Number Ones: #98


  • GENESIS Tonight, Tonight, Tonight (Virgin)
  • Week Ending 4th April 1987
  • 1 Week At #1


As the decade progressed, and with each new record, it became harder to discern where Genesis ended and Phil Collins’ solo career began….or vice versa. The band’s self-titled opus from 1983 – the one with Mama, That’s All and Illegal Alien – sounded just different enough from the solo Collins output of the time to make a distinction.

By the release of Invisible Touch in June 1986, those lines had blurred to the extent that on hearing In Too Deep or Throwing It All Away, you’d have to question which artist was credited with them. Band? Or man? It also didn’t help that Mike Rutherford’s foray into extra-curricular activity had created AOR kings Mike + The Mechanics, and most of the tracks on Invisible Touch which didn’t sound like Collins solo efforts invariably resembled the Mechanics.

(This sounds like criticism, but I wasn’t deterred…I enjoyed it all!).

Invisible Touch was the poppiest album that Genesis had made, filled with slick but lightweight fare such as the title track; a relative of Sussudio in the just-tossed-off stakes, but hooky nonetheless. When the tone wasn’t taken in a heavier direction by Rutherford (Land Of Confusion) or keyboardist Tony Banks’ more expansive tendencies (see: Domino) were reined in, it would be Collins dominating with his then-trademark commercial nous.

But then there was also Tonight, Tonight, Tonight. The album version clocks in at over 8 minutes, a brooding, episodic, intense workout that’s a bit Mama and a lot of Peter Gabriel. The cascading motif through the verses bears more than a passing resemblance to Milgrim’s 37 from Gabriel’s So album, and Collins returns to channelling the PG vocal style as he was effectively forced to do after the latter’s abrupt departure from the band in 1975. It’s fantastic.

So was out just 3 weeks before Invisible Touch appeared, yet there was room for both on the UK charts (the two albums each debuted at #1) and on mine as well. Somewhat surprisingly for an album I was obsessed with to such an extent during that summer, none of the So singles managed to top my personal chart (Sledgehammer and Big Time peaked at #2), which makes the success of Tonight, Tonight, Tonight a little ironic.

In the US, the sequence of singles saw Tonight.. follow the title track, whereupon it made #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The other three selections also made the top 10 there, yet in Britain an alternative pattern was emerging; peaks of #16, #19, #14, #17 and #22 showed consistency but also exposed the lack of a genuine crossover hit. Two of the three singles from Collins’ No Jacket Required suffered a similar fate in the UK (One More Night being the sole exception), so even in chart terms the boundaries between band and man were disappearing.

Tonight… was the 4th single in Britain, just before the clocks went forward. The 7″ mix inevitably loses some of the original’s grandeur, and the key passage halfway through had to be curtailed, but one of my favourite album tracks of 1986 was still able to reach #1 on my singles Top 40 some nine months later.


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