Take Five: True Confessions About Phil Collins

When I was little, I had a strange affinity for the music video to Phil Collins’ “Do You Remember?”

Perhaps it was because it was a story of young love, and at that age I could identify with the affection between the paper boy and the neighbor girl. And, of course, I’m a giant, ballad-loving sap to begin with. Either way, that is the earliest date to which I can trace back my abnormal attraction to the work of Phil Collins.

I know I’m not supposed to be this way. I’m supposed to eschew Collins-led Genesis in favor of Gabriel-led Genesis (which I do appreciate). I’m supposed to forsake Phil because of his latter-day Disney schlock (which I do renounce) and dismiss the rest of his catalog as soft rock garbage. But when confronted with true talent, enduring songs and a stellar collection of music videos, there’s little I can do to resist. All I can do is sing along (and since some Collins hits have recently entered my list of karaoke standards, that is exactly what I do).

Phil Collins was the sleeping giant of the 1980s. While other artists may have been flashier or more chart-topping, Collins and his cunning pop sensibility — whether solo or fronting Genesis — modestly amassed a slew of hits that over time became standards. He helped define the 80s power ballad with songs like “One More Night,” “Groovy Kind of Love,” “Hold on my Heart” and “In Too Deep.” He got us snapping our fingers with “Sussudio,” “Don’t Lose my Number” and “Invisible Touch,” thinking with “Another Day in Paradise,” “No Son of Mine” and “Land of Confusion,” chuckling with “I Can’t Dance” and “Jesus He Knows Me.” Sure, there are songs that don’t do much for me, like “Two Hearts,” “Easy Lover” and “You Can’t Hurry Love,” but given the number of winners, that’s a small percentage. I’m convinced that everyone must have at least one Phil Collins song that they like.

Phil Collins, of course, enjoyed the height of his popularity during the glory days of the music video, and he embraced the medium wholeheartedly, never taking himself too seriously and often amping up the narrative or entertainment factor. From the epic and warped puppet video for “Land of Confusion” and the international-themed clip for “Take Me Home” to the dog’s eye view in “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven” and the dream sequence of “I Wish It Would Rain Down,” Collins and Genesis always went all in when it came to videos.

So, why this post? While I have always had an abiding enjoyment of his catalog, my Collins karaoke fervor has given me reason to revisit it and truly appreciate the quality and depth of what he accomplished. Thus, I am becoming an evangelist. I want to rescue Phil Collins from the slag heap and get him the respect he deserves for his accomplishments. To that end, I’d like to post some of my favorite Collins songs and videos, sharing why I like them so much and giving you a chance to revisit them as well. And I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments.

Take Me Home

(Solo) Earnest and heartfelt, but less wispy than a ballad, with an awesome globetrotting video. Noteworthy: this song plays over the intercom at the departure gates in Las Vegas’ airport. In the same vein…

Follow You Follow Me

(Genesis) The delightful wash of keyboards that envelops this song, one of Genesis’ first mainstream hits (1978!), really make it stand out.

Something Happened on the Way to Heaven

(Solo) Lately, this is one of my favorite songs to perform in karaoke — I performed it once on a lark and it stuck. The video is so odd — no one seems to care that this dog is wandering around their set, peeing and crapping and eating their food. The show must go on, I suppose.

Land of Confusion

(Genesis) This video is still awesome, still bizarre– though sadly, the song is still ringing true in some respects. Either way, this video was an amazing application of the form,  using puppets from the UK show “Spitting Image.” It’s a shame it had to go up against “Sledgehammer” in the 1987 VMAs. But, come on, “Sledgehammer.”

Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)

(Solo) Ah, yes, my go-to karaoke ballad. You know, some of the best and most defining songs of the ’80s came from the soundtracks of utterly unmemorable movies. Here is a case in point.

I Wish It Would Rain Down

(Solo) In this vignette, Collins portrays a rehearsal pianist who gets his chance at playing lead in the big show, and while singing his song he dreams of stardom. Also, this video features Jeffrey Tambor as the neurotic director. Oh, right, the song — classic Collins balladry, with Eric Clapton shredding on the guitar and a chorus of “oooohs” raining down behind Collins’ voice.

Jesus He Knows Me

(Genesis) I will admit that, while I like this song, I’m adding this one purely for the video. It’s sharp, snappy and highly entertaining. It comes off of 1991’s “We Can’t Dance,” the band’s last major album, which also spawned the great tracks “No Son Of Mine” and the infamous “I Can’t Dance.” After this album, both Genesis and Collins began to enter the twilight of their careers, but they sure as hell went out with a bang.

Want more? You can buy Phil Collins’ greatest hits or Genesis’ greatest hits (affiliate links).


6 responses to “Take Five: True Confessions About Phil Collins

  1. This must be the only ode-to-Phil-Collins blog post in 2010, nice!
    ‘Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)’ is one of my favorite ballads. Since the first time I heard it sometime in mid ’80s, it’s always been included in the mixtapes I made for my crushes.
    Sometimes when I now listen to songs I used to like back then, especially ballads, I am surprised at how, well, lame they sound. But this one never disappoints, it always sounds good.

  2. Bravo. Mr. Collins has really been denied his proper accolades – I suspect because he’s always been low-key and not larger-than-life as most pop legends are.

  3. I love Phil Collins. “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven” is one of my favorites. “Do You Remember?” reminds me of a paperboy that lived in my neighborhood and I love listening to “Follow You, Follow Me”. I’m a total sucker for Collins power ballads.

  4. Follow You Follow Me, definitely, but also That’s All and Misunderstanding. I want to say there’s another along the lines of Misunderstanding but it escapes me right now. Phil Collins is so great for an emotive singalong.

  5. Andrew Harrison

    I was totally with you until you said something positive about “I Can’t Dance.”

  6. Great, great post 😀 It’s really nice to see that someone appreciates Collins awesome work – he truly deserves it. I love Against All Odds (perfect love song)

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