With a career spanning more than four decades, the Phil Collins fan-base traverses multiple generations and musical genres.
Like the Bible, the Phil Collins story begins with Genesis. Delve through his career at length and you’ll eventually reach a revelation: Phil Collins has popped up in a strange array of places – both musical and non-musical. Here’s an initial selection of his random appearances and unlikely partnerships...
1. PHIL COLLINS AND ABBA
Phil Collins’ solo debut Face Value was released in 1981, the same year ABBA released their final, extraordinary album The Visitors. Written as the Swedish group came to terms with divorce and despair, auburn vocalist Anni-Frid ‘Frida’ Lyngstad found comfort in Collins’ album expressing his own marital woes. Resuming a solo career that actually pre-dated ABBA, Lyngstad signed up Collins to produce 1982’s Something’s Going On. Despite having some reservations about the fact Collins was rarely seen at the mixing desk without a whisky in his hand, Lyngstad roped Collins into singing with her on Here We’ll Stay. Collins later branded it “hideous” and “a complete lapse of taste on my part”, refusing to let the duet be released as Something’s Going On’s third single. Nonetheless, the album made it to the US top 20 and globally sold a respectable 1.5 million copies.
2. PHIL COLLINS AND AMERICAN PSYCHO
Second only to Michael Jackson as the biggest male pop star of the eighties, Collins’ omnipotence was enough to send you mad. Writer Bret Easton Ellis at least thought so, making the murderous anti-hero of his best-selling novel American Psycho, Patrick Bateman, a massive fan of the drummer. In one memorable scene, the high-flying sociopath goes so far as to deliver a detailed monologue about Collins’ ‘80s output during sexual congress with two young women. Easton Ellis later clarified his own thoughts on Collins with this back-handed zinger: “He’s talented. You don’t get to where he is if you’re totally shit.”
As for Collins' feelings towards the Christian Bale-starring film adaptation? "It was funny. I'd watch it again."
3. PHIL COLLINS AND THE ALAMO
What do you spend your spoils on when your 1985 album No Jacket Required notches up more than 12 million copies in the US alone? How about buying up fragments of American history worth in excess of A$120 million? Despite a couple of expensive divorces over the years, Collins has never lost the cheque book… errr, passion… for collecting memorabilia from the Alamo, a key location in the 19th century Texas Revolution. Collins’ staggering and extensive collectables from the historic San Antonio location include freedom fighter Davy Crockett’s rifle, a knife owned by Crockett’s sidekick Jim Bowie (the western hero a future music icon named David Jones took his stage surname from in the late 1960s) and musket balls salvaged from this failed battle for Texan independence. After penning the respected 2012 volume The Alamo And Beyond: A Collector’s Journey, in 2014 Collins announced the donation of a sizeable chunk of his collection to San Antonio. The Alamo shrine not only contains some of Collins’ most exciting pieces from the 1836 skirmish, the old devil even narrates the Alamo’s Light and Sound Show!
4. PHIL COLLINS AND BLACK SABBATH
As a rock star who cherishes the Alamo, it’s amazing Collins would ever give the time of day to a rock star who once pissed on it. Against all odds, the communion of Alamo friend and Alamo foe occurred in 2002 when Collins drummed for the Ozzy Osbourne-fronted Black Sabbath at Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. Two decades before this surprising partnership, an inebriated Ozzy Osbourne made one of his worse judgement calls when he relieved himself on the Alamo Cenotaph. Despite Ozzy being banned from San Antonio in the wake of his ‘wee’ misdemeanour, Collins obviously felt the 50th anniversary of the English monarch was a good time to stop being Paranoid and embrace music’s lovable Prince Of Darkness.
5. PHIL COLLINS AND LED ZEPPELIN
Proving he’s always had a thing for heavy metal’s ‘70s forefathers, the 1985 charity bash Live Aid saw Phil Collins making a Transatlantic crossing to take up the drum stool for a reunited Led Zeppelin. After performing his solo hits Against All Odds and In The Air Tonight at London’s Wembley Stadium event, the mullety Collins then provided backing vocals during The Police’s set. If the reunion of Sting’s eternally antagonistic post-punk group wasn’t anticipated enough, Collins then hopped on a Concorde and flew to the Philadelphia leg of Live Aid to bash out Whole Lotta Love, Rock And Roll and Stairway To Heaven with Zeppelin (but only after subjecting Philly to additional renditions of Against All Odds and In The Air Tonight, the cheeky blighter). Routinely panned as the worst rock reunion of all time, the set marked the first time Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Robert Plant had performed together since the 1980 death of drummer John Bonham. It might be suggested the surviving members of the band also died on the JFK Stadium stage that summer afternoon. “Within five minutes I felt ‘Get me out of here’,” Collins lamented 20 years later. “It was a disaster, really.., It wasn’t my fault it was crap.” Zeppelin agreed – they refused to include clear the inclusion of a single note on the Live Aid DVD box when it was finally released in 2004.
Extended and remastered editions of Phil Collins’ studio albums are available now as part of his retrospective Take A Look At Me Now reissue campaign, inspiring a major rediscovery of his back catalogue & allowing fans to discover new aspects to his work. Find out more at philcollins.com
- Scott McLennan