There’s a reason Phil Collins is such a natural in Genesis videos. As a young teenager, in his pre-drummer life, he was on track to become a professional actor — even playing the Artful Dodger in a production of Oliver! on London’s West End. And that charisma (Charisma?) never left him: A decade after he took over as the band’s frontman, he guest-starred in an episode of Miami Vice.
Few bands had a screen-worthy actor in their ranks, ready to mug for the camera at a moment’s notice. And that sense of Phil being Phil carries plenty of their 32 videos, which we’ve taken the geeky pleasure of ranking below.
The other band members clearly weren’t as comfortable being video stars: Keyboard genius Tony Banks, bless him, always looks about as natural as he does onstage. (Which is to say: not very.) And we’re not counting Peter Gabriel, a video star in his own right, who jumped the Genesis ship before they made their first clip.
Many (“Many Too Many?”) of the early Genesis videos were clearly done on the cheap, with the band simply playing instruments on an empty stage. Not exactly Scorsese-level filmmaking, but you have to start somewhere. And as you’ll see below, they arrived at some pretty brilliant places.
32. “Illegal Alien”
Plenty of people hate this peppy little art-pop tune, a minor hit from Genesis’ blockbuster self-titled LP. Understandable: The lyrics, widely interpreted to be satirical, are essentially a stream of stereotypes about Mexican immigrants. The wacky video only doubles down on that interpretation with huge mustaches, sombreros and mariachi horns aplenty. Genesis clearly didn’t mean any harm, but the clip is still hard to watch.
31. “Tell Me Why”
A well-intended but half-baked protest song gets a well-intended but half-baked protest video. “Tell Me Why” surveys “people starving everywhere” and “mothers crying in the street” — and its sad, blue-tinted clip offers images to match. If only they’d championed a particular cause, rather than vaguely alluding to the entire planet’s misery.
It’s hard to stage-mime your way into an interesting video: a common theme throughout the early Genesis filmography. “Abacab” offers some choppy slo-mo and lighting effects, but it’s otherwise a rote per-faux-mance clip — far below the standard of this early ’80s banger. Even Collins looks over it: Check his stiff, goofy expression at the 1:25 mark, clearly signaling to the viewer, “I’m bored and wish I weren’t on camera right now.”
29. “Turn It on Again”
Another uneventful “performance” video that just makes you want to watch actual live footage. There are some random close-ups on everyone’s limbs — at least they mixed up the camera angles. The highlight, really, is Collins’ nifty Hawaiian shirt, and the frontman brings some welcome enthusiasm with his horn-timed jazz hands.
This was a debatable inclusion from the get-go: Can you even call it a “video” in the traditional sense? But Genesis included it on their DVD compilation The Video Show, so let’s revisit the band’s 1982 spot on BBC music show Top of the Pops. The energy is high from start to finish, given the audience, and the guest players bring some new visual color, literally and figuratively. (But as we’ll see later on, they’re still no match for the band’s own horn miming.)
27. “Many Too Many”
Collins flexes some of his theatrical muscles in this otherwise snoozy video. We open with the frontman looking lonely and dejected on a concert stage, gazing into the distance with a dramatic made-for-TV-movie gaze — as if the answer to his problems lies just beyond his reach (or perhaps the venue door). It’s nice to see Mike Rutherford working his slide guitar — a rare sight, given that they never played “Many Too Many” live. But this one’s mostly filler.
26. “Hold on My Heart”
This bar is clearly closed — why are Genesis playing here? Do they have an arrangement with the owner? Are we watching a rehearsal? Maybe they just dig the vintage microphones and moody lighting. Either way, it’s a drum-machine situation. Despite having a kick drum near his feet, Collins looks too heartsick to play a full kit — he can only limply thwack a couple splash cymbals. There’s probably a metaphor in there somewhere.
25. “In Too Deep”
Collins sits alone, atop a mysterious staircase leading nowhere. Banks plays a white grand piano — curious since that instrument isn’t prominent on the recording. (I guess synths aren’t quite romantic enough.) Oh, the fashion! Rolled-up jacket sleeves, tacky red T-shirts. Every single thing about this video is charmingly corny, much like “In Too Deep” itself.
There must be some misunderstanding — could Genesis really make a video this cheesy? Turns out they could. But it’s also kinda fun somehow. Collins, seemingly heartbroken and still in his Hawaiian-shirt phase, drives around the streets of Hollywood: pleading on a payphone, singing passionately, staring at the empty lot of a drive-in theater. His bandmates get to take part too, with Banks and Rutherford respectively playing piano and guitar. (Reminder: They actually had to haul around a piano for these pointless shots.)
The least imaginative of their three clips promoting A Trick of the Tail, “Ripples” finds Collins in full balladeer mode, backlit by a yellow glow as he croons on a stool. The singer’s acting background comes in handy as he serenades the camera, somewhat sweatily under the stage lights. No unnecessary showmanship — unless you count the overlaid images of bursts of kaleidoscopic color toward the end.
22. “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”
This feels like an unaired sequence from a campy cop drama — good thing Collins has experience on Miami Vice. But it’s hard to tell exactly what’s happening here. Are the band members in an abandoned theater? One thing’s clear: Everyone has their jacket collars popped, so they mean business. The camera slo-mo pans down a city street, where dark deeds are likely being done. A fight breaks out between mohawked punks near a nightclub. Collins belts while grabbing onto a fence. Rutherford adds some whammy bar action. And the night creeps on.
Genesis went high-concept with their videos for Calling All Stations, leaning into surreal imagery. The band, including briefly tenured singer Ray Wilson, do appear in “Shipwrecked,” playing in a room as their movements are broadcast on a wall of department-store TVs. But the random stuff — a man creepily smiling after his wedding, a woman swimming in a giant fish tank — is more memorable.
20. “That’s All”
This breezy slice of piano pop, a top 10 U.S. hit, concerns itself with communication breakdown (“I could say day, and you’d say night / Tell me it’s black when I say that it’s white”). The video … is about Genesis trying to survive as homeless people. The connection is unclear, but it’s hard not get sucked in anyway — especially when Rutherford randomly plucks on an upright bass or when Collins repels down from the top floor of a vacant factory and warms his hands on a fire.
19. “No Son of Mine”
Genesis took a more literal approach for “No Son of Mine,” a poignant tale of familial turmoil from Collins’ final Genesis album, We Can’t Dance. Sepia-toned scenes follow a young teenager through an abusive home life, with Collins’ vocals outlining the sad developments from a distance. What could have been Lifetime movie fluff is handled with sensitivity — and even artfulness (check the moving, wall-mounted fox head during the final confrontation.)
18. “Not About Us”
A long-haired man walks down the street, and everyone in his vicinity appears to faint. Is this dude some kind of plainclothes demon? “Not About Us” is a much more intriguing video than its sonic counterpart, a lukewarm half-ballad from Calling All Stations.
17. “Robbery, Assault and Battery”
This very literal video, once described by Collins as “quite a bit of fun,” closely follows the lyrics: a tale of a robber (played by Collins) breaking into a safe and shooting its owner (Rutherford in an old man costume). Banks and Steve Hackett both appear as police officers, surrounding the criminal, who evades their grasp. It’s pure silliness, just like the song itself — except for the super dense instrumental section, where the band drops the outfits and gets back to business.
16. “Follow You Follow Me”
Perhaps it’s just the marriage of sound and visual — for whatever reason, the naked simplicity of this “performance” video suits the unadorned tenderness of “Follow You Follow Me.” As usual for this era, it’s a pretty bare-bones production — they didn’t even bother covering up the drum set or asking various crew members to leave the stage. But it just feels right. Added bonus: Collins, looking like a late-’00s hipster decades in advance, shaking some sleigh bells in his trucker cap.
15. “Keep It Dark”
There are more trench coats on this list than Steve Hacketts — Genesis clearly enjoyed the style back in the day. In the clip for “Keep It Dark,” a song about a man who stays silent about his vision of a future utopia, the coat-clad trio struts around the streets and mimes its instruments, with Collins alternating between literal air-drumming and banging on building walls. Keep it dark, and keep it classy.
Howard Greenhalgh, the veteran director who previously helmed Soundgarden’s mind-melting “Black Hole Sun” video, adds a futuristic and sinister edge to “Congo.” The latter is more vibe than clear story, with the band (all looking somewhat Neo-ish) playing near a shipyard where guards enforce slave labor with humongous water cannons.
13. “Man on the Corner”
Unlike the other mimed performance videos on this list, “Man on the Corner” is the genuine article — and Collins belts the absolute hell out of this take, even throwing in some signature hand gestures. That energy alone gives it an edge over most of these clips. Plus, it’s a good opportunity to see Genesis’ two live members, drummer Chester Thompson and guitarist Daryl Stuermer, in action.
12. “Home by the Sea / Second Home by the Sea”
No big artistic statement, just a strong “live” performance of an underrated ’80s-era tune. Collins, smartly dressed in suspenders, really sells this one with his cartoonish gestures (“Something doesn’t feel quite right,” indeed), and it’s fun to see the drum god goofing off behind his digital kit during the instrumental section.
It’s easy to forget Genesis even released this slow-burning tune as a single — after all, it peaked at No. 46 in the U.K. and didn’t crack the Billboard charts. But they even made a creative video for it, maximizing what appears to have been a small budget. As fans wait outside for a concert, the band plays the song on a stage and in a stairway, with a bearded Collins putting some extra showmanship in his leading role. Bonus points for the layered perspective on that overhead balcony shot.
10. “No Reply At All”
So much of it’s in the fingers: the close-ups during Rutherford’s funky pre-chorus bass line, the occasional glimpses of Banks’ cross-hand piano technique (similarly employed on “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”). So much of it’s in the faces: Collins cracking a smile at the 1:30 mark; the trio cracking up during the horn blasts, miming sax, trumpet and trombone in silver jackets and sunglasses.
9. “A Trick of the Tail”
“‘A Trick of the Tail’ is probably the most embarrassing video I’ve ever been in,” Collins told VH1, years after starring in the hilariously awkward promo clip. From the outside, that assessment seems correct: The Genesis quartet lineup — Collins, Banks, Rutherford, Hackett — congregate around a piano, and then Collins shrinks down to a miniature form and frolics within the instrument itself. It’s so very dumb … but also very endearing! “You know when you look back and think, ‘Who told me tot do that? Whose lapse in taste was this? Was this mine?'” Collins added. “I think it was a mixture of me and the director — and the other guys. Everyone was to blame for that, I think.”
8. “Throwing It All Away”
“Not enough people know how hard we work,” Collins says to introduce the “Throwing It All Away” video. “They all think it’s all sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll — and wine, women and song.” Clearly not! This lovable, band-filmed clip highlights the monotony and camaraderie of Genesis’ tours: sound checks and load-ins, publicity photos and ping-pong. The moment when Collins crashes in to sit on Rutherford’s lap is one for the time capsule.
7. “Invisible Touch”
Collins can pull off a music video with personality alone — just throw him in a room with a pool table, a video camera and some drum sticks. You’re all set! “Invisible Touch” is pure escapist goofiness from start to finish. The frontman goofs around on Rutherford’s electric guitar, even biting the strings like Hendrix; he pretends to be an over-the-top photographer (“Come on, baby — pout, pout!”); at one point, all three of the band members mime the synth hook simultaneously. The best part: all of them singing the chorus in falsetto a cappella at the end, with Collins announcing that the results were “fantastic.”
6. “The Carpet Crawlers 1999”
The classic Genesis quintet reunited — sonically, if not physically — for a reworked version of their Lamb classic “The Carpet Crawlers,” with producer Trevor Horn adding a synthesized sheen. The track was the clear selling point for their 1999 compilation, Turn It on Again: The Hits, and they even promoted it with a vivid video. There are bubbles of nostalgia, including brief flashes of ’70s Genesis, but the focus falls on a protagonist who closely resembles a young Gabriel. The actor crawls through a mysterious corridor, much like the song’s protagonist, and eventually emerges on a beach. Like “1999” itself, it’s the perfect melding of old and new.
5. “I Can’t Dance”
The hot sun is beating down at a desert gas station, where Collins hitchhikes in his white T-shirt, dad jeans and mid-’80s mullet. Everything seems relatively normal until an attractive woman stops her car — giving a lift to a lizard, not the pop star. That scene sums up the atmosphere of the “I Can’t Dance” video: a literal rendering of the lyrics disrupted by left-field quirkiness. The ultimate moment: the guys satirizing their own uncool-ness by performing a stilted dance against a white backdrop.
4. “Anything She Does”
“Anything She Does” is an odd entry in the Genesis catalog: It was the only Invisible Touch song never played live, despite being a Banks favorite. And they made a video — starring famed British comedian Benny Hill — for the lively tune, even though it never came out as a single. Hill stars as his go-to character Fred Scuttle, playing “head of security” for the Genesis tour. And his tongue-tied performance, accidentally letting a ton of people backstage before conveniently cleaning up their mess — makes this one an instant top-five contender. His direct-to-camera intro alone is priceless: “On behalf of the management — and I’d love to be half of the management — may I ask you to take your seats because the show will start in a few minutes. I will just pop down to the dressing room now and see if the lads have sobered — see if the lads are ready.”
3. “Jesus He Knows Me”
Collins channeled his distaste for TV evangelists in the hilarious “Jesus He Knows Me” video. All three band members (but mostly the singer, who eats up most of the screen time) parody these swindlers, showing how they prey on prayer, tricking the gullible into funding their own glamorous lifestyles. Like the song, the clip offers sharp humor and a clear narrative thrust — and, as Collins noted on BBC’s Room 101 years later, it wasn’t intended to be sacrilegious. “It was just meant to be, ‘Listen, people,” he said, “wake up to these people who are fleecing you.”
The “Mama” lyrics chronicle a man’s unhealthy obsession with a prostitute. (That would be, um, “Mama.”) And while the video is a bit more vague, that generally creepy sentiment remains. As his bandmates hang out with their instruments, Collins takes the focus: looking sweaty and agitated in a sepia tone, pleading on his hands and knees, staring maniacally during the wordless “ha ha” section. If’s like a short horror film — with some moments that border on legit jump scares.
1. “Land of Confusion”
“It’s the best video we ever did, far and away, because we’re not in it,” Banks said matter-of-factly on the Invisible Touch reissue DVD. “It’s as simple as that.” His ranking is correct, if not his reasoning: Genesis were always willing to take the piss out of themselves on camera, part of what makes videos like “Jesus He Knows Me” and “I Can’t Dance” so essential. With “Land of Confusion,” they technically took that sensibility even further, appearing as a trio of grotesque puppets created by the heads of British series Spitting Image. The Genesis boys, with their hilariously exaggerated facial features, are mostly on the sidelines here, making space for a surreal parade of guest-star caricatures (Pete Townshend, Johnny Carson, Hulk Hogan, Benito Mussolini) and the dreams of then-U.S.-president Ronald Reagan. There are dinosaurs, monkeys, cowboys, visual references to 2001: A Space Odyssey. What more could you want? The absurdity balances out the straitlaced protest lyrics — it’s impossible to “Land of Confusion” without picturing a Superman Reagan or Collins bashing his drum kit like Animal from The Muppet Show.
Genesis Albums Ranked Worst to Best
From Peter Gabriel to Phil Collins to that guy who came after Phil Collins, we take a look at all of the band’s studio records.