In Defence Of Phil Collins…

Five years on from one of rock’s less convincing retirements, Phil Collins today (October 17) announced his live comeback with 2017’s ‘Not Dead Yet Live Tour’ .

If you remember, Collins was viciously lampooned last year upon announcing his intentions to return to music. This is unfair. For every ‘Another Day In Paradise’ – the ill-advised protest song about homelessness, which conjures the image of Collins giving the homeless a nanosecond’s thought from his gilded Geneva mansion – there’s an ‘In The Air Tonight’, which draws on innovative production techniques and inspired a festival of air-drumming throughout the cosmos. Here are five more reasons why Collins should be clutched to the music fan’s bosom.

Making the transition from drum stool to centre-stage look easy

When Peter Gabriel left in 1975 to set a new world record for successive self-titled solo albums, Genesis barely missed a beat. The steady metamorphosis of the band from purveyors of tricksy suites to muscular chart mainstays was down to Collins’ pop nous. Listen to ‘Follow You Follow Me’, ‘Turn It On Again’ and the hulking, thrilling ‘Paperlate’ to witness their transition to a tight rock unit.

If Ice-T likes him, he must be all right

Collins was as surprised as the rest of us when a TV crew unearthed a clutch of his records at Ice-T’s gaff. “I was incredibly flattered that someone like Ice-T could see through all the nonsense that’s been written about me and allow my music to reach him like that,” he said. And his reach went further than that. While we were all jeering at Collins for leaving the country when New Labour swept to power in 1997, a bunch of hip-hop and R&B artists – including Brandy, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Kelis – were recording ‘Urban Renewal’, a 2001 tribute album to the great man. They knew something we didn’t. Oh, and fictional American Psycho Patrick Bateman was a big fan too. That’s probably easier to comprehend.

He was Eno’s secret weapon

Collins spent the ‘70s getting involved in some of the most influential and inventive records of the decade. He played drums on classic Brian Eno albums ‘Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)’, ‘Another Green World’ and ‘Before And After Science’, worked with jazz-folk legend and hard-liver John Martyn, showing a deft turn of style. These were musicians who commanded respect and – unlike Collins – continue to do so.

He’s our unlikely blue-eyed soulman

As the 1980s dawned, Genesis bandmates Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks were still a little too public-school prog dawned to let Collins exercise his R&B tastes to the max, so his solo career was inevitable. 1981 solo debut ‘Face Value’ features the funkier likes of ‘I Missed Again’ and Collins would later return the favour by launching the solo career of EWF’s Philip Bailey on Number One duet ‘Easy Lover’, another slab of punchy ’80s soul-funk. Audacious 1985 single ‘Sussudio’ is a (presumably) respectful Prince rip-off and the smooth twilight soul textures of ‘One More Night’ from 1985 monster ‘No Jacket Required’ are straight out of the Arif Mardin textbook. When he wasn’t mucking up The Supremes’ ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, Collins was a convincing ersatz soul boy. If that’s not a contradiction.

A new generation sees him in a whole different light

If you’re in your early 20s, you just might have an entirely different impression of Collins. The 40-somethings might be aghast right now, remembering the ’80s relic soiling up the first charts of the 1990s with their dad’s favourite album, ‘…But Seriously’, yet there’s another generation who venerate him for – wait for it – the 1999 ‘Tarzan’ soundtrack. Believe me, I met a 22-year-old this week who still holds ‘Strangers Like Me’ in glowing esteem. Four years later, Collins was getting all cosy again on the Brother Bear soundtrack, a canny, avuncular operator annexing a new set of fans. Maybe they’re waiting for him. Not long now.