Phil Collins was on top of his game and top of the world (of music at very least) 37 years ago. He had spent his time in a brief hiatus from Genesis putting out a hit movie theme (“Against All Odds”) and collaborating with Phillip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire (“Easy Lover”) in 1984 and then went on to bigger and better in 1985. He managed to be the only performer to show up at both the London and Philadelphia shows for Live Aid, taking the Concorde across the ocean between sets, and on this day that year he put out his third solo album, No Jacket Required. It would go on to be his most successful, selling in the range of 20 million copies.
Knowing a good thing when he found it, he was backing working with producer Hugh Padgham again. Padgham had been on Collins’ two previous albums and had pioneered the big, “gated reverb” sound of the drums used to great effect on 1981’s “In the Air Tonight.” the pair shared the Grammy for best produced record for this one, No Jacket Required also took home the Grammy for best male pop performance and the prestigious Album of The Year.
While the previous pair of his solo albums both had some upbeat tunes (like his cover of “You Can’t Hurry Love”), they had been perceived as rather downbeat and slow by many. Phil set out to change that this time out. He said “I’ll make a dance record… or at least an album with a couple of uptempo songs.” To do that, he seemed to work a bit more quickly and came up with some of the tunes – like “Sussudio” while just playing around on a drum machine. By the way, if you are wondering about that song name, it turns out it’s meaningless – it was just sounds Phil made to approximate the lyrics for a chorus, but he eventually figured nothing else he wrote sounded as “right” there!
The album had a mix of the lightweight, bouncy and the more serious, often slower songs. “Long Long Way to Go” with its lines about “someone’s son lies dead in a gutter” hardly seems upbeat nor the lament “Doesn’t Anybody Stay Together Anymore?”. That one showed he still hadn’t quite gotten over his divorce of the beginning of the decade that so colored his prior two records, nor failed to notice that his manager and several friends were going through a divorce. It did perhaps escape his attention that Prince Charles and Lady Di weren’t too happy; he played it for Charles at a party shortly before that royal pair split up.
In all there were 10 songs for all, an 11th (“We Said Hello Goodbye”) for those who bought it on CD. Four singles spun from it: “Sussudio”, “One More Night” , “Don’t Lose My Number” and “Take Me Home” and all were hits. Especially in the U.S. which was rapidly warming to the balding drummer. Both “One More Night” and “Sussudio” hit #1 on Billboard and garnered him gold singles; the other pair were top 10s as well meaning during the ’84-85 span, Collins scored four #1 singles and three more top 10s in the States. As such it helped No Jacket Required spend seven weeks at #1 there, his first chart-topper. It also made the top spot in Britain, Canada and Germany, and ended up diamond status in both the States and Canada, his best-selling album by quite a stretch.
At the time, reviews were generally fairly good even if critics weren’t as enthusiastic as the record-buying public. Rolling Stone gave it 3.5-stars and said he was to be complimented for the “graft of white-R&B bounce to quirky, unexpected melodies” which were commercial but “never feel contrived.” Newsday gave it a listen and found it “loaded with musical hooks and textural arrangements” and seemed to like how it “lacks the tense edge” that marked his earlier works.
Time hasn’t been entirely kind to it, although allmusic do grade it a perfect 5-stars. they liked how he “combined the aching honesty of Face Value with the pop smarts of Hello (I Must Be Going) and added some seriously focused songwriting.” Some might disagree, including Phil himself. He now calls it one of his least favorite records and thinks “at the time I wasn’t being myself. I’ve grown up some since.” Or to put it bluntly, like The Guardian did last decade, it’s “unlistenable today… there’s no colder or more superficial sound in popular music” and marveled how it made even the Human League sound like musical geniuses by comparison.
Oh, and that title? No Jacket Required comes from a story Collins likes to tell of when he and Robert Plant went to a fancy Chicago restaurant, The Pump Room. It had a dress code, and even though he did have on some jacket, management felt he didn’t look appropriate and turned him away, although offering Plant entry. Collins said it made him as mad as anything in life although “I did nothing. I just moaned.” the embarrassed eatery later apologized and sent him a gift of a jacket … required for eating there!
Collins is back together with his old bandmates in Genesis of late, attempting to run a large world tour, although it’s been oft-postponed due to the pandemic. Currently it’s scheduled to resume in Germany in March. Sadly, he is no longer up to drumming physically, but his son Nicholas is taking over the duty, and Phil sings some of the set from a chair. Rolling Stone note “he may not have the vocal range he had in 1987 or even 2007, but he can still project with real power and his charisma is undiminished.”