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No Jacket Required: When Phil Collins Switched Up His Style
In Depth

No Jacket Required: When Phil Collins Switched Up His Style

With ‘No Jacket Required’, Phil Collins set his sights on becoming a global star, and unleashed one of the defining albums of the 80s.

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In early 1985, Phil Collins was getting ready to release his third album, No Jacket Required. Work on the record had begin after a year of working with other artists, such as Earth, Wind And Fire’s Philip Bailey (the hit single Easy Lover) and Eric Clapton (the Behind The Sun album), and Collins had made a deliberate decision to switch up his style. Wanting to avoid being pigeonholed as a writer of ballads and love songs – especially following the success of In The Air Tonight – he began working towards a more upbeat sound.

Listen to No Jacket Required here.

Making good on his intention

With it’s dramatic keys, pounding drums and blasting trumpets, album opener Sussudio made good on that intention, presenting an extreme change of pace compared to a song like I Don’t Care Anymore, which had opened No Jacket Required’s predecessor, 1982’s Hello, I Must Be Going! Delivered with a refreshingly energetic and vibrant vocal, Sussudio was a perfect choice for the album’s lead single, and its energy spilled over into the next track, Only You And I Know, before pulling listeners into the moody, atmospheric tones of the political Long Long Way To Go, featuring backing vocals from Sting.

Other stand-out album tracks, such as I Don’t Wanna Know and Doesn’t Anyone Stay Together Anymore, often get overlooked – a sign of how strong No Jacket Required’s material was – but the former sees Collins delivering one of his most powerful vocals, and the latter provides a fantastic example of his signature drumming style. Understandably, however, singles like One More Night, which became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic (No.1 UK, No.4 US), grab all the attention. This classic slow ballad about giving a relationship a second chance shows Collins at his most vulnerable, with beautifully delicate keys and drums sitting alongside gorgeous harmonies in the chorus.

Finding new inspiration

No Jacket Required also saw Phil Collins find new inspiration in the form of improvisation. The UK chart-topper Sussudio was built from scratch in the studio, as was Don’t Lose My Number, which wasn’t released as a single in the US but hit No.4 in the UK. Collins himself says he can’t pin down the song’s exact meaning; instead, he chose to improvise his lyrics in order to create a raw sense of poetry.

Despite this vagueness, Don’t Lose My Number retains a powerful ability to evoke personal feelings for each listener, who can fill in their own specifics. It also inspired one of Phil Collins’ most creative music videos, in which he finds himself at the whim of different directors’ ideas and ends up parodying other videos then receiving airplay on MTV, among them David Lee Roth’s California Girls and The Cars’ You Might Think, along with Hollywood genre movies like samurai films and Westerns.

Keeping fans guessing

Released as the album’s final single, Take Me Home continues to keep fans guessing: some believe it takes inspiration from George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, while others say it was inspired by Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and follows the story of a man in a psychiatric hospital. Either way, its rhythmic melodies are enchanting and hypnotic. Despite falling slightly under the radar upon its initial release (it went Top 10 in the UK, but stalled inside the Top 20 in the US), Take Me home has become a beloved fan favourite that’s now considered up there with the best Phil Collins songs, while the singer has performed it throughout all his tours since No Jacket Required’s release.

Also growing in stature over the years is We Said Goodbye, initially released as a B-side to Take Me Home, but given a wider audience following expanded editions of No Jacket Required. Opening with an incredibly emotional string arrangement before the piano and vocals come in, it’s sees Collins channelling Elton John and Cat Stevens for one of the most stripped-back songs of his career.

Elsewhere on No Jacket Required, Who Said I Would tricks the listener into thinking they’re about to hear another slow balled, before its opening Steve Reich-esque rhythms jump headfirst into a chaotic, upbeat big-band song filled with more trumpets and pounding drums. Lyrically, it finds Collins at his wittiest, recounting a tongue-in-cheek debate between a couple. Inside Out, meanwhile, sees Collins deliver a commanding vocal over gigantic power chords, resulting in another arena-friendly anthem from a man who has written plenty of them.

Hitting another level

Released on 18 February 1985, No Jacket Required took Phil Collins’ career to another level, its move into a pop-oriented sound furthering his mainstream appeal. Topping both the US and UK charts, and winning three Grammy Awards in 1986 (including Album Of The Year), it has since reached diamond status in the US and gone six-times platinum in the UK.

After undertaking a massive global tour in support of the album, Collins crowned his achievements with two performances at Live Aid, for which he flew by Concorde from London to Philadelphia, appearing at both Wembley Stadium and John F Kennedy Stadium. A bona fide star on both sides of the Atlantic, he may no longer have required a jacket, but Phil Collins was certainly in vogue.

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