It’s easy to feel too-cool-for-school about Phil Collins.
This was the guy who was in “Oliver!” as a child. He transformed Genesis from Peter Gabriel’s weird-ass prog rock wet dream into the world’s top purveyor of music-on-hold in the early 80s. He was the guy who played Live Aid in London, hopped on the Concorde, then played the same event on the Philadelphia stage a few hours later. He did this because he cared. He’s a caring man. You can tell by some of the tender-ass pop dreck baring his name — the stuff he littered all over the airwaves a generation ago. And his receding hairline. And his earnest stare. He saved Eric Clapton by destroying him (because EC just needed to do SOMETHING to recover from his Collins-produced albums. His legacy was at stake, after all.)
Phil the try-hard: The little guy running along beside you talking about himself, smiling and nodding nervously, intent on impressing you, overly-anxious to take on whatever task you might set him — but only if he can use the horns from Earth, Wind and Fire. He’s the guy your ex-wife complains about because he won’t lose her number and leaves her voicemails in the middle of the night consisting of songs he composed on the Hohner Melodica.
He’s the valet pitching his screenplay to you just because you drive a leased 7-series Beemer and he thus assumes you’re connected. He’s Phil Collins, fer chrissakes.
But still, the hate is overblown. In the same way that many from an earlier generation claimed to hate ABBA, and the current generation claim to hate Nickleback, there’s a contempt bred in familiarity when it comes to Phil. We couldn’t get away from Phil Collins in the mid-80s. He provided the soundtrack of 1985-1988 or so. Yes, he wore out his welcome sometime in . . . oh, 1986 or so. Depends who you talk to. But if you ever claim to hate him, you gotta ask yourself this: How did he get so popular? Why do most people (not you and me, of course, but most people) absolutely love at least one or two of his songs? How many small-time musicians pushing out barely-coherent, derivative electronica crap on Soundcloud would sell their mothers and even their sphincter tone just to have a song half as big as “Sussudio?” How much of his success did he owe to dogged determination and sheer, bald-faced chutzpah (because really — it sure as hell didn’t come from looks or really even talent)? Quite a bit, my friend. Quite a bit.
Just as Hollywood is rife with actor/waiters who fade off to sleep in tears tasting of cheap Merlot in a top bunk in a shared $3000/mo apartment in Los Feliz dreaming that one day they might have David Hasselhoff’s career, we must see one thing in Phil Collins: Success is a popularity contest. The Hoff was a winner. ABBA was a winner. Nickleback was a winner. And Phil Collins was a winner.
He has what so many of us lust after.
We’re all dying to be Phil Collins.
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I’m not dying to be Phil Collins. I’m not dying to be popular. I strive only to appeal to a very narrow segment of the population. And if you want to see why, check out my novel at www.diamondtbook.com