May 29, 1985
By David Huff
Phil Collins - The "No Jacket Required" World Tour
The Genesis of Phil Collins comes full circle
Throughout the 70's into the early part of the 80's, Phil Collins' musical career could have been best described as that of a shadow player. Spotlights never seemed to quite catch up with the London native when he was performing. Something or someone always overshadowed him. The drummer was always the backbone of the music, but it was better off for Collins to be heard rather than seen.
To look at the artist today, it would be very hard to believe that this musician with the Midas touch had a dark specter hanging over his head. Today, he is unmistakably the Brit king of pop. His third solo album, No Jacket Required, leaped to the top of the charts four weeks faster than Michael Jackson's Thriller. The first single off his record, "One More Night," rocketed to the top of the charts past the media hyped all-star cast of the "We Are the World,” single successfully defending its position for three weeks before succumbing.
This past year was indeed kind to Collins in more ways than one. Not only did he make an undeniable mark with his own material, but his collaboration with Earth, Wind and Fire's Phillip Bailey produced the international blockbuster hit, "Easy Lover." Besides producing that album for Bailey, Collins also lent a hand to Eric Clapton's new album, Behind the Sun. It was some of Slow Hand’s best work in years despite the interference by Warner president Lenny Waronker, who insisted three of Collins’ cuts (he ended up producing eight) on the record be redone.
Phil’s momentum was sidetracked somewhat when he stopped off in Los Angeles to pick up a Grammy for his international hit, “Against All Odds.” Sadly enough, Collins almost certainly would have picked up an Oscar for Best Song of the Year at the Academy Awards for "Against All Odds," had he been given the opportunity to sing it. Instead, the Academy Awards committee snubbed Collins offer to sing his song and decided to let the beautiful composition get butchered by actress Anne Reinking. She did an incredible job destroying a beautiful song by lip-syncing and dancing the highly emotional, intensely private song only Phil Collins could perform. But that's Hollywood, and the pitfalls of Hollywood are scripted throughout Collins' life.
The 34-year old Collins was raised in a middle-class family on the suburbs of London. The youngest of three children – there’s a brother Clive and sister Carole – he ostensibly found himself onstage at a very young age. On the urging of his mother who just happened to be a theatre agent, young Phil attended a stage school in England and wound up appearing in several commercials. His mother even helped her son land a job as an extra in the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night, where he played a star-struck lad who leaps onto a wrought iron gate to steal a glimpse of the Fab Four. Collins found time to play the Artful Dodger in a theatre production of Oliver before music finally called him at age 17. Collins abandoned everything for the one art he truly loved – drumming.
In 1969, Collins formed a band called the Flaming Youth. They released an album on Phonogram Records called Ark 2 that received mild acclaim. While looking in the British music Bible, Melody Maker, Collins spotted an ad that said, "Band seeking a drummer sensitive to acoustic music." The wording in the advertisement intrigued him enough to arrange an interview. He was hired on the spot along with another new arrival, guitarist Steve Hackett. The new additions, together with vocalist Peter Gabriel, keyboardist Tony Banks and bassist Mike Rutherford, the soul of Genesis was born.
Collins' first project with Genesis found him not only drumming, but doing back-up vocals to Gabriel (his voice matched Gabriel's note for distinctive note) on the album Nursery Cryme. That album, which contained classic cuts such as "The Musical Box," "The Fountain of Saknacis" and "Return of the Giant Hogweed," thrust Genesis into the ethereal musical world of fantasy that only the band YES could come close to reaching and comprehending.
The band's success was assured with the album’s release, and for the next four years, Genesis took its music and its fans through journeys of fairy tales and mysticism in their records that climaxed in 1974 with the release of the classic of all Genesis albums to date, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. After the tour that year, Peter Gabriel called it quits. Genesis, which was at the peak of its popularity due in part to the spellbinding onstage theatrics of Gabriel, was left holding an empty bag. Critics wrote the band off. Genesis wrote the critics off.
The band extensively auditioned for another vocalist looking at some 400 singers after Gabriel's departure. While auditioning yet another would-be suitor's to Gabriel's throne, a funny thing happened. Mike Rutherford explained in a September 1983 interview in JAM.
`The initial period following Peter's departure from the band left us wondering what to do,” he said. “We looked for replacements, and as we did, an interesting thing developed. In auditioning the different singers, it was amazing how many people with voices singing Genesis material sounded like Pete. Phil had done a lot of singing with Peter on our past albums and his voice was identical. Since we knew we had enough talent within the ranks of Genesis itself. Phil became quite the logical choice."
From behind the drum set and out of the shadows came Phil Collins and Genesis was trimmed to a band of four. But the spotlight still remained transfixed elsewhere.
It was obvious that the charisma, the persona, and the power Peter Gabriel commanded onstage vanished on his departure. A Genesis concert with the mercurial singer meant constant excitement and a transportation into fantasy. A Genesis concert with Collins was a reminder of what the band’s former lead singer used to do. During Gabriel’s tenure, it was commonplace to find him change into several outfits during a Genesis concert to capture the mood of a song and enrapture an audience. As for Phil Collins, he was still the drummer and yes, his voice did indeed sound very much like his predecessor. The Carpet Crawlers started creeping in on Collins.
Genesis continued with its complex arrangements, flashy instrumentals and metaphorically sophisticated lyrics. Their concert tours featured elaborate stage set ups, dancing plants, phenomenal lighting and laser displays. The focus of Genesis was on the music. Banks, Hackett and Rutherford played while Collins would sing and sometimes drum. During this transition period, the band released two albums, Foxtrot and Wind & the Withering. Collins found another outlet to help ease him through the post Gabriel period.
Brand X was a jazz band Collins lent his drumming talents to in 1975. In what would be an indication of future things to come, Collins helped record three albums with the band, Unorthodox Behavior, Moroccan Roll and Livestock. Then one day in late 1977, Steve Hackett announced his decision to leave the band. Curiously enough, Hackett's decision had a lot to do with Phil Collins.
"At the time that I departed Genesis," said Hackett in a Jam Magazine interview a couple of years ago, "I felt that as a band, the music was becoming slightly less interesting. There were elements creeping into it which I felt were inferior ones. When you mentioned commercial pop that is what it was.
"You see, I really didn't want to particularly be a part of that. I had material written by myself that I considered damn good stuff. At the time, the group was very down on me, down on the idea of me doing solo albums. There were a lot of problems because my first album did well, and the atmosphere within the bad was quite, shall we say, it wasn't exactly peaceful. It was quite stormy."
During this period of Hackett's shaky relationship with the band, Collins began asserting himself more and more within the band. He was also touring and recording albums with Brand X and doing session work with other musicians.
"With all of the outside activities of Phil," said Hackett, "that was the argument I used on why no one should care if I pursued another solo project. I felt that the attitude of the band was a very immature kind to have. I had a number of songs that I was dying to get done, and none of them were going to be touched by the band."
It should be noted here that the band as Hackett refers to, focused primarily on Banks and Rutherford other than Collins.
"I was never arguing with Phil," continued Hackett. "The thing was, it was a tricky period of time. At the time, I wanted to get more of my songs recorded by the band, but there were no guarantees. If you look at the credits on the albums, you can see which way it sort of fell. In a way, I was either after equal representation on my selection of songs, or to be in a position to do other things on the side. Neither of these were compromises the band was ready to reach.
"We really parted company because of that, but that's not to say that everyone hasn't grown up since then. We are all buddies now and I am very pleased to see the guys these days."
Hackett's observation on the changing musical attitude of Genesis was correct.
In 1978, Genesis released their ninth album, And Then There Were Three... Not only was Collins cast out from under the shadow into the spotlight, this time he shared the limelight with Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford. To top it all off, something amazing happened. The band actually had a hit single on their hands entitled, “Follow You, Follow Me.” For the worldwide legion of Genesis fans still reeling from the loss of Steve Hackett, a hit single by this iconic progressive rock band was a devastating development. It was the first charted hit in the ten-year history of Genesis.
And Then There Were Three... became Genesis first gold album after a decade of creating musical progressive rock history. It also doubled the sales of their earlier classics as well. The remaining three band members turned their attention to slowly working in pop references into the musical mix. "Follow You Follow Me," which became the band's first genuine pop hit, was a perfect example of the new frame of mind Genesis was going through. It also began the transformation of Phil Collins from drummer to a more powerful force in the band. The dwindled down three became a group that realized the survival of Genesis meant in the United States, and getting away from the chaos that had engulfed English music in the late 70's.
Genesis had stared down defeat too many times to quietly slip away. Banks, Collins, and Rutherford not only understood the musical shadows they were overcoming. The advent of the ‘80s marked a promising new time for all concerned, in particularly Phil Collins. The fight to save Genesis spilled over into his personal life and before he knew what hit him, Collins found himself faced with an ultimatum – Genesis or his marriage.
"I said to my wife, 'Don't be stupid! We'll work it out when I get back’," said Collins about that period in his life. Genesis went on a world tour through North America, across Europe and down into Japan. The tour helped earn the band their gold album, but it came at a personal toll to Collins. When the dust had settled after the tour concluded, Collins found out ‘and then there was one.’ His wife had filed for divorce and taken the children with her.
The loss of his wife and two kids, Joely and Simon, was a demoralizing, lonely period of time in Collins life. It was also the best thing that could have ever happened to him. It forced the musician to draw upon an inner strength few if any (including Collins himself), realized he had. His tragedy became a triumph.
The musician threw himself into his work. He channeled the bitterness and frustration of his divorce into words and music. Collins took an aggressive, active role in the construction of the Genesis follow-up which they entitled Duke.
Released in the spring of 1980, Duke was a major leap forward in defining the new sound of Genesis. Spearheaded by the arena rocking classic, “Turn it on Again” and the soulful, heartache song “Misunderstanding,” the album completed the musical transition started by the previous record. In an ode to its remarkable past, the record also contained sprawling six and eight minute compositions that helped it win over a new legion of fans and commanded respect from critics and peers alike.
Collins finished his post-divorce therapy with another Brand X album, Do They Hurt? He completely took the music world by surprise with his first solo record, Face Value, released in the Spring of 1981. The album landed in the Top Ten and produced the hauntingly beautiful single, "In the Air Tonight." Collins completed his metamorphosis from broken divorcee to self-confident musician in 1980 when he met a young woman in an L.A. bar one evening. Her name was Jill Tavelman. Bruised by his divorce, the wary drummer introduced himself as Bill Collick. The cat and mouse game proved unnecessary. The two hit it off and by the end of that summer, Collins asked her to go back to England with him. She did and they've been together ever since. Last year they married.
With his head on straight again, Phil Collins started asserting himself. In '81, Genesis released Abacab and it became the first Genesis album to go platinum. Whereas Duke had showcased a somewhat sleek, trendy sound, Abacab found the Genesis trio truly coming into its own. Brilliantly blending in its prog rock roots with stylish pop hooks, the band polished the innovations it has begun with their previous record and literally morphed into an elegant group capable of churning any type of music it felt like creating.
With the scheduled release of a live album the next year, Collins set his sights on another solo LP he called Hello, I Must Be Going. It would contain a remake of the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Overall, nine of the album's ten tracks made some sort of chart worldwide. It also saw Collins go on his first ever solo tour which sold-out in every city it played in.
From there, Collins would release his final Brand X album. He then decided to tackle a new challenge, producing. His first two projects involved friend John Martyr, a Scottish composer/guitarist. The other was ex-ABBA vocalist Frida.
"Bass.stly, I was first approached by these two rather than my approaching them," said Collins about his foray into producing. "Each case was intriguing in Its own way and I thought it was flattering and interesting that they thought enough of me to ask, so that is why I did It.
"With Frida, I thought it would be particularly interesting working with someone of her background, and I had never really produced a lady before. She'd been used to making some of the best pop records in the last 10-15 years so it was challenging to see tf I could do something that was worthwhile."
Frida's album, Something's Going On, produced a Top Ten single with its title track, but did little after that, at least in this country.
"I am disappointed that didn't do better commercially," confessed Collins, "particularly here in America. In Europe and England it did very well. When I am producing a record, it gets very personal with me because it almost becomes your own. So, when it doesn't happen you feel almost frustrated and it's not necessarily because of the musical content. I am very proud of all the stuff that I've done at the moment."
Since the release of Face Value four years ago, Phil Collins has been a whirlwind of activity. His ongoing contributions to others' albums included playing drums on Robert Plant's first two solo projects and the U.S. tour that followed. That says Collins, was a great deal of fun for him because all he had to do was drum. He was, for the first time in a long time, just a musician with no cares or worries, content with watching the spotlight focused on someone else.
The musician’s attitude and confidence was never more apparent than on the '83 release of Genesis. Banks, Collins, and Rutherford were able to use a new medium that forthwith was unavailable to them – music videos. The band took full advantage and shot four videos that brought out the brilliance of the songs their new album contained. Genesis, and in particular Collins, had mastered the art of the hit single. In mastering the art, they conquered radio.
The success of the Genesis album was the springboard the drummer used as he approached 1984, the year that would see him launch a an all-out British assault on the pop music world.
No Jacket Required is an appropriate ending to a spectacular year for Collins. His second solo release was his first No. 1 album. Despite being robbed of an Oscar (this Oscar telecast was the lowest rated show ever), his record contained three No. 1 singles including the international hit, “Easy Lover”. Throw in a Grammy award to go along with his production duties for albums by Adam Ant, Philip Bailey and Eric Clapton, and you have a severe workaholic on your hands. Oh yes, let’s not forget the North American tour Collins also squeezed into his schedule.
But first and foremost despite his incredible achievements, Phil Collins insists he is, and always will be, a drummer.
"I started singing with Genesis because we didn't have another singer," said Collins simply. "And of course I am going to sing my own things because I write them. But, I really don't think of myself as a singer as such, but as a drummer.
"It's much easier for me to slip into a different role as a drummer rather than as a singer. I can put on any hat you want. I can put on my John Bonham hat, my Keith Moon hat or my Ringo hat. Whatever else I am, I'm a drummer first. I've been playing since I was five, and my ambition was to be respected by other musicians who might say, 'I like what you're doing.'"
Cast a giant shadow. It's not only a term Phil Collins learned to live with – it’s a statement he learned to conquer.