Sunday, February 18, 2018

No Jacket Required, Great Sleeper Cuts Optional AKA Phil's X-Rated Attempt To "Thaw" The Cold War

Like all great '80s pop stars, from Michael Jackson to Madonna, it seems like the more popular Phil Collins got, the ... what's the word? The ... crappier he got. How come this never happened to performers in the '60s? Quick: name the great '60s pop stars who actually got crappier the more popular they became. Neil Diamond? Blood, Sweat & Tears?

No Jacket Required. It's got quite the resume. Sold 12 million copies in the U.S. alone. For perspective, the best-selling Genesis album of all time, Invisible Touch, only sold half that. Won the Album of the Year Grammy. Spawned four Top 10 singles. Hit #1 in countries that didn't even exist yet. Ended the Cold War. Invented the internet. All those achievements, and still ... somehow, I prefer his first two solo albums. There may have been "no jacket required," all right, but apparently tacky '80s production was mandatory.

Songs on No Jacket Required that don't really do much for me: "Only You and I Know," "I Don't Wanna Know," "Who Said I Would," "Doesn't Anybody Stay Together Anymore," "Inside Out" ... and you can probably throw "Sussudio" and "Don't Lose My Number" onto that pile, even though they were hits and they kind of make me chuckle. God, even the titles are bland. "Long Long Way to Go"? More like "Long Long Way to Go Before I Start Paying Attention to This Song." That particular cut contains a bit of the eerie, ambient atmosphere of "In the Air Tonight," except with a questionable trade-off: instead of the world's greatest drum entrance, we get smoky backing vocals from ... Sting? I guess he'd had enough of his harem of Taiwanese concubines that week and decided he'd pop over to Phil's studio for a change. At least "Doesn't Anybody Stay Together Anymore" has a funny story behind it. From a 1986 interview with Phil in Playboy:
You know, I was very happily married to Jill, my present wife, when I wrote it, but I had been divorced, my manager was getting divorced, a couple of good friends were getting divorced, and I thought, What's going on? Doesn't anybody stay together any more? The song came from that.
The answer is no, Phil. No, nobody stays the fuck together anymore, all right? And it's better that way. In the olden days, sure, people used to stay together, but you know what? They would spend every waking hour of their lives loathing each other and finding ways to passively-aggressively destroy each other's, and their children's, lives. For the record, Phil eventually divorced Jill.

Despite sounding like Prince's leftover throat mucus, "Don't Lose My Number" somehow climbed to #4, but maybe it was the tongue-in-cheek video that did it. Per Wikipedia:
Collins did not know what he would use as a video theme for "Don't Lose My Number", so he decided to create a video showing his decision process in selecting a theme for it. In the video, Collins talks to various "directors", who all give him bad ideas for the video. Their suggestions allow Collins to parody several other music videos of the time, including videos by Michael Jackson, "Weird Al" Yankovic, David Lee Roth ("California Girls"), Elton John ("I'm Still Standing"), The Police ("Every Breath You Take"), and The Cars ("You Might Think"), as well as movies such as Mad Max 2 and various samurai movies and Westerns.
Highlights: 1) "Gunfighter" Phil; 2) "Post-Apocalyptic" Phil; 3) Phil's office being taken over by an aerobics class; 4) "Fake blood! Great, isn't it?" "Yeah, but it's not really me though." 5) The catatonic Japanese director couple. Seriously, I know he catches a lot of flak, but ... how can you hate a guy who makes a video like this?

At any rate. I remember listening to No Jacket Required a couple of years ago, getting all the way to Track #10, and thinking, "Man, what a wash." Other than "One More Night" and "Take Me Home," she just wasn't doing it for me. I was expecting at least a few hidden "gems-nesis," you know? If I'd been listening to the LP, I would have been even more disappointed, because the album contains a CD-only bonus track called "We Said Hello Goodbye," and holy shit.

You won't find a Roland TR-808, LinnDrum, or Oberheim DMX in these waters. There's nary a trace of MiniMoog bass to be heard. Instead, an elegant grand piano gives way to pastoral strings. During the chorus, Phil finds himself smothered in a swirling haze of neo-psychedelic guitar that suddenly evaporates, only to leave behind a pinging, heavily treated piano straight out of Pink Floyd's Meddle. But here's the biggest shock of all: When the drums come in about halfway through, they're completely free of gate, or fence, or hedge, or chicken wire: they actually sound like ... how can I put this? Drums!

Perhaps the title is a bit of a giveaway, but "We Said Hello Goodbye" is supremely Beatle-esque, or perhaps more accurately, Lennon-esque. Let's call it the best song Julian Lennon never wrote. It reminds me of something from a mid-'90s Elton John album, perhaps Made In England or The Big Picture - which is a compliment, I think? Hell, even Phil's arch-nemesis Noel Gallagher would've killed to have come up with a tune this haunting as an Oasis B-side. The song makes me feel like it's about 9:30pm and I'm sitting in the living room of my beautiful house in Marin, surrounded by trees and my white upper middle-class opulence. Now here's some Divorce Rock I can get behind. I find it perversely hilarious that Collins added this keeper to the CD as a "bonus" track. Phil, you're a maniac, really you are.

Finally: what's the deal with the outerwear-clarifying album title? From Wikipedia:
The album is named after an incident at The Pump Room restaurant in Chicago, Illinois. Collins, entering the restaurant with former Led Zeppelin lead vocalist Robert Plant was denied admittance because he did not meet the restaurant's dress code of "jacket required" for dinner while Plant was allowed in. Collins was wearing a jacket and argued about it. The maitre d'hotel argued that the jacket was not "proper". Collins said in an interview with Playboy that he was, at that point, never so mad in his life. After the incident, the singer often appeared on shows such as Late Night with David Letterman and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, denouncing the restaurant and telling his story. The management of the restaurant later sent him a complimentary sport coat and an apology letter, stating that he could come to the restaurant wearing whatever he wanted.

"I thought of different things to do. Like maybe going down there wearing the right kind of jacket and ordering a drink and just pouring it onto the floor and saying, 'Well, I've got a jacket on! You can't do anything to me.' Maybe I should smash a few photographs on the wall, a bit of the Robert Plant attitude. But I did nothing, of course. I just moaned about it."
Yes, of course Phil. You did nothing. You simply let them step on you, like you were an insignificant little gnat who crawled out of the three-year-old cream cheese, just as you've let people step on you your whole entire life. When will you finally stand up for yourself?

Of course, loyal readers know that Phil's whole "Sweater Vest Pushover" image is just a ruse, a ploy, to cover up his many, many misdeeds, and that the actual Phil Collins is one seedy hombre. Here's the real story behind the album's title:
I was relaxing in my favorite porn theater, The Mauve Glove, in Boulder, Colorado, watching Six Fists for Sister Sara, taking a break from another grueling tour schedule. After the lights went up, I wandered around back and chatted with the owner, my good friend Alexei Tsorotov, who I always called Billy (a nickname I gave him after a drunken incident in Fort Collins involving a pistol shootout and a transgender bull - can't go into it right now). Alexei mixed up a special concoction of Russian vodka and horse tranquilizer just for me (the man knew how I rolled). I'm telling you, nothing beats a shot of Tsorotov's vodka with crushed ice. Mmmm!

"Phil! You touring Soviet Union someday?"

"You never know, Billy. Why do you care? You live in the States."

"Ahh, but if you ever tour Leningrad, you must stay with my cousin Tatiana. She is very ..." He held up his hands to his chest and made two giant circles with his fingers.

"I'll bet she is. You know me and Russian women. Hey, why don't you invite your cousin to Boulder? We can make a porn together."

"Phil, you know how tricky it is with the embassy and such -"

"Nonsense! I've got connections at the embassy like you wouldn't believe. I'll handle the whole thing. Just get Tatiana over here, and maybe a couple of her friends, you know, if they're up for a little 'adventure'."

"I can get a crew together in two weeks."

"Is Fyodor available? If we can get Fyodor to direct, I think we'd be all set."

"I call Fyodor. He has tight schedule, but maybe he can do it."

"We'll do one of those ski resort pictures, you know, where it's 20 degrees outside but their nipples get all erect." I gazed off toward the Rocky Mountains and lost myself in thought. "You know how they call this the 'Cold War'? How about a 'Cold Porn'?" I leaned toward Alexei with a grin on my face.

"Phil, you are always funny with the jokes. I make some calls tomorrow."

"I've got to skip town, you know, the next show, but tell me know it goes." I grabbed a pen and paper. "Billy, don't you lose my number."

So after the show in Salt Lake City, I got a call from Alexei. "Phil, I communicate with my cousin, and her friends Olga and Katarina, they all excited to come to Boulder for the film."

"Nice work! So what's the plan now?"

"You see, they not have much money, they are asking me what to bring, and it is a long, long way to go. They are confused. I am telling them it is a porno, and yet I am telling them it will be cold."

"So where's the confusion?"

"They want to know if they need to bring a jacket. In Soviet Union it is the law to wear jacket."

I thought for a moment. "Well, if they feel like bringing one, they can bring one, but if they don't, it's OK."


"This is America, all right? Just tell 'em: 'no jacket required'!"

"Yes, Phil. That's good."

"What about Fyodor?"

"I think he can do it."

"What about his DP? What's that guy's name? Michael or something?"


"Yeah, that's it. Can he do the film?"

"Ahh. He and Fyodor had falling out. They not working as team like before."

"Man." I let out a sigh. "Doesn't anybody stay together anymore?"


Anonymous said...

Collins gets blamed for turning Genesis into a pop machine when it was Mike Rutherford who wrote Follow You, Follow Me at a time when Phil still had mad street musician cred by moonlighting in jazz fusion band Brand X - a band I liked. Of course he eventually got into the pop machine soon enough but can't blame him for the initial phase. In the interim between "The Lamb" and the "And Then There Were Three" release you could see Genesis performing in small theaters which rarely sold out so much so that you could walk up to the front of the stage and hang out. I did this a few times at a few different shows and during "I Know what I Like" I looked at Mike Rutherford's Shergold double neck guitar but I guess Mike thought I was looking at him so he gave me the evil eye before breaking into a big smile. I thought we might have had a "man moment" so I broke eye contact because you know I dodn't want him to think I was gay or anything (as if that was a reasonable default position to take) but not before Phil walked over and picked up the eye contact which was uncomfortably direct also. So we were close - like a distance of maybe 5 feet or so. He still had long stringy hair then which was doing a poor job of disguising his receding hair line especially under all those lights. This was during the instrumental part of I Know What I Like where he would beat the tambourine for a few minutes before the last chorus. Anyway I kind of backed away and he kept staring and smiling so I had to look away and goddamn it wouldn't you know it - I look over at Tony Banks and he starts looking at me from behind his racks of keyboards. This was long before they had lightweight midi controllers and synths so they had to haul around those heavy ass keyboards. It was all too much. They just freaked me out so I had to step back into the relative safety of the 10th row before they finished the song. The last time happened was at a Rick Springfield show some years later when he stared me down for some reason.

Little Earl said...

You don't want to get on these guys' bad side. They will fuck you up.

Anonymous said...

Wait. Rick Springfield or Genesis ? They are all so butch. Anyway I also got a mean stare down from Lisa of Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam because I was drunk at some afternoon show they had. I didn't do or say anything but I guess she found something distasteful in my appearance (might have been the vomit on my shirt).