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Sunday Quarantunes: Ear Candy for Sheltering in Place (I Heart Phil Collins Edition)

In the interest of bashing and popping through the faux-coolness wafting off our long suffering record collections, I now offer you this opportunity for unadulterated, unencumbered merrymaking.

Hold it firmly people…two hands.

The essence of these Sunday Quarantunes features holds fast and hard to the hope that music STILL is the quickest way out of the ‘dumps’ on offer. Tunage is often just the spring in your step and waggle in your hips that you need to ‘shake shake shake’ it all off.

And I mean ALL of it.

It’ll all be back shortly. But maybe, just for now, you can accept my humble invitation to turn the tunes up and get your dance on. Get after it, folks!

Another tried and true vocation of these features is to argue strenuously for dropping trou on our collective coolness. In review, no one cares which 1st edition, twice deleted Crowded House singles you have. Let that shit go, man.

Ah, the sweet smell of respite. Glorious.

Now you might be asking: “Shawn, I’ve been carrying on this guise of cool for so long that I don’t know how to shuffle it off. How do I do it?”

The vulnerability in such questions warms my deepest cockles.

Therefore, I will reward your bravery by enacting the exact process in which I so vigorously argue. It might hurt at first, but we’ll all heal…

For those of you dutifully following this series of features, this list of the most revered bands and artists should come to you as no surprise:

The Replacements, Soundgarden, Buffalo Tom, Concrete Blonde, Oasis, Mudhoney, Beastie Boys, Faith No More, Phil Collins, R.E.M…

Um, wait a sec. Back the fuck up a couple…

Let it sink in for a moment. Most indeedy-do, you read that correctly.

Philip David Charles Collins.

The much maligned, polo shirted, Genesis-infused, vigorously uncool little drummer from West London.

The very man of whom Noel Gallagher once said to have wanted the severed head of…in his fridge.

The very man who even recently admitted himself, “I was pretty irritating.”

How did this happen?

Like me, you just may be ancient enough to have been baffled by his meteoric rise from drummer in proggy-era Genesis, to lead singer in said proggy-era Genesis, to massive solo stardom, to still singing in far less proggy Genesis.

Collins has enjoyed a 40-plus year career, which at times, veered towards aggressive public exposure. He was literally everywhere. The dude even showed up on “Miami Vice,” which in the coolness barometer of the ’80s, was like being french kissed by her majesty Queen Elizabeth herself.

His overexposure was so rampant and egregious that he was branded as perpetually lame and succinctly cast out by the cool kids in the mid-90’s.

Here’s the thing – yes, there are a great many arguments to be made that he got what he rightly deserved for being so smug all those years. Critically reviled. Boring. Annoying.

But ask yourself this – how can a guy be simultaneously blamed and chided for Yacht Rock AND continue to feature in mind-blowingly awesome recent YouTube clips where teens discover and celebrate his greatness?

Do your thing, hate him if you must.

For my part, I’m just gonna keep right on loving Phil…and I invite you to grant yourself the permission to do the same. Here’s why:

(*Quick side note, while I extol the virtues of Phil-C, I will make little to no distinction between the Phil of Genesis and Phil solo. There was just no point in separating, as he’s been ruthlessly criticized for both halves of the whole Phil. Carry on…)

For one, it’s an undeniable truth that he was always an amazing drummer.


Yes, we all know THE drum fill from “In the Air Tonight.” And while you might have heard it a million times, that doesn’t make it any less badass. Plus, he’s literally played another hundred rad drum parts that are just as good.

Everybody from Taylor Hawkins, Mike Portnoy, to the drummer of all drummers, Neil Peart are all on record singing his praises. Jason Bonham claims that his father (if you don’t know who I’m talking about, I just can’t…) “respected Phil Collins’ drumming very much.”  I mean, if Phil’s playing is good enough for both Bonham and Peart, it should as shit be good enough for you.

The guy’s a monster; his whole catalog is filled with signature and influential playing that continues to resonate with anyone who, even now, is picking up the sticks for the first time. He’s irreplaceable.

What about all those sappy ballads you say?!

Love ’em, love them all!

I am not sure why historically it’s fallen to pop singers to educate us on how to be girlfriends and boyfriends, but it just has. Weird, right? Therefore, so many of those so-called “sappy” Phil Collins ballads are evidence of this phenomenon. For the prepubescent me, a handful of those songs taught me how to fall in love. How to apologize, even. Think about “In Too Deep,” “One More Night,” or “Take Me Home.” Those songs are like romantic suites being splayed out for your benefit. Magic. It’s worth noting the intensely difficult personal struggles which informed the content of his early solo records. The dude was going through hell.

Extra wet sloppy kisses go out specifically to both “Against All Odds (Take A Look at me Now)” and “Separate Lives” for so gloriously wielding the Phil Collins cheesy heartbreak exposition better than all the rest. So sappy, it’s savage on both counts. High marks also go to the corresponding movies, Against All Odds and White Nights in which these glorious songs were featured. Both majestic.

I mean White Nights, people! Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines engrossed in a cold war spy movie caper – in which there is still time for dancing (deep sigh). Love that flick!

Musically, Phil’s entire output has been subject to ruthless hate. However, if we’re talking pure music, I’d like to make the case that the first three Phil Collins solo discs (Face Value, Hello, I Must Be Going, and No Jacket Required) are irreplaceable classics to the highest extent. Not only is the songwriting inescapably good, but the arrangements are often so creative that the mind boggles.

Collins hit on a sound that was then duplicated by countless artists in the 80’s. Most notably the use of those rhythmic horns. Sure they might sound dated today, but the way those layers of rhythms were folded into those tracks is a signature touch that unfortunately was then abused endlessly by other Yacht Rockers. Toss in the fact that his backbeat drumming parts are always immaculate and you really have arrived at the root of why he sold millions upon millions of albums.

Lastly, and likely most confrontationally, I love and have always loved Phil Collins’ singing. Track after track, the emotional wreckages of his personal life manifest in deeply moving vocal performances. Say what you want about the guy, he always FELT it. Just have a little reminder listen to “I Wish it Would Rain Down” or “Throwing it All Away” and then try and argue that his vocals aren’t crazy on point. They are. Deal with it.

Look, I get it. Phil Collins IS the establishment that sent endless teens to their basements, dead set on righting all the pop music wrongs that artists like him imposed on us all. Rejecting him and those of his ilk launched a thousand bands.

I would know, I was in them.

In later years though, I’ve often found myself in deep conversation with other artists and rockers alike that have ended with nothing but pure adoration and love for Phil Collins and his music. In my heart of hearts, I believe we all actually still love him truly, madly, deeply.

It’s bad religion to pretend that this isn’t the case.

I wish nothing more than to give you that little nudge you might need to cue up those great Collins classics and go to town on those bad boys. “In the Air Tonight” plus “Easy Lover,” plus “Invisible Touch” perhaps?

And If after all these long years, you just can’t let it go and you’re still holding on to those lingering grudges – then the problem is probably you and you’re just being a giant dick.

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