In fact, I might even hold a grudging respect for him. I mean, any guy who manages, with only a sliver of talent, to rise from being the drummer of a band that lost its lead singer to being the new lead singer of that band and then somehow parlay that into a successful solo career, deserves some credit. And for someone who is short, balding, and not terribly attractive to accomplish all of this in the MTV era when looks matter at least as much as talent is truly remarkable.
So I have a certain respect for Phil Collins, but that’s about as far as it goes. I’ve always kind of thought of his music as filler. There are some songs on the radio that we love, and we spend our time flipping between stations trying to find those songs. Then there are those that we absolutely can’t stand, and we spend even more time flipping between stations to avoid those songs (since they vastly outnumber the songs we love). All of this flipping distracts us from concentrating on things like driving and operating heavy machinery, so it’s important for there to be some songs that we simply don’t have a strong feeling about one way or another so that we don’t go careening into oncoming traffic or chop off someone’s arm with a chain saw. I always thought that Phil Collins fit this description perfectly. When I’m trying to maneuver through heavy traffic or cranking up a power sander (okay, I’ve never cranked up a power sander, but there are people who do it often and they, too, have radios) and Phil Collins comes on I always think to myself “Eh, this is fine” and then I focus on the task in front of me.
In this respect, Phil Collins provides a valuable service to our society – forget about air bags, innocuous pop songs like “Sudio” and “One More Night” probably save more lives per year than all the safety equipment in the world. For that, we should all thank Mr. Collins.
But I always figured that that was as far as his role in this world went. I certainly thought that that was as far as his role in my life would ever go. His is the kind of music that you hear in the dressing room at Sears; or while your parents are getting ready to throw a dinner party (yes, that part is autobiographical). It’s not bad, but it’s not the kind of stuff that inspires… well, anything.
Which is why I find the phenomenon that I’m about to describe so strange.
It began with Liz. We were driving around one day and she was listening to Phil Collins. After the second or third Phil Collins song came on I realized this wasn’t the radio – she actually owned a Phil Collins CD. It had never occurred to me that anyone (other than my parents) actually owned Phil Collins’s music. I mean, he’s had a successful career, so on some level I knew people must buy his CDs (mostly people’s parents who like to throw dinner parties), but I just never really thought about encountering an owner of a Phil Collins CD. And here I was in the car of one! When I made some kind of comment about it Liz revealed that she “loved” Phil Collins; that she thought he was great and that she was a genuine Phil Collins fan.
A Phil Collins fan?! I never thought of him as someone who had actual fans. Again, I don’t dislike Phil Collins, but I can’t imagine someone actually seeking his music out. I mean, if people are flipping around their radio stations looking for the likes of Phil Collins then I’m going to start being a hell of lot more careful every time I get on the highway.
But, I could still write this off to an isolated incident. After all, this is Liz, and Liz has a tendency to appreciate certain unusual things on a complicated and unique level that can sometimes be… oh hell, let’s call a spade a spade, Liz likes crap (this is the same women who not only went to, but thoroughly enjoyed, Resident Evil AND Resident Evil II – you owe me four hours of my life back Liz).
Then I was driving around with Katie about a year later and she decided to put in a CD. It starts playing and low and behold – Phil Collins! Once again, I made some kind of comment, and once again someone revealed to me that she not only owns a Phil Collins CD, but that she LOVES Phil Collins. Phil Fucking Collins! She knows the words to all the songs, loves to sing along to them, she even got excited when we saw a Genesis reunion on TV once! Now, don’t get me wrong, Katie likes a lot of crap, too. But she likes trendy crap – not Phil Collins style crap.
But it gets worse. Just a couple of months later I was on Myspace looking at my friends’ various pages and I went to Misti’s page. It took a second to load and then her selected song started playing and it was… Phil Collins!!!!! I immediately sent her an e-mail asking WTF is up with the Phil Collins and it turns out that she, too, LOVES FREAKIN’ PHIL COLLINS!!!
At this point I had a real dilemma. Of course, on the surface, there’s the question of what the hell is wrong with these people. But then there is the deeper question: what the hell is wrong with me? Why am I apparently drawn to Phil Collins fans? I mean, if there were some other artist that they all liked, it might be different. If they all liked Billie Holiday, that would be fine. In fact, anyone who doesn’t have three friends who like Billie Holiday is someone who probably needs to go get some new friends. Even if it was someone like Michael Jackson, hell, even Britney Spears, that would be okay – I mean, those people have such a large fan base and tend to inspire strong feelings one way or the other, so if you have enough friends it’s highly likely that three of them will be fans. But to be close friends with not one, not two, but three Phil Collins fans? That can’t be a coincidence.
I was so disturbed by this that I immediately started polling my other friends about their feelings regarding Phil Collins. Cory and Amanda – don’t like him. Virginia – feels about the same as I do (she said he’s like concrete – it’s fine that it exists, but she doesn’t really think about it that much). Kristin said she wouldn’t ever buy his music, but turns it up when it comes on the radio. Kendra’s response – “I like some of his songs. Wouldn’t go to a concert or buy any music, but might leave him on if [he was] on 99.1.” In other words, all of my other friends felt about Phil Collins EXACTLY how someone is SUPPOSED to feel about Phil Collins, which is to say not really feel much of anything at all, good or bad. This was encouraging, but still, three Phil Collins fans is more than I’m comfortable with.
Then, something else happened.
Let me just start by saying, I have nothing against the French.
Okay, that’s not true, at least not entirely. I don’t really hate the French, but I do love to make fun of them. In fact my love of mocking the French is third only to my love of mocking Canadians and my love of mocking, specifically, French Canadians.
So, a few weeks ago, Virginia told me that she’s decided to take a French class through Leisure Learning. At first, this seemed normal enough. Actually, I thought it was pretty cool. In the course of talking to her about it, I mentioned to her that she should practice her French on Kendra sometime, since she has a degree in French and speaks it fluently. Then it also occurred to me that Cory just took an intensive French class this summer and has, as far as I know, picked up quite a bit of the language. Then it also occurred to me that Kristin takes French and, when I asked her about it, she confirmed that she does, in fact, take French lessons three times a week.
In other words, all of my really close friends who aren’t Phil Collins fans are huge fans of the French!!!!! What the hell?! All these years I’ve always prided myself on the fact that my friends are a diverse bunch – that if someone were to meet all of the important people in my life they’d have a hard time seeing any patterns. But now I come to realize that there is a very simple pattern – my friends can be divided into two very separate and distinct categories: lovers of French and lovers of Phil Collins.
Again, the crucial question in all of this is WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT ME?! I mean, that several of my friends like poker is not surprising – I like poker, so it would make sense that I would be friends with people with whom I have that in common. It makes similar sense that I have a lot of friends who like to read, play board games, eat sushi, drink wine, etc. I enjoy all of those thing.
But I have no real feelings either way for the French or for Phil Collins and yet, on some strange, subconscious level, I apparently use a love of those two things as my criteria for deciding who I want to be close to and who I will simply drop from my life. Maybe this is a blessing. Maybe the next time I go on a date I should just ask, “Do you like Phil Collins? No? Do you currently study, or soon plan to study French? No? Okay, well, I certainly respect your feelings on both of those issues, but I don’t think this is going to work out. Have a good night.”
This still, though, does not answer the question of WHY I’m drawn to these (dare I say it) freaks! Ultimately, I think it’s best that I don’t know. Besides, there is still some hope for me. I have not yet asked Bob and Molly how they feel about Phil Collins or the French. They are my last bastions of hope. Although, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure Bob studied French while in grad school…