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Phil Collins, his career, music and lyrics - Referat

Phil Collins, his career, music and lyrics


1. Introduction
2. Phil Collins' career
2.1 The sixties
2.2 The seventies
2.3 The eighties
2.3.1 Genesis
2.3.2 Solo
2.3.3 Productions
2.4 The nineties
3. His music
3.1 The seventies
3.2 The eighties
3.3 The nineties
4. His lyrics
4.1 "In The Air Tonight"
4.2 "Since I lost you"
4.3 "No Son Of Mine"
5. Epilogue
6. Quotations
7. Appendix
8. Bibliography
9. Discography

1. Introduction

1985 - the "Live Aid" -concert at Wembley stadium; a small man with not much hair is sitting in front of the grand piano. He is introducing his new single "Against all odds". 70,000 people in front of the stage and two billion in front of their TV sets listen closely and then suddenly jerk upright in surprise. A wrong note rolls through the stadium and back! A wrong note from Mr. Phil Collins, the man who is supposed to earn several million pounds a year by selling millions of his albums? Is it him, who is the lead vocalist of Genesis, one of the most successful bands in the history of rock? Can it be him, who is amongst his colleagues, respected for his unmistakable style of playing the drums?

Yes, it was Phil Collins who performed almost faultlessly on July 13, 1985, in the famous Wembley Stadium, together with such rock heroes as Paul McCartney, Elton John and Led Zeppelin for two hours, and who then rushed to the airport, boarded a Concorde and flew non-stop to Philadelphia to go on stage for "Live Aid-USA". Critics claim he was impelled by his desire to show off; I think, this is another example of his incapacity to say "no". To prove this, I will first give a short summary of his life so far. Then I will characterise his musical style as it changed through the years, and finally I will comment on some of his lyrics.

The idea of studying Phil Collins' life, music and lyrics attracted me very much as I have listened to his works for half of my life and feel very close to them. He has done so many different things that it is never boring to hear or read something about him. So this work is just a stock-taking of what he has done until today and about the information that is accessible to me now.

Referring to the concert I mentioned he commented in a show recently broadcaster on TV :

"They did a movie called 'Against all odds' and they asked me if I write a song for the movie. And I had this song which didn't have finished lyrics. So I came up with these lyrics and we got a real piano player to play on the record. And it was the record that was made while I was on tour, so I wasn't concentrated on it - and it was my first No. 1 in America. But I tried to play it at 'Live Aid' twice. And the first time - which was the first real other time I tried to play it since I've written it - and my finger slipped off - it was very hot in London - my finger slipped off one of the black keys and it was the wrong note. I felt 70.000 people going 'ffff' [jerks]. And I vowed I'd never play it again. [...] I didn't make a mistake in Philadelphia - but I thought that was a flute! "1

2. Phil Collins' career

2.1 The sixties

On the 30th of January, 1951, 20 kilometres to the northwest of central London, in the suburb of Hounslow/Chiswick, Philip Collins is born. He has a sister and a brother. His mother has a toy shop, his father is an insurance agent. His first drum is given to him at the age of three, he is allowed to buy his first drum set at the age of thirteen. As he shows so much interest in making music and singing, his parents decide to send him to his aunt for piano lessons in order to advance his musical education; he only goes for several months.

At home Phil is surrounded by the sound of the sixties. His sister listens to Tommy Steele and Neil Sedaka, his brother to Jim Reeves. He himself prefers the Beatles; the first record he owns is "Please Please Me". In order to get a more general picture of all the different music styles he visits the record stores in his neighbourhood.

A good friend of his mother's is in charge of an artists' agency and manages to procure Phil the role of the street urchin in the musical "Oliver". For this he has to quit school. His engagement lasts seven months, because by then his voice is so worn out that he has to give up his part on stage. From now on and until his 18th birthday he plays several minor roles, for instance as an extra in the movie "A hard days night".

During all this time Collins drums in a group called "Flaming Youth" - a phrase taken from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt. The band in which he plays together with Ronnie Caryl (bass), a friend from his old school, Gordon Smith (guitar) and Brian Chatton (keyboards) records an album in 1969 - "Ark 2". Although the album receives a positive press it does not become a success. Collins: "We must have sold about ten of those. In the meantime I have probably signed them all." 2 A few months later the "Flaming Youth" dissolves and Collins reads an advertisement, which is to change his life, in Melody Maker, a well-known music newspaper, in which Tony Stratton-Smith is searching a new drummer.

2.2 The seventies

"Tony Stratton-Smith requires drummer sensitive to acoustic music. "3

Interested by this request of his acquaintance Stratton-Smith, manager of Charisma Records, Collins meets the latter in the "legendary 'Marquee Club' "4 and tries to find out from him which band it is which is looking for a new drummer. It is, of course, Genesis.

At this time Genesis consists of Peter Gabriel (vocals), Tony Banks (keyboards) and Mike Rutherford (guitar, bass). Anthony Philipps (guitar) left the group two weeks ago, forced by his stage-fright. The old drummer John Mayhew had to go because he did not fit in. The three remaining members had got to know each other at the boarding-school Charterhouse, a strict old-fashioned public school, where they had made their first steps in music business. They had toured through England several times and had released two albums - "From Genesis to Relevation" (1969) and "Trespass"(1970) - changing their staff continuously.

After his conversation with the manager of the group, Collins phones Gabriel and is invited to a rehearsal. Together with Ronnie Caryl, the bass from "Flaming Youth", he arrives at Gabriel's mansion. Other drummers have arrived earlier and so Collins has time for a quick swim in the pool. While he is swimming, he listens to the other candidates and, that way, realises what he will have to do. When it is his turn to accompany Gabriel and Banks, he is well prepared. Both seem impressed by his drumming skills. By evening he is an official member of Genesis, his friend Caryl is rejected. Instead of him, Mick Barnard is going to play the guitar, although only for a short time.

In October, 1970, he performs for the very first time with Genesis. "He seemed to integrate well and was accepted and appreciated by his new colleagues despite the different decent."5 - in contrast to Barnard who is a "less lucky choice"6. In 1971 he is replaced by Steve Hackett. Now Genesis finally has a line up that will not change until 1975.

"Nursery Cryme" is the first album on which you can hear Collins' drums.

In spring 1971, Genesis have to interrupt their tour, because Peter Gabriel has a broken foot. In order to make use of this free time, they decide to record another album. The title is a pun, a combination of 'nursery-rhyme' and 'crime'. On this album Collins also has his first part as a lead vocalist. The song is called "For absent friends". The new production is promoted with minimal effort so that after the release in November, 1971, nobody really notices it in England. In Italy, however, it becomes No. 5 in the international charts, a real acknowledgement and a reason for the five members to stay together. Spurred by this success, Genesis tours Europe in January, 1972. In July the band plays in larger halls in England for the first time. They seem to have a more extensive audience by now.

Their live-shows are mainly created by Peter Gabriel, who uses strange masks and costumes to underline the surreal messages of the songs. To give an example: he wears a mask made of fox-fur together with a red gown. "The Genesis-show developed in that time more and more to Peter Gabriel's rock-theatre."7

But all this does not impress the people in Britain until Charisma Records organises a new tour together with a publicity campaign in the middle of '72. From this point on Genesis has the attention they deserve from the public and from the press. That seems to be the perfect time to release a new album.

"Foxtrott" is the fourth Genesis production and their first commercial success in Britain. The sound now adapts to the visual impression of the band performing live. With the rock-epic "Supper's Ready", a 23 minute long masterpiece of surreal art-rock, they create a hymn with which the group is identified for a very long time. Until spring 1973 they are on tour in England and also along the east-coast of the United States, where they encounter enthusiasm among their audience. A live-record is compiled from several concerts and, like the last album, it makes the charts in the UK. The success so far makes them discover a new feeling, that of having less pressure of time. After their last concert the five musicians meet again to develop new material for their next album. But their new freedom seems to be more of a challenge: the rehearsals are unproductive and they have problems finding a musical consent. Gabriel in particular appears unable to agree with the others. But at last they compose eight songs and release them as "Selling England By The Pound" in November, 1973. The only innovation on the album comes with the song "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)": It makes it to the "TOP 20" as a single. This is very surprising, because Genesis' music usually is not attractive to the singles-buyers.

This also persuades Tony Smith to become the new manager of the band. Tony Stratton-Smith has to give up this job because his record label demands all his attention. Together with the new manager, Genesis start a new project in the summer of '74. Smith complies with the wish of the band to produce a concept album. He was in charge of the The Who's musical Tommy. His idea: A modern version of the "Little Prince". But Peter insist upon one of his own tales. Whereas he feels responsible for all the lyrics he does not show any interest in participating in writing the music. The result of this division of labour is "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway", a mixture of ludicrous texts and bombastic arrangements, typical of the band. " On four record sides The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway tells the story of Rael, a young rebel clothed in leather, fighting against an inhumane society. The plot is indeed constructed absurdly, but yet transposed interestingly, wonderfully surreal - an abstract rock-opera full of visions and excessively alienated shreds of reality."8

The show is performed 102 times. It is the highlight of Genesis' career so far and at the same time a cut in the band's history - Gabriel decides to leave the band! The reason? There are several answers to this question: the complicated birth of his first daughter; the lack of opportunities with Genesis; the jog-trot of recording and touring under the control of the music business. Gabriel contradicts himself on this point, and I was able to find several statements which verified this. The result remains the same: Genesis has no vocalist. "Critics predict the band's demise"9.

In the summer of 1975 they decide to continue, although they initially take a break for two months. For Collins, who has proved himself an experienced drummer among the experts, this is the chance to do something totally different. The project is called Brand X. Together with Percy Jones (bass), John Goodsal (guitar) and Robin Lumley (keyboards) Phil (drums, of course) produces a combination of "jazz, funk and rock"10 There are no vocal parts. They release six albums until '82(with various line-ups) without having any commercial success but at least they have made themselves a name as musicians.

In August, 1976, Genesis announce their search for a new singer. In the following months they have to deal with 400 (!) applications. But none of them meets the demand. So Collins has a try. He sang throughout his childhood and has been responsible for the backing vocals of Genesis. In the studio he manages his new role immediately. He performs new songs as well as old ones without difficulty. Collins: "I was rather sure not to get any problems with the music, but I was pretty scared of the communication with the audience. Peter was a good storyteller and I felt a bit lost in this situation."11 The result of the studio work was "A Trick Of The Tail", release No. 7. The record is one of the three best-selling albums in Britain and also has remarkable success in the USA. The community of fans grows steadily and Collins' voice seems to be accepted.

As Gabriel's kind of acting on stage was a central part of the live shows, Collins is faced with another difficulty. Should he keep up with Peter's work or should he find his own style? He decides on the latter and that means: less theatrical, but still emotional.

"Wind And Wuthering" comes out December, 1976. Although it sells better than the other records it is not a real success; but the following world tour is. On returning, the four remaining members - Collins, Banks, Rutherford, Hackett - go to the studio to put the recorded tracks of the "gigs" together in order to produce a live double album. After some days, Hackett stays away. He explaines that he has left the group, because he cannot realise his ideas. This time Collins, Banks and Rutherford do not look for a substitute. In the studio Rutherford plays all the guitar parts and Daryl Stuermer is hired to support the group for live performances. "Seconds Out" (1977), their second live-record, is a look back and at the same time the end of another period in Genesis' history.

The first work of the Genesis-trio is very successful. The title tells its own tale:"...And Then There Were Three"(1978) The more commercial sound of the record helps the group's popularity. Collins, Banks and Rutherford have become superstars. The following world-tour lasts twelve months. After having returned, all three decide to put Genesis into cold storage for some time.

Collins uses this time to play on some productions of other musicians such as Brian Eno, who is to become one of the most successful producers in the eighties. Collins has done much of this 'foreign work' during the seventies. This enormous demand for his rhythmic support shows how much his drum playing was appreciated.

2.3. The eighties

The eighties become the most interesting decade of Phil Collins' career. He starts his solo career, continues his Genesis project and makes himself a reputation as a producer. It is difficult to give an overview of his life and work. In order to make it easier to survey I will show each aspect of his career separately.

2.3.1 Genesis

In 1980 Collins meets again with Rutherford and Banks. They start their jam-sessions and their music makes them feel the return of the old spirit of Genesis. The result of a long creative process is "Duke". The album (No. 12) is released in April. The press reviews are mixed but the fans, especially in the States, are enthusiastic. There "Duke" is decorated with gold. Genesis reach the status of rock giants. To return thanks to the Americans, Genesis transfer most of their concerts to the land of unlimited opportunities. One of the highlights of the performance is the lightshow with lasers. The latter turn off for the last time on July, the 31st. The rest of the year, each member spends on his solo projects.

In 1981, Genesis build their own sound studio, "the farm", in Surrey, near London. It is inaugurated with record number thirteen, "Abacab". The title is a pun. Collins explains: "We arrange the parts and categories of our pieces in A, B and C. If you read out the corresponding letters one after another, in most cases something unspeakable originates - or just something like Abacab."12 Again a tour is due and again it is "celebrated world-wide"13, some concerts are recorded. In the end, Genesis publish "Three Sides Live" (1982). They add several new songs to the double-album and ultimately only three sides contain live material. Side four is used for new songs.

Genesis pause until 1983. Then the musicians come together once again to start the production of a new album. It is simply called "Genesis" and released in October. As all members have musically in different directions developed, they compensate by using another method of writing the songs: they compose all songs from the basic idea to the final arrangement together. The result beats all its predecessors. Banks: "Almost every new disk means an enhancement compared with the last one. Which group can say that after ten years."14 The following tour consists of 72 concerts in the USA and five in Birmingham.

The next interruption lasts longer. Banks, Collins and Rutherford cannot reunite until December, '85. They produce "Invisible Touch" (1986). The commercial sound of the group allows them to release five singles, "Invisible Touch", "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight", "Throwing it all away", "Land Of Confusion" and "In To Deep", each reaching the Top 5 in the USA. The video of "Land Of Confusion" has remained famous until today. By now the fans are a mixture of teenagers on one side, and middle-aged adults who have been loyal since the seventies on the other. 111 concerts in 16 countries - that is incredible even today. Because of the four sold-out concerts in Wembley they get an entry in the Guinness book of Records, only to be replaced by Michael Jackson the following year.

As the band gets more successful, the breaks grow longer. The fans have to wait five (!) years for the next album. "We Can't Dance" continues with the tradition of Genesis' good studio work: catchy tunes go down well on TV and on the radio in the year of the release, 1991. You may ask why I include this record in the chapter about the eighties; the reason is that Phil Collins' participation in the group ends here. Until 1993 three more albums follow : the sampler "Turn It On Again: Best of '81-'83" (1992) and two live albums "The Way We Walk, Volume One: THE SHORTS" and "The Way We Walk, Volume Two: THE LONGS". In 1995, Collins resigns. He wants to concentrate more on his solo career. "Half-way through the writing and recording of 'BOTH SIDES,' I realised I wanted this, not that. I'd become a little low on enthusiasm for compromising in the way that's necessary when you're in a band. About a year ago, I had a meeting with Mike (Rutherford) and Tony (Banks) and they were so accepting of it. It was like, 'Fine, we understand'."15

2.3.2 Solo

1980 - In the second half of the year Collins takes a big step forward in his career, and produces a solo outlet. " 'As far as I'm concerned' he insists,'what I do on my own is not a solo career - it's just one part of me. I'm my own man, and I chose to do a lot of things.' "16 In the beginning Collins was not thinking about a solo career: "I started writing because I was unhappy [...]Face Value in any case was the result of my divorce. I had to occupy myself somehow, so I threw myself into my work to get my eight track studio going. I didn't realise that I was making a record until I had a handful of half-finished demos."17 Collins has just separated from his first wife. He puts all his frustration in "Face Value", which can be bought in the stores from 1981 on, so that most of the songs have a sad mood. The first single is "In The Air Tonight". Although Collins' musical style differs from the Genesis albums, both the single and the album are very successful. In every interview Collins has to deny the wish to leave Genesis. He cannot enjoy his new situation of being accepted among the people as a solo artist, whilst knowing at the same time that Genesis is waiting.

The next year, "Hello, I Must Be Going" is released. The single "You Can't Hurry Love" is sent ahead of the album, an old trick to gain the attention of the market. This remake of a Motown song becomes a Collins classic. From now on the sound of the sixties enriches every Collins concert. Collins tours alone for the first time. "The shows are [being] billed as 'Phil Collins In Concert with The Fabulous Jacuzzis & The One Neat Guy.' Phil's touring band [will] feature[s]: Daryl Stuermer (guitar), Chester Thompson (drums), Peter Robinson (keyboards), Mo Foster (bass) and the Phoenix Horns (Don Myrick, Louis Satterfield, Rhamlee Michael Davis & Michael Harris). "18

Over the following years Collins has no time for a new solo project. He spends all his time on Genesis and his job as a producer.

Not until '85 does the British musician release his next album, "No Jacket Required". Collins is happy as he has remarried and one gets the impression that he wants everybody to know. The album is filled up with 'fresh' sounding songs. Still there are some reflective ones, but the majority of the songs are relaxed. The album is awarded with three "Grammies". Again Collins has no time for a tour because the Genesis album "Invisible Touch" is released and followed by the corresponding concert marathon. Other projects like the movie "Buster" hinder Collins from pursueing his solo career. Only for some benefit concerts like "Live Aid" or "Prince's Trust Rock Gala" does he go on the stage. The reason for doing it in 1985 is quite simple: he wants to get to know Monty Python, the English comedians he admires so much. They perform on the "The Secret Policeman's Ball", too. In 1989 his motivation is different: "If somebody is as lucky as me, it is fair to let flow back a part of what I earned."19

In 1989 his last work of the eighties is released. "...but seriously" and the following tour convince once and for all: Collins is one of the most successful, best-known musicians in the world, a megastar. His sales figures reach the level of Genesis. The record is a well-balanced mixture of sad songs and moving songs. The first single-output is "Another Day In Paradise", the song most people associate with Collins. Despite his 'softy-image', Collins shows his feelings for social issues such as the homeless or civil war.

2.3.3 Productions

A solo career, stardom with Genesis, all this does not appear to be enough for Phil Collins. Everything started with his appearance as a drummer on the albums of friends like Steve Hackett or Colin Scot in the seventies. Suddenly he emerged on albums of renowned artists like "Music For Films" (1978) by Brian Eno or Robert Fripp's "Exposure" (1979). In the eighties Collins intensifies his extra work. He produces the album "Grace & Danger" by John Martyn , plays drums for the soul star, Steven Bishop, on " Red Cap To Manhattan", both in 1980. In '82 he produces a record for Frida, ex-vocalist of ABBA, called "Something's Going On" and supports her on the drums and vocally. In the same year, he plays the drums for Robert Plant, formally a singer in the group Led Zeppelin. Collins is well booked at that time and the more he does the more in demand he is. His most remarkable partnership is the work done together with Mr. "Slowhand" Eric Clapton. In 1985 Clapton enters the sound studio to record "Behind The Sun"- behind the recording console: Collins. In '86 the story repeats itself with the album "August". Collins is sceptical: "Sure, many people think I'm a kind of King Midas and turn everything I touch into gold. But I also landed many flops. So the albums of Philip Bailey or Eric Clapton that I produced fell short of the expectations."20

The last guest performance I know of was as a drummer on "Sowing The Seeds Of Love" of Tears For Fears 1990.

There are some rumours that Collins was responsible for some soundtrack work. This is a misunderstanding. The single "Against All Odds" is composed for the movie of the same name of 1984, but it is just an addition to the soundtrack - a title song. The tunes that are used for an episode of "Miami Vice" are from his album of that time. But there is a difference between writing a whole soundtrack and using some songs for a film.

Apropos of film. His childhood acting ambitions are paying off. The producers of "Miami Vice" are not only interested in his music but also in his character. They engage him to act for one episode. An impressive result for Collins; and even the reviews are good. In his further career as an actor Collins plays several extras and two leading parts. The latter are in the British movie "Buster" ('88) and in the Australian "Frauds" ('91). Collins proves that he knows his business.

2.4 The nineties

In the nineties Collins releases two solo albums and the Genesis album I already mentioned. His first solo work is "Both Sides"(1993). The album is a peculiarity in the music business, as Collins plays all the instruments himself. Collins writes in the CD booklet: "Many people think of me as a perfectionist, someone who polishes and shines each song
and performance. I've always been bothered by that assumption. The way I worked on this album and indeed all the previous albums was 'to make it up as it went along'. Of course over the twenty or so years of recording, there are some that miss the mark a little. When ever possible though, I've always kept the first take and then made everybody else play the mistakes! I've also always noticed that my demo vocals had more heart than the recorded version done in the studio with headphones and people hanging around, so this time I had the lyrics written and I recorded all the lead vocals in the upstairs room at my house. All in all it's the most enjoyable album I've ever made. I hear the difference, I hope you do too."21 I do. But there is another thing about this record. Just as in the beginning of the eighties there are more sad songs on it. The reason for this occures while Collins is on his "Both Sides-Tour": he is getting divorced from his second wife Jill. But like always with Collins, you find almost nothing about this in the yellow press, only in his music. The tour, which was the first tour I saw personally, is a big success. The stage looks like a roof, in the background there is a huge canvas that is unwinded little by little to adapt the scenery to the songs. When the song "You Can't Hurry Love" comes a confetti canon is fired. Collins has to give several encores. He chooses for instance "My Girl", a classic of the sixties.

The current record is "Dance Into The Light" (1996). Collins:" 'BOTH SIDES' was part of a big change in my personal life, so I did that album on my own because I felt that nobody else would understand quite where that music was coming from. It was a very personal, sad, dark album, if you like. This new record is a turnaround in that it's really up and optimistic, which is the way I feel at the moment."22 - "Also, and this is good news for anyone who listened to 'BOTH SIDES' and wondered what on earth was wrong with me, I think it shows I've rediscovered my sense of humor. Not that I was writing 'issue' songs out of sheer bloodymindedness: again it was just a question of the album reflecting what I was going through personally. But that was then and this is now."23

The album sells very well and the concert in Stuttgart was again a fantastic event for me. There is some African influence on this album which was noticed by Disney. This results in Collins being asked by Disney to do produce the whole soundtrack for "Tarzan" which will be released in '98/'99.

3. His music

On the following pages I will talk about Collins' musical style and how it changed over the years.

3.1 The seventies

The early music of Genesis is not easy to characterise. It must be seen in context with the musical style of this time. The sound of Genesis had similarities with The Doors or Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Collins' drums were still a bit 'fidgety', but not without 'drive' as you can hear on "Nursery Crime", "Foxtrott", "Selling England By The Pound" or the "Broadway"-albums. The arrangements on these albums were complicated, and very complex. The drums not only had to make the beat but also had to support the mood of the songs. Because of that, Collins' sound contained percussion work on the drum set. His singing is a bit flat and weak but it sounds clear and precise. Not surprisingly, the critics saw the end of the band when they heard in '75 that Collins was to replace Gabriel. But they had to revise their opinion after they had heard "Trick Of The Tail". Collins voice was at least as dramatic and powerful as Gabriel's had been. With this album, Genesis still maintained their status as an art-rock band. I think 'art-rock' has to be explained. The style of Genesis' music was normally called pomp-rock. Pomp-rock was in modern music what baroque was in classical music. Gabriel, Banks and Rutherford had an intellectual image partly because of their abstract lyrics and partly because of their public school origins. These combined with Peter's masks, gave the listeners the impression that Genesis was art. The result was 'Genesis, the art-rock band'. On the following albums, the group went through a stylistic change. For "Wind and Wuthering", Banks made many of the arrangements which resulted in a softer sound. But still every song was a collection of single 'sound pictures', of bits and pieces. It is interesting to see that the list of instruments grew with every record. "Nursery Cryme" had an organ, a mellotron, a piano, an electric piano, a bass, bass pedals, an electric guitar, a 12 string guitar, a flute, drums and percussion. On "Wind and Wuthering" there were in addition a kalimba, an auto-harp, and in Banks' repertoire, several synthesisers, samplers and a Steinway grand piano followed by a big 'etc.'.

"...And Then There Were Three" was the second album that showed the change. While they carried on with the sound of the last album , the songs got shorter. Only one song reached the seven-minute mark, the average length was about 4 minutes. There were easy to whistle melodies and a repetetive chorus in every song. "Follow me follow you" was no longer rock but a pop single that shocked the old fans of Peter Gabriel. Was Genesis going mainstream ? I don't think so.

3.2 The eighties

"Duke" was the next release. The music was easier to swallow. It could be played on the radio. The single "Misunderstanding" even sounded like a song of Toto. But it was not mainstream, because there still were many lengthy solos on the synthesiser, a left-over of the sonorous organ flourishes of the early suites. Everything had become more energetic. The maxim of the new Genesis: less is more. The ever increasing audience was appreciative. But still Genesis were outsiders; they were not trendy.

But Collins was. His pop ballads had a bit of easy listening, mixed with strong drums and horns. I think that describes "Face Value" quite well. "In The Air Tonight", for example: in the beginning a soft synthesiser modulated by breathmaster - a machine that changes the filters of a synthesiser by breathing into a microphone that is connected with it - accompanied by a guitar that turns into a feedback. The rhythm is done by a drum machine, very soft and spacious. Then the voice, alienated by a vocoder repeats some phrases. And then suddenly Collins beats the drum-set from the top to the bottom and proceeds into a stomping rhythm. The voice shouts the phrases it has spoken before, until, finally, the thunder is repeated and everything is quiet - a legend is born. The first number on the first album is a smash hit. The other songs on the album have a bit of New Age pop and The Beatles in them. The ballad "If Leaving Me Is Easy" is a typical Collins' lovesong. All in all the record is dominated by melancholy arising from Collins' divorce.

The following Genesis album, "Abacab", was quite similar to "Duke", with more funky influences and some crazy things like "Who Dunnit", which seemed to be a musical experiment. It should be pointed out that the different sounds Banks used were always produced on the latest instruments, so that every album has a bit of the feeling of the current music. In the seventies, for instance, he had all sorts of organ sounds and a mellotron, like The Doors or Yes had. With the development of the synthesisers, the songs got more varied, like those of Pink Floyd. Due to these different instruments every song can be attached to a certain period. All this influenced Collins for his solo projects.

His next album "Hello, I Must Be Going" was another jumble of simply-structured pop ballads, fast and terse with beating drums as in "Like China" or calm and slow with strings and piano as in "Why Can't It Wait 'Til Morning". An unusual exception was the cover-single "You Can't Hurry Love" where Collins captured the atmosphere of the sixties perfectly. The racy strings, the whispering background vocals that make you forget that the original is sung by women, and almost dancing rhythm of the pulsating drum pattern revived the Motown feeling.

A totally different kind of music was what he did with 'Brand X'. That was fusion jazz, with rock influences, music you will not hear on the radio. I have listened to two of these albums, but I could not find into; it is hard to swallow.

In '83, Genesis came back with "Genesis". The songs of the album had an even more commercial sound than everything else before. Like in his solo projects Collins used a drum machine to have a basic rhythm in the background. Many rock fans missed the natural sound of real drums. Collins:"I think that drummers shouldn't be threatened by the advent of these drum machines, [...] They are only as good as the people who program them."24 By now it was more and more obvious that Collins' voice sounded different on his albums. In the song "Mama" his voice is really dramatic as he plays a part like in many previous Genesis songs.

"No Jacket Required" ('85) was the high point of Collins' inset of drum machines. In almost every song there was one. All in all the record is cheerful. At that time Collins' music consisted of a brass section, the fast rhythm of the synthesiser drums combined with real drums, a simple sequence of piano chords and of course Collins' voice. "Sussudio" and "Who Said I Would" are examples for this music. Another typical Collins song is "One More Night" with its strings, the Rhodes piano and the silent guitar fill-ins.

By the time Genesis came together for "Invisible Touch", all three members had spent a lot of time on their solo careers, and so they decided to compose all the music together in order to get the group sound back. In my opinion, "Invisible Touch" has very much of an old Genesis album. There are longer songs and more instrumental parts; the differences are the result of the modern sound of the instruments, and of the fact that the lyrics no longer tell any horror stories - instead they criticise society in a sarcastic way.

Quite opposite was Collins' "... But Seriously" album. Collins sounded more natural now, without the usual synthesiser battle that was so common in the mid-eighties. Experts know that synthesisers got better and better in producing more natural sounds in those days. Collins' songs were still simple: three or four stanzas, a chorus and a bridge. But his songwriting had advanced, his melodies were superb, his lyrics were applied to political issues like the Northern Ireland conflict. They were also serious and not humourous, as they would have been with Genesis.

3.3 The nineties

In 1991, Genesis released "We Can't Dance". The title showed their intention. Everybody was producing dance music at that time except Genesis. Their role as outsiders lasted. "No Son Of Mine" was a rock hymn, "I Can't Dance" and "Jesus He Knows Me" were both smash-hits, full of life. You could hear that Banks, Collins and Rutherford were having great fun. Today I can say that it must have been Collins that made hits out of the songs. The latest Genesis album "Calling all stations" ('97) is lacking something as Collins has left the group.

Collins' solo career continued with "Both Sides"('93). The music must be seen as classical Collins music. He wrote all of the songs alone, played all the instruments himself and recorded them at home. I've been listening to Collins for a very long time and I can say that one can hear the difference. The arrangements are very simple. Bass and guitar sound as if he had played them on a Korg synthesizer. There were more drum machine tracks, no real brass and more quiet songs. It is a very thoughtful music - his second divorce was lying ahead.

On his latest album, however, Collins sounds very happy. "Dance Into The Light" is influnenced by African rhythms, fast harmony changes and animated melodies. "'This time, it all started from the basis of guitars,' he illustrates. 'And because I'm playing all the drums myself, rather than using machines like I did the last time, it's a lot more rhythmic - almost tribal.'"25

Collins' music has always depended on the period in which he was writing, whether he was writing for Genesis, Brand X or himself.

4. His Lyrics

One important thing about a song have always been its lyrics. That is why I will now state on some of Collins' words and then let him explain himself what is meant.


I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord
I've been waiting for this moment, all of my life,
Oh Lord
You can feel it coming in the air tonight,
Oh Lord, Oh lord

Well, if you told me you were drowning
I would not lend a hand
I've seen your face before my friend
But I don't know if you know who I am
Well, I was there and I saw what you did
I saw it with my own to eyes
So you can wipe of that grin, I know
where you have been
It's al been a pack of lies


And I can feel it coming in the air tonight,
Oh Lord
I've been waiting for this moment for all my life
Oh Lord
I feel it in the air tonight, Oh Lord, Oh Lord
I've been waiting for this moment all my life,
Oh Lord, Oh Lord

Well I remember, I remember don't worry
How could I ever forget, it's the first time,
the last time we ever met
But I know the reason why you keep your silence up
no you don't fool me
The hurt doesn't show; but the pain still grows
It's no stranger to you or me


4.1. "In The Air Tonight"

When you listen to this song and feel the tense atmosphere, the lyrics seem to be some kind of a prayer. I have tried very often to make some sense out of the words, as everybody said to me that there is always a meaning behind the words, but I have never really found one. Meanwhile I know the reason. Collins:

"That song there is a song with many faces. And the truth is, that I don't know what it's about. The way I write lyrics is I open my mouth and see what comes out.

I was going through a unpleasant divorce and I guess I was very angry, I was very bitter, I was very upset. I think you can probably tell that from the song. But all these stories - it's like 'Chinese whisper' - whenever I come to America I hear a new bit. [...] [e.g.] I saw someone drowning and I witnessed this thing and then I invited the guy to the concert and I set him down in the front row and sang this song. [ P.C. shakes his head] All I did was write the song, really. [...] But anything you hear about this song is not true."27

And that is why I won't tell any more about it.
"It seems in a moment, your whole world can shatter
like morning dreams they just disappear
like dust in your hand falling to the floor
how can life ever be the same

cos my heart is broken in pieces
yes my heart is broken in pieces
since you've been gone

It's all too easy to take so much for granted
oh but it's so hard to find the words to say
like a castle in the sand the water takes away
but how can life ever be the same

cos my heart is broken in pieces
yes my heart is broken in pieces
since I've lost you

oh now you'll never see
oh you'll never know
all the things I planned for you
things for you and me

4.1. "Since I lost you"

Held your hand so tightly
that I couldn't let it go
Now how can life ever be the same

cos my heart is broken in pieces
yes my heart is broken in pieces
since you've been gone

cos my heart is broken in pieces
yes my heart is broken in pieces
since I've lost you

cos my heart is broken in pieces
yes my heart is broken in pieces
since you've been gone"28

When I first heard this song from the Genesis album "We Can't Dance", I thought of someone that is bewailing that his love has left him, but I was not right in the way I thought I was. Collins: "This is probably one of the heaviest things - one of the heaviest things I've ever written or had a part in writing. [...] One night after a rehearsal I went home and a friend rang me up and said: 'Have you heard about Eric [Clapton]?' So I said: 'No, what do you mean?' He said: 'His son is dead!' So I couldn't believe it 'cause I obviously knew, well, I knew Eric very well and I knew Connor very well.

So we were recording in New York. I found out were he was, and that it was true. The next day we went to the rehearsal. Mike and Tony also knew Eric very well. And we've been writing this song, but we didn't have any lyrics and didn't at all - lyrically. And we played this song, because, you know, work went on. And the lyrics to this - the chorus to this, anyway, came straight away; and when we'd finished that song I took it to Eric to play it to him, because I wanted him to like it before we would have released it, you know - if he didn't like it, we wouldn't have released it. And I played to him and he had tears in his eyes."29 This is why I prefer sleeve notes: with them you cannot go wrong. I love these lyrics because of the images Collins uses, they are very poetical.

4.1 "No Son Of Mine"

This is one of my favorite songs, maybe because it is so easy to understand. In my opinion, it was about a person who had left home when he was young because his father beat up the family. When he was older he went back to settle this argument, but it was pointless.

Collins:" [In the rehearsal for "We can't dance"] I started singing 'no son, you're no son of mine' for some reason. I don't know why - I had a very happy childhood. And I started with these lyrics, and of course this subject matter is very dark. It's - as soon as you got something like that 'you´re no son of mine' to hang something on, then you know exactly what you are gonna writing about. And so it's a song about a boy that lives in a house; and he can't stand he is terrified every night, because there is some kind of physical abuse. And it's not quite sure in the song whether it's he who is being abused or whether is's the mother that is domestically physically abused. That's what the song ended up being about - a very dark subject."30

Well the key to my survival
was never in much doubt
the question was how I could keep sane
trying to find a way out

Things were never easy for me
peace of mind was hard to find
and I needed a place where I could hide
somewhere I could call mine

I didn't think much about it
til it started happening all the time
soon I was living with the fear everyday
of what might happen that night

I couldn't stand to hear the
crying of my mother
and I remember when
I swore that, that would be the
Last they'd see of me
And I never went home again

they say that time is a healer
and now my wounds are not the same
I rang the bell with my heart in my mouth
I had to hear what he'd say

He sat me down to talk to me
he looked me straight in the eyes

he said:

You're no son, you're no son of mine
You're no son, you're no son of mine
You walked out, you left us behind
and you're no son, no son of mine

oh, his words how they hurt me, I'll never forget it
and as the time, it went by, I lived to regret it

You're no son, you're no son of mine
but where should I go,
and what should I do
you're no son, you're no son of mine
but I came here for help, oh I came here for you
Well the years they passed so slowly
I thought about him everyday
what would I do, if we passed on the street
would I keep running away

in and out of hiding places
soon I'd have to face the facts
we'd have to sit down and talk it over
and that would mean going back

they say that time is a healer
and now my wounds are not the same
I rang that bell with my heart in my mouth
You're no son, you're no son of mine - oh, oh
I had to hear what he'd say

He sat me down to talk to me
he looked me straight in the eyes

he said:

You're no son, you're no son of mine
You're no son, you're no son of mine
When you walked out, you left us behind
and you're no son, you're no son of mine

oh, his words how they hurt me, I'll never forget it
and as the time, it went by, I lived to regret it

You're no son, you're no son of mine
But where should I go and what should I do
You're no son, you're no son of mine
But I came here for help, oh I was looking for you
You're no son, you're no son of mine - oh
You're no son - ha yeah, ha yeah, ha yeah, ha yeah"31

5. Epilogue

Now that I have covered Collins' career, his music and his lyrics, there is only one thing left to tell. I went to the concert in Stuttgart, a few months ago. In my pocket I had six envelopes, each containing the following letter:

Dear Mr. Collins,

my name is Felix Knöchel, I am 19 years old and in the last year of the Gymnasium, a german Grammar School. In May I'm taking my A-level exams. In Germany we have to write a (very important) piece of homework, called "Facharbeit" in order to be admitted to the exam. The topic of my 'Facharbeit' is "Phil Collins, his career, his music, his lyrics”. Whereas it is very easy to get information about your life (e.g. in the Internet), it is very difficult for me to interpret your lyrics or to find someone "who dunnit”.

So in a nutshell, I need your help. Don’t worry, I’m not one of those who try to meet their idol every minute of their life. I would be very happy, if it was possible just to exchange a couple of letters with you.

In the Schleyer-Halle the stage was built up right in the middle. The audience were standing all around. On one side of the stage there was the entrance for the musicians and the crew. I gave a copy of the letter to the sound engineer, the stage manager, the light engineer and Brad Cole, the keyboarder (not without shaking everybody's hand; you never know).

Collins entered the stage on the other side. During the show I changed my location to the other side. Shortly before Collins left the stage the security guards divided up the crowd using two ropes in order to create an alleyway for Collins. Of course I was standing very close to this rope (my stomach was divided up, too!). Then Collins left thestage, running. In front of me stood one of the security men, just like a rock. Because of him I had to lean over the rope so that Collins could see me. I stretched out my hand holding the envelope. When Collins was two metres away he could see me. He looked into my eyes - a little bit sceptical - grabbed the envelope and was pushed forward by his bodyguards at the same moment. The enevelope fell to the floor!

I got no answer to my request, but at least I can say: HE LOOKED INTO MY EYES!

6. Quotations

(1) Transcript by Knöchel, F., Storytellers: Phil Collins, VH-1 , 1997

(2) Seibold, Phil Collins, p. 8, sinngemäß übersetzt von F.K.

(3) Milowsk, Phil Collins - Genesis of a drummer, in: Downbeat magazine, p.1

(4) Zeitz, Genesis - Eine Biographie, p.27, sinngemäß übersetzt von F.K.

(5) Zeitz, Genesis - Eine Biographie, p.28, sinngemäß übersetzt von F.K.

(6) Zeitz, Genesis - Eine Biographie, p.28, sinngemäß übersetzt von F.K.

(7) Zeitz, Genesis - Eine Biographie, p.30, sinngemäß übersetzt von F.K.

(8) Zeitz, Genesis - Eine Biographie, p.35, sinngemäß übersetzt von F.K.

(9) Milowsk, Phil Collins - Genesis of a drummer, in: Downbeat magazine, p.1

(10) Seibold, Phil Collins, p.18, sinngemäß übersetzt von F.K.

(11) Zeitz, Genesis - Eine Biographie, p.40, sinngemäß übersetzt von F.K.

(12) Zeitz, Genesis - Eine Biographie, p.55, sinngemäß übersetzt von F.K.

(13) Zeitz, Genesis - Eine Biographie, p.56, sinngemäß übersetzt von F.K.

(14) Zeitz, Genesis - Eine Biographie, p.58, sinngemäß übersetzt von F.K.

(15) Atlantic Records Publicity, Phil Collins: Biography, p.2

(16) Salewicz, Genesis Of A Solo Career: Phil Collins Has His Way, p.1

(17) Seibold, Phil Collins, p.23, sinngemäß übersetzt von F.K.

(18) Atlantic Records Publicity, Press Release, p.1

(19) Seibold, Phil Collins, p.46, sinngemäß übersetzt von F.K.

(20) Seibold, Phil Collins, p.31, sinngemäß übersetzt von F.K.

(21) Collins, Both Sides, in: Booklet of the CD "Both Sides", p.3

(22) Atlantic Records Publicity, Phil Collins: Biography, p.1

(23) Atlantic Records Publicity, Phil Collins: Biography, p.1

(24) Milowsk, Phil Collins - Genesis of a drummer, in: Downbeat magazine, p.2

(25) Atlantic Records Publicity, Phil Collins: Biography, p.1

(26) Collins, In The Air Tonight, in: booklet of the CD "Face Value", p.6

(27) Transcript by Knöchel, F., Storytellers: Phil Collins, VH-1 , 1997

(28) Collins, Since I Lost You, in: booklet of the record "We cant' dance", p.4

(29) Transcript by Knöchel, F., Storytellers: Phil Collins, VH-1 , 1997

(30) Transcript by Knöchel, F., Storytellers: Phil Collins, VH-1 , 1997

(31) Collins, No Sone Of Mine, in: booklet of the record "We cant' dance", p.1

7. Appendix

Phil Collins

Genesis on stage, Gabriel dressed as a flower

8. Bibliography

(look at the bottom)

9. Discography


- Nursery Cryme (1971)
- Foxtrott (1972)
- Selling England By The Pound (1973)
- Genesis Live (1973)
- The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974)
- A Trick Of The Tail (1975)
- Wind And Wuthering (1976)
- Seconds Out (1977)
- ...And Then There Were Three (1978)
- Duke (1980)
- Abacab (1981)
- Three Sides Live (1982)
- Genesis (1983)
- Invisible Touch (1986)
- We Can't Dance (1991)
- Turn It On Again (Best Of '81-'83) (1991)
- The Way We Walk, The Longs (1992)
- The Way We Walk, The Shorts (1992)
- Calling All Stations (1997)

Phil Collins

- Face Value (1981)
- Hello, I Must Be Going (1982)
- No Jacket Required (1985)
- ...But Seriously (1989)
- Serious Hits live (1990)
- Both Sides (1993)
- Dance Into The Light (1996)

Brand X

- Unorthodox Behaviour (1976)
- Livestock (1977)

Quelle(n) für dieses Referat: - Seibold, J., Phil Collins, Wien, Paul Zsolnay Verlag, 1990 - Zeitz, P., Genesis - Eine Biographie, Rastatt, Verlagsunion Erich Pabel-Arthur Moewig AG, 1992 - Seibold, J.,Peter Gabriel, Rastatt, Verlagsunion Erich Pabel-Arthur Moewig AG, 1991 - Milowski, B., Phil Collins - Genesis of a drummer, in: Downbeat Magazine, July 1984, found on the internet, page: http://w3.one.net/ abacab/phil/text/downbeat.htm - Saleswicz, C., Genesis of A Solo Career: Phil Collins Has Its Way, in: Medley Maker, 1982, found on the internet, page: http://w3.one.net/ abacab/phil/text/links.htm - Atlantic Records Publicity, Press Release: Phil Collins, November 1982, found on the internet, page: http://w3.one.net/ abacab/phil/text/links.htm - Atlantic Records Publicity, Phil Collins: Biography found on the internet, page: http://www.atlantic-records.com/phil_collins/nav.html - Brown, C., The Genesis of Phil Collins, in: Rock Scene, January 1982, found on the internet, page: http://w3.one.net/ abacab/phil/text/links.htm - Hogan, R., Regal rock band Genesis turns it on again with 'duke', in: Circus, June 24, 1980, found on the internet, page: http://w3.one.net/ abacab/phil/text/links.htm

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