A Look Back At Genesis's 'We Can't Dance' 25 Years Later


(Radio.com) Released twenty-five years ago this month, Genesis's We Can't Dance was their final album with longtime drummer/singer Phil Collins and marked the end of the band for many fans. They would continue on with a new singer named Ray Wilson for one more album, but Genesis as a stadium-headlining hit machine ended here with the last date of the "We Can't Dance" tour.

In Phil Collins' newly-published memoirs, Not Dead Yet, the drummer/singer writes about his 1996 meeting with bandmates Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks. As all three of them knew going into the meeting, Collins would officially be giving his notice that he was leaving the band. Collins joined Genesis in 1970 as the drummer, and in the years since, took over as lead singer, and helped to bring them to insanely high commercial heights, all the while launching an incredibly successful solo career.

The always understated Mike Rutherford responded, "We're just surprised you stayed this long." A lot of people probably shared that sentiment; while Genesis was a multi-platinum band that sold out football stadiums, Collins' solo career was just as popular, if not more. He didn't need to stay with them, but he did, probably out of loyalty to his mates. As he notes in his book: "These are my oldest musical friends. Two of my oldest friends [period]."

Commercially, it probably made sense to end Genesis: with each album, leading up to 1986's Invisible Touch, the band got bigger and bigger. In the '80s, anything with Phil Collins' stamp on it seemed to turn to commercial gold (including projects he produced for Eric Clapton, Howard Jones, Adam Ant, Phillip Bailey and Frida). But at the dawn of the '90s, things were changing; Nirvana released Nevermind, which had a "year zero" effect in music, particularly in the music that people in their 20s listened to. Also, there was a sense that, with all his projects, Phil Collins was getting a bit "overexposed" (a quaint idea in the pre-internet era; it's not a complaint that gets lobbed at, say, Drake, even though he puts out multiple releases in a year, and guests on other artists' albums as well).

Even outside the context of the era, it may have been time to "call it." Collins had worked at an insane pace for about at decade at that point, between his solo albums and tours, Genesis albums and tours, other artists' projects and tours (he played drums in Eric Clapton and Robert Plant's solo bands in the '80s) and even acting (staring in the 1988 film Buster). It took a toll on his personal life (which he discusses in Not Dead Yet).

And while We Can Dance had a lot of highlights it has the fun MTV hits, the bittersweet VH1 ballads (they were still one of the few bands to get support from both channels) and a few prog-rock epics there were more dull spots on the album than on previous records, although that may have been an effect of the CD era, which gave bands the freedom to do longer albums (and the expectation that they'd do so). 1983's Genesis and '86's Invisible Touch seemed leaner, nearly every song filled a slot; but We Can't Dance seemed to go on too long, as many other albums did during that time. "Tell Me Why," "Way of the World" and "Living Forever" may have been good as B-sides, but they made the album drag. Read more here.

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Copyright Radio.com/CBS Local - Excerpted here with permission.


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