September 14 – Trio Found The ABC’s For A Hit Record

And then there were three, by three! Genesis released their 11th studio album this day in 1981, the third with the band consisting of only the core trio of Tony Banks, Phil Collins & Mike Rutherford. Abacab came out only months after Phil Collins first solo album (Face Value) and to many sounded rather like a follow-up to that instead of a follow-up to Duke and prior Genesis recordings. (Perhaps that was in part due to Hugh Padgham’s presence on both, although on this one he only assisted the band self-producing the record.)

Few complained though. It hit #1 at home in the UK , where it was their second chart-topper, and scored them their first top 10, multi-platinum release in the U.S. The abstract title track and “No Reply At All” were both hits on both sides of the ocean, the latter being noteworthy for the prominent, lively horns borrowed from Earth, Wind & Fire. With “Man on the Corner”, it gave them three American top 40 hits, after having only a pair in total before. It could perhaps have had four; they also recorded the song “Paper Late” at the time, and while it wasn’t in the finished product, they did put it on their ’83 album Three Sides Live and released it as a single then.

If Abacab sounded a bit different for Genesis, it was no fluke. They self-produced the record, and made it at an old farmhouse they’d bought and converted into a studio. Tony Banks says they made a conscious decision to sound different than before and to keep the melodies simpler. Also a little different, six of the nine tracks were written collectively, but each member got to pen one song by themselves. For Tony Banks it was the pastoral “Me and Sarah Jane,” Mike Rutherford came up with “Like it or Not” while no one could miss Collins’ mark on “Man on the Corner”, which he wrote. Rolling Stone liked what it heard, comparing them to XTC and the Police and noting it “Contrasts sharply with the forbidding ivory-tower artistry of the past.” Even Melody Maker, which found the record “inconsistent” and stamped with a “heavy Phil Collins twist” described it as the band’s “most exciting ” work in years.

The odd title by the way is derived from the making of the title track. Mike Rutherford says they were jamming together and decided to mix up three separate parts of a song in the works. They dubbed them “Section A”, “Section B” and “Section C.” At one point in the studio, the record had parts played A-B-A-C-A-B. Hence the name. He noted though that after the final play through and mix, it ended up more like “Accaabaac.” Which would have been harder to say.


August 15 – Collins Drummed Up A New Set Of Fans

It was a big day for what would become a huge song. Phil Collins‘ first solo single, “In the Air Tonight” peaked at #19 in the U.S. this day in 1981. That low position probably seems pretty hard to believe given that the song is now one of the most iconic of the whole decade and has been one of the most played on radio stations, from hard rock to easy listening, for the past 30 or more years.

The song with the drums was off Collins’ first solo album, Face Value, that he’d recorded the year before in London. Phil was going through a nasty divorce (his wife Andrea was living in Canada and thought Collins was out on the road far too much) and seemed to immerse himself in music to escape from that pressure. In considerably less than two years, he put out Face Value as well as two albums with Genesis. In fact, “In The Air tonight” was one of the first ones he’d written and done a home demo tape for and he offered it to Genesis to record with their ’80 album Duke, but the other pair (Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford) weren’t big on it and declined. Woops! Mistake there, boys.

The lyrically bleak tune fit the rest of the album, although the record itself was a mix of slow, quiet songs and more upbeat, up-tempo ones like the next single, “I Missed Again” which utilized the Earth, Wind and Fire Phenix Horns. As to the lyrics referencing drowning and so on, Collins says “I wrote the lyrics spontaneously…I’m not quite sure what the song is about, but there’s a lot of anger, a lot of despair, a lot of frustration.”

The anger and frustration thunder through with the famous drum break which wake the song up about three minutes in. It would have been an impressive little solo no matter what, but was made the trademark drum sound of the late-20th Century by producer Hugh Padgham. The pair had met while working on Peter Gabriel’s 1980 solo album and had discovered that some neat effects could be had using “talkback mics” on the drums, and Padgham refined the “gated reverb” sound to create the spooky, echoing sound we hear on the Collins’ record… and many since. The quick, five second explanation is approximately that they record the drums to have echo and a bit of feedback , they ramp up the echo then (either by physically stopping the tape or digitally doing so) stop the note dead in its tracks. Surprisingly, one person who wasn’t keen on it was Atlantic Records boss Ahmet Ertegun who wanted more drums all through the song with less of a sudden drumroll punctuating it.

The angry singer and thundering drums sounded quite unlike anything else on the radio in ’81 and was an instant smash … some places. It got to #2 in his UK and in Canada, and went to the top in New Zealand, Germany, France and a few other countries. But in the States it had a hard time breaking into the top 20.

Although as a vinyl record, it would go on to sell enough to get Phil a gold record in the U.S., it’s popularity rose steadily after its release to reach the now almost-legendary status it has. It’s been downloaded enough to give him a triple platinum single. Helping the song’s popularity were its use in the first episode of Miami Vice, Collins’ own increased profile with his next couple of albums and him playing it twice at Live Aid…once in London and once in Philadelphia. Amazingly, the song has hit #1 again in New Zealand in 2007, then entered the download charts here yet again in 2020 due to a Youtube video of a couple of teens listening to it for the first time.

Daryl Steurman, who played the guitar on the track remembers hearing it played for the first time. “Good song, Phil,” he told the singer, “you’ve got a nice little career ahead of you.” Yes he did.

March 28 – Duke Did Noble Job Of Winning Genesis Fans

Somewhere between being one of the biggest but most avant garde and perhaps just slightly pompous art rock bands of the ’70s and one of the world’s most popular straight-ahead radio-oriented pop bands of the ’80s, Genesis straddled the decades with something a little in between. Duke, their tenth studio album, came out this day in 1980. In their British homeland at least, it’d been released to American markets earlier in that week 42 years ago. While all remnants of their artsy, prog rock passed weren’t entirely erased, it certainly pointed to the direction they would take in the new decade.

Genesis had begun and spent the first half of the ’70s as a quintet, largely under the control of quirky Peter Gabriel. He left the band mid-decade, followed by a guitarist named Steve Hackett, leaving a trio with the balance of power shifting towards drummer (and suddenly singer) Phil Collins. We heard a bit of what that would entail with And Then There Were Three, Duke stepped it up a bit more.

It had been a busy time for the band. It was only two years (to the day in the UK) between albums, and they’d capitalized on their newfound appeal, largely from the single “Follow You, Follow Me” , to tour the world and increase their profile substantially. This however, wasn’t good for home lives and Phil Collins marriage was on the rocks. He put the band on hiatus for a bit in ’79 as he moved to Canada temporarily to try and salvage that relationship, unsuccessfully as it turned out. The divorce that ensued ended up giving him albums worth of material as it turned out. In the downtime, all three were writing music and both Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks would both put out solo records around the same time as Duke; Collins himself wrote a number of tunes that became his first solo, Face Value during the time as well. Surprisingly, what is now seen as his signature song, “In the Air Tonight”, was written for the band and could’ve ended up on this album, but they weren’t keen on it so it was shelved until he put out his own record. That was a bit of an “oops!” but it didn’t really harm the fortunes of Genesis.

When they reconvened at the end of ’79, they each had some songs written and they decided to put some collaborative efforts on the album (including the first single, “Turn it on Again” and “Behind the Lines”) as well as a couple of songs written by each of the individual members. One of Collins’ contributions was the big hit off it, “Misunderstanding.”

They recorded it in Sweden, with the help of producer David Hentschel, whom they’d worked with regularly before. He’d come to prominence in the music world being a studio engineer and playing synthesizer for Elton John on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Sweden was new for them, but not the idea of recording on “the continent”; they’d made their last couple of studio records in the Netherlands and most of their previous live one in France. By all reports they quite enjoyed the process and found it one of their easiest records to make.

There were little nods to the band’s early days, like the 10 minute piece “Duke’s Travels/Duke’s End” which ends the record, and a loose – very loose – concept to the album about a guy called “Albert” who went by the nickname “duke”, for the most part it was a solid collection of relatively smart, catchy pop tunes.

That might have been a change for the fans, but evidently it was a good one… and the number of fans increased as well. It became the first #1 album for them at home and in Canada as well and in the U.S. it got to #11, likewise their best showing to date. The first single, “Turn it on Again” made it to #8 in the UK and Italy, and deserved a bit better fate over here where it just missed the top 40. However, “Misunderstanding” (which probably set the template for Collins’ work of the following five years) scored them their first American top 20 hit and zoomed to #1 in Canada, while flopping in their homeland.

Critics by and large saw the “new” Genesis as an enjoyable, possibly “new and improved” one. Smash Hits in the UK gave it a so-so 6 out of 10 but Sounds there rated it 4-star, saying Collins sounded “more convincing” than before and that “no Genesis fan could be disappointed.” Rolling Stone found it to have a “refreshing urgency” and singled out “Turn it on Again” as “vibrant rock and roll.” Years later, allmusic gave it 4-stars and called it a “major leap forward” for the band and when they “leaped into the fray” of being pop stars. The ’80s were kind to Genesis, as a band, and Collins solo as well as Mike Rutherford’s spin-off, Mike + The Mechanics.

But, as they say, “all good things must come to an end” and Genesis finally called it quits yesterday, performing what they say will be their last-ever show, in London. Peter Gabriel was in attendance but didn’t join them in the show. Of course, Collins’ health has suffered of late and he no longer can drum, and in fact has trouble standing up, so perhaps it’s time for them to stop and look back at their catalog…and maybe say “Turn it On Again!”


February 11 – Apparently That Wasn’t All For Genesis

Just there biggest hit to date, that’s all. That would describe Genesis and their growing American fanbase; on this day in 1984. “That’s All” hit #6 on Billboard, making it their biggest single to that point in the U.S.

The self-titled album from which it was drawn had been different from previous ones for the Brit trio, in that there was more collaboration and improvising in the studio on songs. It also continued the slow drift away from Prog Rock into pure pop territory that had begun in the ’70s after they’d become a trio. “That’s All” was essentially a simple song written by Phil Collins as an homage to the Beatles, him emulated Ringo’s drumming style on it. The album went on to be their third straight #1 in the UK (notably, it was the fourth studio release since Peter Gabriel left the band and essentially turned the show over to Collins) but opened new doors Stateside for them. As Kerrang put it, Genesis had “traded technical complexity and ingenuity for …more stunning simplicity” .Allmusic liked the “sleek, pulsating pop tune” but Rolling Stone didn’t approve. It gave the album a 2-star rating in a review which found the album “particularly appalling in light of what Genesis shows this trio is capable of.” They did approve of this single though, calling it “engaging” and “pushing the band to new heights of rhythmic expression.”

The song not only hit the American top 10, but rose to #2 on mainstream rock charts there. to the north though, it peaked at #14 in Canada, only their fourth biggest hit of the decade at that point, while in their homeland it got to #16. Of course, it wasn’t all for the band. Genesis would later go on to finally nab a U.S. #1 single three years later with “Invisible Touch” and presently are trying to get a world tour completed – one which has been stalled several times due to the pandemic.

January 25 – Collins Flaunted The Dress Code With Winning Results

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.”

June 24 – Fans Followed Genesis To Hit Radio

And then there were three…hitmakers! Genesis, after losing guitarist Steve Hackett (who decided to try and follow in Peter Gabriel’s footsteps and go solo) were reduced to the “core trio” of Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford.

The resulting album, 1978‘s And Then There Were Three, their ninth, hit #3 in the UK where it was their seventh-straight gold release, but also got them some notice on this side of the ocean, largely due to the great single, “Follow You, Follow Me.” It hit a peak #23 on Billboard on this day; their first top 40 single in North America. Back home in Britain it got to #7, also their best-showing to that point. Up to then they had been looked at as a sort of “albums” band, similar to Pink Floyd, without much radio exposure on “top 40” format stations. Needless to say, that would quickly change as they would end up charting 16 more top 40 hits in the U.S., plus a large number more featuring either Phil Collins or Mike Rutherford themselves.

The song was a deliberate shift from their previous epic, prog-rock sound as the band had noticed their fanbase was almost entirely male and wanted to expand to more female listeners. Tony Banks says it was at the time “our only truly group-written number” and that it was a chore as it is “much easier to write long stories than simple love songs.” Mike Rutherford wrote the lyrics and says it took him “only ten minutes” and they all were pleased with the result – a “lovely little song, catchy without being sappy.” Circus magazine agreed, calling the album in general “magical (and) mystical” superior to most other art or prog-rock acts out there summing it up by suggesting they’d shed two members without “sacrifice” of “direction nor quality.”

June 20 – No Purple Prince At Prince’s Trust…But A Star Lineup Nonetheless

The success of Live Aid in 1985 caught the attention of many people not only in the music world, but amongst charities as well. It became clear how great the potential was to raise vast amounts of money for good causes through concerts, and how many famous artists would get behind them. It was a lesson not lost on even Britain’s Royal Family. On this day in 1986, less than a year after Live Aid, Wembley Stadium in London got called into use again for a fund-raising concert. This time it was for the first “real” Prince’s Trust Fund Concert. We use the quotation marks as there had been a concert for the organization four years prior in a Birmingham arena (headlined by Status Quo) but it wasn’t really denoted specifically as a “Prince’s Trust “ extravaganza.

The Prince’s Trust is a British charity established by Prince Charles in 1976. It aims to help out needy teens and youth in the land by giving them training and counseling to help them find work, primarily.

While Charles has never suggested he likes rock or even pop music, he must’ve been well aware of the mass appeal and the chance to not only raise millions but have his charity gain publicity if such a show was staged. And he was married to young Diana, a noted rock fan.

The artist soon to be known as “the artist formerly known as Prince” wasn’t there but enough talent was. For the huge ’86 show, non other than Paul McCartney was signed on to headline it, with plenty of star help including Elton John, Tina Turner, George Michael, Eric Clapton, Level 42 and more. Most acts played one song, several had stars from other bands join them for their performance (for instance Level 42’s Mark King played bass and sang backup on “Every Time You Go Away” by Paul Young, which was made into a duet with George Michael.) It started with “In A Big Country” by Big Country, then “Marlene on the Wall” by New Yorker Suzanne Vega. Soon Phil Collins was doing “In the Air Tonight”, Howard Jones delivered “No One Is to Blame”, Dire Straits did “Money For Nothing”, with Sting appearing just like on the record, and Elton came out twice, early on to do “Your Song” then towards the end with “I’m Still Standing”. Sir Paul finished up with “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Long Tall Sally” before the finale, an all-star jam of “Get Back” with almost all the ensemble from the concert on stage.

Wembley Stadium (the original one, which was demolished this century; there is now a newer venue in its place) held about 82 000 for most events, but could be stretched to over 100 000 in a pinch, so it’s a good bet that something like that number were in attendance. For an event of its magnitude, surprisingly few reviews of it seem to have survived, but to judge for yourself, the whole concert was released on CD and was shown later that year on HBO, meaning video of it is readily available online.

Prince Charles was presumably very pleased with the results, and his organization ran similar concerts every summer through 1990. Elton and Eric Clapton were highlights of the ’87 show (with George Michael and Phil Collins among the returnees); Elton, Clapton and Phil Collins again in ’88; Van Morrison and Level 42 among the ’89 stars and the Moody blues, Lenny Kravitz, Big Country and a full orchestra in ’90. Since then the Prince’s Trust has had only sporadic, and generally smaller musical events. The charity itself continues its work in the UK to this day.

May 30 – Euro TV Shows & African Politics Got Gabriel Going

Monkeys may have been shocked. So too, Atlantic Records because 41 years back, Peter Gabriel really found his stride. On this day in 1980, he released his third solo album (which, confusingly enough was self-titled like the first pair.) The album is sometimes nicknamed “Melt” for the distorted portrait of Gabriel on the cover, a photo created by pressing a Polaroid while it was developing. Throughout most of the world, it was released on Charisma Records but in North America it came out on Mercury Records.

His prior works had been on Atlantic but that label dropped him when they heard this distinctive record! Big mistake, Atlantic- PG3 was his biggest-seller to that point, and to this day remains his most critically-acclaimed record. In the UK it was his first #1 hit and in Canada it went double-platinum and was a top 10 hit, thanks no doubt to Toronto’s CFNY which had it as the #1 album of the year. Rolling Stone gave it a 4-star review noting “while (its) instrumentation is utilizing African drums, Scottish bagpipes and electronic effects, and the most evocative whistling since The Bridge on the River Kwai, the music is built on a sound that makes rock & roll an ally.” Later on allmusic would give it a perfect 5-star review, calling it his finest work and “for the first time, Gabriel has found the sound to match his themes.”

His themes were bleak- the standout tracks were “Not One Of Us”, skewering the Us vs. Them mentality many religious extremists exhibit, “Biko”, about an anti-apartheid activist murdered in an African prison, and “Games Without Frontiers” , a single which began to demonstrate Gabriel’s awareness of the power of music videos. That track was on the surface about a weird European game show where contestants from different cities played each other in bizarre games while dressed in costume; more obliquely it was a statement about leaders who saw war as a game.

One more great lasting effect of the album – Gabriel used Steve Lillywhite to produce the record, but Lillywhite hired Hugh Padgham as an engineer and assistant. The singer also had mended the relationship with his ex-bandmate from Genesis, Phil Collins, who drummed on several tracks. Collins and Padgham met , and began talking about sound effects from recorded drums. The drummer hired Padgham for his first solo album, Face Value, and it was he who pioneered that huge, reverbing sound we first heard on “In The Air Tonight.”

April 21 – Odds Were In Phil’s Favor In ’80s

Seems like people liked going to the movies in 1984. And listening to music, which is not a bad combination really! Because in the year 1984, there were five different songs from movies which spent a cumulative 16 weeks at #1 on Billboard. On this day 37 years ago, one of the best of those knocked another one off the top: Phil Collins“Against All Odds” replaced Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose”.

Against All Odds was a romance/thriller starring Jeff Bridges and Rachel Wood. As movies go, it was somewhat forgettable and it barely made the filming budget back at the box office. But the music was good. Director Taylor Hackford wanted that, and brought in session guitarist Larry Carlton to arrange it. The guitarist who’d worked on a number of Steely Dan albums as well as hits like Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark and Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall wrote and arranged much of the instrumental score of the movie, which comprised side 2 of the soundtrack album. However, he picked some great musicians to add songs which made up side 1, including Stevie Nicks, Kid Creole and the Coconuts bouncy “My Male Curiosity” and a couple of people associated with Genesis: Mike Rutherford (who added “Making A Big Mistake”) and Peter Gabriel (“Walk through the Fire”.) For the title track though, Hackford had an idea in his mind. He wanted a “textbook case of designing a song to reflect what the film is.” And he had an artist in mind…another person with ties to Genesis. Phil Collins.

At the time, Collins and Genesis were on tour, so Hackford flew to Chicago to talk to Collins and show him a VHS of an early “rough cut” of the movie. Collins approved and agreed to do the title track. Turns out through the happy coincidence of unhappiness, Collins’ divorce had left him with tons of angst-wrought songs of failed love, and the foundation of “Against All Odds” was ready in the form of a demo he’d written and put together (but never finished) when working on his 1981 record Face Value. He modified the lyrics a bit, did the vocals and drums; Carlton found an orchestra and session musicians to put the rest of the music together and voila- a song more remembered than the movie it shares a title with.“Against All Odds” hit #1 in Canada as well and #2 in the UK. In the States, it now seems surprising, but it was Collins’ first #1…the closest he’d been before was #6 with “That’s All” from Genesis. But it wouldn’t be his last foray to the top… by the time the ’80s were over, he’d have seven U.S. #1 hit songs of his own, including three more from movies: “Separate Lives” from White Knights and “Groovy Kind of Love” plus “Two Hearts” from Buster.

February 13 – Collins Turned Bad Marriage Into Great Record

Heartache and heartbreak may be the worst things to suffer in life. Unfortunately for artists, they’re often also the muse that drives the best of creative works. Such was the case for Phil Collins, who released his debut solo album, Face Value on this day in 1981. By that time Collins had settled in nicely as the singer for increasingly-popular Genesis (replacing today’s birthday boy Peter Gabriel in that role about four years prior) but he’d been thinking of a solo work for a couple of years. As early as 1979, he’d told Modern Drummer about a solo project he had in mind, noting “I’m also hip to what Eno does…two or three minutes of just mood. The album…will have a lot of different styles on it.”

And so it did, musically at least. As Rolling Stone noted, it changed pace “shifting with surprising sure-footedness” between bouncy, upbeat ditties and slow, dark dirges. Most noteworthy of those were the now iconic “In the Air Tonight.” The song which BBC personality Stuart Moconie says “set the template for all the ’80s drums” started slow, quietly brooding to a climatic thundering drumroll that is synonymous with Collins himself (in no small part due to him playing it in both London and Philadelphia at Live Aid!). Like most of the other songs, “In the Air Tonight” – which Collins says he wrote spontaneously but admits is full of “a lot of anger, a lot of despair”- the lyrics are downbeat. Titles like “The Roof Is Leaking” and “If Leaving Me Is Easy” might give you a clue to that. This came about as most of the album was written while he was going through a divorce from his first wife Andrea, who’d left him the year before. The misery was gold though. “In the Air Tonight” and the livelier “I Missed Again” were both top 20 hits in the States, top 10s to the north in Canada and helped the album hit #1 in his native UK and Canada, #7 in the U.S., which was higher than any Genesis album to that point. Eventually the album went 5X platinum here and even better- diamond status- in Canada, no doubt due to the ongoing popularity of “In The Air Tonight”. Initially only peaking at #19 on Billboard , it has gone on to be triple platinum as a single, selling more than “Bette Davis Eyes”, which was the biggest-seller of the actual year 1981. After all, who doesn’t love that break? Ozzy Osbourne says it’s the best drum break ever. The sound was largely created by producer Hugh Padgham, whom Phil met when both were working on a Peter Gabriel record, through a technique known as “gated reverb.” The big, bold echo-y sound would soon go on to be the norm on ’80s singles from artists as different as Abba’s Frida and Canadian country-rockers Blue Rodeo.

When released, most reviews were decent but not extraordinary. Many pointed out the nice contribution of the Earth,Wind & Fire horn section on songs like “I Missed Again” and suggested they helped it come across less pretentiously than many Genesis records. Its import seems to have grown through the years, with Q later rating it 4-star and allmusic grading it a perfect 5-stars, calling “I Missed Again” “impossibly hooky” and considering the record “thoughtful, emotionally-charged pop.” And of course, there are those drums!

Collins eventually found love again, and found a wallful of gold and platinum albums through the rest of the decade both on his own and with Genesis.