Going Back

My favorite Carole King song is “Goin’ Back.”

It didn’t used to be. It used to be “So Far Away.” And then it was “The First Day In August.”

But a few years ago I heard “Goin’ Back” from her initial stiff solo album “Writer” and I was hooked.

And when I needed to hear it after Friday night’s Musicares tribute I fired up Spotify and I found…

Phil Collins’ version.


The first time I heard “Goin’ Back” was on the radio, from the live Nils Lofgren lp.

You remember Nils Lofgren, right? The prodigy who recorded with Neil Young and then had little traction but tons of cred with his group Grin and went solo. I saw him headline at the Santa Monica Civic, where he did his mini-tramp flip, but was ultimately overshadowed by Van Halen.

Nils now has a gig playing with the Boss. After replacing Little Steven, who went off on his hejira, and Nils was allowed to keep his job when the prodigal son returned.

But Phil Collins has sauntered off into the wilderness.

At least that’s what I thought, recently there have been rumblings he’s coming back. But when “Going Back” was released, it was supposed to be Phil’s swan song.

You remember “Going Back,” right?

I certainly don’t. I mean vaguely. He cut a covers album that went straight into the dumper. At least in America, where it peaked at 34, which for a superstar, and Phil once was, is like having a tree fall in the proverbial forest, no sound is made, at least not one anybody can hear.

But who knew the reason the album was called that because it concludes…with a cover of the great Goffin/King tune?

Were you a Genesis fan?

If so, you bought Phil’s solo debut, “Face Value.” And although “In The Air Tonight” and “I Missed Again” ultimately received a ton of radio airplay, it was the quieter numbers that truly resonated, like the album’s closer, Phil’s cover of the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

Phil’s cover of “Goin’ Back” is just like that.

I think I’m going back
To the things I learned so well in my youth

Like the sound of Jonathan King’s “Everyone’s Gone To The Moon.”

Back then the radio was our best friend.

We had the telephone, but no texting. No e-mail. When you closed the door to your bedroom, you were truly alone. Long before every kid had a flat screen in their bedroom, our best friend was the radio.

I think I’m returning to
All those days when I was young enough to know the truth

Back when I ran on instinct, before I was hobbled by experience. When everything was new and exciting and I wanted to try it all.

Now there are no games to only pass the time

Every day I’d rush home, change into my play clothes and go right back to school to play baseball, I lived for it.

No more electric trains, no more trees to climb

I’m not climbing a tree today, I’m afraid I’ll fall and hurt myself. My mother threw out my electric trains, along with my baseball cards. But once upon a time I’d put a smoke pill in the locomotive, twist the dial on the transformer and watch that Lionel run around the track, trying not to go so fast it would fly onto the floor.

Thinking young and growing older is no sin

Now we’re young externally. We diet to fit into our children’s clothing. We get plastic surgery to deny our true age, which we lie about. But inside…we’re so damn old. Risk is anathema. Getting a baby boomer to try something new is like getting Justin Bieber to give up dope.

And I can play the game of life to win

Winning was so much different then. When the country was driven by the middle class, when we were all in it together, when we weren’t worried about being left behind, but focusing on personal fulfillment, who we really wanted to be.

And every day can be my magic paradise
And I can play hide and seek with my fears
And live my days instead of counting my years

Yes, Phil changes the lyrics!

The original speaks of a magic carpet ride. And lacking a little bit of courage. And the singer wants to go back, catch her if you can.

But the truth is you can never go back. You’ve got to be an adult. Even though inside you wonder if you ever grew up. Time marches on, you’re closer to death, you want to put on the brakes and all you can think about is the way it used to be, when life was full of possibilities instead of dead ends.

And then you put on a record and it still is.

P.S. Most oldsters have given up recording, because no one is interested in hearing what they’ve got to say. But if instead of putting out an entire album Phil Collins had released this track and this track only…he might have had some traction. Because the feel is just incredible. Listen.

Spotify playlist (which includes not only Carole King’s original and remake, but the Dusty Springfield iteration, which preceded Carole’s recording, and renditions by the Byrds, Nils Lofgren and…Freddie Mercury):

Phil Collins’s “Going Back” on YouTube

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