I found the album No Jacket Required by Phil Collins in Oxfam today, I’m enjoying it verily and it has prompted me to write a history of my short but varied relationship with the man’s music in my life.
I first heard him when my Mum got his Hits CD one birthday when I was about nine. Me and my brother Dylan used to love listening to the track True Colours (a Cindy Lauper cover I later found out) as well as the track One More Night. Our discovery came in the midst of my first mix tape making process, so I put those two tracks on it. I listened to them over and over and over on my tape Walkman. I remember it was a wintery Sunday night and I was sitting in my top bunk bed, I could not stop listening to the music. I went downstairs and told my mum that I didn’t feel well enough to go to evening church, but she saw straight through me, “You can’t miss church just to listen to Phil Collins you know!” Fair enough I suppose.
We had such a strong and emotive connection to this music! Dylan later told me — much to my amusement — that when he first heard the True Colours cover, he actually cried. I find that funny now, but it accurately captures the level of our commitment to this pop star at the time.
We later started to love more dancey tracks such as Easy lover and Sussudio during which we would play, get down and sing along to the music. We also enjoyed singing as well as singing Both Sides Of The Story in silly voices.
I eventually recorded the entire hits CD onto a tape so we could listen to it in the car, and my two complete and utter favourites by that point were Dance into the Light and Something Happened on the Way to Heaven.
I later came to enjoy Phil as he wrote some songs for the Tarzan film. But the viewing of the film became a rather emotional ordeal for me in itself, I think mostly because I went into it knowing it involved a baby losing his parents and I spent most of the film in a rather jittery place. You’ll be in My Heart got significant airplay on Radio 2, which eventually led me to ask Dad to download it for me — in MIDI format of course, what else? — our Yahama music programme would play it and I could sing the words.
We also got a demo of the Tarzan computer game free with a packet of Frosties, although it only included one level, we played that to death. I cruelly made Dylan watch me over my shoulder as I got to do the fun part and swing from vine to vine trying to find various letters of the word ‘Tarzan’ if I remember correctly. My best friend played it with us a couple of times, he would often come round to our house after school if he’d forgotten his keys and was locked out. He was very keen on the game and this obsession (I’ve never told him this) led us to give him the catch phrase “I want to play Taaarzan!” shouted in a Veruca Salt-esque way.
As the years wore on, I sought to widen my music experience and I found myself looking into some of the non Prog-Rock Genesis material. Of course I enjoyed the classic Invisible Touch as well as quite a few tracks from that album.
He was on Room 101 recently, and one of the things he put in was ‘Televangelists’ which pointed me to the song Jesus He Knows Me, a song which instinctively I would steer clear of in fear of blasphemy, but it’s sentiments are very interesting, an anti-hypocrisy, anti-greed and anti-selfishness track which has a lot to say to these men who claim to be true Christians and flaunt themselves on American TV claiming to heal and help, all the while raking in copious amounts of cash.
During my gap year I looked further into some of Phil’s stuff and found out that my Wife’s brother-in-law owned every singe Phil Collins album and was a massive fan. That was great to know.
I read that at the height of his career he considered suicide which is really sad. I guess it comes down to the fact that in terms of cool ratings, we all know that Phil will never be cool. But when you look at it, there’s no doubting his tracks are extremely pleasurable to listen to. News is that he’s now retired, I heard him being interviewed on the radio, and it was quite moving to hear him talking about how he wanted to spend more time with his kids etc. I’m sure that won’t be too long before he releases some proper pop for us to enjoy once more, until then it’s just me and my tapes.