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Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford: how we made Invisible Touch

Phil Collins Phil Collins Boris Spremo/Toronto Public Library

‘We knew each other well and weren’t afraid to make lousy noises. There was a good percentage of crap’

Phil Collins, singer and drummer

Invisible Touch is my favourite Genesis song and it came more or less out of nowhere. We would arrive in the studio every day and just start playing. One day Mike Rutherford played a riff on the guitar, with an echo, and I suddenly sang: “She seems to have an invisible touch – yeah!” It came in to my head fully formed. I’m sure people have all kinds of ideas about how we wrote these songs they love or loathe, but really our writing process was close to jazz. We improvised. We weren’t afraid to make lousy noises. We knew each other well: if I started singing crap, no one would say, “What the hell are you doing?” Still, there was a good percentage of crap.

I wrote the lyrics about a person – and I’ve known a few – who gets under your skin. You know they’re going to mess you up, but you can’t resist. We didn’t know the song would be a hit. It was just a case of thinking: “Well, I like this, lots of other people might.” I can hear something of Prince and Sheila E in the drum machine – I was a fan of both.

The song was pretty well received, but the Invisible Touch album got some bad reviews. We hid in a ditch whenever we had a new record out: we’d been going more than 20 years, and by 1985 everyone had made up their minds about whether they liked us or not. The album cover wasn’t my favourite bit of artwork – it was a decision made by committee – but we did get our first big hit in America. I read recently that Peter Gabriel [a founding member who quit the band in 1975] knocked us off the No 1 spot with Sledgehammer. We weren’t aware of that at the time. If we had been, we’d probably have sent him a telegram saying: “Congratulations – bastard.” Lots of people have forgotten that Peter was ever in the band. We were a bit like Monty Python: five people who all had individual talents and ended up wanting to go their own way. The band was just too small to keep all the eggs under one chicken’s arse.

Mike Rutherford, guitarist

The best songs tend to get written quickly. That’s how it was with Invisible Touch. We’d rock up, have a cup of tea, see what happened. On day one, we had no songs, no ideas, and a blank bit of paper. Phil was always keen to fill that bit of paper – he was very organised – and we let him. It’s a wonderful song: upbeat, fun to play, always a strong moment in any gig. We never took our music videos too seriously. I think the public saw us as a bit serious, so we liked to surprise them. Phil would come up with some kind of comic character. The shoot for Invisible Touch was in a huge old grain store by the Thames. In one frame, you can see us rolling around in what looks like a big silver cotton reel. We toured the Invisible Touch album in 1986 and 1987, playing four nights at Wembley stadium. It was a beautiful hot summer. As we went out on stage, I remember thinking: “This is as good as it gets.” And I was right. The next album, We Can’t Dance, did pretty well – I think it was worth about £10m – but Invisible Touch was the pinnacle. I don’t know any other bands who’ve done what we did: run successful solo careers along with Genesis. Most guys start a solo career because they’re frustrated, but that wasn’t us. Genesis was going great, but we just wanted variety. Was there any competition between us? I suppose. But we all knew we couldn’t beat Phil.

R-Kive, a three-disc Genesis hit collection, is out now.

© The Guardian, by Laura Barnett

Last modified onThursday, 23 October 2014 13:34

Video

Genesis - Invisible Touch

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