Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Phil Collins - His Part In My Downfall



Some are damned and some are unconditionally elected - and those happily of the latter can do anything they want and get away with it ... steep themselves in sin, walk among the afflicted, sink as low as they wish and come out the other end smelling of roses. When one is in a state of Grace, the book is already written.
University, circa 1994 ... I had only been going out with the missus-to-be a month or two when one of those relationship-defining moments arose - while browsing through the vinyl in a charity shop, I saw a 7" sleeve graced with a picture of Tony Hancock, the lad himself. I picked it up and found, to my horror, it was a Phil Collins single, 'Something Happened On The Way To Heaven'. On reflection, I remembered I had heard the song on the radio a number of times over the years and had actually liked it ... what to do? It was 5p, if memory serves ... who could quibble?
Subsequently, I would become an object of ridicule - amongst my limited social set, which was bad enough, but worse, to my girlfriend, too. Being in possession of a Phil Collins record was a social liability somewhere beyond galloping halitosis ... people have asked me to leave their house for less.

I offered then a variety of defences, which I shall rehearse here ... not the least important being the fact that, as her beau, it was the girlfriend's duty to offer support to anything I did; loyalty is a cardinal virtue and, no matter how stupid, objectionable or downright ludicrous my actions, even in, especially in, public, it was her duty to regard my every word as Holy Writ and maintain that I could walk on water.
I appealed to no less an authority than James Joyce ... as he has Stephen Dedalus say: a man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.
Furthermore, Phil Collins, for all his manifest drawbacks, had, at least, graced the records of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno, officially 'The Brainiest Men In Pop Music', and therefore never wrong. Look here, if it's good enough for Bob and Bri, it's good enough for me.
Further furthermore, this was not part of that spectrum of behaviour now deemed "guilty pleasures" ... despite despising Mr Collins, I genuinely liked this particular song ... something about the tune seemed quietly moving, something about the lyrics (How can something so right go so wrong? ... I'm not leaving unless you come with me) I found rather poignant. Indeed, not to buy the record (only 5p!) out of some misplaced and inverse snobbery would be hypocritical. The song itself, no matter written by a Thatcher-loving, Tory-supporting dwarf with a face like a potato, had something about it I liked. As I appealed to the jury, as a wise old man once said (it was Duke Ellington to Miles Davis, actually): "if it sounds good, it is good."
In parenthesis, the promo video for the single is a kitsch classic in its own right ... good old Phil sings, conducts the band, tickles the ivories and indulges in some 'comic' play with a lovable mutt - including sequences shot from the pooch's eye view, thus joining a small, select genre populated by the likes of The Hills Have Eyes II ... Collins goes one better than Craven by including a canine fantasy sequence and gets some low comic mileage out of someone stepping in dog shit ... how excellent is that?
But most importantly, I had impeccable avant garde credentials, right across the aesthetic board ... not just unassailable taste in literature and film, but music? I wrote the goddamned book, mate ... I had a room bursting with Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman records, I had been listening to the Velvets since I was ten years old, I listened to Metal Machine Music for pleasure, I knew my way around Krautrock, I liked Steve Reich and Terry Riley, I used to listen to Coltrane's Ascension while eating breakfast (oh no, wait a minute ... that was Lester Bangs) ... anyway, you get the picture. I knew what was what, musically speaking ... if I say it sounds good, by Jove, it must be good. I had form, credibility, great taste ... a man to be trusted, in short. And they were mocking me? Ingrates, one and all.

But we overcome, we move on ... I rested, secure in the knowledge that I knew my musical onions, and time, tide and the Rolling Stone Book Of Rock would prove me right ... and eventually the opprobrium attached to my name faded away, to be replaced by a new and hard-won respect.
Wish I still had that single, actually ...

43 Comments:

Blogger St Anthony said...

Coming soon, the sequel: the day I bought a Roachford 7".

1:44 PM  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

Great to see TH. Just posted a post myself called 'that's TH'. Will examine later. Best wishes.

2:02 PM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

Tony Hancock ... so very funny, so poignant, the comedy of embarrassment and punctured pretension ...

2:13 PM  
Blogger Paul Saxton said...

Ah, Tony Hancock. I've been filling my mornings and evenings with laughter, listening to the old radio broadcasts on my iPod. Unbeatable.

I think I remember you buying that Phil Collins single... and the Roachford. Still, they're nowhere as bad as those S*M*A*S*H records.

5:24 PM  
Blogger doppelganger said...

TH is the man, but lets save it for a post in its own right..... I think, to be honest, it is purchases of this nature that define us....

"judge not the man by that displayed at the FRONT of his record collection..."

I think it's all psychoanalysis me.... let's get to the murky depths...

9:34 PM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

Yes, the good stuff at the front ... the stuff you really listen to hidden in the attic. If there is a compelling reason swimming around in the cesspit of my unconscious that forced me to buy a Phil Collins record, let's hope it remains well hidden. It's what Burroughs deemed the Ugly Spirit ... you know the sort of thing, those occasions when you buy an embarrassing record, break wind in church, inadvertently shoot your wife in the head ...

Phil Collins, eh? What a bastard. Actually, whatever happened to S*M*A*S*H?

7:51 AM  
Blogger Tim Footman said...

Tony Hancock and Gordon Brown. Separated at birth? (Especially in that pic.)

And since Michael Sheen has played a sidekick of each man...

Genius.

But Phil Collins is a cock.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Paul Saxton said...

I always thought Gordon Brown had a bit of the Terry Jones about him.

Wasn't it Phil Collins (among others) who said that he'd leave Britain if Labour got in? He did as well, didn't he?

9:11 AM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

Have read that Collins is a little diamond, but can't buy it. Didn't he dump a wife, for a girl young enough to be his granddaughter, by fax? Which may not be illegal but certainly makes you a bit of a shit.
Yes, who else threatened to pick up their ball and flounce off if Labour got in? Frank Bruno springs to mind ... in Collins' case, it probably meant another million or two Xs on the ballot paper.
I believe Collins left the U.K. for Switzerland ... now, commendable for many things, the Swiss, but pop music isn't one of them - so they didn't know the Faustian pact they were making.

Gordon Brown ... he's got Hancock's hangdog look down to a tee, but he's going to have to get some better one-liners before he can cut the comic mustard.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Tim Footman said...

"It may be post-neo-classical endogenous growth theory tro you mate, but it's life or death to some poor wretch."

Maybe not.

11:30 PM  
Blogger rockmother said...

At least you don't own a Haircut 100 7" like I shamedly do. Phil Collins was/is such a rubbish drummer. Everyone thought he was good because of the 'dramatic' bashes on 'In the Air Tonight' but a baby could have beat out those slack rhythms.

I think the teenager has filed for divorce by the way.

1:24 AM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

Ah, I guess that's one of the dangers of shacking up with a nipper ... at some point the said nipper is going to grow up and stop living with grandad.
What annoys me about Collins is his cheeky chappie, man-of-the-people act ... who wants that? As I said before, I was weened on Bowie and Ferry ... that's what you want from your pop stars ... glamour, a touch of danger ...

Apart from the Collins faux pas (although, God help me, I still do like the song) and a momentary aberration concerning a Roachford 7", I have never made any errors with pop music ... Molly probably finds it infuriating, my preening as regards pop ... I frequently inform her I have immaculate taste and an encyclopediac knowledge where it's concerned. (Actually, what am I saying? I think that about everything else, too ... I'm a dreadful man).
I always sneaked a listen to my brother's records ...when I was ten years old, my own little record collection consisted of Transformer, the first Gary Glitter album and 'Black Pudding Bertha' by The Goodies.
She's the queen of rock'n'roll you know. I'll have to check, is there a Goodies greatest hits available?

7:49 AM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

Maybe that's Gordon Brown's problem ... he's played the straight man to Blair for so long he's going to find it impossible to change gears and be the front man, the quipster ... in Lenny Bruce terms has he got it in him to make the band laugh?

8:10 AM  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

I like this confessional thing! Let me see ... Bought Queen's 'News of the World' when I was 14. Gave it to my sister soon after, though. It did join Bowie's Diamond Dogs, Stranglers' Rattus, and Animals by Floyd; so there's the reasoning: eclecticism, clearly, and so young, too! I had that Boston LP. Not sure it was actually. But I used to borrow LPs for lengthy periods and start thinking they are mine. But, this is nothing. I loved and still love Prog Rock. I loved it through the dark times, too - when one couldn't mention the fact, that is, not all that shite pretending to be current Prog! Now it is a little less frosty; so I might get away with it... I have Genesis LPs with Collins on them. But I think he's a wanker, for sure. I remember completely his I'll leave UK quip. Bruno, too. And there was Paul Daniels, also. Better off without them. They should have been made to leave. Collins is a drip; arrested development, I reckon. All that gated-reverb tom tom blather on Mama etc. - awful. So 80s - no grace, corporate, too, insofar as he applied same thing in any situation. And, yes, that cheeky-chappie thing - the truly evil Buster ... What a load of groundless Cockney mysticism. Jack Dee last night on the box: one pet-hate, meeting Londoners who claim to have 'gone to school with the Krays'. Collins - public school / drama school, reinvents himself as WC. No shame. That's his gift: no shame.

Now I'm going to play 2112 by Rush

4:22 PM  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

...though I'll follow it with some Derek Bailey or The Fall

4:24 PM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

Seems like a good mix, that.

My god, I hadn't even taken Buster into account ... forgotten that one ... an affectionate portrait of a workshy, thieving, violent shit. That's right, he was a drama school type, wasn't he? What is this thing about the Great Train Robbers? Like the mythology that surrounds the Krays ...wankers, one and all. Making any of them out to be lovable rogues ... so wrong.

6:16 PM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

I mean, obviously, Phil Collins was a drama school type, not Buster Edwards ... although nothing would suprise me.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Molly Bloom said...

I was going to mention the Roachford..but you beat me to it.

Ahem.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

Which Collins single was it, Anthony? Did I miss its mention?

I could add some JD Laing-style circle-sitting confessional re. Collins. Just factsI knowand can't delete. (A) He produce solo LP for the dark-haired of thewomen from Abba. (B) He was Genesis' second drummer (C) At the audition, at Peter Gabriel's family's mansion, he, Collins, swam in their pool. Listening to other hopefuls before he had his turn was useful; as by the time it was his turn he knew the material (D) He played Oliver (or in Oliver) as a brat child (E) He first sang lead vocals on the Genesis LP, Selling England By the Pound, on the song 'More Fool Me', generally regarded as shitest song on that LP. (F) He took over lead vocals from a departed Peter G on the LP, Wind & Wuthering, or was it Trick of the Tail (a Tail? the Tale? a Tale?)... See, my knowledge of this crap is fading...Or isit just old age? Please be kind to this old unreconstructed Progger; have in mind I was once writing a book on the subject, useless factsbeing a must.

Never bought anything by Roachford. They a kind of funk rock thing?

Think worst single I have is something by The Scorpians! But then I would have been 13 or 14! Does that let one off the hook, though?!

9:13 PM  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

Bollocks - how unobservant I can be... The clue to my Collins-which-single? question is there, large-as-life, in the pic... I thought it was a clever composite image you had made or found, Anthony. Never seen this disturbing item myself. Ol' Phil trying to align himself with something interesting, eh?

Great tract, Anthony. Gave me a few chuckles. Yes, Collins has played with them all. He even replaced the deceased John Bonham on that Live Aid musical awfulness, I seem to remember. Didn't he fry across the Atlantic on Concorde, playing here and in US on same day? How fucking 80s. Death of Corcorde apart (sob), he wouldn't get away with that now - someone would be checking his carbon emissions. In fact, given his track record as a whining white soul boy gated-reverb maggot, someone should be checking his emmisions. That Susudio (sp?) - Prince rip-off or what?

2:02 AM  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

...I was kidding about 2112, by the way. Played that Whitenoise LP instead. Bloody great, too. If you know it....

2:04 AM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

i thought I'd get the Roachford thing in first ... draw the sting, so to speak. But not Sting. It's the way I tell'em.
Yes, I remember Collin's little jaunt across the Atlantic ... two gigs in one day, all for charity. What a hero ...
What was that awful video, the one where he was squeezed into an ill-fitting 60s suit, ruining an old soul classic? Horrible, horrible little man.
I'd like to check his emissions ... with a big stick. And didn't he deny the glaringly obvious fact that that song was a Prince rip-off? What a fraud.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Dominic Zero said...

Ah, Phil Collins, possibly the nicest guy alive, that wonderful song about the homeless.
I was once told by a colleague of his that he had a receptionist sacked at his record company because she didn't say 'good morning' nicely enough...

7:47 AM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

I can well believe the sacking story. Yes, his lament for the homeless ... always brings a tear to the eye and a quiver to the lip; and bringing up the fact that he was a Tory voter and therefore supporting the very policies resulting in a record number of homless people would merely be cynical ...
He's all heart, our Phil ...

10:11 AM  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

He capacity for duplicity is staggering, yes. That's his gift, as I say, no shame. That's the real currency in celeb society. Last thing you need is a conscience. Yeh, his hoelessness hit ... is it called 'Another Day in Paradise'? Again, we need stocks and rotten fruit for wankers like Collins. He even had the nerve to call his LP 'Face Value'... Janus-Face Value would be better. Putting his maris piper-style mug on the front cover is bad enough.

10:14 PM  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

hey - hoelessness ... the typos are making more sense than I am!

10:15 PM  
Blogger rockmother said...

Shit - that's just jogged my murky memory of actually attending a Roachford gig at The Town and Country Club, Kentish Town. I have a decent explanation (sort of) though. I used to waitress in the only trendy restaurant (yes, my life was just like Prince's Ballad of Dorothy Parker) in Kilburn High Road in the 80's and the drummer of Roachford used to come in all the time. He wore dungarees and a beret and I think his name was Chris. That's how I got to go to the gig - and backstage (it gets worse) but I seem to remember that was quite boring and I think I got quite drunk. I recall him being very shy and polite. So St Anthony - I think you got off very lightly just owning a 7".

10:43 PM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

Now, I can't remember what Roachford single it was ... obviously too traumatic an experience ... but Molly never tires of reminding me of it. It was bloody awful, I'm sure.
Unaccountably, though, the Collins song is lodged in my brain ... I can remember the whole lyric ...a test of a good song, that. Go figure.
Didn't Julie Burchill call him the ugliest man since George Orwell (I recall Collins asking plaintively how ugly Orwell was ... how funny is that?)and the only man to look like he was wearing a stocking over his face even when he wasn't.
But that album, with his face on the front, sold millions ... there really is no accounting for taste.

Actually, mentioning Haircut 100, didn't Creation Records try to launch Nicky Heyward as a credible songwriter and rock star a few years ago? Where had he been all those years?

10:41 AM  
Blogger rockmother said...

Writing songs for Nik Kershaw no doubt?

(Roachford only had 3 main hits that I can remember - Cuddly Toy, Feel For You Baaaaybee (or perhaps that was Cuddly Toy?) and Family Man. So two then - your single must have been one of those.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

Ugly-wise - Sartre every time, I'd say. Makes Arthur Mullard look ok.

Didn't Haircut 100 have a kind of tennis look? That alone would have alienated me! Most depressing this is, though, that stuff sounds positively punk compared to the bloodless shite of today's pop. No defence of Heywood et al intended.

3:07 PM  
Blogger El Duderino said...

I always liked the comment someone made about Collins looking like he always had a stocking pulled over his head.

You are the second person I've heard recently admit to listening to Metal Machine Music for fun. Personally I could never get beyond 5 mins without developing a splitting headache.

3:39 PM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

Writing songs for Nik Kershaw ... I suppose somone had to do it. Still can't remember the cursed Roachford song ... have obviously erased the memory ... if only the missus had. Still, one grievous mistake in 30 odd years isn't bad ... he said, hopefully. And I did bin it in double-quick time ... honestly, your honour.
(I'm not counting the Collins ditty since I still actually like it).
Arthur Mullard ... comic gargoyle.
Haircut 100 rocked this sort of posh boy tennis court look ... god knows why.
The other person you remember listening to Metal Machine Music might even have been me ... I had a letter published in the Guardian a few months ago in reply to some journo claiming that people only listened to MMM or read Gravity's Rainbow out of a "deluded sense of self-improvement" or snobbery ... I pointed out that I genuinely like that stuff.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Cocaine Jesus said...

phil collins? really old son. mind you, you got one thing wrong, phil is not tory!!!

1:14 PM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

Phil's not Tory? I had him all wrong ... mind you, anyone who could right a classic like Something Happened had to have a heart of gold ... not sure the ex-wife would agree.

1:57 PM  
Blogger rockmother said...

Crikey - how many wives have you got?

3:45 PM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

Arf arf, Phil's ex, not mine. Molly would kill me if an unknown ex-wife tumbled out of the cupboard ... not to sound like Bluebeard.
And I note my awful typo - 'right' for 'write' ... shocking.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

Cj - come on, Collins MUST be a Tory! Hang on... It isn't Collins logging in as you is it, CJ? Even if he doesn't vote Tory, he embodies those views, I'd say. He's so utterly 80s, too - not a flattering remark here at Cafe Abdab, I have to say.

Nah, you don't want ex-wives tumbling out of the wardrobe. I keep mine bricked up behind the walls.

10:50 AM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

Yes, I always assumed Collins was a Tory voter because he seemed to embody those ideals. Same as the Kemp brothers ... apparently they were Labour voters, but Spandau Ballet also seemed to embody the worst excesses of the 80s.
Then again, I always said Neil Kinnock was a staunch Tory voter, because he knew he'd benefit from the tax breaks. Call me an old cynic.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

Kinnock - remember that 1987 party conference at Sheffield (used to be a politics nerd, ya see!)? In the wake of the Foot defeat in 1983, Labour went into idealogical freefall, and in their desparate turn to hollow let's-get-elected-pragmatism, Kinnock became leader. How sweet! Remember when he fell on that beach, running from the sea? It's all so vapid, that that event was seen as game over for his chances! That and that Bananarama (was it?) vid! And all that Sun shite about last person turn the light off. As if... Labour were and are as capitalist as the Tories, no businessman need worry too much. Just a bit of tinkering; a few worthy projects; leaving the centre as it is. Good old short-sightedness and exploitation. Kinnock was a direct precursor to Blair for sure, with the ill-fated Smith between. Defeat didn't do Kinnock much harm - he got sorted out with a top job in Europe.

2:13 PM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

In retrospect, although they are somewhat different political animals, Kinnock did a lot of the groundwork for Blair ... the pop videos, the silly bloody soundbite culture, compromise dressed up as pragmatism ... yes, and now he's putting himself about in Europe, raking in the cash.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Dr Anthony Donovan said...

Yeh, even grey twee idiots like Major make a fortune doing lecture tours and publishing their silly insights and diaries. It's a big celeb machine. Oh yes, Kinnock did all that celeb crap before Blair - he was in Tracy Ullman's pop video wasn't he? No doubt he did the chatshow rounds, too. Of course he did; looking squarely at his 'career' in so doing. Ken Livingstone - same thing. And I might be getting him mixed-up with Kinnock's sordid pop outings.

I've said it before, but I blame the media and its logic.

7:28 PM  
Blogger St Anthony said...

Tracy Ullman videos ... while not a major crime of Kinnock's, it was another step along the road to the triviality and stupidity of politics now. Livingstone, too - politics as celeb-culture, soundbite inanity, lifestyle crassness ... infotainment.

7:24 AM  
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