Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Phil Collins - An Appreciation

"Listen, guys," I said at the end of band practice last night. "I have a confession." The conversation had drifted, as usual, from music to other subjects, and we had been discussing the movie White Nights, and how recognizing that we liked that movie when it came out made us realize that we weren't like the other boys.

"Let me sit down," said Ray. He tends towards the dramatic. He mimed wiping his forehead, took a deep breath. "Okay, go."

"I fucking love Phil Collins," I said.

"Oooooh, damn!" Both Ray and Gerry reacted far more strongly than I expected. Sure, my love of Phil is a little unorthodox, but I wasn't expecting it to be all that controversial. He was, arguably, one of the most popular artists of the 80's. But I wasn't prepared for what came next.

Ray, with a pained look, raised his hand. "Me too." he said. Now Gerry edged toward the door, as if being in the same room with us might taint his punk-rock cred.  I waved him back into his seat.

"No. No, fucking listen to this. Seriously. Just listen." I was already up and putting the tune on the PA. I played them this:

The sound of a man celebrating his despair

A spontaneous dance party may or may not have broken out at this point. I'll never tell.

I told the story I'd read recently, how Phil had talked about killing himself, how he was tired of being the butt of jokes, how his musical legacy had faded, even though he's one of three artists who've sold over 100 million records (the other two? Oh, you know, some nobodies named Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney). I also found out that he can't play drums anymore, due to spinal surgery that left him unable to grip a drumstick. So the guy has been going through some stuff lately.

We decided that Phil needed to know how appreciated he was. I'm sure the man has more than enough money to use to wipe his tears away, but still, he's made my life better, and my music better, and nobody should go through life not knowing that they are loved.

He wrote songs about obsession, madness, despair, fear and loneliness, and then soundtracked them with poppy hooks and horn licks that cooked. He belted out songs of love and loss that, as Ray put it, "made me want to fall in love and then lose it, just so I could miss it. I didn't even know what love was!"  He sold tens of millions of records and sold out world tours, all while looking like Bob Hoskins's less attractive little brother. Sure, he might have diluted his talent a little by going after every single opportunity that came along, and with a catalog as broad as his, they can't all be great, but the hits were stellar.

He was, and is, awesome.


  1. I didn't know that he couldn't play drums anymore. That's a crime.

  2. I also did not know he couldn't play drums anymore. Man, that is a crime. He really is the unsung hero of our generation, musically speaking.

  3. Yeah. He's got some hobbies, like his current obsession with The Alamo, but who knows when he'll play drums again. I'm glad there are others who dig him, too.