A short while ago I did a post on my favorite debut albums. I’ve added a couple of albums since then including this one. Collins, of course, had been the drummer and (initially) reluctant singer of Genesis. Collins’ legacy is mixed (great drummer, good singer, a mix of good and soppy tunes.) And in some people’s minds, the ruination of Genesis by catalyzing their descent into a pop-rock band.
Not having been a big Genesis fan (I find them weirdy unmelodic), I carried no such baggage. So when Face Value was released in 1981 I listened to it and dug it quite a bit.
Why is that? Well, it’s an odd yet compelling mix of – as Wikipedia says – pop-rock, R&B, art rock, experimental pop, and new wave. Collins is that rare breed who is equally comfortable with jazz, prog, pop, and – especially – R&B.
But the song that took over the airwaves in 1981 was “In the Air Tonight,” a tune that was heavily influenced by Collins’ divorce (as was apparently the entire album.) The entire song rests on a moody, somber four-chord (Dmin-C-Bb-C) backbone and enigmatic lyrics. Collins said they came to him in a stream-of-consciousness mode.
Well, if you told me you were drowning
I would not lend a hand
I’ve seen your face before my friend
But I don’t know if you know who I am
Well, I was there and I saw what you did
I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been
It’s all been a pack of lies
And that drum break? The “gated reverb” sound was a happy accident and it’s so iconic even Mike Tyson couldn’t resist playing it:*
In listening to this album again recently – and really enjoying it – it occurred to me that if you removed “In the Air Tonight” and “Tomorrow Never Knows,” you’d mostly have a really good R&B album. “I Missed Again” is a good example of that.
“Like many of the songs on Face Value, “I Missed Again” is about Collins’s anger and frustration about his first wife leaving him. The original demo was entitled “I Miss You, Babe”, with sadder lyrics:”
Back then, Collins still had his drum chops intact. Here’s a cool instrumental called “Droned.”
Speaking of Genesis, this tune – “Behind the Lines” – was co-written with his bandmates Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks. Great upbeat tune featuring the Earth, Wind And Fire horns. (EWF singer Phillip Bailey had a hit with Collins a few years later).
In case you’re wondering, Collins – for whatever reason – updated his picture on this album with an older, meaner-looking picture. Genesis just did what will be their final tour (at least with Collins) and Phil walked out with a cane and can no longer play drums. Time, I think, to leave the stage and let us enjoy your good work.