“Why I think Phil Collins is actually OK” | Krazed Music

A Staggering Confession by:

The Reverend Sven “Mad Dog” Hassleblad

We met irl, for the first date, at one of those artlessly crummy live music bars that still, somehow, cling on round the fringes of south London like weather-beaten barnacles. Anyone who has been around barnacles past their give-away date can guess what the place smelt like inside. The venue had been my idea – not too distant for either of us, reputedly good band playing that night, chance to talk between numbers, she didn’t seem the type to be instantly repulsed by the place and she’d actually admitted to liking pub Blues, all good so far.

We’d arrived as the musicians were setting up their amps; and there was still gaps at the bar. We found a vantage, started on the drinks, and did what you do when you hardly know each other offline – kind of like a mutual friendly security audit. It all seemed to be going well, the band were tuning their instruments before the first ‘One-aaaaah… One – Two…’ – then, Bam! It happened.

It must have been one of those vacant moments that can happen out of nowhere. I’d just reached for my glass, thinking about a refill, and turned away to look at an old Telecaster; twinkling forlornly on its stand by the stage. I’d already noticed that Phil’s February 1985 self-produced collaboration with Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire, “Easy Lover”, was smoothing it’s way through the pub’s jukebox speakers like over-chilled air-con. My face still averted, I just simply, plainly and earnestly said it, without even thinking: ‘I like Phil Collins.’

Phil Collins

Phil Collins – No Jacket Required

The enormity of what I’d just said – and had admitted to – hit me like a hod-full of bricks and embarrassment on the way down fast from the third floor. The soulless, shameful abomination of travesty that was “You Can’t Hurry Love” compared with the original; No Jacket Required (or any comment…), that omnipresent dustbin gated reverb on every bloody record the man had made from 1980 onwards… I had to pull back out of this potential social nosedive, and fast.

‘Susstudio…’ I said eagerly, turning back to face her and save my own –

It was too late. I’d been about to follow-through with ‘…Is a frigging steaming pile of whale-dung, but he did do some awesome stuff with Brian Eno back in the…’ But, No. It was obvious: any more talk of Phil’s career and business moves would only agitate things in already unsafe waters – I could tell she’d seen “American Psycho” – or even worse, actually read the book. There was a rictus on her face, not so much one of fear or horror, more one of a brutal determination to escape and evade by any physical means necessary. She already had her things gathered into her bag, and was clutching in front of herself like a tactical briefcase. ‘Sorry about this,’ she said, slowly but firmly moving away backwards and sideways, ‘I’m, ah, just going to the bathroom…’ Which, of course, lay right next to the pub’s rear exit and sanity – I couldn’t blame her. I sighed, and the band broke into “Mustang Sally”. She still hasn’t called back.

But I still stick by what I said that evening. It’s not so much the music – although the dark, claustrophobic  magic of “The Carpet Crawlers” will always send inexplicable ghostly shivers up my spine and it’s a proven fact that “In the Air Tonight” sounds absolutely Earth-shattering to anyone if it’s played loudly enough when they’re ripped to the gills on cough syrup; or the fact that Phil was the go-to drummer for a lot of out-there musical avant-garde collaborations in the 70s, let alone all the Eno stuff he did. You can’t take achievements like like that away from anyone, not even Phil Collins.

No, the reason I can stand up and say ‘I like Phil Collins’ in polite society is because of something I’d only, relatively recently, found out about the man.



Sometimes it’s finding out the small, obscure details about a person, famous or infamous, that makes you take a dip towards pulling a full 180 on way you’d previously thought about them: factoids like Pete Doherty’s rating Arthur Lee and Love’s almost forgotten “Four Sail” album as his favourite record of all time, Saddam Hussein’s  passion for warehouses full of connoisseur-grade reposado Tequila, or Donald Trump’s getting psyched up before every campaign speech by sitting down to watch a full episode of “My Little Pony” timed to finish right before he hits the stage – you can’t help but re-assess the way you’d previously thought about someone after discovering something like that.

In Phil’s case it was a soulful mid-60’s west London Mod/Psychedelic band called The Action. Back when they used to play London venues with bands like the Who or the Small Faces, it would be The Action who’d get the full modded-up formal escort of scooter-borne fanatical fans on the way to the gig, not the others – and (imagine my shock when I found out) Phil Collins was one of those fans. The Action were like the Creation – one of those Pop-Art perfect Sixties London bands who never quite made it, but could have and should have – they split and morphed into a late 60’s group called “Mighty Baby”, discovered Sufism, and faded into legendary Autumnal oblivion. The Action didn’t even get their lost 1967 album “Rolled Gold” officially released until 1995, and it makes interesting listening when played next to Paul Weller’s comeback albums of the time, that’s all I’m saying.

Phil Collins has consistently raved about The Action when asked about his musical tastes, and when the band – inevitably – reformed for five or six years, he ended up playing with them for one gig in 2000; he compared the experience of joining his teenage heroes onstage to playing with the Beatles. Way to go, Phil – you’re OK with me.

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