Just like the last autobiography I read, Phil Collins is another angry dude that I wanted to read about. I heard how he became a recluse who was fed up with all the trash said about him on the internet. He became tired of the noise about how he “ruined” Genesis by pushing out lead singer Peter Gabriel, was responsible for cocking up the Led Zeppelin reunion at Live Aid in ’85, and produced some of Eric Clapton’s worst solo albums in the 80’s. Well, considering what his life has been like for the last ten years I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he has been oblivious to what any internet trolls have been saying about him.
In his autobiography, Not Dead Yet Phil explains the reasoning behind his retirement is how his body is failing him. He begun taking cortisone shots in the ’80s which would relax his vocal cords and allow him to sing through sore throats and colds. One of the side effect of cortisone, however, is osteoporosis. Something that he wasn’t made aware of until much later in life. So yeah, Phil’s got some weak bones. His back received the brunt of the disease, which is now held together by eight screws.
While his body began failing him, Phil began to wind down his career. His final album of original material was Testify in 2002 which he followed with a Farewell tour in 2004 – 05. He then wrapped up Genesis with their farewell tour in 2007-08, and he quickly got bored.
By 2010 he was back in the recording studio making a compilation of Motown covers and he compiled his band with original members of The Funk Brothers (the band who played many of the original Motown recordings) to get an authentic sound. He planned on getting back into touring but could only manage six shows after he pinched a nerve in his left hand. He could no longer grip onto a drumstick on his own. He tried taping the stick to his hand but it clearly wasn’t working.
Forced to cancel the tour meant he now had a lot of time to fill. He unfortunately turned to the bottle to fill his time. The alcohol abuse mixed with the medication he was on for osteoporosis had disastrous consequences and he came close to death a few times. So, yeah… that’s what he has been up to.
Now, as for the dirt I wanted to find out about: the rumors of how he pushed Peter Gabriel out of the Genesis is false. Phil and Genesis’ former lead singer are still good friends. Pete wanted to leave; it’s as simple as that. Phil begrudgingly filled the void left behind the mic after the band couldn’t agree on a new singer and the studio time was ticking away. He is very proud of how successful Genesis became when he, Mike Rutherford, and Tony Banks, were the only three original members left, but that was a complete uncertainty when Pete left. At the time all but Pete wanted the band to stay together.
Phil also had very little to do with the Led Zeppelin’s mangled reunion at Live Aid in ’85. Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant didn’t want to rehearse and couldn’t agree on a drummer to replace the late John Bonham. Page wanted Tony Thompson and Plant wanted Phil. They decided to go with two drummers. This was before it was a Zeppelin “reunion” as John Paul Jones had yet to commit to the show, which happened at the last-minute.
Phil tried to arrange with Tony to keep the drumming simple, something he knew was necessary from experience playing with a second drummer in the past. See what happens during Whole Lotta Love here at the 6:30 spot:
Tony is doing anything but keeping it simple, lol. By 7:50 Phil is completely lost.
As for his work as a producer on those solo Clapton albums in the 80’s, people do remember the lackluster Behind the Sun from ’85. He lays that pile of mediocrity on the record label who convinced Eric to re-record some tunes after hearing how “downbeat” the original was. The result was a disjointed album that still sold much better than Clapton’s previous solo album Money and Cigarettes. Conveniently forgotten, however, is Phil’s work on the follow-up album in 1986, August. By then Phil’s No Jacket Required was a monster hit and the label stepped back. This free-form collaboration of Eric’s blues rock mixed with Phil’s soul pop marked the beginning of Eric’s comeback; making August Eric’s best-selling solo album until the 90’s.
Anyway, besides combating with the reality of aging and needing to slow down, as someone who grew from humble beginnings in London, Phil is loaded with stories and insight on becoming the only person to sell over 100 million albums as a solo artist and another 100 million as the front man for a rock band. The only stuff I skimmed through in Not Dead Yet was when he was talking about his early childhood. It was heavy on the British slang and I found it hard to follow, but things really pick up once we get closer to the Genesis years. I do have a favorite story involving some Beatles, but I’m going to save it for another post.
I’m glad to see that Phil is back to touring, although at a much slower pace. His back problems, an injury he received in the 80’s which caused one of the bones in his foot to chip, and the pinched nerve now have him sitting down when singing and using the aid of a cane to walk. But it is a good sign that he is keeping his demons away by doing what he loves. I recommend Phil’s book to anyone who is a fan of music in general.