On a 1997 episode of VH1 Storytellers, Collins said: "This is one of those examples of improvising lyrics. You know, sometimes you can use the lyric, other times you're in big trouble, because what you write doesn't mean anything. So I set up this drum-machine pad, and I got some chords, and I started to sing into the microphone, and this word came out, which was 'sus-sussudio.' It just literally came out, at the time... that was back when I could dance, so 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 OK, let's give it a meaning, what is it? The lyrics are based on this schoolboy crush on this girl at school. It's happening with my daughter now, she's eight years old and she loves this boy, but she won't tell him, like in the lyrics this boy loves her but they don't talk about it... how do they know? 'I know she likes me, I know she likes me, doesn't know my name, doesn't know I exist, but I know she likes me'... So that's what the song is about, so 'sussudio' became a name for this person, and since it's become a name for a horse. My older daughter's got a horse called Sussudio, and I'm sure there are children all over the world with the name Sussudio, so I apologize for that."
Collins doesn't think much of his No Jacket Required album, and isn't a big fan of this song, although he acknowledges the "killer horn section." He told Rolling Stone in 2016: "At the time, I wasn't being me. I've grown up a bit now and much prefer to play songs that are me. I only play a bit part in that one."
When this was released in 1985, critics assailed Collins for this song's similarity with Prince's hit "1999
." Collins responded by saying that he was a "big Prince fan" and that his original version of "Sussudio" sounded even more like Prince.
"Sussudio" is a girl's name in the lyrics, but it is also the name Collins gave to the song's drum track.
David Frank did the synthesizer and drum programming on this track using an Oberheim DMX and a Mini Moog. Frank had a hot sound; he and his partner Mic Murphy had a duo called The System, which was on the charts in 1985 with "You Are In My System" and also with a song recorded by Chaka Khan called "This Is My Night."
"I wanted to work with different people at the time, people that could do things I wasn't capable of doing," Collins recalled.
This was the second US #1 hit from the No Jacket Required
album. The first was "One More Night
Collins recalled to The Mail on Sunday: "This is me trying to write a dance tune! It always fascinated me that the horn players would come in and play a song of mine and suddenly make it R&B. It was influenced by Prince, of course, and was the first time I worked with dance synth programmers."
Collins used The Phenix Horns on this track, who were famous for their work with Earth, Wind & Fire. Collins started working with them in 1981 when he put them on his solo track "I Missed Again
" and also on the Genesis song "No Reply At All
John Potoker, who was Collins' go-to guy for remixes, created the extended remix of this song that was released as a 12" single. Potoker says his work on "Sussudio" is some of his best, and that he was thrilled to learn that Collins was using this arrangement on his tour.
Like the clip for "One More Night," the music video was filmed at The Princess Victoria, a London pub owned by Virgin Records' founder Richard Branson. Collins and his band (guitarist Daryl Stuermer, drummer Chester Thompson, and bass player Lee Sklar) woo a bored crowd with a performance of the song.
In the video for Collins' ...But Seriously
track "Hang In Long Enough
," he and the band perform aboard a Titanic-like ship called the "S.S. Udio," a reference to this song.
This features in the movie American Psycho
in a scene where Christian Bale's serial killer Patrick Bateman puts it on after doing a monologue about the brilliance of Phil Collins and Genesis. He says, "This is 'Sussudio.' Great, great song. Personal favorite."
The Genesis song "In Too Deep
" is also used in and discussed in the film.
As was the rest of the album, this was recorded in Collins' living room shortly after he married his second wife.