Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Mixed Emotions vol. 453: Phil Collins

I so desperately want to hate Phil Collins. I mean, duh, right? There's really nobody in the history of rock I should hate more, is there? Nobody more despicably commercially-minded, nobody more kind of icky and British-'cause-it's-cute and bald and horrible. Nobody who is more the exact antithesis of everything that's good and right and rebellious and angry and dark and cool about rock music. He is a black hole of hip -- he actually sucks OTHER musicians' hipness in with him. When he played with Led Zeppelin at Live Aid in '86 or whenever, he actually made THEM less hip. And they're a fucking bulletproof tiger. He's twenty-five shades of wrong, thirty-two fucking flavors of wrong. He's Phil Fucking Collins, motherfuckers, and he's a pariah non pareil.

Except -- my problem, folks, is that I can't. I just can't hate him. I've managed to fix my inability to hate Coldplay (that lyric about Roman Catholic choirs singing made me so physically ill I was on bed-rest for a week just to recover, and I'm glad Joe Satriani is suing them for it, 'cause they were askin' for it) but even WITH the soundtrack to Tarzan, I can't fix this. It's a problem.

Let's examine, for a moment, why, exactly:

1. He was in A Hard Day's Night and you weren't. Unfortunately, this automatically makes him cooler than you. Maybe not cooler than most other musicians of that era but definitely cooler than you. So that takes away the "high and mighty" defense, i.e. "I was in the Brian Jonestown Massacre for ten minutes so I'm cooler than Phil Collins." Were you in A Hard Day's Night? You weren't? Case closed.

2. Early Genesis was indisputably righteous. They may not have the cache they did back in the 70s, but even still, people will qualify their hatred of Genesis and Phil Collins with the phrase "...but they were good when Peter Gabriel was in them." And it's true, they were. And Phil's drumming plays no small part in that -- if they'd had a wimpy, tempo-less drummer like, say, a Carl Palmer, they'd have about 1/10th the power they did have. I mean, Steve Hackett ain't exactly Tony Iommi, so why'd they rock then? A: Phil Collins. Plus, dig his harmonies with Peter Gabriel -- they have the identical voice and there's times you can't tell who's singing what.

3. Early-late period Genesis is better than you think it is. I ain't talking about the just-post-Gabriel era of "Trick of the Tail" because frankly, without Gabriel, their prog-rock noodlings lacked, y'know, intellectualism and eccentricity, which is kinda why the group was good to begin with (well, that and Gabriel's foam-rubber costumes -- it was like watching the prog-rock Rock-A-Fire Explosion!). It's just lots of long noodly guitar solos. But there was a brief, shining moment when Phil's commercial leanings merged perfectly with the still-present progressiveness of the group AND the just-developing new wave influences of the early 80s. I'm talking about the Duke and Abacab albums, and a few surrounding singles.

Let me prove it to you:

4. You like "Against All Odds." You do. I mean, maybe you don't think you do, but I bet you really do. Flash back with me to the mid-80s -- that is, if you weren't, like, a zygote at the time. You're at a high school dance. That pretty cheerleader you've been eying is sitting over in the corner. You wanna dance with her, but they're playing Van Halen, and what's the good of that?? Suddenly "Against All Odds" comes on. Ah -- it's your in, my friend. You approach her. "Um -- care to, uh, dance?" you stammer. She looks coyly up at you, beautiful in her feathered hair and geometric-patterned dress. "Okay," she shrugs. Good enough. Phil Collins says: you're welcome.

5. There is at least one other Phil solo song you secretly like. Late at night, when nobody's home, you've got that one Phil Collins song on your iPod, and you play it, and maybe cry a little bit. Maybe it's "Sussudio," and you wonder, endlessly, what does it mean? Maybe it's "In The Air Tonight" -- did he watch that guy drown, or didn't he? For me, it's an obscure little low-level hit called "I Cannot Believe It's True," which has the power to take me RIGHT BACK to 1982, and my very first kiss with the lovely Eithne Daire. Sigh!

6. He is a good drummer.

Get past the minute and a half of Peter Gabriel pretending to mow the lawn, and listen to Phil's playing. He's solid like Bonham, but then fills like Bill Bruford, and he never ever ever gets in the smegging way, and he grooves. And any way, you probably haven't heard this song, so give it a go.

So end result: I hate Phil even less and maybe you do too. Or maybe you still feel a deep, abiding loathing for him, in which case only sixteen hours of Miami Vice will help you, and that isn't on YouTube.


xianrex said...

In high school jazz band I played drums for "I Can't Believe It's True", so I will say that I live that song. I saw Genesis in 86 I think, and Phil did a solo that was amazing.

Superbadfriend said...

Oh Jon... I love Phil Collins. l love him. His songs were some of the first I listened to when we moved to the US.

Great post. I love your perspective on stuff.


MissTrixi said...

'Paperlate' was a fav. of mine, but I really had no idea what 'paperlate' meant.

And I always picture Gabriel as this thick bodied, stern looking man, but he was kinda hot and Gothy back in the day!

I liked some Collin's songs back in the day, but it became an embarasssment to say that one actually LIKED Collins because of stigma that the schmaltzy commercial side of the mid-late 80's did to him (like it did to so many 60's and 70's artists---accept Sting, the 90's took care of him). I also think he produces so much fluff that the quality music was loss in the shuffle.

In comparison, Gabriels early solo work stays with me still (Sledghammer included!). He didn't produce the quantity that Collins did, and that was his saving grace. Gabriel is also able to hide a bit in obscurity, with his music appealing to more underground mediums rather than the markets that are more commercial.

'Against All Odds' WAS a really good song (why, I'm humming it RIGHT NOW!)! The move who's title song it was from though, do any of us remember what THAT was about? Was it espionage? A thriller? A comedy? Who knows! And 'In The Air' remains to me sexy and mysterious. For me though, I can't shake that image of a Ronald Reagan puppet bathed in sweat. That's the Phil Collins/Genesis that I'd like to foerget.


Jon Hunt said...

"Edge of Confusion?" "Age of Confusion?"

"LAND of Confusion!" That's it. Those were those effing Spitting Image puppets, and they creeped me the hell out.

WORD on forgetting that. Let's.

MissTrixi said...

PS- I know that The Police were an early 80's band, but I see Stings career as running a similar path to Collins...just bumped up a decade.

c'mon folks...jonny's the smart one in this operation :-)


Jon Hunt said...

naw, you were right -- the first Police album was in, like, '78, so you were totally right!

Anonymous said...

i too always had an affinity for him based on "a hard days night." and he was a good character actor here and there like in the movie Hook. though i have to say, they always seem to play his worst songs on easy listening stations whenever i'm trapped in the lobby at my allergist's or some place like that and i'm usually cursing his name.
but heres a phil moment i rather adore. and it makes me remember why i always kind of liked him. he's pretty fierce here. really.

Anonymous said...

my link didnt work. of course. its bone thugs and harmony with phil collins doing 'take me home'. -kells

LAP said...

He's a really good drummer, but I swear I like his voice less if I am looking at him while he sings. His complete lack of lips has always sort of bugged me. I will totally cop to really liking the Tarzan soundtrack, at least I like the songs when they are covered by the Disney teenyboppers with rock/pop arrangements...

I am surprised at how attracted I am to the glam Peter Gabriel...

Jon Hunt said...

Me too, he's almost in my "mancrushes I'd do" list next to David Bowie.

Adam Lee said...

Wasn't first kiss with Eithne all about "Total Eclipse of the Heart"?

Jon Hunt said...

It was about a whole mess o' songs on WLOL, mah friend.

Becky said...

Uhhhhhhhhh, NOT!!!!!!!!!!


Brash Lion said...

one of my favorite quotes from 30 Rock: "You like Phil Collins?" And Jack responds, "I have two ears and a heart, don't I?"

missb said...

i know this is an old post, but i wanted to add that just the other day i said with a defiant sneer--I LOVE PHIL COLLINS. and i mean it. not everything. not illegal alien. but "no reply at all". shitballs. love it. amongst many many others. he's a phenomenal drummer, i like his voice, and dammit, i think he's kinda cute in a little balding guy with a mischevious (sic) grin sorta way. i totally forgot about paperlate by the way. and also, don't karaoke "sussudio". it's way boring.

Ian said...

my main reason to trump the haters..

a little late to the discussion, but damn!

Anonymous said...

Found your blog through Allison Hill's blog, and was just scrolling down, and I know this is late and all, but just the other day I wrote my own thing about admitting that I liked Phil Collins. I defied any backlash because come ON!

And that PG clip? Brilliant. I have that album somewhere, stashed in with my hubby Dan's immense collection. "I know what I like (in your wardrobe) was SUCH a stellar song.

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