|Sussudio||No Jacket Required|
|I Missed Again||Face Value|
|You Can't Hurry Love||Hello, I Must Be Going!|
|Who Said I Would||No Jacket Required|
|Something Happened On The Way To Heaven||...But Seriously|
|Inside Out||No Jacket Required|
|Hang In Long Enough||...But Seriously|
|Take Me Home||No Jacket Required|
Contributor: Nicola Tyzack
This has been nothing if not an interesting piece to write as the artist in question could easily be considered as marmite. Being one of the most successful selling artists of the 80s doesn’t necessarily mean everyone likes you. In fact, there’s an incredible amount of people that don’t like him, but I decided to tackle that head on and try and find the nuggets of beauty within the back catalogue of one Phillip David Charles Collins. As a note, I’m only looking through the albums of the 80s, along with the Hits compilation of 1998, as some of his later work didn’t really hit the spot with me.
The ten songs I’ve chosen are in no particular order, I’ve just made my picks based on what I like listening to. The way you listen to them doesn’t really matter either as I’m not trying to chart his career chronologically or in fact in any way at all. Play them on shuffle, go backwards, it doesn’t really matter too much. Just have a listen and see what you find.
When I mentioned online that I was writing about Phil Collins I was met with a few people who immediately said that they didn’t like him and that his songs were romantic clap-trap (or words to that effect). Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I’m not going to try and change a made up mind, but what I would suggest is that there is more to songwriting and performing than just the persona of the man or woman standing behind the microphone. When I look at why I like specific artists I try to go past the bit they use as their ‘showreel’ if you like and get to the heart of what they do and why they do it. If an artist resonates with me through their lyrics it doesn’t matter if they come across as maybe boring when performing live. It’s about all aspects for me and I wouldn’t make an assumption based on just one thing. And I think that’s maybe why people don’t like Mr Collins.
Back in the 80s he was everywhere. And I mean everywhere. The hits kept coming; he was on TV, he was playing all over the world (including famously playing Live Aid in both the UK and America on the same day) and he cemented his place as a mega star. I think his ‘omnipresence’ was what turned a lot of people off and they couldn’t look past his media reign and focus on the music. And that’s where it becomes a bit of a shame as he is not only a multi-instrumentalist, but he’s also a singer, songwriter and producer. He’s also dabbled in acting a bit, most memorably in Buster but that’s another story.
I can remember reading a biography (or maybe it was an autobiography, I’m not quite sure) that I borrowed from the library back in the 80s as I was interested in learning about his career. What I found out, amongst other things, was that he was a child actor who played drums from the age of five years old. Now that’s pretty impressive. I certainly didn’t start playing an instrument until I was much older than that. I think it was probable that he would end up being a star and after joining Genesis in 1970 as their drummer he would go on to become the reluctant frontman when Peter Gabriel left the band in 1975. It can’t have been easy stepping into those shoes and I think some fans feel that the path the band took from then on wasn’t the same as the original vision of prog rock. I’m a fan of Genesis as well and although I do like some of their early work, it’s the later stuff that I enjoy the most. The influence of Phil within the band made them more commercially successful than they were previously and I don’t think that can be totally discounted just because he’s not Peter Gabriel.
Forging a solo career at the start of the 80s would begin his domination in the charts, but on the downside it was also the start of his apparent smugness and cockiness that people decided they would take offence to. There has been much criticism of how he was during this period of his career and other artists were quick to ridicule him and play nasty. Do I think he deserved it? My answer would be no. I have long been a fan of Genesis and have always enjoyed following Phil’s career. I own most of his albums and regularly put his songs on my playlists and have no shame in knowing all the lyrics to songs like Two Hearts. I didn’t see the annoyance factor in him or maybe if I did I chose to look past it and focus on the music he was producing which seems to be what other people couldn’t do for some reason.
My partner doesn’t like the majority of the music I listen to, but Phil is one of the artists we actually have in common and this is also one of the reasons why he means something to me. My dad used to have the CD of Serious Hits Live! which I pinched on a regular basis to listen to and it made me realise that here was an artist who could sound as good live as in the studio.
Any vilification has always been unfair as people were not looking at the contribution to music that he has made, simply deciding that an insecure artist who hid his shyness by being a bit cocky deserved to be ridiculed. If you think about it logically, why was he so successful? Because we, the public, were buying his music and putting him in the spotlight. And why? Because it was good. Regardless of whether people think it’s ‘twee’ or ‘naff’ or whatever words you want to use, you cannot dispute that here is a man who has written some of the most heart-warming songs of the last thirty years. As a performer he used to play concerts for well over the three hour mark; his back catalogue is so vast that when he gave a show, it was most definitely a show and not a short set (unlike some artists I have had the misfortune to see who looked as if they didn’t want to be there).
I am actually going to see Phil live next year when he plays a run of shows in the UK and Europe and I am very much looking forward to it. I have to say though that I would have liked to see him perform back when he was in better health and could get behind the drumkit. It must be very upsetting for someone who has always been a musician to not be able to play their chosen instrument any more due to ill health and that’s something that people should remember.
Taking cheap shots at successful people doesn’t make you big and clever. It shows that you have a lack of understanding for what people do and have achieved and you’re more than likely just jealous. Phil is a musician who has inspired a great deal of our current artists, and various big names cite him as a direct influence on their work and many have sampled his music. No shame and embarrassment there. And if you haven’t air drummed to In The Air Tonight I reckon you’re telling fibs.
The songs I have chosen are ones that I like to listen to and have a soft spot for in my collection. From the brilliance of Easy Lover with Philip Bailey from Earth, Wind & Fire to his cover version of You Can’t Hurry Love with the multiple Phil’s in the video, it’s a journey of feel good and well written songs which you can’t help but sing along to. Check out the horns on Hang In Long Enough and if you don’t sing along with Sussudio then I don’t really know what to say.
As I said at the start of this piece, my aim isn’t to change your minds on whether he is a good artist or not, as I don’t think that’s necessarily something I can do. What I would ask you to do though is pay attention to the lyrics, the composition and the sound and try to ignore the idiocy that has been written about the man behind it. Focus on the music and realise that here is someone very talented who just enjoys performing because it’s what he was always meant to do.
After writing for other sites for a while, Nicola decided to give it a go on her own and now runs Sounds Familiar sharing articles, interviews and reviews on the music she loves. You can follow Nicola on twitter @call_me_cynical and @soundsfamiliarb