Since We're Talking About the 80s...the Retirement of a Musical King
I was going to bring you part two of my defense of the 80s this week, but then an 80s icon changed my plans. On Saturday, musician Phil Collins announced his retirement, which is a funny thing for a musician to do. It’s not as if there’s a need to make these things official; there wasn’t an impending tour to consider, and as far as I can tell, no one was exactly waiting with bated breath for his next release. I suspect news of his retirement provoked about the same response as his release of Motown covers last year – a mere shrug of the shoulders. But there’s no denying his past mastery of the pop music genre. Even if his song “Susudio” makes you grimace, or if the ballad “A Groovy Kind of Love” makes you cringe, you’ve got to give it up for the man who reigned as Musical King during the 1980s.
One need look no further than Milwaukee’s own US Cellular Arena, known as MECCA back in the 1980s, to get an understanding of just how dominant Collins was back then. MECCA was the place in Wisconsin for arena rock shows at the time: Kiss, ABBA, Rush, Van Halen, Queen, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen – they all came to MECCA back in the day. And so did Phil Collins. In fact, in 1983 alone, Collins graced the stage in Milwaukee three times: in February as a solo artist, in August as the drummer for Robert Plant’s first solo tour, and in November as the lead singer and drummer of Genesis – three shows with three different acts in the same calendar year, a mindboggling feat. I don’t know if this had ever been done before or if it’s ever been done since, but one gets the feeling that Collins’s ex-wives might have had a strong case in their divorce settlements; the guy was clearly not home often.
In the 1980s, when Collins wasn’t recording, he was touring. When he wasn’t singing, he was drumming or producing. In ten years, Collins gave us five Genesis albums and four solo albums. He recorded drums with Robert Plant, Peter Gabriel, Howard Jones and Paul McCartney, produced records for Phillip Bailey, Eric Clapton and Adam Ant, and contributed to three movie soundtracks, garnering two Oscar nominations. He even helped to create a “signature sound” that others emulated for years: the now-classic gated-drum popularized in the song, “In the Air Tonight.” And in 1985, Collins performed at Live Aid on two different continents in one day: first in London, and then – courtesy of the Concorde airliner – in Philadelphia, including a set as drummer for Led Zeppelin.
In short, Phil Collins ruled the decade.
His current health woes, which include nerve damage in his hands and a dislocated vertebra, have prompted him to finally leave the stage. But as Brett Favre has shown us, retirement can be a fickle thing, and no more-so than with musicians. After all, I attended Elton John’s farewell tour – in 1984. Two years earlier I watched The Who’s final concert on HBO. Who knows – Phil may be around again before it’s all over, whether we ask for it or not.
But in the meantime, I wish Phil Collins a happy retirement, and if it IS indeed a permanent one, here’s hoping that one day Celine Dion does the same.