"In collaboration" - Anthony Phillips’ musical collaborations examined by Jonathan Dann. Photographs by Alan Hewitt.
In common with many of the people associated with Genesis, Anthony Phillips has enjoyed the opportunity to work with a wide variety of people throughout the course of his solo career. I think that what is especially interesting about Ant’s collaborations in particular, is the diverse nature of the music that has resulted from these collaborations. So, here we take a look at some of these joint ventures.
The most obvious collaboration that Ant has been involved in is that with Mike Rutherford. Their partnership has stretched from the early formative period of Anon through the early days of Genesis and beyond into the realms of Ant’s solo career. When Ant left Genesis in 1970, he maintained sporadic contact with Mike but by 1972 the pair of them had decided to work together on some ideas. Ant set to work and recorded some demos of the pieces that he had written up to that point and these tapes, known by those in the know as “Mike Demos ’72” included some fascinating material. Amongst the songs and instrumentals recorded was a track called The Lady Of The Locket (a lengthy twelve string song), a song called Queen Bettine which actually dates from 1969 and another piece that became the track known as Child Song. When Ant and Mike chose one or two of the pieces that they thought had potential, Child Song was re-recorded albeit in a somewhat primitive form as Ant only had a basic recording facility at that time. Another piece from this period appeared as the hymn Take This Heart which finally found a home on the Charisma album; Beyond An Empty Dream.
The Ant/Mike connection continued with the recording of Silver Song and Only Your Love at Island Studios in 1973 with Phil Collins on drums and vocals and then the recording of Ant’s first solo album; The Geese & The Ghost. The album was originally to have been credited as a joint effort but as Mike was unable to put as much time into the recording process due to commitments with Genesis, it became Ant’s album outright. 1976 saw Ant working with Mike again for the recording of The Scottish Suite that appeared on Private Parts & Pieces II: Back To The Pavilion, where former King Crimson and Greenslade drummer, Andy McCulloch took over from Mr Collins. Apart from loaning Ant endless amounts of gear over the intervening period, it wasn’t until 1991 that Ant and Mike wrote some new music together. Mike had been approached by TVS to produce a theme for their horse trials show, for which Mike’s wife; Angie was to provide commentary. Ant went down to Mike’s house and the two of them set to work. “At lunch we had nothing, by teatime we had a completed demo” recalls Ant and he notes that writing with Mike was a very easy experience. Ant would love to work with Mike again and I can’t help feeling that such a collaboration would benefit the two of them - Mike must be fed up with writing commercial songs all the time!
Another of Ant’s collaborations that has gone on for many years is his relationship with Harry Williamson, whom he met back in 1969. After Ant left Genesis, the two of them exchanged some musical ideas, some of which were based around piano duets. Some early demos were recorded soon after Ant left the band, and we can only wonder what delights were contained in The Balrog Suite, one of the pieces recorded that Ant clearly remembers! Another piece had a section where several alarm clocks were heard going off although Ant cannot remember the title of this piece or indeed if the tape of it still exists! Ant and Harry’s writing partnership produced two main pieces, the magnificent Tarka (about which we could almost write a book about the creation and recording of it, not to mention the ten years it took to get it released!) and The Gypsy Suite, which we have the chance to hear hopefully later this year when it is finally released!
It would seem only natural that Ant would want to work with another guitarist, and the ideal partner came to him quite by chance. During the sessions for Sides, Ant was introduced to Enrique Berro Garcia who was a fan of Ant’s… Quique (as Ant calls him) took up an acoustic guitar and played Collections in a most impressive fashion. In fact, Ant declared that he felt he should be Quique’s fan! They eventually wrote and recorded the Antiques album during the course of two weeks which Ant recalls as “the most relaxed, informal writing I have ever done with anybody”. The results of their partnership are in a league of their own, and it seems as if there was almost some telepathic interplay between the two of them on the album. The Falklands Conflict and the weakness of the Argentinean Dollar meant that Ant and Quique could not get back together until April 1986 when they spontaneously recorded some more material that found a home on Slow Waves Soft Stars. It was then another eight years before they finally managed to get back together this summer for more writing and recording. Let’s hope it is not too long before the results of their latest work appears!
Another guitarist was the source of another collaborative effort by Ant. This time he joined forces with Camel main man Andy Latimer. Their friendship actually has its roots through a slightly unusual link - both their mothers know each other! In 1981 Ant moved to London and, by coincidence, his new home was only a short distance from Andy’s house! They began writing some material together and although Ant always maintains that their individual styles are too close to each other, the recorded results are quite superb. Ant was subsequently invited to appear on the next Camel album: The Single Factor, which was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in January and February 1982. Ant can be heard to perhaps best effect on the track Sasquatch with its distinctive use of Ant’s twelve string and the track End Peace which was the first recorded collaboration between Andy and Ant. During the sessions for the album a version of the track And A Prayer was recorded but was never mixed and so it remains locked away in a vault, which is a crying shame. Ant recalls this as being one of the key missing pieces from his solo career.
Ant and Andy then went on to write another pieces which was initially to be for a car commercial, for which the brief was “Dire Straits”. However, British Leyland changed their minds and used Brahms instead for the advert! All was not lost as the track was then used for a late night European golf TV show. The music was highly impressive and also shows a different side to Ant’s music as there are very few pieces that he has released over the years that include lead electric guitar. Ant and Andy have also worked on some other ideas and there is another completed piece in the vaults awaiting release that included Andy playing the flute! On a more informal basis, Andy clearly recalls both Ant and himself going carolling one Christmas where the pair of them provided musical accompaniment on twelve string guitars! It would be great to see Ant and Andy work together again in the future.
The final key collaboration for Ant has been with Richard Scott (or Jumbo as he has been known in the past). The main work that Ant and Richard have been involved in is well known - the Invisible Men album and rock musical Alice, which ran for three weeks at the Leeds Playhouse back in 1984. Richard was also a key figure for the recording of 1984 as well. Although Ant now refers to Invisible Men as “the mortgage album” , the songs and arrangements showed that Ant can turn his hand to a surprisingly wide variety of musical styles when the need arises. Somewhere in the region of thirty songs were started for the album and apart from those pieces that made it to the album, there is another completed track called On The Water that was recorded around the same time sitting in the archives.
One other interesting collaboration based purely on song writing came about
when Ant joined forces with Roy Hill. They wrote a number of songs together
and Tears On The Ballroom Floor was picked up by Bucks Fizz and recorded for
their album I Hear Talk back in 1984. The somewhat “poppy” interpretation
of the song is in marked contrast to that recorded by the band Cry No More (of
which Roy Hill was lead singer) released in 1987, where the song is given a
more sympathetic treatment in the form of a rock ballad