After a lackluster performance on the recording charts with this second solo effort, Hello, I Must Be Going! Phil Collins went back to the drawing board and created his greatest musical work. No Jacket Required was released on January 25, 1985 by Atlantic Records. Unbeknownst to Collins, he strived to construct a quality album and didn’t intend for the album to become such a worldwide phenomenon.
It would redefine pop music standards for a recording artist and ultimately his legacy. During the spring of 1984, Collins returned to the studio highly inspired and determined to leave his mark in a crowd of ostentatious talent on the pop music charts. Four years into his stint as a solo recording act, Collins achieved the height of superstardom with the triple entendre of real life lyricism, improvisation and exquisite musicianship.
The album title was borne from an incident at the popular establishment in Chicago, Illnois called The Pump Room. Collins was barred entrance to the restaurant because he wasn’t wearing the proper attire. At the time, he was with legendary musician Robert Plant, who was admitted into the restaurant because he was wearing the “right” jacket even though Collins was wearing a jacket himself. Collins proceeded to go on every talk show to speak about the incident and it led to the inspiration for the album title months later.
Collins spent his first five years as the main drummer for the progressive rock group Genesis and served as lead vocalist for the group after the departure of Peter Gabriel. It was here where he honed his craft as a musician and songwriter. For this particular album, Collins enlisted the help of his longtime collaborators Leland Sklar, Daryl Stuermer, The Phenix Horns (which were the horn section for the R&B collective Earth, Wind & Fire) as well as newcomers David Frank from the electronic/funk R&B group, The System, and background vocals featuring Sting and Peter Gabriel.
Between the months of May 1984-December 1984 No Jacket Required was recorded at various studios in Surrey and London, UK. SoulCulture recently sat down with Daryl Stuermer, the co-writer of three songs and studio musician to delve into the making of such an iconic album.
Stuermer recalls how he first met Collins and how he was chosen to work as a collaborator for the album.
“My first time meeting Phil was when I got the job with Genesis and I came over to England,” says Stuermer. “I met Mike Rutherford first because when I auditioned for Genesis it was just Mike and I. I flew into New York and auditioned for Mike. They sent me a cassette with four songs on it that I had to learn. I learned these songs and I played these songs for Mike during the audition.
“I was one of only five American guitarists at the auditions. After I got the gig, I had to fly to England for the first rehearsal. I already knew Mike from the auditions and Chester Thompson from some years prior to that. There I met Tony Banks and Phil was the last one to enter the studio. He is a really easy person to get along with. When he walked in, he seemed like he was a special guy. He just had a certain presence. I felt that way with pretty much everyone in the band as well.
“He actually called me at one point and said that he had some songs written for a new album. This was back in 1984. He hadn’t finished all of the songs for the album. Some of the songs were halfway done and some of the songs were totally finished. He asked me if I could come over to do the demos with him because he didn’t play the guitar. Thank God he doesn’t play guitar,” he laughs.
He continues. “A lot of guys in the band didn’t get to play on the album because he plays the drums, keyboard, etc. So he had me come over to his place and his house at that time was in Surrey, England. He wanted me to put some guitar things down on his demos to see what it would sound like. Then he told me he had some songs that weren’t quite finished. From there, he would play me things and he would ask if I had any ideas for a middle section for certain songs.
“That’s why I actually ended up co-writing four songs for the album, but only three of them made the final album. The fourth song got placed on a B side of a single that was released. I can’t remember if it was “Sussudio” or “One More Night,” but the name of the song was entitled “I Like the Way.” It was kind of a Michael Jackson type of a song.”
Stuermer discusses the creative process that existed between him, Leland Sklar and Collins for the album.
“I’m not sure if he thought about taking the album in a pop friendly direction, but I was just coming in to play music the way I thought it should be,” says Stuermer. “He would come up with ideas and tell me that I should try it a certain way, but he first lets you go. He lets you put some things in there in the way you feel it then he would give you some ideas from there. As a producer and a songwriter, he will do that. I played on every song on the album.
“We tried different guitars, guitar parts and layering effects. Our bass player, Leland Sklar was there with us during this process as well. At that point, Phil had already put down the drums, drum machines and keyboard parts before we even got there. So when we came in, I was playing guitar over tracks that have been laid down prior to our arrival.
“I remember we would walk to the studio in London. We recorded this album in London. Leland and I would come to the studio and at different points Leland and Phil would be working on bass parts and other times Phil and I would be working on guitar parts. It was like an all day affair. Generally, when I would work on a Phil Collins album, I would be in England for at least two weeks.
“We would do a song or two a day and sometimes we wouldn’t work the whole day. We would work on one song for a few hours and then he would try something. Maybe he would add a keyboard part somewhere or have Leland come in and play bass on something. This is how many of his albums were done. He would do a lot of work at home first. His keyboard parts that he would sequence or play manually he would already have those put down as well as his drum tracks. He knew what he wanted from that point on, but he still wanted you to add some things that he didn’t think of.”
Stuermer speaks on Collins’ mindset during this time in his career.
“He was just in a very good place mentally at the time,” says Stuermer. “He had been through one divorce and he married his second wife. It seemed like everything was starting to fall into place for him. The album was a very upbeat record. Usually, Phil writes some of his best stuff when he’s down, but this album was quite different.”
Stuermer remembers how the lead single “Sussudio” came to fruition.
“Many people thought the song “Sussudio” mimicked Prince’s song “1999,” says Stuermer. “Phil never ran away from that idea. He said he was definitely influenced by that song. He was a huge fan of Prince. I remember when I first had the demo for “Sussudio” there wasn’t a bass part on the song at all. The bass line in the song change how it first sounded so it actually ended up sounded less like “1999” after the bass line was laid down. It was a synthesizer bass line. A guy by the name of David Frank did that bass line. He was from a funk band called The System.
“There were great horn parts on the record too. The horn section was arranged by a guy named Thomas Washington, but he was known as Tom Tom. He arranged all of the horn parts for Earth, Wind & Fire. The word Sussudio was a made up word because he thought later on he would come up with an actual song title for the song that made sense, but ended up just leaving it in there and it worked.”
“Sussudio” went on to peak at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, #10 on the Billboard Rock Singles Chart and #12 on the UK Singles Chart. It helped to generate steam for the sales of “No Jacket Required” after its release.
The second single to be released from the album would be the gut-wrenching ballad, “One More Night.” It peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, #4 on the Billboard Rock Singles Chart, #80 on the Billboard R&B Singles Chart and #4 on the UK Singles Chart.
Stuermer recollects how the song was created from scratch in studio.
“One More Night” is a nice one,” says Stuermer. “A lot of people criticized that song because it said One More Night so much, but it ended up being Record of the Year though,” he laughs. “It is a beautiful song. The song was just done with a drum machine, but I’m not sure which drum machine he used on it. There were four people playing on this song. Phil played the drum machine and keyboards, Leland Sklar played bass, Don Myrick from Earth, Wind and Fire played saxophone and I played guitar. That was it. We had the Earth, Wind & Fire horn section with our band for at least four or five years and maybe even longer than that.”
The next single to be released from the album would be “Don’t Lose My Number.” Stuermer briefly recalls how the record came together. “Don’t Lose My Number” was a fun song to do,” says Stuermer. “I had a guitar solo on this song.”
“Don’t Lose My Number” went on to peak at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and #33 on the Billboard Rock Singles Chart.
The final single to be released from the album would be the iconic “Take Me Home.” The song was inspired by the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the lyrics refer to a person in a mental institution.
Stuermer speaks on why this song is his favorite from the album.
“Take Me Home” is probably my favorite song on the album,” says Stuermer. “We always end our shows with this song. I wasn’t there for the singing on the record, but Peter Gabriel sung background vocals on it and Sting is singing in the chorus. I put a guitar part on there that sounds a little bit like bagpipes. We did that in the studio using an effect called chorusing. We did it on the actual mixing console.”
“Take Me Home” went on to peak at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, #12 on the Billboard Rock Singles Chart and #19 on the UK Singles Chart.
Stuermer provides insight on how the remaining songs of the album came together from an artistic standpoint.
“Only You Know and I Know” was a song that Phil already had a demo for, but he didn’t have a middle section for it,” says Stuermer. “Sometimes when you’re writing a song, you get caught up in the verse and chorus, but you don’t have a middle section. You’re so close to the song, yet you don’t know where to go next. This is what he brought me in to do.
“I started coming up with an idea and I took that idea from a song I had already written but I hadn’t recorded it. I thought it may work in a certain part of the song. It ended up being the bridge of the song. I came up with the guitar solo in the song as well. It kind of sounds like two guitars playing at the same time, but I played one guitar with the regular solo sound and I played the other guitar where I used this octave device so it sounds like two guitars trading back and forth.”
“Long, Long Way To Go” is a very moody song,” says Stuermer. “When he first played this song for me, he had no lyrics to it. Lyrics are usually the last thing he writes. He basically sings syllables in the songs and then comes back and writes the lyrics for the music. This song had that “In The Air Tonight” feel to it, but without the big drums. Sting sung background vocals on it as well.”
Phil Collins – “Long, Long Way To Go”:
“I Don’t Wanna Know” is a song that I had on my first solo album as an instrumental,” says Stuermer. “Even though, I wrote the song I hadn’t recorded it. Phil put it on No Jacket Required and when my solo album came out three years later I ended up wanting to do just the original instrumental version. But we had to come up with a melody that worked with his singing for the song. The original melody didn’t work with the lyrics. I played “I Don’t Wanna Know” on the guitar as a note so it stuck. When he first heard the song on my demo, it was called “F Song.” I hadn’t thought of a title for it yet. He came up with “I Don’t Wanna Know” from out of the blue and it became the song it is today. It ended up being a Side B for another single that was released.”
Phil Collins – “I Don’t Wanna Know”:
“Who Said I Would” was another song that was semi-influenced by Prince and Morris Day and The Time. “Sussudio” came from the same place as well. It was a great live song to play during our concerts.”
“Doesn’t Anybody Stay Together Anymore” is a song I co-wrote with Phil. I wrote the bridge to the song and some of the guitar parts within it. I remember recording the song and it was once again Leland Sklar and myself playing on the record. I also remember Phil playing with Tom Tom on this record as well. Phil wrote these specific lyrics to this song.”
“Inside Out” has the saxophone solo in the middle of it. This is a nice song for me because I had a featured guitar solo in it. I’ve always loved this song. Leland Sklar and I would ask Phil to play it on tour, but for some reason we only managed to play it on our 1985 and 1990 concert tours.
“Many of these songs came together the same way. Phil had his drum part and keyboard sounds laid down and the guitar players such as me would come in and put down our parts. The saxophone was the last instrument to be recorded before he put vocals to the music. Most of the time these songs were written without lyrics and they maybe had hooks to them, but that was all.”
Phil Collins – “Inside Out”:
Stuermer tells a story about their expectations for the album and what happened at the Grammy Awards in 1985.
“No one expected that album to be as big as it became,” says Stuermer. “We thought it was a good album, but who knew if other people would accept it the way we did. The album went past our expectations and within that same year he won at least five Grammys. I remember we were all there at the awards show. He won Male Vocalist of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year and Producer of the Year.
“When we were at the Grammys, the first award given was Male Vocalist of the Year and Phil won it. So he went on stage and thanked everyone. Once we came back to our seats, he said, ‘If I don’t win another award, that’ll be fine as long as I’ve won one.’ Then, he went on to win four more and he didn’t know who to thank anymore because he thanked everyone the first time around,” he laughs. This was in 1985.”
No Jacket Required peaked at #1 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart and #26 on the Billboard R&B Albums Chart in the late winter of 1985 and it found its way to the top of the charts in nine different countries and has went on to sell more than 20 million albums worldwide. It stayed atop the charts for seven consecutive weeks and almost thirty years later the album has managed to remain among the 50 highest selling albums in US history. The album has achieved multi-platinum status in nine countries and its lasting effect on popular culture is unquestioned.
To this day, it’s regarded as the one of the greatest albums from the 1980s and remains the highest selling album of his career. This album earned a plethora of Grammy nominations and wins for Collins. No Jacket Required set the standard for other Pop infused Rock records for not only the remainder of the 1980s, but to present day. It contains all of the essential ingredients for a classic album and it shall be remembered as being one of the greatest albums ever recorded.
Stuermer mentions how great the experience was in making this album.
“It was a real pleasure to do that album because it was a nice process in involved in making it,” says Stuermer. “It’s one of those where everything came in at the right time. The chemistry between the musicians and the people were good. It’s fun to look back on the videos from the records back then. It is a very mid-1980s type of album and I think it does have an influence on how people produce music today. It’s a positive thing because it was a positive album.
“For me, it’s my favorite Phil Collins album of all-time because there isn’t one song that suffers. I can listen to that album from start to finish without skipping one song. I can’t say that about a lot of albums. There are many artists that I love, but this one is hard to stop playing. I felt honored to be part of the co-writing on the album and I’m glad it won some Grammy’s because at that time the Grammy’s still meant something.”