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Reappraised: Phil Collins

Phil Collins, the ferret-faced uncle of pop, with his vocal sack of heartache from his Su Su studio of emotional longing, is a living, breathing revelation.

Loathe him or loathe him, part-time lover and paint can power-pop balladeer Phil Collins is a revelation.

Why? Because there’s something glorious and hopeful in the fact that, at one point, Phil Collins was one of the biggest names in pop. The follicly-challenged star couldn't dance, couldn't talk and probably wasn’t allowed on rollercoasters, yet it was his songs your Auntie Margaret danced to at her wedding to Uncle Peter while wearing that big orange pom-pom toilet roll cover dress. Phil Collins was hugely popular despite looking more like a plumber than a pop star.

He wasn't cool, he wasn't sexy, he didn't have elaborate dance routines with a harem of scantily-clad women. But he did have number one hits, and it would sadly appear that this breed of pop star is unlikely to ever trouble the charts again. There will never again be room in the pop sphere for another like him or his ilk – Daryl Hall and John Oates, Midge Ure, Nick Heyward, Feargal Sharkey, Michael McDonald, Billy Ocean and loads more, who all looked like depressed geography teachers.

These days, pop is a well-oiled machine, churning out repackaged, ever-younger versions of the same sexually explicit, high-tempo music made by beautiful and toned made-up glamour models. I can't see how the ordinary Collins's of the world could ever compete against these godlike creatures. If you think I'm talking nonsense, I’ve done the maths. Poorly remembered GCSE maths, admittedly, but nonetheless I have worked out that the average age of a singer with a number one hit single in 1985 was 31. In 2018 it was 25. At least five artists were 21. This is why whenever I look into the shining bald head of Phil Collins, I'm filled with deep despair. Today, a bald head in pop music is as likely as a dodo for Christmas dinner.

It's a sad sign of our culture that with the rise of social media and the instant proliferation of images we are becoming more obsessed with appearance, and this trend is only set to continue. Today there are very few pop acts that work beyond 30, because we don't want to look at them and their crusty, ageing faces.

Everything is so engineered for a perceived target audience that there’s no room for naffness to creep in. Everything has to be edgy, and everyone has to pout or look like they’ve swallowed a wasp. It's tiring. Back in the eighties there was at least some hope that if you wrote a catchy song with a pleasant melody you could have a hit record. I can't see that happening now unless it's a novelty, ‘push a pineapple up your arse’ kind of record.

It's a great loss, because anyone who has ever had a conversation with a 20-year-old will tell you that they're all idiots, obsessed with drinking in the klub, having fun and enjoying life. Yuck.

What the hell can a 20-year-old tell me about the vicissitudes of life and the pitfalls of love? Phil suffered a divorce after his wife had an affair with the painter-decorator. That's real pain. So thank your lucky stars that Phil is now out of retirement. He is a walking relic of a different age, soon to disappear into the air tonight, and we'll be left with toddlers in G-strings shouting their incomprehensible nonsense.

Stan's top recommendations:

  • Sussudio
  • Thunder and Lightning
  • Tomorrow Never Knows

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