when i was 19, i wanted nothing more than to look like rachel ward as she looked in the movie against all odds. i thought she was (and is!) incredibly gorgeous, with her dark swirls curving around her porcelain face. i got an ill-fated perm, a perm which haunts me to this day in family photos, a perm second only in ridiculousness to the horrific perm i had in 1988, when my then-boyfriend (now BS) announced: you look like a poodle.
(for the record, he has since learned to make criticisms comments more judiciously for fear of incurring the wrath of G-d a flood of tears.)
but in 1984, i cut my long straight hair and permed it, and i listened incessantly to phil collins’ title film track against all odds:
(ah yes. is that phil singing, or is it the aztec? or is it mayan? incan? south and central american history has never been my strength, though i’ll still take it on Jeopardy! long before i take Calculus for $200, Alex.)
ah, phil. (not to be confused with the group BS refers to as phil and the phils.) this was the point when phil went from being cool to being hot. and without calling up the spirit of Dr. Fahrenheit, there is a vast difference, musically, in being cool versus being hot. when phil was with genesis up until about 1981 or so, he was cool. he took musical chances. he wrote interesting, non-vapid songs. like this. i even liked his first two solo albums. no lie.
but then, he got very polished, and he had a musical midas touch that lasted for years. genesis got MTV-friendly. his songs became utterly obnoxious. (if i have to hear sussudio any more in my lifetime, i may spontaneously combust.) he produced everyone and their dog (Frida, Philip Bailey, Eric Clapton), showcasing his exceptional and unique gated reverb drum sound. i wanted to cheer him on; there’s something so likeable about him. but once you start writing disney soundtracks, you often become less musically interesting (though probably incredibly wealthy. old rockers never die: they either write cartoon soundtracks (billy joel, elton john), broadway musicals (billy joel, pete townshend), or go classical (billy joel, elvis costello, paul mccartney.) (note to self: what is UP with billy joel?)
the last song i can recall that he wrote that moved me to tears is against all odds. sure the movie, a remake of out of the past, is murky and convoluted, in spite of the saving grace that is rachel ward’s hair. but the song is powerful and showcases phil at his best: singing about lost love. i’d argue the best work he has ever done is when he is in searing emotional pain (see: Duke, Face Value, Hello, I Must Be Going). of course, i would never wish that on anyone, let alone someone as nice as phil; but i think once his life got in order, his music became less emotional and less gripping.
after divorce #3, phil has formally announced his retirement from music, at least from center stage. he’s going to sit back and collect memorabilia from the Alamo. i think that’s a nice euphemism, sort of like how politicians retire to spend more time with their families.
it’s against all odds that he might write another amazing classic. but i’ll never, ever count the bald guy out.