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Music / Phil Collins

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"If you were going to put together a list of grandfathers who could totally rock your damned ass off at will, Phil Collins would be near the top of it."

Philip David Charles Collins, LVO (born 30 January 1951) is an English drummer, singer-songwriter, and occasional actor, best known as the drummer for Genesis and as a successful solo artist. Collins has won seven Grammys, two Golden Globes, and an Oscar over his long career.

Collins joined Genesis before the sessions for their third album, Nursery Cryme. At first, he was only the drummer, but became lead vocalist for the band after Peter Gabriel's departure. In the late 1970s he continued a busy career as a session drummer as well, working with former bandmate Gabriel and Brian Eno — among others — in rock as well as jazz-fusion (Brand X). Generally recognized as a pioneer of the drum machine, whose eerie tones propelled "In the Air Tonight" and "Mama", and as the codifier of the "gated reverb" drum sound that would become omnipresent throughout the '80s, he was also instrumental in rebuilding Eric Clapton in the 1980's through his albums Behind The Sun and August (He would repay him later on "I Wish It Would Rain Down"). Although the changes started a while after he took over, Collins is credited with transforming Genesis from a prog band to a pop band, and his time as lead singer was the most commercially successful era for the band.

Collins has also had a tremendously successful solo career, selling 33 million records in the US alone with one diamond album (No Jacket Required) there. His biggest hits include "In the Air Tonight", "Sussudio", "One More Night" and "Another Day in Paradise". He also composed the songs for the Disney animated films Tarzan and Brother Bear, as well as three for Buster, in which he also starred. In addition to his production work for Eric Clapton, he also produced hits for Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad of ABBA ("I Know There's Something Going On") and former Earth, Wind & Fire singer Philip Bailey ("Easy Lover").

Despite his commercial success, he is a singer that really divides critics and the general public. People either think he is an absolute genius for his hit singles and being a hell of a drummer/singer, or they think he embodied everything wrong with 80's pop music and deserves to be derided for being "the guy who ruined Genesis". His tremendous success and the omnipresence of his music meant that after peaking with ...But Seriously (which reached #1 everywhere albums are sold), it was only little time before he faced some major Hype Backlash. Songs like "Tell Me Why" and "Another Day In Paradise" and his support for any and all cause legitimate or not up to and including the infamous "I'm talking nonce-sense" Brass Eye debacle cemented this image of the out of touch, PR friendly standing piece of foam and cardboard. Although generally respected as a musician, he was the butt of jokes through the '90s and the new millennium. He has been slowly rehabilitated however with endorsements by artists like Ice-T, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony or, say, Ozzy Osbourne.

Outside of music, Collins is a supporter of animal rights and PETA, and donates to the Prince's Trust charity, resulting in his appointment to a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order.

He is the father of actress Lily Collins, whose credits include The Blind Side, Mirror, Mirror, and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones as well as that of Simon Collins, himself drummer and singer. His other son Nic is also a drummer, and he even invited Nic to join him on his comeback tour to play drums for him.

He retired from the music industry in 2011 to spend more time with his family and because nerve damage left him in constant pain and with limited dexterity in his hands. However, in late 2013 he indicated he was writing music again and in 2015, Collins confirmed that he will be returning to music. The following year, he released remastered versions of all his original studio albums, with recreations of their cover artwork with him at his older age. He also announced his comeback tour titled Not Dead Yet (also the name of his autobiography), which ran in Europe in 2017.

Solo discography:

Studio albums:

Live albums:

  • Serious Hits... Live! (1990)
  • A Hot Night in Paris (1999) (with the Phil Collins Big Band)


  • 12"ers (pronounced "Twelve Inchers") (1987) (Remix Album)
  • …Hits (1998)
  • Love Songs: A Compilation… Old and New (2004)
  • The Singles (2016)


Box Sets:

  • The Platinum Collection (2004)
  • Plays Well with Others (2018) (A collection of songs and performances from other artists that Collins appears on)

I can feel it/Troping in the air tonight:

  • '80s Hair: His overly permed mullet was the source of much snark.
  • Air Guitar: ...and air drums, and air piano, and air saxophone, and air microphone in "I Missed Again".
  • The Alcoholic: Has mentioned in his autobiography and in many interviews, that after he retired from music in the late 2000s, and his third marriage collapsed and he was living the single life, that he took to drinking to let loose. He reached a point where his organs began to shut down, and he nearly died in a hospital. Thankfully, he sobered up (apart from the occasional responsible drink of wine) and his health was restored. He has since made tentative steps towards a musical comeback.
  • Alternate Album Cover: For the 2016 remasters of his catalog, Collins reshot all of his album covers to depict his older self, signifying how much time had passed since the original releases. Most of the reshoots are 1:1 with the original covers, while Going Back (Re-Cut and retitled The Essential Going Back) features Collins resting his arm on the drum kit and glaring at the camera.
  • Author Catchphrase: "All of my life" (sometimes just "all my life") shows up a fair amount in his lyrics, even with Genesis. Culminated in a song named "All of My Life" in ...But Seriously.
  • Award-Bait Song: "You'll Be In My Heart", a song he wrote for the Disney movie Tarzan, which netted him an Academy Award.
  • Best Served Cold: "In The Air Tonight".
  • Break-Up Song: "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)". In fact, pretty much every one of his albums are full of this type of song.
  • Captain Morgan Pose: Phil does it in the music video for "I Wish It Would Rain Down".
  • Cover Version: Face Value ends with a cover of "Tomorrow Never Knows", which segues into a few lines from "Over The Rainbow".
    • Hello, I Must Be Going! features a cover of (Diana Ross and) The Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love".
    • As mentioned above, the soundtrack to his 1988 film Buster features a cover of "A Groovy Kind of Love", originally made famous by the Mindbenders.
    • He did a cover of "True Colors", originally by Cyndi Lauper, for …Hits.
    • He covered Dylan's "The Times They Are A'Changin'" for Dance Into The Light.
    • His latest album, Going Back, consists entirely of covers from the Motown library (or '60's soul in general).
    • He covers John Martyn's "Tearing And Breaking" on his Love Songs compilation.
    • He contributed to many tribute albums, too: "Golden Slumbers" for a George Martin tribute and "Burn Down The Mission" for the Two Rooms tribute stand out.
    • Testify features a cover of Leo Sayer's "I Can't Stop Loving You (Though I Try)" (written by Billy Nicholls), retitled as "Can't Stop Loving You", which became a minor hit from the album.
  • Darker and Edgier: Both Sides, and to a lesser degree, …But Seriously, are notably darker than No Jacket Required.
  • Dress Rehearsal Video: The video for "I Wish It Would Rain Down" is filmed as a rehearsal in a theatre hall.
  • Echoing Acoustics: His trademark snare drum sound, with a "gated reverb" on the snare hit, is an example of this.
  • Face on the Cover:
    • A common theme of most of his albums in the 1980s and all of his studio albums is having his face be the most prominent feature on the cover along with his handwritten name and the album title (Dance into the Light being the exception even though it still shows only him, with him moving around writing his signature with a light pen). This also made it easy for him to replicate his old albums' covers at his older age years later for their 2016 reissues, Dance into the Light included.
    • Specific examples of the studio albums that currently don't have TV Tropes pages:
      • Both Sides: A mostly monochrome half-profile of Collins wearing a black T-shirt. The front cover shows his right side and the back shows his left side. The cover is beige-tinted except for his blue eyes.
      • Dance into the Light: Collins in full bodied view wearing a blue light jacket over an orange T-shirt and khakis. The photo, which has an orange background, takes him in motion as he dances making his signature with a light pen. As Wikipedia writes on its article of the album in a section dedicated to the 2016 reissue:
        In 2016, Dance into the Light was reissued as a Deluxe Edition as part of Collins's remastered album campaign. Each album features updated artwork with Collins adopting the same poses and expressions that he did on the originals. He maintained that the new artwork for Dance into the Light was in fact real, "so spot on that people will think it's Photoshopped". The booklet and artwork includes a strip film of Collins attempting the various positions to prove it was genuine.
      • Testify: A bust profile of Collins wearing a blue T-shirt in front of a black background, looking at the camera as it's slightly from above and to his right, though is full face is still shown. Since this picture was taken in his early fifties, this album has the least age contrast in comparison with its 2016 reissue cover.
      • Going Back: This one features a black-and-white photo of a neatly-dressed Collins as a child sitting in a room drumming a snare drum as he looks aside to his left. The Essential Going Back, which was released as part of the 2016 reissues, doesn't recreate this cover near-exactly like all the others, but its photo contains similarities. The reissue cover uses a new black-and-white photo of the elder Collins wearing a suit with open jacket, sitting in a black space with a modern-day snare drum, holding a pair of drumsticks in his right hand as he leans on his right arm looking at the camera.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "The Roof Is Leaking"->"Droned"->"Hand In Hand" from Face Value.
  • Former Child Star: Averted. He was a somewhat well-known child actor and played The Artful Dodger in a West End production of Oliver!. He also had teeny tiny blink-and-you'll-miss-him roles in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and A Hard Day's Night, but he became much more popular in his adult years.
    • He did some acting in the long break between But Seriously and Both Sides: he starred in an Australian movie called Frauds alongside a very young Hugo Weaving (he took the role that these days would be reserved for Weaving!) and had a cameo as a police inspector in Hook.
  • Generation Xerox: His son Simon, of Genesis-influenced Progressive Rock band Sound of Contact, is noted to sound very similar to his dad in both singing voice and drumming style. Notably, Simon released a cover of Genesis' "Keep It Dark" in 2007 (compare the cover with the original) and guested on Steve Hackett's 2012 version of Supper's Ready, making many fans check the liner notes again to check if it really wasn't Phil singing.
  • Genre Roulette: Face Value includes: the famous "In the Air Tonight", a love ballad with Brazilian percussion ("This Must Be Love"), a swinging, disco-influenced rearrangement of "Behind the Lines", an acoustic Blues song ("The Roof Is Leaking"), two energetic Instrumentals ("Droned", "Hand in Hand"), an R&B-influenced pop song ("I Missed Again"), a stripped-down piano and strings ballad ("You Know What I Mean"), a Funk-influenced song ("Thunder and Lightning"), an upbeat, McCartney-esque pop song ("I'm Not Moving"), a full-band, orchestrated Break-Up Song ("If Leaving Me Is Easy") and a cover of "Tomorrow Never Knows". That said, most of his music at least consistently falls into Soft Rock.
    • The music video for "Don't Lose My Number" perfectly illustrates the idea (in an attempt to convey how Collins was struggling with a good video concept). It has elements of Westerns, Samurai movies (or possibly a parody of the video for Culture Club's "It's a Miracle"), Mad Max, parodies of The Police's "Every Breath You Take" and David Lee Roth's "California Girls", an aerobics video, and Phil's head superimposed onto a cartoon fly's body (which was a parody of the end of the video for The Cars's "You Might Think").
  • "Humoresque" Progression: The chorus of "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven" uses the relative-major variant.
  • I Just Want to Be Free: "Take Me Home" from No Jacket Required qualifies as this if you know the actual context of the song. Collins has stated the song is told from the perspective of a mental asylum patient and drew inspiration from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
  • Imagine Spot: The video for "I Wish It Would Rain Down" has small-time actor "Bill Collins" imagining life as a runaway success as he finally gets to Step Up to the Microphone; in the end, his number is cut, though the producers are slightly impressed with the guitar player.
  • I'm Your Biggest Fan: "Wear My Hat".
  • Instrumentals: "Droned" and "Hand in Hand" on Face Value, "The West Side" on Hello, I Must Be Going!, and "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" on But Seriously. The first three aren't "proper" instrumentals, technically: "Droned" includes vocal percussion from violinist L. Shankar and wordless vocals by Phil, "Hand in Hand" has a children's choir chanting along with the main melody, and "The West Side" features Scatting by Phil.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The video for "Hang In Long Enough" takes place aboard the ocean liner S.S. Udio.
  • Intercourse with You: "Like China" from Hello, I Must Be Going.
  • Lead Drummer: In Genesis, though the band employed a live drummer so Phil could concentrate on his vocals in concert.
  • Let's Duet: "Separate Lives" with Marilyn Martin, "Easy Lover" with Phillip Bailey and "Hero" with David Crosby.
  • Lighter and Softer: No Jacket Required, deliberately invoked by Collins as he felt his image was getting too dark. However, it was followed up with the much darker ...But Seriously and Both Sides.
    • Also done for "I Missed Again". The original song was called "I Miss You, Babe" and had a much slower arrangement and sadder lyrics about Collins' divorce. He proceeded to increase the tempo and rewrite the lyrics to make them humorous instead, resulting in quite a bit of Lyrical Dissonance between the Motown-inspired music and the newly sarcastic lyrics about a man complaining that a woman took too long to tell him to stop bothering to win her over.
    • Dance Into The Light was this as compared to Both Sides.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Very much so in his younger days.
  • Loudness War: The most recent remasters surprisingly avert (or, at worst, massively downplay) the trope, for the most part: for instance, the 2016 Face Value remaster is DR11 and doesn't clip to any noticeable extent. To be clear, it's mildly louder than the original 1984 CD, which comes out to DR14, but it's still very quiet by today's standards.note 
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "One More Night" and "Separate Lives".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "I Cannot Believe It's True" and "It Don't Matter to Me" from Hello, I Must Be Going!
  • Meta Guy: Many of his videos, such as "Easy Lover", "Don't Lose My Number", and "Invisible Touch", deconstruct, parody or poke fun at the very process of making music videos itself.
  • Morality Ballad: "Another Day In Paradise", a song about the plight of homeless people.
    • Also see: "That's Just the Way It Is", about The Troubles; "Colours", about apartheid; "Both Sides", about looking at both sides of the equation; and "River So Wide", about prejudicenote .
  • Murder by Inaction: A popular Urban Legend surrounds the song "In The Air Tonight". The legend usually involves someone watching someone else drown to death and being unwilling to help along with several other variations. In actuality, the song wasn't really about anything; Phil improvised a set of lyrics to fit the dark nature of the backing track.
  • Mythology Gag: The elaborate music video for "I Wish It Would Rain Down" features a B&W scene where the singer for a band goes missing, and the manager can't find anybody to replace him. Eric Clapton (in character) suggests Phil because "He was in a good band before and when the singer left he took over" (Reference to his Step Up to the Microphone in Genesis). When the manager then asks who will do the drumming he suggests "Chester" (Thompson, the session drummer who accompanied Genesis on tour).
  • New Sound Album: No Jacket Required largely jettisoned the remaining Progressive Rock elements from the previous two albums such as instrumental tracks, stark production and creepy Darker and Edgier songwriting and lyrics, and focused on R&B-influenced mainstream pop-rock.
    • Both Sides was entirely recorded by Phil at his home studio, retaining the pop stylings but using a starker, more intimate production. Dance Into The Light keeps the studio polish and pop hooks, but adds a World Music element and ditches the drum machines.
  • Noodle Incident: "In the Air Tonight" again. Phil never actually says what he saw the other person do.
  • Obsession Song: The singer in "Misunderstanding" (written by Collins) from the Genesis album Duke could be either a Love Martyr or a Stalker with a Crush.
    • His solo songs "It Don't Matter To Me" and "Do You Know, Do You Care?" zoom past this trope and straight into Yandere territory.
  • Older Than They Look: He is 71 but looks a decade younger. Additionally, unlike most singers who undergo Vocal Decay as they age, his singing voice sounds exactly the same now as it did in his prime.
  • Ordinary People's Music Video: The music video for "Strangers Like Me" features an interchange of clips from Tarzan and a flash of several ordinary people of different races holding hands with Phil.
  • Pants-Free: The cover of Dance Into The Light, with its color palette, logo placement and motion blur, almost makes Collins into this. The back cover even more so.
  • Parental Love Song: "You'll Be In My Heart", which featured in the Tarzan movie, was originally written for Phil's daughter.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: "Sussudio". See Word Salad Lyrics below for more info.
  • Personal Raincloud: Phil wishes one upon himself in "I Wish It Would Rain Down".
  • Pop-Star Composer: As said above.
    • His 1996 album Dance Into the Light contains a song called "Lorenzo". As the title and lyrics imply, the song is about the boy from the real life-inspired film Lorenzo's Oil. Its lyrics were a poem written by Lorenzo's mother, and Phil asked if he could set her verses to music.
  • Real Life Writes The Song: Many songs refer to his crumbled first marriage and childhood.
  • Rearrange the Song: Face Value inclues a much faster, disco-influenced cover of "Behind the Lines", which was originally recorded as the opener for Genesis' album Duke. Phil has stated that the idea for the cover came about after the original version was recorded, when the tape was played back at double speed and "suddenly this other song appeared".
  • Shout-Out: The "Don't Lose My Number" video is one gigantic shout out.
    • His second album's title, Hello, I Must Be Going! is a Marx Brothers reference.
  • Show Within a Show / Imagine Spot: The "Don't Lose My Number" music video.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: As Genesis' drummer, he would occasionally provide lead vocals or co-lead vocals on the occasional song, such as "For Absent Friends" on Nursery Cryme and "More Fool Me" on Selling England by the Pound (which, setting the tone for Collins' later career as a Soft Rock artist, were much mellower than the other songs on those albums). After Peter Gabriel left, Collins was promoted to the band's lead vocalist (if only because none of the other people who auditioned turned in satisfactory performances).
  • Take That!: Quite a few aimed at his first wife. See: Break the Cutie above, and, the entirety of his first four solo albums.
    • "Colours" takes digs at powerful people who would not stand up to apartheid. "Tell me, what can you say/Tell me, who do you blame/Like a mirror, you see yourself/These people each have a name".
    • He was also on the wrong end of one from South Park after he beat them out for the 1999 Best Original Song Oscar. note 
    Trey Parker: We were fully expecting to lose...just not to Phil Collins.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Parodied, as his 2004 tour was called The First Final Farewell Tour. Sure enough, he returned for the Not Dead Yet tour in 2017.
  • Translated Cover Version: Collins translated many of his own songs into French and sang them. He also sings his own Disney songs in the German, French, Italian, and Spanish dubs of Tarzan.
  • Urban Legends: People misinterpreted the lyrics Well, if you told me you were drowning/I would not lend a hand from "In the Air Tonight" and somehow created a story about how Phil saw a guy refusing to help a friend of his who drowned as a kid, then at a concert saw that guy again and exposed him to the audience, driving him to commit suicide. Eminem, of all people, mentions it in the song "Stan".note  Wow, Beware the Nice Ones indeed.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "In the Air Tonight". He has admitted that he made up the lyrics on the spot with no real meaning. This just makes the song creepier. Other songs such as "Don't Lose My Number" also fit.
    • "Sussudio" was a gibberish placeholder word Phil used when writing and recording the song, but Phil couldn't think of anything to replace the word with, so he left it in.
    • This technique very often applied to Phil's work in Genesis in the 1981-91 period as well, as Phil would make up the lyrics and melody on the spot in the studio as a placeholder and to create a mood, until proper lyrics were written; often what Phil would randomly vocalise would set the tone for the finished lyrics ("Mama", "Abacab" and "No Son Of Mine" as strong examples), and much would be left in if they fit the mood, regardless of whether they made literal sense or not.

"Well, I've been a prisoner all my life
And I can say to you
But I don't remember
Take, take me home
'Cause I don't remember
Take, take me home
'Cause I don't remember
Take, take me home"


Video Example(s):


Do They Know Its Christmastime

A group of 80s British rockers (originally called Band Aid, but for legal reasons changed to Live Aid) sing a song about Christmas in Africa to raise money for Ethiopians suffering through famine. The Pop-Up Video provides details about their efforts.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / CharityMotivationSong

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