How Much Do You Want To Know?
Recently, Quirky T bought two musical memoirs to read aboard The Guitar Train. I have finished reading Phil Collins’ 2016 autobiography, “Not Dead Yet” and am partway through his Genesis bandmate, Mike Rutherford’s, “The Living Years”. The minute I heard Phil Collins was writing a memoir, I knew I had to read it. While looking online for the release date, I came across Mike Rutherford’s book. It was published in 2014. It is interestingly labeled as “the first Genesis memoir” which seems an odd way to promote it. It’s not as if the former bandmates are in a huge feud and one wanted to get his side of the story out before another did. I ordered this first Genesis autobiography but I read it after Phil Collins’.
My interest in reading these books is for the information on what led the musicians to write the songs I love. I’m not very interested in their family lives and I’m definitely not interested in the details of their excessive drinking and drug use. Decades ago, when I first became a Beatles fan, I had to read every book I could find about them. I had to know as much as possible. I needed to know the chronology of their musical journey as well as if they were married and how many children they had. That might be a Beatles fan thing where these are basic facts that every true Beatles fan is supposed to know. I don’t feel that way about my other favorite musicians and bands – Gloria Estefan, Phil Collins, Genesis, Huey Lewis and the News, and Jon Secada. I know about Gloria Estefan’s family life because it is simple- she married the only man she ever dated, has a son and a daughter and is still married to the same man. I only know about Phil Collins’ personal life because it is complicated and very public. So much of his autobiography reflected that. I didn’t realize the incredible backlash he felt when he ended his second marriage. He felt that people who paid to see him in concert were against him. That surprised me because they were fans and I couldn’t imagine a musician feeling like his own fans didn’t like him and still having to perform for them. I wasn’t aware of all this when I saw him in concert but I wouldn’t have held it against him because I like to hear both sides of the story.
I have never had a thought about Mike Rutherford’s personal life. His memoir is interesting because he contrasts his rock and roll life with the strict military life of his father. It is also interesting to read his point of view on Genesis events I had read about in Phil Collins’ memoir. Again, no feud between them. In fact, the end of Genesis had no drama at all. Phil wrote that he was nervous in 1996 about telling Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford that he was leaving the group because “these are my oldest musical friends. Two of my oldest friends, full stop.” When told the news, Tony replied, “Well, it’s a sad day.” Mike said, “We understand. We’re just surprised you stayed this long.” I haven’t finished reading Mike Rutherford’s book yet because like Phil Collins’ book, I want to read it slowly to extend my last new connection to Genesis since there’s no new music or tour coming from them.
On the topic of tours, I have seen some videos of Phil Collins’ recent tour in Europe. The videos sadden me because of Phil’s physical state. He only sits on a stool and sings. No more drumming. He looks old and frail just like he did when he promoted “Not Dead Yet” on TV talk shows. I feel so badly that he is in pain and not physically what he once was. I don’t know if I’d be able to go to his concert and really enjoy it. I’d be thinking about how vibrant he was and sad about what he is.
The two memoirs did not give me huge insight on the inspirations behind their songwriting. That is especially true in the case of the Phil Collins led Genesis since they wrote all their songs together and did not claim individual songwriting credit. Phil wrote in his book, “The three of us have a chat and come to an agreement that anything we’ve finished writing as an individual, we’ll keep for ourselves for future solo projects. Any incomplete but promising ideas, we’ll bring in and put to the band committee.” Phil also debunks the belief that he is responsible for Genesis transitioning from a progressive rock bank to a pop singles band. Writing about the time after Peter Gabriel left Genesis, Phil says, “I’d rather be in an instrumental band than take over the microphone. Tony and Mike have long had aspirations to be songwriters – that is, songs with lyrics, lyrics that need to be sung. More than that: they wanted to write hit songs, singles that will reach the pop charts. It’s a development of some irony that it takes almost ten years of their songwriting skills to “mature” and come up with hit singles – exactly coinciding with the another emerging reality: I’m becoming the singer-by-default.”
As a far as the inspirations behind Phil Collins’ solo songs, I already knew that two of his angriest songs (which are two of my favorite songs) “I Don’t Care Anymore” and “Do You Know, Do You Care” came as a result of the bitter divorce from his first wife. He describes himself as “someone who writes from the heart and not the head”.
I guess an autobiography is not the format for writing in depth about a songwriter’s musical inspirations. Of course that type of in depth book has been written about the Beatles’ songs. The best book I read on that topic is Hunter Davis’ “The Beatles Lyrics”. Regardless, the two memoirs by Genesis bandmates were good reads and recommended for their fans.
Guitar Train passengers, how much do you want to know about your favorite musicians? Do you want personal details or strictly music related details? For which songwriters would you like to read an in depth explanation of the inspirations for their songs?