Phil collins - 'all of my life'
Phil Collins was born in Hounslow in 1951 and was quickly no stranger to showbusiness. Before the age of 20, he had already appeared on stage in London’s West End in Oliver!, on film as an extra in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, and on the live music scene as drummer with Flaming Youth. In 1970, he joined upcoming rock band Genesis as their new drummer and was later to replace Peter Gabriel as their lead singer in 1975. The rest, as they say, is history…
Yet for someone who was already at the top of his profession by the end of the 1970s, “the rest” was to become a quite astonishing output of multi-million selling records which was to propel Phil Collins into the realms of superstardom. If he was already well-known as drummer and frontman of Genesis (themselves in the midst of global recognition), he was to become a household name in the 1980s. Ask anyone to name recording artists they think of when you mention the ‘80s, and you won’t wait long before they mention Phil Collins.
Taking a break in 1979 from the rigours of touring with Genesis – and coming to terms with the break-up of his marriage – Phil began to pen a few songs of his own. A couple appeared on the next Genesis album, Duke, but most were to make up his first solo album. Released in 1981, Face Value became a number one in the UK and featured what has become Phil’s most well-known song – In The Air Tonight.
The following year, Phil consolidated his solo success with the release of his second solo album, Hello, I Must Be Going! The memorable video to Phil’s cover of The Supremes’ hit You Can’t Hurry Love helped the single to the number one spot – the first of many global chart-toppers. Before his next solo album, Phil was to complete two Genesis albums and tours, a tour with Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and also a re-working of a track which apparently wasn’t good enough for the Face Value album – Against All Odds became his first number one in the USA. Oh, and he had a drumming role in a little project known as Band Aid…
In 1985, Phil Collins released No Jacket Required. It became his first number one album in the USA and spawned a series of hit singles. Phil won a Brit and a Grammy award for the album, while his unique Live Aid appearance in both London and Philadelphia only further enhanced his reputation as a global star. Two duets featuring Phil Collins were also number ones this year: Separate Lives (with Marilyn Martin) topped the chart in the USA, while Easy Lover (with Philip Bailey) became Phil’s second UK number one. Another tour followed and before the year is out, Phil was back working with Genesis on what was to become the Invisible Touch album – itself a huge success in the two years which followed.
In 1989, Phil ended the 1980s how he started it – with a number one album, this time entitled …But Seriously. Another Day In Paradise became one of many hits from the album and earned Phil a Brit, a Grammy and an Ivor Novello award. A live album and video of the ‘Serious’ shows documented what was Phil’s largest and most successful solo tour to date.
1991’s Genesis album We Can’t Dance was to become Phil’s last studio recording with the band, as he concentrated more on his solo ventures. His next release was a solo album in every sense of the phrase, as Phil wrote, played and produced everything on what was to become Both Sides. Again, it was a number one album with hit singles and a world tour following in its wake.
Phil fulfilled a dream when his Big Band made its debut in 1996, playing instrumental versions of Genesis and his own solo hits as well as Big Band classics. Then it was straight back into the studio for the next album - Dance Into The Light was released in 1996 and again resulted in hit singles around the world, a 6-month world tour and a live DVD release. As the new millennium approached, Phil took stock of his solo career with the release in 1998 of the chart-topping Hits album.
You might have thought that a hits compilation album would signal the end of the road. Yet the following five years saw Phil produce two soundtrack albums, release a live CD from his Big Band shows, win an Academy Award (for the Tarzan theme, You’ll Be In My Heart) and take the role of bandleader and house drummer for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace. All that, and his seventh solo album, Testify.
The tour which followed was to become Phil’s last full-scale series of concerts. With the typically tongue-in-cheek title of The First Final Farewell Tour, Phil set off around the world for the last time, performing concerts which showcased the highlights of his remarkable 25-year solo career. A compilation of Love Songs incorporated some new recordings along with his classic ballads from over the years, while a live DVD of his farewell concert also included the promotional videos from his solo career.
In 2007, Phil joined Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford for a Genesis Turn It On Again reunion tour of Europe and the USA. The shows included material from eleven different Genesis albums and served as a series of farewell concerts from the band. Back together where it all started, Phil’s touring days came to an end on stage with his closest musical collaborators and friends.
Reflecting on his own musical influences, Phil released an album of Motown songs in 2010. Entitled Going Back, it featured some of Phil’s heroes from the original Motown recordings along with his long-time band members Daryl Stuermer and Chester Thompson. Once again, almost thirty years after the chart success of Face Value, Going Back was a number one album – his sixth in the UK. This time of course there would be no tour but a showcase concert at New York’s famous Roseland Ballroom was recorded for a live DVD.
The accolades keep coming, as his music is re-evaluated and discovered by a new generation of fans. Then, on March 9th, 2011, Phil Collins announced his retirement from the music industry. The man who played a concert in two continents on the same day has finally decided that the time has come to slow down and take things easy. It’s hard to see what more he can have achieved during a lifetime in showbusiness and an award-winning 40-year recording career.
Yet there is to be a not-insignificant postscript to an incredible career. Having released re-mastered and expanded versions of all of his solo albums in 2016, plus a 'Singles' collection, Phil was tempted out of retirement and back to the stage. He had always said that he might return for occasional performances and so it proved with a short series of shows in the UK in the autumn of 2017.
Partly in reference to his failing health after a series of back operations, the mini tours which have taken place over the last three years proudly state that Phil is Not Dead Yet. His performances are met with huge love and affection from his fans, many of whom are too young to have seen him perform in the heady days of the 1970s and 1980s. Yet the music remains as popular as ever and, thanks to his son Nicholas filling in admirably on drums, Phil Collins is able to continue his extraordinary career - and it seems those Genesis reunion rumours will just never go away...