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Weekend Songs: Phil Collins, ‘Sussudio’

Phil Collins, 'Sussudio'
Atlantic Records

Classic rock is about heavy hooks, power chords, and tight harmonies, but it’s also about letting loose and enjoying the good times — and there’s no better time than Friday evening, when we pick up our paycheck, punch out of work, and enjoy a couple days of much-needed rest and relaxation.

Today isn’t just any Friday — as we reported yesterday, it’s Phil Collins Day, and in honor of the annual celebration dedicated to the former Genesis frontman’s work, we’ve decided to dedicate this Weekend Songs column to one of his best-known solo hits.

A lot of his biggest songs were ballads, but Collins was known for the occasional uptempo number, too — like ‘Sussudio,’ the second single (and second No. 1 hit) from his wildly successful 1985 solo LP ‘No Jacket Required.’ The title may not have made a lot of sense — in fact, some people are still trying to figure it out today — but that didn’t keep the song’s infectious riff from dominating Top 40 radio during the first half of the year.

Blending Collins’ love of Motown R&B with his fondness for modern production techniques, ‘Sussudio’ places an insistent, synth-driven arrangement (programmed by David Frank, one-half of ‘Don’t Disturb This Groove‘ duo the System) alongside some percussive, instantly memorable brass work from the Phenix Horns (well known for their appearances on songs by Earth, Wind & Fire and a number of other artists). It proved the perfect combination for a set of lyrics about old-fashioned, schoolyard-style infatuation with someone you don’t even know — perhaps a bit of an odd topic for an artist who was in his 30s and on his second marriage, but effective nonetheless.

And as for that nonsensical-sounding title? As Collins later admitted during an episode of ‘VH1 Storytellers,’ it was supposed to be temporary. “I started to sing into the microphone, and this word came out, which was ‘sus-sussudio.’ It just literally came out, at the time,” he recalled. “I kind of knew I had to find something else for that word, then I went back and tried to find another word that scanned as well as ‘sussudio,’ and I couldn’t find one, so I went back to ‘sussudio.’ Then I thought ‘Okay, let’s give it a meaning, what is it?’”

The lyrics, as he pointed out, “are based on this schoolboy crush on this girl at school,” so connecting them to the title simply meant naming the song’s object of affection Sussudio. “My older daughter’s got a horse called Sussudio,” he laughed, “and I’m sure there are children all over the world with the name Sussudio, so I apologize for that.”

Fortunately, our (admittedly cursory) research hasn’t turned up any evidence of children named Sussudio, but the word has lived on in the cultural lexicon, as evidenced by its multiple definitions in the Urban Dictionary (one of which was inspired by the song’s decidedly NSFW appearance in Bret Easton Ellis’ ‘American Psycho’ book and movie). More importantly for the purposes of this column, it’s still an incredibly catchy (albeit totally ’80s) celebration of the irresistible anticipation of attraction — and as the clock ticks down to five this Friday, anticipation is something all of us can understand.

But why wait ’til it’s time to clock out for the week? Just hit ‘play’ on that video below, turn up the volume…and let the weekend start now.

Next: Hear What Jackie Wilson Said

Watch Phil Collins Perform ‘Sussudio’

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