No Shame Required: Andy Burns On Why It’s Ok To Like Phil Collins

I want to tell you that it’s alright. You can admit it. Don’t hide your head in the sand. Don’t pull a hood over your face when you walk up to the cash and make the buy. Don’t look over your shoulder and see if anybody is watching when you get the bill from iTunes in your email that says what you’ve purchased. Don’t be ashamed.

It’s ok to like Phil Collins.

imageDon’t listen to those old classic rockers who insist Phil’s done nothing good since Genesis’ Abacab . You and I know better. We know that there’s brilliance between the folds that hold your worn vinyl copy of No Jacket Required (Grammy Award Winner for Album Of The Year in 1985). We can’t deny the fantastic horn lines that run through Sussudio, the catchiness of Don’t Lose My Number or the pure anthemic swell of Take Me Home, featuring a chorus consisting of both Peter Gabriel AND Sting, no less. That’s clout. The guy even drummed with Led Freakin’ Zeppelin at Live Aid. Not well, mind you, but cut him some slack – he’d been on the concord and none of those musicians were on fire that particular evening, I think we’d all agree. By the way, as far as drummers go, Phil’s one of the best ever. Just ask anyone who’s ever picked up the sticks and tried to play along to The Cinema Show.

Sure, he doesn’t look like much, but looks can be deceiving. Don’t let Phil’s bald head and somewhat short stature make you think he’s some sort of lightweight. One of his many masterpieces, In The Air Tonight, is dark, man. I’m talking Black Sabbath, “witches at black masses” dark. And has any song started a better urban legend? That whole Beatles “Paul is dead” thing? Forget that. Who’s Your So Vain about? Who cares! Phil actually saw a man kill another man and called the culprit out on it at a concert with a well-timed spotlight. Didn’t he?

I know that Phil’s had some lean times. Rock radio hasn’t touched him since Both Sides back in the early 90’s. And while it may have scored him an Oscar, I wouldn’t say the soundtrack to Hercules is necessarily a bold artistic statement. Not like We Can’t Dance or Another Day In Paradise, anyway. Stop, think twice. You know I’m right.
imageWhy the Phil love? Because last week when I walked into the record store it wasn’t the latest Neil Young or Eric Clapton albums that I picked up (waiting for the upcoming Blu-Ray for Neil and Clapton…well, kindasorta not interested). Instead, I walked away with a Soundgarden compilation and Phil’s new Motown covers albums, Going Back. Normally I’m not one for an album of songs I already have in their original and superior versions. But Going Back is a labour of love for Phil, who grew up on those originals and also loved watching British bands like The Action and The Beatles and The Who put their on spin on the songs that helped make Detroit a hot bed of musical moments in the 1960’s. Yes, it’s another white dude making some coin off the mainly black music that rocked the charts. But Phil performs songs like Uptight, (Love Is Like A) Heatwave and Standing In The Shadows Of Love with a reverence that makes his versions worth listening to. Heck, he managed to convince some of the original musicians from back in the Motown days, The Funk Brothers, to revisit their performances. Phil even gets behind the drum kit for the entire run of songs (29 in total if you’ve got the deluxe edition), even though he’s had nerve damage that makes pounding the skins a painful endeavour for Buster.

Is Going Back perfect? Not quite. The world did not need another version of Papa Was A Rolling Stone (the soul music equivalent of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah to my mind) and Phil’s voice doesn’t always suit the material. But that’s ok. Because after 40 years in public as a musician and 30 years as a solo star, the man can do what he wants. As long as it’s not another Cindy Lauper cover.

So stand tall if you’re a fellow Phil fan. Shake off the shackles of a society that scoffs at a stocky, bald British man with an ear for melody and multiple ex-wives. Roll down the windows wherever you are and turn up Sussudio one more time, shall we?

It’s a great, great song. Just ask Patrick Bateman.

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