This has been bothering me for a while, about ten years, a few months ago being bothered turned into guilt.
It’s Phil Collins.
Like a lot of young people in the 90s I was consumed with musical snobbery, and to a certain extent I still am. In public I’d only admit to liking anything on Fierce Panda, Rough Trade or any of those other boorish underground labels that now adorn hessian tote bags in Borough market. In private I’d walk around like Liam Gallagher talking in a stupid accent. It’s embarrassing now but at the time it was what I was into, I read the NME from cover to cover and listened to John Peel. I caught the New Labour wave of optimism like everybody else and was convinced that the country was changing, and for a while I was happy to think it was so. My musical ego was inflated further by my job in a recording studio, which lent a certain weight to any argument regarding music. I used An Apple Mac too.
I wasn’t a bad person, just a tosser.
Phil Collins was a victim of the 90s. People like me queued up to slag the bloke off. Him, his music, his family and everything he stood for. He played an integral part in the Live Aid project and was vilified in the press for destroying music in the UK. The NME associated his fans with being old bill, living in Surrey or driving a Mondeo as a company rep. I believed it all because I wanted to and simply couldn’t get enough of it. It could only have been worse if he had long hair or wore a leather jacket. That he was small and not particularly good looking only added to the enjoyment of bullying the bloke, in public. Yes he was a good drummer, made a shed load of money and is more talented than I’ll ever be, but we were all to consumed with ourselves to care.
The final nail in the coffin came when he had enough of the press and moved to Switzerland, we took this as an admission of guilt. Switzerland, the perfect boring home for he who destroyed music.
Looking back now, some of the criticism was justified. His association with the Royal Family and the Princes Trust in particular made him look like an establishment sycophant. laughing at Prince Charles’s jokes whilst Diana bopped away to his music, embarrassing. His films were rubbish and so where his records, they still are. Some of the criticism was justified.
However much of the vitriol levelled at him seemed very personal, those most critical seemed unable to separate Phil Collins the person from his music. He was very much of the 80s old guard and the political associations of that era simply didn’t resonate well as the country witnessed the decline of the Conservative party. I remember being at Glastonbury one year and over hearing a bloke slag off Phil Collins personally in a self important debate about music. He was a white guy from the home counties with dreadlocks wearing a levellers T shirt, even then I was starting to see the lunacy of what was going on. On a side note, The Levellers? Probably the worst band to ever lay music to tape.
The thing is, I’ve seen him interviewed on TV loads of times, usually at those occasions where the BBC wheels out all the old timers and Annie Lennox puts in an appearance. He didn’t come across as such a bad bloke. This wasn’t the person that set out to destroy British Music, to cast the shadow of gated snare over Sleeper. Here was a guy trying to be liked, a friendly man with a silly sense of humour, no self importance or mock deprecation. he kind of reminded me of my Dad, a little embarrassing in public maybe, but his heart was in the right place.
Years later, I think I’ve finally come to terms with my mistake. I still won’t be listening to any of his music, but I can now accept that Phil Collins wasn’t such a bad bloke.