Friday, November 6, 2015

A Note in Support of Mr. Collins

Phil Collins!

There, I said it. You read it. Phil Collins.

For those of you nearing the age of AARP membership, or who have recently scheduled colonoscopies, there was a time when, love him or hate him, Phil Collins could do no wrong -- acting career aside. Hit after hit during the 1980s catapulted him from little-known drummer/singer of Genesis to mega-superstar of galactic proportions. For decades, the workaholic churned out album after album, project after project, and I'm not just talking about hit singles.

The guy made a concept album with Flaming Youth before The Who popularized the idea with Tommy (and a couple years before his future Genesis bandmates got into the act). He played drums on five albums with jazz/fusion group Brand X in the late 1970s while simultaneously and successfully taking over lead singing responsibilities in Genesis. He's been responsible for producing, collaborating with, and inspiring numerous artists throughout the years. And his inhuman drumming helped elevate the early fairytale music of Genesis out of English gardens into rock arenas and, ultimately, onto FM radio. The guy was a multi-talented, adaptable, unstoppable, impressive, all-around-enjoyable musical machine.

Then he became a commercial success and it all went to hell. Not because of him, though. He was just doing his thing and had enough business smarts to get paid good money for it, a fact that apparently pissed off some people and branded him a sell-out.

Now, after years of self-imposed musical exile, the guy's recent announcement that he plans to release a new album has certain critics freaking out like the devil is crawling out of hell to steal our children (or our chocolate, whichever scenario you find more terrifying). Honestly, what's the worst that can happen -- a crappy album? Or, perhaps, a really good album that you simply don't care for because it doesn't satisfy your taste in music?

I, for one, am looking forward to a new Phil Collins album. It doesn't matter if it's better than the best batch of songs he's ever pressed to vinyl or worse than the most middling soft rock he's ever been accused of compressing to MP3 format, I'm going to give it a listen because that's what a diehard fan does.

A diehard Genesis fan goes to see Peter Gabriel in concert even though Peter Gabriel hasn't released a decent album in 20 years. A diehard Genesis fan owns Mike Rutherford's solo albums (but is excused from anything after The Living Years). A diehard Genesis fan owns the three-and-a-half albums Tony Banks attempted after creatively flaming out in the early 1980s. A diehard Genesis fan owns all 473 Steve Hackett solo albums because he's the only former member of the group apparently not embarrassed by his progressive rock past.

Now, while I am looking forward to whatever music Mr. Collins chooses to release, I do have a small wish list I hope he takes to heart:
  1. Get over it: You were overplayed and overexposed. Not your fault. You think Adele has never heard one of her songs on the radio and thought: "Good God, not her again." Your music would not have sold if people didn't like it, so stop being apologetic for your success. As for the critics who will never like anything you do, tell 'em to go screw.
  2. Get out of your rut: Like many artists who achieve pop-star success, your sound essentially stopped developing when you struck it big. Maybe you think you know what people expect from you, or maybe you think every song you write that doesn't break the Top 40 is a failure, or maybe you just don't hear it. Whatever... Shake things up and forget about commercial viability. After all, you're wealthy enough to not have to worry about it.
  3. Collaborate: Not that you haven't written some fantastic tunes, but some of your greatest achievements in music were in support of other people's ideas. All I'm saying is you don't have to do it all by yourself. Make new friends, call up some old friends, and get others involved in the creative process. (That doesn't mean rehashing your old sound with a young, hip producer -- please don't do that.)
  4. Arena tours suck: Take a cue from your former bandmates and visit venues that are more intimate. My Lovely Wife and I took Our Daughter to see Peter Gabriel in Fairfax, VA, a few years ago with a few thousand other people and it was awesome. I got to see Steve Hackett's superb Genesis Revisited tour in a medium-size hall in Atlanta last year and it ranks as the greatest concert I've ever experienced. Much better than squinting from nosebleed seats a football field away just to see the Jumbotron.
  5. Genesis Reunion: Stop thinking in terms of the trio versus the quintet. If you aren't up to the drumming, hire someone to fill in. We're cool with that. And just because Gabriel might not be interested doesn't mean we wouldn't like to hear Hackett tear through Firth of Fifth or pluck happily away on I Know What I Like. You could always do a one-off guest spot in their tours, or vice versa.
And, if you can't adhere to any of my other requests, please just try to have fun.

© 2015 Mark Feggeler