Phil Collins, I Smote You

For years we’ve had an agreement.  For mercy’s sakes, I’d even go so far as to say that we had a pact – a sacred understanding, the terms of which were known only by those who were party to it.  Each us knew that abiding by the terms of our contract was the thing that ensured a respectful difference of opinion rather than a loosing of the dogs of war.

    One of us, however, has broken this bond with nary a thought for the consequences.  Quite simply, Phil Collins has unleashed merry hell.  Our agreement was simple: we would maintain a mutual and respectful distance.  Phil Collins would be free to go about his business and I, mine, with our paths never to cross.  All that has now changed.

    I realise that plenty of folks hold warm thoughts for Phil Collins.  After all, what’s not to like?  The former Genesis drummer and accidental solo mega star and his ‘hello Guv’ner, polish your boots?’ style of cockney charm certainly has its fans.  But for reasons that have never been quite clear to me, I am not one of them.  Put simply – like a pair of sandpaper underpants, Phil Collins has always rubbed me up the wrong way.

    I appreciate that I am in the minority.  But just as Phil can’t dance or walk when he’s hanging out with Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, I can’t listen to his music.  Not even when a giant gorilla is kicking out the jams on ‘In the Air Tonight’.  

    I was watching ‘Rage’ on ABC TV, traditional home to unwashed indie upstarts – who frequently seek to compensate for an absence of talent with an overdose of feyness – when it happened.  Without so much as a warning, Phil Collins appeared on my television screen.  Sadly, this wasn’t classic Phil programmed by some obscure band member in a misplaced quest to achieve irony.  It was a brand new video clip for the song ‘Heatwave’.

    There’s only one thing in this world worse than a new song by Phil Collins – and that’s Phil covering someone else’s song.  This is exactly the kind of musical profanity that Phil has decided to visit upon us.  Were the book of Revelations to be written today, it would no doubt list pestilence, plague and a Phil Collin’s cover album as being sure-fire signs of an impending apocalypse.

    Brace yourself – Phil is releasing an album of Motown covers.  Before I go any further, I should declare that I love Motown.  It is for that reason I think that the amazing musical legacy of Motown artists should be preserved rather than desecrated.  Those songs were perfect the first time.  Simply producing a poor facsimile of the original is, surely, the last refuge of the desperate.  It is a rule that applies to Phil Collins as much as it does to anyone else – a Motown cover album is an act of musical vandalism and is solely a means of deferring attention to an obvious creative low point.  Human Nature, if you’re reading this, I’m talking to you.

    In a last attempt to reinvigorate a flagging solo career, an artist will often spit out an album of covers.  For some reason, these cynical exercises in exploitation only seek to reinforce how much the art of song writing has fallen from favour.  Suffice to say, I can’t imagine that anyone will release an album of Lady Gaga covers in forty years time.  

    It’s often the case that prior to Rage or Video Hits going to air that a warning will appear on screen.  Actually, it’s not so much a warning as it is a promise of the entertainment that’s heading your way.  They promise ‘adult themes’ and ‘mild horror’ or even violence.  All of which is a bit much for a Saturday morning.  Surely, however, a warning that Phil Collins might appear is not too much to ask?  They don’t need to mean about it – they could easily do it in the manner of an M & M packet and say, ‘The following program may contain traces of Phil Collins.’

    I don’t know why I dislike him so much.  By rights, he should command my respect, especially when you take into account his extensive charity work and his efforts to raise awareness for dyslexia by naming an album ‘Hits’.    But I just can’t stand him – perhaps because he was almost omnipresent in the 1980s.  For some reason he seemed to represent everything that was wrong about music in that decade.  

    Had Phil turned up in my kitchen and helped himself to a piece of toast, I couldn’t have been more surprised.  By appearing on Rage, Phil Collins has trespassed upon my Saturday morning and I simply won’t stand for it.  He may have caught me by surprise but, next time around, I will be ready.  From now on I will keep a small vile of holy water by the television in case of further incursions.  And if it should happen again or – Lord save us – if it becomes a pattern, then I will have no choice – I will join Genesis as their new lead singer.  Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks would surely welcome me just as they once did Phil after Peter Gabriel scarpered back in the 1970s.  Not for us the commercial prostitution that is a Motown tribute album, no Sir’ee.  As our first order of business we would, of course, release an album of Phil Collins covers.

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