Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In Defense of Phil Collins

We've all had those "that's just not funny" moments. We've all been the only person in the room not laughing at a joke we found distasteful.

I recently had one while zipping around online. To me, this "joke" is a manifestation of how cold we have gotten as a world society. It shows that, even in jest, we have adopted a belief that it is okay to simply shut down that with which we disagree or that which we don't prefer and that we can say what we feel like simply because we have a forum to do so -- no thought or consideration of others necessary. 

Recently, Phil Collins announced that he would come out of retirement. A few days ago, I saw that there is a petition -- that has been signed by thousands -- designed to force Phil Collins back into retirement. 

Yes, I know it is meant to be satirical and funny. To me, though, it is not funny. 

Maybe because I grew up, musically, on Gabriel and Collins era Genesis -- even though I may have faded away from them some time after Invisible Touch (or, in the case of Collins, No Jacket Required). Maybe it is because Collins's Hello I Must Be Going album spent nearly a year on my teenage turntable. Maybe it is because Collins was one of my early drumming idols. But, it could also be because I know what kind of work-ethic Collins has or because I know how sensitive he can be to criticism (based on what I have heard in interviews).

Or, maybe it is because I have come to believe that Collins is just a plain good guy, based on what I know of him. (He's the only artist who played both in London and Philly, on the same day, for Live Aid in the eighties. Why? Because he believed, in light of the kind of money he made, that it was the least he could do.) On top of it all -- why did he retire in the first place? Because of his kids. So he could raise them properly. Sounds like a good chap to me. 

Collins has always been saddened by the critics, who have never really been kind to him. Filling stadiums didn't change that, it seems... 

I know there are legions of people who are excited to see Phil come back, so this petition should not affect him in the least. But I think it will, on a personal level. And even if it doesn't, it is still not funny. 

What I do find funny is that the internet mobs are fine with attacking someone who, say, makes fun of fat people ("It's insensitive to make fat jokes; it's body shaming...") but they are fine with attacks on individuals. Further proof that the individual is getting swallowed up every day. Welcome to the collective...

I know the people who signed it and the guy who created it find themselves insufferably hip. I know that they are above beautiful songs like "Against All Odds" because they have moved on to the new crop of garage band level musicians who fumble along on their instruments (style out of weakness) and who piece together songs rolled out of cool and non-committal insincerity. And I hope this petition helps them to further convince themselves that they have a lens fixed on what is fashionable. I really do. They seem to need it. 

I also hope Phil knows that the cleverest of these clevers will be drowned out forever after a nice, fat, sold out world tour and by the thunder of a Collins/Thompson drum duet. 

I'm behind you, Phil. For what it's worth. 


  1. To discourage the sentiment behind the petition—because really, a singer who at worst is known for phoning in bland soundtrack songs late in his career deserves to be the target of far less online snark than, say, politicians or war criminals—I just went on iTunes and ponied up $7.99 for "No Jacket Required." I liked that album when I was a kid; I'll bet at least a couple of the songs will be as good as I remember.

    1. That's the spirit! [Starts chanting "Phil; Phil; Phil..."

  2. I liked Phil Collins when he was in Genesis (he did a great job at replacing Peter Gabriel) and also as a solo artist in the early 80s, when he wrote some fine songs like 'The Roof is Leaking' and 'I Don't Care Any More'. But then it seemed to start going wrong with 'Sussudio' and he became synonymous with a rather unpleasant, tinny mid-80s MOR sound that hasn't aged well.

    However, there are worse things out there than soppy ballads and synth trumpets and the vitriol has been rather excessive. I think it's time to release Phil from the gulag.

    1. Yeah -- I actually prefer Phil's tenure in Genesis to Gabriel's. And "Sussudio" is where he lost me, too; just as Genesis lost me with "Invisible Touch." Collins's first two solo albums were wonderfully atmospheric and interesting. (I could have done without the "Can't Hurry Love" cover... Whether we like him or not, the man's talent is tremendous, as a musician, singer and songwriter. One can't lie in songwriting; he just did what he felt at the time...