2.1 The sixties
On the 30th of January, 1951, 20 kilometres to the northwest of central London, in the suburb of Hounslow/Chiswick, Philip Collins is born. He has a sister and a brother. His mother has a toy shop, his father is an insurance agent. His first drum is given to him at the age of three, he is allowed to buy his first drum set at the age of thirteen. As he shows so much interest in making music and singing, his parents decide to send him to his aunt for piano lessons in order to advance his musical education; he only goes for several months.
At home Phil is surrounded by the sound of the sixties. His sister listens to Tommy Steele and Neil Sedaka, his brother to Jim Reeves. He himself prefers the Beatles; the first record he owns is \"Please Please Me\". In order to get a more general picture of all the different music styles he visits the record stores in his neighbourhood.
A good friend of his mother\'s is in charge of an artists\' agency and manages to procure Phil the role of the street urchin in the musical \"Oliver\". For this he has to quit school. His engagement lasts seven months, because by then his voice is so worn out that he has to give up his part on stage. From now on and until his 18th birthday he plays several minor roles, for instance as an extra in the movie \"A hard days night\".
During all this time Collins drums in a group called \"Flaming Youth\" - a phrase taken from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt. The band in which he plays together with Ronnie Caryl (bass), a friend from his old school, Gordon Smith (guitar) and Brian Chatton (keyboards) records an album in 1969 - \"Ark 2\". Although the album receives a positive press it does not become a success. Collins: \"We must have sold about ten of those. In the meantime I have probably signed them all.\" 2 A few months later the \"Flaming Youth\" dissolves and Collins reads an advertisement, which is to change his life, in Melody Maker, a well-known music newspaper, in which Tony Stratton-Smith is search-ing a new drummer.
2.2 The seventies
\"Tony Stratton-Smith requires drummer sensitive to acoustic music. \"3
Interested by this request of his acquaintance Stratton-Smith, manager of Charisma Re-cords, Collins meets the latter in the \"legendary \'Marquee Club\' \"4 and tries to find out from him which band it is which is looking for a new drummer. It is, of course, Genesis.
At this time Genesis consists of Peter Gabriel (vocals), Tony Banks (keyboards) and Mike Rutherford (guitar, bass). Anthony Philipps (guitar) left the group two weeks ago, forced by his stage-fright. The old drummer John Mayhew had to go because he did not fit in. The three remaining members had got to know each other at the boarding-school Charterhouse, a strict old-fashioned public school, where they had made their first steps in music business. They had toured through England several times and had released two albums - \"From Genesis to Relevation\" (1969) and \"Trespass\"(1970) - changing their staff continuously.
After his conversation with the manager of the group, Collins phones Gabriel and is in-vited to a rehearsal. Together with Ronnie Caryl, the bass from \"Flaming Youth\", he ar-rives at Gabriel\'s mansion. Other drummers have arrived earlier and so Collins has time for a quick swim in the pool. While he is swimming, he listens to the other candidates and, that way, realises what he will have to do. When it is his turn to accompany Gabriel and Banks, he is well prepared. Both seem impressed by his drumming skills. By eve-ning he is an official member of Genesis, his friend Caryl is rejected. Instead of him, Mick Barnard is going to play the guitar, although only for a short time.
In October, 1970, he performs for the very first time with Genesis. \"He seemed to inte-grate well and was accepted and appreciated by his new colleagues despite the different decent.\"5 - in contrast to Barnard who is a \"less lucky choice\"6. In 1971 he is replaced by Steve Hackett. Now Genesis finally has a line up that will not change until 1975.
\"Nursery Cryme\" is the first album on which you can hear Collins\' drums.
In spring 1971, Genesis have to interrupt their tour, because Peter Gabriel has a broken foot. In order to make use of this free time, they decide to record another album. The ti-tle is a pun, a combination of \'nursery-rhyme\' and \'crime\'. On this album Collins also has his first part as a lead vocalist. The song is called \"For absent friends\". The new produc-tion is promoted with minimal effort so that after the release in November, 1971, no-body really notices it in England. In Italy, however, it becomes No. 5 in the international charts, a real acknowledgement and a reason for the five members to stay together. Spurred by this success, Genesis tours Europe in January, 1972. In July the band plays in larger halls in England for the first time. They seem to have a more extensive audi-ence by now.
Their live-shows are mainly created by Peter Gabriel, who uses strange masks and cos-tumes to underline the surreal messages of the songs. To give an example: he wears a mask made of fox-fur together with a red gown. \"The Genesis-show developed in that time more and more to Peter Gabriel\'s rock-theatre.\"7
But all this does not impress the people in Britain until Charisma Records organises a new tour together with a publicity campaign in the middle of \'72. From this point on Genesis has the attention they deserve from the public and from the press. That seems to be the perfect time to release a new album.
\"Foxtrott\" is the fourth Genesis production and their first commercial success in Britain. The sound now adapts to the visual impression of the band performing live. With the rock-epic \"Supper\'s Ready\", a 23 minute long masterpiece of surreal art-rock, they cre-ate a hymn with which the group is identified for a very long time. Until spring 1973 they are on tour in England and also along the east-coast of the United States, where they encounter enthusiasm among their audience. A live-record is compiled from several concerts and, like the last album, it makes the charts in the UK. The success so far makes them discover a new feeling, that of having less pressure of time. After their last concert the five musicians meet again to develop new material for their next album. But their new freedom seems to be more of a challenge: the rehearsals are unproductive and they have problems finding a musical consent. Gabriel in particular appears unable to agree with the others. But at last they compose eight songs and release them as \"Selling England By The Pound\" in November, 1973. The only innovation on the album comes with the song \"I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)\": It makes it to the \"TOP 20\" as a single. This is very surprising, because Genesis\' music usually is not attractive to the singles-buyers.
This also persuades Tony Smith to become the new manager of the band. Tony Stratton-Smith has to give up this job because his record label demands all his attention. To-gether with the new manager, Genesis start a new project in the summer of \'74. Smith complies with the wish of the band to produce a concept album. He was in charge of the The Who\'s musical Tommy. His idea: A modern version of the \"Little Prince\". But Pe-ter insist upon one of his own tales. Whereas he feels responsible for all the lyrics he does not show any interest in participating in writing the music. The result of this divi-sion of labour is \"The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway\", a mixture of ludicrous texts and bombastic arrangements, typical of the band. \" On four record sides The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway tells the story of Rael, a young rebel clothed in leather, fighting against an inhumane society. The plot is indeed constructed absurdly, but yet trans-posed interestingly, wonderfully surreal - an abstract rock-opera full of visions and ex-cessively alienated shreds of reality.\"8
The show is performed 102 times. It is the highlight of Genesis\' career so far and at the same time a cut in the band\'s history - Gabriel decides to leave the band! The reason? There are several answers to this question: the complicated birth of his first daughter; the lack of opportunities with Genesis; the jog-trot of recording and touring under the control of the music business. Gabriel contradicts himself on this point, and I was able to find several statements which verified this. The result remains the same: Genesis has no vocalist. \"Critics predict the band\'s demise\"9.
In the summer of 1975 they decide to continue, although they initially take a break for two months. For Collins, who has proved himself an experienced drummer among the experts, this is the chance to do something totally different. The project is called Brand X. Together with Percy Jones (bass), John Goodsal (guitar) and Robin Lumley (key-boards) Phil (drums, of course) produces a combination of \"jazz, funk and rock\"10 There are no vocal parts. They release six albums until \'82(with various line-ups) without hav-ing any commercial success but at least they have made themselves a name as musi-cians.
In August, 1976, Genesis announce their search for a new singer. In the following months they have to deal with 400 (!) applications. But none of them meets the demand. So Collins has a try. He sang throughout his childhood and has been responsible for the backing vocals of Genesis. In the studio he manages his new role immediately. He per-forms new songs as well as old ones without difficulty. Collins: \"I was rather sure not to get any problems with the music, but I was pretty scared of the communication with the audience. Peter was a good storyteller and I felt a bit lost in this situation.\"11 The result of the studio work was \"A Trick Of The Tail\", release No. 7. The record is one of the three best-selling albums in Britain and also has remarkable success in the USA. The community of fans grows steadily and Collins\' voice seems to be accepted.
As Gabriel\'s kind of acting on stage was a central part of the live shows, Collins is faced with another difficulty. Should he keep up with Peter\'s work or should he find his own style? He decides on the latter and that means: less theatrical, but still emotional.
\"Wind And Wuthering\" comes out December, 1976. Although it sells better than the other records it is not a real success; but the following world tour is. On returning, the four remaining members - Collins, Banks, Rutherford, Hackett - go to the studio to put the recorded tracks of the \"gigs\" together in order to produce a live double album. After some days, Hackett stays away. He explaines that he has left the group, because he can-not realise his ideas. This time Collins, Banks and Rutherford do not look for a substi-tute. In the studio Rutherford plays all the guitar parts and Daryl Stuermer is hired to support the group for live performances. \"Seconds Out\" (1977), their second live-record, is a look back and at the same time the end of another period in Genesis\' history.
The first work of the Genesis-trio is very successful. The title tells its own tale:\"...And Then There Were Three\"(1978) The more commercial sound of the record helps the group\'s popularity. Collins, Banks and Rutherford have become superstars. The follow-ing world-tour lasts twelve months. After having returned, all three decide to put Gene-sis into cold storage for some time.
Collins uses this time to play on some productions of other musicians such as Brian Eno, who is to become one of the most successful producers in the eighties. Collins has done much of this \'foreign work\' during the seventies. This enormous demand for his rhythmic support shows how much his drum playing was appreciated.
2.3. The eighties
The eighties become the most interesting decade of Phil Collins\' career. He starts his solo career, continues his Genesis project and makes himself a reputation as a producer. It is difficult to give an overview of his life and work. In order to make it easier to sur-vey I will show each aspect of his career separately.
In 1980 Collins meets again with Rutherford and Banks. They start their jam-sessions and their music makes them feel the return of the old spirit of Genesis. The result of a long creative process is \"Duke\". The album (No. 12) is released in April. The press re-views are mixed but the fans, especially in the States, are enthusiastic. There \"Duke\" is decorated with gold. Genesis reach the status of rock giants. To return thanks to the Americans, Genesis transfer most of their concerts to the land of unlimited opportuni-ties. One of the highlights of the performance is the lightshow with lasers. The latter turn off for the last time on July, the 31st. The rest of the year, each member spends on his solo projects.
In 1981, Genesis build their own sound studio, \"the farm\", in Surrey, near London. It is inaugurated with record number thirteen, \"Abacab\". The title is a pun. Collins explains: \"We arrange the parts and categories of our pieces in A, B and C. If you read out the corresponding letters one after another, in most cases something unspeakable origi-nates - or just something like Abacab.\"12 Again a tour is due and again it is \"celebrated world-wide\"13, some concerts are recorded. In the end, Genesis publish \"Three Sides Live\" (1982). They add several new songs to the double-album and ultimately only three sides contain live material. Side four is used for new songs.
Genesis pause until 1983. Then the musicians come together once again to start the pro-duction of a new album. It is simply called \"Genesis\" and released in October. As all members have musically in different directions developed, they compensate by using another method of writing the songs: they compose all songs from the basic idea to the final arrangement together. The result beats all its predecessors. Banks: \"Almost every new disk means an enhancement compared with the last one. Which group can say that after ten years.\"14 The following tour consists of 72 concerts in the USA and five in Birmingham.
The next interruption lasts longer. Banks, Collins and Rutherford cannot reunite until December, \'85. They produce \"Invisible Touch\" (1986). The commercial sound of the group allows them to release five singles, \"Invisible Touch\", \"Tonight, Tonight, To-night\", \"Throwing it all away\", \"Land Of Confusion\" and \"In To Deep\", each reaching the Top 5 in the USA. The video of \"Land Of Confusion\" has remained famous until to-day. By now the fans are a mixture of teenagers on one side, and middle-aged adults who have been loyal since the seventies on the other. 111 concerts in 16 countries - that is incredible even today. Because of the four sold-out concerts in Wembley they get an entry in the Guinness book of Records, only to be replaced by Michael Jackson the fol-lowing year.
As the band gets more successful, the breaks grow longer. The fans have to wait five (!) years for the next album. \"We Can\'t Dance\" continues with the tradition of Genesis\' good studio work: catchy tunes go down well on TV and on the radio in the year of the release, 1991. You may ask why I include this record in the chapter about the eighties; the reason is that Phil Collins\' participation in the group ends here. Until 1993 three more albums follow : the sampler \"Turn It On Again: Best of \'81-\'83\" (1992) and two live albums \"The Way We Walk, Volume One: THE SHORTS\" and \"The Way We Walk, Volume Two: THE LONGS\". In 1995, Collins resigns. He wants to concentrate more on his solo career. \"Half-way through the writing and recording of \'BOTH SIDES,\' I realised I wanted this, not that. I\'d become a little low on enthusiasm for compromis-ing in the way that\'s necessary when you\'re in a band. About a year ago, I had a meet-ing with Mike (Rutherford) and Tony (Banks) and they were so accepting of it. It was like, \'Fine, we understand\'.\"15
1980 - In the second half of the year Collins takes a big step forward in his career, and produces a solo outlet. \" \'As far as I\'m concerned\' he insists,\'what I do on my own is not a solo career - it\'s just one part of me. I\'m my own man, and I chose to do a lot of things.\' \"16 In the beginning Collins was not thinking about a solo career: \"I started writ-ing because I was unhappy [...]Face Value in any case was the result of my divorce. I had to occupy myself somehow, so I threw myself into my work to get my eight track studio going. I didn\'t realise that I was making a record until I had a handful of half-finished demos.\"17 Collins has just separated from his first wife. He puts all his frustra-tion in \"Face Value\", which can be bought in the stores from 1981 on, so that most of the songs have a sad mood. The first single is \"In The Air Tonight\". Although Collins\' musical style differs from the Genesis albums, both the single and the album are very successful. In every interview Collins has to deny the wish to leave Genesis. He cannot enjoy his new situation of being accepted among the people as a solo artist, whilst knowing at the same time that Genesis is waiting.
The next year, \"Hello, I Must Be Going\" is released. The single \"You Can\'t Hurry Love\" is sent ahead of the album, an old trick to gain the attention of the market. This remake of a Motown song becomes a Collins classic. From now on the sound of the sixties en-riches every Collins concert. Collins tours alone for the first time. \"The shows are [be-ing] billed as \'Phil Collins In Concert with The Fabulous Jacuzzis & The One Neat Guy.\' Phil\'s touring band [will] feature[s]: Daryl Stuermer (guitar), Chester Thompson (drums), Peter Robinson (keyboards), Mo Foster (bass) and the Phoenix Horns (Don Myrick, Louis Satterfield, Rhamlee Michael Davis & Michael Harris). \"18
Over the following years Collins has no time for a new solo project. He spends all his time on Genesis and his job as a producer.
Not until \'85 does the British musician release his next album, \"No Jacket Required\". Collins is happy as he has remarried and one gets the impression that he wants every-body to know. The album is filled up with \'fresh\' sounding songs. Still there are some reflective ones, but the majority of the songs are relaxed. The album is awarded with three \"Grammies\". Again Collins has no time for a tour because the Genesis album \"In-visible Touch\" is released and followed by the corresponding concert marathon. Other projects like the movie \"Buster\" hinder Collins from pursueing his solo career. Only for some benefit concerts like \"Live Aid\" or \"Prince\'s Trust Rock Gala\" does he go on the stage. The reason for doing it in 1985 is quite simple: he wants to get to know Monty Python, the English comedians he admires so much. They perform on the \"The Secret Policeman\'s Ball\", too. In 1989 his motivation is different: \"If somebody is as lucky as me, it is fair to let flow back a part of what I earned.\"19
In 1989 his last work of the eighties is released. \"...but seriously\" and the following tour convince once and for all: Collins is one of the most successful, best-known musicians in the world, a megastar. His sales figures reach the level of Genesis. The record is a well-balanced mixture of sad songs and moving songs. The first single-output is \"An-other Day In Paradise\", the song most people associate with Collins. Despite his \'softy-image\', Collins shows his feelings for social issues such as the homeless or civil war.
A solo career, stardom with Genesis, all this does not appear to be enough for Phil Collins. Everything started with his appearance as a drummer on the albums of friends like Steve Hackett or Colin Scot in the seventies. Suddenly he emerged on albums of re-nowned artists like \"Music For Films\" (1978) by Brian Eno or Robert Fripp\'s \"Expo-sure\" (1979). In the eighties Collins intensifies his extra work. He produces the album \"Grace & Danger\" by John Martyn , plays drums for the soul star, Steven Bishop, on \" Red Cap To Manhattan\", both in 1980. In \'82 he produces a record for Frida, ex-vocalist of ABBA, called \"Something\'s Going On\" and supports her on the drums and vocally. In the same year, he plays the drums for Robert Plant, formally a singer in the group Led Zeppelin. Collins is well booked at that time and the more he does the more in demand he is. His most remarkable partnership is the work done together with Mr. \"Slowhand\" Eric Clapton. In 1985 Clapton enters the sound studio to record \"Behind The Sun\"- be-hind the recording console: Collins. In \'86 the story repeats itself with the album \"Au-gust\". Collins is sceptical: \"Sure, many people think I\'m a kind of King Midas and turn everything I touch into gold. But I also landed many flops. So the albums of Philip Bai-ley or Eric Clapton that I produced fell short of the expectations.\"20
The last guest performance I know of was as a drummer on \"Sowing The Seeds Of Love\" of Tears For Fears 1990.
There are some rumours that Collins was responsible for some soundtrack work. This is a misunderstanding. The single \"Against All Odds\" is composed for the movie of the same name of 1984, but it is just an addition to the soundtrack - a title song. The tunes that are used for an episode of \"Miami Vice\" are from his album of that time. But there is a difference between writing a whole soundtrack and using some songs for a film.
Apropos of film. His childhood acting ambitions are paying off. The producers of \"Mi-ami Vice\" are not only interested in his music but also in his character. They engage him to act for one episode. An impressive result for Collins; and even the reviews are good. In his further career as an actor Collins plays several extras and two leading parts. The latter are in the British movie \"Buster\" (\'88) and in the Australian \"Frauds\" (\'91). Collins proves that he knows his business.
2.4 The nineties
In the nineties Collins releases two solo albums and the Genesis album I already men-tioned. His first solo work is \"Both Sides\"(1993). The album is a peculiarity in the mu-sic business, as Collins plays all the instruments himself. Collins writes in the CD book-let: \"Many people think of me as a perfectionist, someone who polishes and shines each song and performance. I\'ve always been bothered by that assumption. The way I worked on this album and indeed all the previous albums was \'to make it up as it went along\'. Of course over the twenty or so years of recording, there are some that miss the mark a little. When ever possible though, I\'ve always kept the first take and then made every-body else play the mistakes! I\'ve also always noticed that my demo vocals had more heart than the recorded version done in the studio with headphones and people hanging around, so this time I had the lyrics written and I recorded all the lead vocals in the up-stairs room at my house. All in all it\'s the most enjoyable album I\'ve ever made. I hear the difference, I hope you do too.\"21 I do. But there is another thing about this record. Just as in the beginning of the eighties there are more sad songs on it. The reason for this occures while Collins is on his \"Both Sides-Tour\": he is getting divorced from his second wife Jill. But like always with Collins, you find almost nothing about this in the yellow press, only in his music. The tour, which was the first tour I saw personally, is a big success. The stage looks like a roof, in the background there is a huge canvas that is unwinded little by little to adapt the scenery to the songs. When the song \"You Can\'t Hurry Love\" comes a confetti canon is fired. Collins has to give several encores. He chooses for instance \"My Girl\", a classic of the sixties.
The current record is \"Dance Into The Light\" (1996). Collins:\" \'BOTH SIDES\' was part of a big change in my personal life, so I did that album on my own because I felt that nobody else would understand quite where that music was coming from. It was a very personal, sad, dark album, if you like. This new record is a turnaround in that it\'s really up and optimistic, which is the way I feel at the moment.\"22 - \"Also, and this is good news for anyone who listened to \'BOTH SIDES\' and wondered what on earth was wrong with me, I think it shows I\'ve rediscovered my sense of humor. Not that I was writing \'is-sue\' songs out of sheer bloodymindedness: again it was just a question of the album re-flecting what I was going through personally. But that was then and this is now.\"23
The album sells very well and the concert in Stuttgart was again a fantastic event for me. There is some African influence on this album which was noticed by Disney. This re-sults in Collins being asked by Disney to do produce the whole soundtrack for \"Tarzan\" which will be released in \'98/\'99.