Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday 80s Flashback for March 25, 2011

[Phil in the Blank] -- As I mentioned in last week's flashback (Miami Sound Machine), Phil Collins took time earlier this month to call an end to his music career of 40+ years. Collins announced his retirement during an interview with FHM magazine (reported in The Daily Telegraph and later parroted by Anglophenia) adding, "I don't think anyone's going to miss me."

What? He doesn't think he's going to be missed?

Sure, Collins doesn't fit neatly into the current music scene, which has changed much since he ruled radio playlists in the 80s. Yes, he is likely responsible for shifting Genesis from their prog-rock foundation to a more polished pop rock sound. True, he hasn't had a top 20 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 since 1990 ("Do You Remember?"), and his last studio album to crack the US top 20 was Both Sides in 1993. And, yes, it's true that his most successful album in the last 20 years was a soundtrack ... for a Disney movie (Tarzan in 1999) ... with a single ("You'll Be In My Heart") that went on to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and the Academy Award for Best Original Song ... and for which he was lampooned on the animated series, South Park.

But I have to believe there are folks out there who will miss him.

To date, Collins has sold over 150 million records. He recorded 12 studio albums released over 30 singles with Genesis. In his solo career, he released over 40 singles, nine of which reached #1 in either the US or UK. His last solo studio album, Going Back (2010), reached the top 10 in the UK and eight other countries (but only peaked at 34 in the US). He played drums on, or produced, nearly 70 albums between 1969 and 2001.
In case you forgot, Phil Collins really knew his way
around a drum kit (image source: A Brainless Thinker)
Unfortunately, those drums are a part of why Collins is calling it quits: He can no longer play them. A dislocated vertebra and nerve damage in his hands leave him unable to even grip a pair of drumsticks.

Or is he quitting? A day or so after the FHM interview I cited above, People magazine reported that Collins has no intention of retiring. (Has he been taking career advice from Brett Favre?)

Whatever the future holds for Collins, how can I possibly select three tunes and do justice to a career that has spanned decades, especially one that could be ending on such a sour note? The short answer is, "I can't." But I'm not here to sum up the entire career of Phil Collins. I'm here to share great music from the 80s. It just happens that this week I was motivated to focus on Phil Collins in light of his potential retirement. So, what three gems have I selected? Read and hear more after the jump.

Flashback #1: "She don't even know my name  | But I think she loves me just the same."  

So, this is a song about a schoolboy's crush on a girl. Really? What kind of parent names their daughter, "Sussudio"? Well, no one does. It's not a real name. "Sus-sussudio" is just a nonsense lyric that Phil Collins sang while playing with a drum machine. At least, that's his story and he seems to be sticking with it ("VH-1 Storytellers: Phil Collins". VH-1 Storytellers. 1997-04-14). The combination of that bombastic drum track and a (slightly) R&B influenced horn section was something that had not been heard on radio before, and it proved to be potent musical union. "Sussudio" was the second single off No Jacket Required (1985), Collins' third solo album, and it raced to the top of the US charts. This is pretty much what happens when a drummer with a prog-rock background tries to make a dance tune ... and succeeds.

Flashback #2
: "She's the kind of girl you dream of  | Dream of keeping hold of  | You'd better forget it  |  You'll never get it."

Our second flashback finds Phil acting as a record producer, something that he did often and successfully. When former Earth, Wind, & Fire singer, Phillip Bailey, was ready to do his first solo album, he approached his good friend, Phil Collins, to produce it. Bailey and Collins had previously worked together in Flaming Youth (Brit-rock) and Brand X (jazz-fusion), two bands for which Collins had played drums in the late 60s and early 70s respectively. In addition to producing Bailey's first solo album, Chinese Wall (1984), Collins co-wrote the album's first single, "Easy Lover." Collins also performed the song with Bailey as a duet. They released a fun video which features rehearsal clips and shots of Bailey traveling by helicopter to meet Collins for the performance in a TV studio. "Easy Lover" not only topped the charts -- it reached #1 in the UK and #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US -- it also won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Overall Performance and received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo or Group. I honestly don't recall any other songs from Chinese Wall, but I will always turn up the volume for "Easy Lover."

Flashback #3
: "I was there and I saw what you did  |  Saw it with my own two eyes."

I'll bet most 80s-philes who visited last week's Miami Vice-influenced Flashback were expecting "In the Air Tonight" to be in the mix. And the truth is that I almost included it, but decided to save it for this week's Phil Collins theme. If you think about it, this is the song that really launched Collins' solo career. There are a number of rumors regarding the song's origins and meaning, but the basis for the lyrical content pretty much comes from Collins dealing with the aftermath of his first divorce. Here is what else we know for certain about "In the Air Tonight": It was the first single off Collins' debut solo album, Face Value (1981). It was a featured part of his live debut as a solo performer. What was the show? Oh, a little gig called The Secret Policeman's Other Ball at the Theatre Royal in London (September 1981) -- yes, that benefit show for Amnesty International. And, lest we forget, it was used in two episodes of Miami Vice: "A Bullet For Crockett" and "Brother's Keeper." The scene from "Brother's Keeper" is considered among  the most iconic images in TV history. For another alternative, you can check out the 12" remix of the song that Phil Collins and Hugh Padgham released in 1988. But for my money, the official music video is the way to go (it's the one that completely kicks you in the teeth at the 3:16 mark): 

Once again, I remind you that the rule of three applies when doing Flashbacks. As I've made my three offerings, that's all till next week. But if you 80s-philes need more flashbacks, please visit the archives. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share with other fans of the 80s!

I'll see you in seven!

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