time to retire.

What bugs me is that he seems to be letting rock critics (who have never been friendly to him or his band) get to him. In most of his interviews, he talks about understanding why people hated him, and wanting to write himself out of the story. Just fading away, and no one will care.  I just think that's weak of him.  You know who would care?  The hundreds of thousands of fans who have gone to Phil Collins concerts and Genesis concerts over the decades.  Who, by the way, probably don't give much credence to rock critics, or to the insults slung at Phil by former members of Oasis.

Retire if you want to, Phil. Retire because of your injuries (of course, you can still sing, even if you can't play drums or piano, although I realize without drums it may not be as much fun for you anymore). Retire because you've done it all and have nothing left to prove. Or because you feel you have nothing to say.  But don't retire because critics don't like you. That's just silly, and worse, it's a cop-out.

By the way, why is is that so many people seem to hate (or seemed to hate, maybe that's changed, as he's finally getting some respect these days) Phil?  During the height of his fame (pretty much the entire '80s and some of the early '90s too) he was ubiquitous. These days, that doesn't seem to be a problem. Does anyone mind if Jay-Z pops up on a bunch of albums every year?

But Phil looked more like your dad than like a rock star. OK, I get it: that's not cool.  But isn't it cooler to just be honest with how you dress than try jumping on trends that don't really relate to you? Phil's music was very smooth and accessible. Which people don't seem to mind, if it's Luther Vandross. Of course, there's the gripe of the prog-rockers: he took Genesis and made them a "pop" band. I think that the truth is probably that he and the other guys in the band sort of grew out of doing long prog-rock epics (although they still had one or two of them per album). I mean, listen to Mike Rutherford's stuff with Mike + The Mechanics. Clearly Phil wasn't the only guy with a knack for soft-rock in the group. The guys in Genesis were growing up, they were honest about it, and hey, being age-appropriate actually boosted their career.

I try to be a generally positive guy, although I'm not above making fun of some of the most overrated (to me) bands like Pavement and Animal Collective and The Strokes. But even still, I don't hate them, and I wouldn't celebrate if something bad happened to one of those groups. I don't want to see something happen to a member of the Strokes or Pavement that would prevent them from performing music for the people who like their music.  I actually believe that if you don't like music, you can easily ignore it. Yes, even someone as ubiquitous as Phil in the '80s, you can ignore it. I mean, he didn't kick your dog, dude.

Interesting postscript :  I noticed that yesterday, Patrick Stump from the (excellently named) band Fall Out Boy tweeted twice about Phil yesterday.  First, telling Phil that he will be missed, he should "unretire" and that he wants to work together. And second, reiterating that he's serious about this, and that he would fly to Phil (in Switzerland) to work together. Stump (I don't know much of his music, but I've enjoyed the few record reviews he's written for Rolling Stone) was 1 when No Jacket Required came out, and 2 when Invisible Touch was released. Here's hoping Phil considers it.


scottscott68 said...

I'm so glad you mentioned Phil's "kick ass drumming" - I think the public forgets that he was a drummer first. At the height of his solo fame in the 80's, when he was putting out his own records and that of Genesis and all those other artists that he produced, I always felt you could tell, just by listening to a record, which one was the drumming and subsequent production. I always liken it to Earth, Wind, & could always tell one of their songs by the horn section. They MUST have influenced him (i.e. Philip Bailey).

But Phil is one of a kind. I think people only remember "In The Air Tonight" or they think of him as putting out a lot of AC bleech...but he had some "kick ass" records. I'm glad you mentioned "No One Is To Blame" - I think HoJo originally put it out on a different record, and then Phil came in and remixed it, sang backup, and played on the song, and BOOM...classic hit of the 80's. He had that touch back then.

Ironically, one of the my fave Phil Collins songs, doesn't have much, if any, drums at all...check out "You Know What I Mean" from "Face Value"...heartbreaking song.

I'm usually NOT a fan of remakes...especially in the 80's when EVERYBODY did remakes. But I still LOVE his version of "You Can't Hurry Love" - he makes it his own yet at the same time a tribute to the original...I actually prefer his version to the Supremes. I was kinda disappointed in his Motown record though that came out recently. I think you did enjoy it though, Brian. I remember hearing you talk about in on Larry's show.

I think he should take up Patrick Stump's offer. I think he should go back BEHIND the scenes for a couple of years. If he's not able to drum, he can do production and backup. He know's what he's doing.

Great post Brian.

Minority said...

hey Scott, thanks again for reading and contributing to my blog. "You Know What I Mean" is a great song. It is heartbreaking - Face Value was his (first) divorce album. After Face Value, he wrote a lot of great, but heartbreaking songs. I liked "You Can't Hurry Love" also, it was one of the first 45s that I owned.

Evan Kessler said...

Hey Brian, Finally got around to reading this. Solid post and much agreed with sentiment.