FFWDing to the Best Part: “Invisible Touch,” Genesis (1986)

Phil Collins is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.  Do people choose to like him ironically?  Do people love to hate him?  Hate to love him? Actually, unapologetically (gasp) like him?   

His entire life is one of seeming contradictions … many say his addition behind the drum kit ruined Genesis as a leading progressive-rock pioneer, but it also, quite inarguably, made them immensely more popular. As a solo artist, his music is thought to be empty and shallow, yet he’s sold 100 million albums and has 16 top-20 singles in the U.S. alone.  He’s allegedly sort of a dick in his personal life, but raises money for PETA and famously flew across the Atlantic to be the only performer to take the stage at both the UK and US Live Aid concerts. (Not to mention, his singing voice is kinda sweet as kittens.)

The paradox that is Phil Collins is a popular topic among rock critics.  Behold:

Of course, Phil is not the first artist to be accused of “selling out” in one way or another. For me, I like what I like, and some of that includes songs from Collins-era Genesis, as well as a solo hit or two (or five).  Hell, I even dig “Easy Lover” — how can one NOT?

But after all that, I’m here to talk about a Genesis cut, which loyal reader RBerman alluded to in his most recent comment.

Best part? This is a perfectly accessible, inoffensive, quality mid-80s jam. Like “Kind of a Girl,” “With or Without You,” or many other tracks, “Invisible Touch” waxes on love gone awry because of some woman with the power of a shape shifter: “And though she will mess up your life, you’ll want her just the same.” (As I said to RBerman, there is a live track of this where Phil subs in “f*ck” for “mess,” and it is a super unsettling thing to hear out of the aforementioned kitten voice.)

But I digress … once again.

The best part isn’t the key change at 3:10 (though it’s a pretty good one), but rather at 3:25, when a new element of backing vocals emerge … “She seems to haaaave, an invisible touch, she seems to haaave, an invisible touch.”  Vaguely in the style of a (less cool) Police, we hear this refrain into the song’s fade.

Also, he’s using drum sticks as a fake microphone. Adorable, y’all!




FFWDing to the Best Part: “In the Air Tonight,” Phil Collins (1981)

All right, let’s get this shit out of the way.

Best part? 3:16-3:20. Everyone knows this song has an 11-beat drum solo, the likes of which will never be duplicated. Everyone plays the air drums/beats the steering wheel/vocalizes the rhythm every damn time this song gets played on 80s on 8 (or your terrestrial radio station of choice).  But the thing is … (shhh!) … it’s kind of the only good part of the song.


What?  Think about it. The whole thing is about 15 beats-per-minute too slow, the melody is boring, and the lyrics lost all mystique once the whole true story of a guilt-ravaged SOB who spiraled off the mortal coil after being literally spotlighted by Phil Collins himself urban legend was proven to be just that — the stuff of legend (Eminem’s efforts to perpetuate said myth notwithstanding).

Wikipedia says this about the drum solo:

The mood is one of restrained anger until the final chorus when an explosive burst of drums releases the musical tension, and the instrumentation builds to a thundering final chorus.

I beg to differ. After the”explosive burst,” Phil kinda just returns to the same-old same-old of the chorus. No key change, no crescendo, no real change in mood, despite what the almighty Wikipedia thinks it hears.

But the drum solo remains unequivocally iconic. Even though it’s performed on a drum machine, for God’s sake.  Just when we all thought Phil Collins was cool.