The Story Behind “Invisible Touch” and How Sheila E. and Some “Lousy Noises” Inspired Genesis’ First and Only No. 1 Hit

By the time Genesis released its 13th album, Invisible Touch, in 1986, the band was still riding off the success of their self-titled album, and Phil Collins had already hit an apex in his solo career with a No. 1 album with a trifecta of hits—Face Value (1981), Hello, I Must Be Going! (1982), and No Jacket Required (1985).

“I had decided to stay in the band even though my solo career had taken off,” said Collins in 2016 of the Genesis era. “When you’re in a band, it’s family. There’s the road crew and their families to think about. If you just flippantly say, ‘I’m leaving,’ they’re like, ‘We’ve just bought a house with a mortgage.’ He added, “You can’t do that to people.”

At the time, Mike Rutherford also found some success with his band Mike + the Mechanics’ 1985 hit “All I Need is a Miracle,” while keyboardist Tony Banks was composing film soundtracks.

Despite Collins’ greater solo success outside of Genesis, Rutherford said nothing changed within the band. “He’s still the same,” said Rutherford in 1986. “Nothing that happens outside seems to have much effect on us. We still go into the studio and write our songs as a group. We still do what we did before. Phil’s solo success hasn’t changed him.”

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‘Invisible Touch’

Invisible Touch gave Genesis a hit album, and the band’s first and only No. 1 in the U.S., its title track, written by Collins. Leaning more heavily on pop, Invisible Touch reflected where the band was, musically, at the time and not an extension of a Collins solo album.

“We’ve changed with the times,” said Rutherford. “Our tastes have changed and pop music has changed. But we’re still doing music that interests us.”

Along with “Invisible Touch,” the album also delivered two more hits for Genesis with Collins’ “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight,” which went to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and “In Too Deep,” which hit the same spot and also went to No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The band’s “Land of Confusion” and Rutherford’s “Throwing It All Away,” also went to No. 4 on the Hot 100.

[RELATED: 4 Songs You Didn’t Know Phil Collins Wrote for Other Artists]

British rock band Genesis (British guitarist Mike Rutherford, British keyboardist Tony Banks, and British singer and drummer Phil Collins) attend a press conference ahead of their Invisible Touch Tour date at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California, 22nd May 1987. (Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images)

“The Glamorous Life”

When writing “Invisible Touch,” Collins was inspired by Sheila E.‘s 1984 hit “The Glamorous Life,” written by Prince for her debut album of the same name. “There was a Sheila E. record out at the time, I think it was ‘[The] Glamorous Life,'” said Collins, “and I wanted to write my own version of that.”

Similar to “Invisible Touch,” the song was about a woman with a sly hold on a man.

Well, I’ve been waiting, waiting here so long
But thinking nothing, nothing could go wrong, ooh, now I know
She has a built-in ability
To take everything she sees
And now it seems I’m falling, falling for her

She seems to have an invisible touch, yeah
She reaches in and grabs right hold of your heart
She seems to have an invisible touch, yeah
It takes control and slowly tears you apart

Well, I don’t really know her, I only know her name
But when she crawls under your skin
You’re never quite the same, and now I know
She’s got something you just can’t trust
It’s something mysterious
And now it seems I’m falling, falling for her

“We weren’t afraid to make lousy noises”

“The best songs tend to get written quickly,” said Rutherford. “That’s how it was with ‘Invisible Touch.’ We’d rock up, have a cup of tea, [and] see what happened. On day one, we had no songs, no ideas, and a blank bit of paper. Phil was always keen to fill that bit of paper. He was very organized, and we let him. It’s a wonderful song: upbeat, fun to play, always a strong moment in any gig.”

The Genesis hit came out of nowhere, said Collins. “We would arrive in the studio every day and just start playing,” remembered Collins on how “Invisible Touch” came together. “One day Mike Rutherford played a riff on the guitar, with an echo, and I suddenly sang ‘She seems to have an invisible touch—yeah.’ It came into my head fully formed. I’m sure people have all kinds of ideas about how we wrote these songs they love or loathe, but really our writing process was close to jazz.”

Collins continued, “We improvised. We weren’t afraid to make lousy noises. We knew each other well: if I started singing crap, no one would say, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ Still, there was a good percentage of crap.”

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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