“The word that is constantly used to describe me is workaholic…Simply, I’m asked to do things I can’t possibly turn down.”
This quote by Phil Collins is how he describes his career in his book “Not Dead Yet,” from his start as the drummer for Genesis to his exploding solo career in the 1980s and 1990s. When a person has had a career like his, the book should be an exciting (and in Collins’s case) and exhausting ride.
The 366 page book covers his early years growing up as a child actor, where he had parts in movies with Dick Van Dyke, The Beatles, and even on stage (unfortunately those movie scenes ended up on the cutting room floor). He also talks about the early years of him drumming in various bands, where Jon Anderson of Yes once gave Collins his number to join Yes before his Genesis gig, which he describes Genesis’s first U.S. tour that the band was already in debt before they hit the shore.
The Genesis years is covered in detailed in the early parts of the book, where singer Peter Gabriel almost left the band in 1974 due to a film project, along with the band’s refusal to put their next album on hold, which Collins states, “ So’ Peter’s back because of a better offer didn’t work out.” When Gabriel finally left the band and auditions for singers was held, Collins sang the parts of the demos for the new album. Collins says about trying out to be the lead singer, “ So I say ‘How about I have a go?’ And the rest of the guys shrug and say ‘Might as well.’” He states that band members Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks “later tell me it’s like one of those cartoon light bulb moments” which the band decided that Collins would be the new singer.
There are many stories about his transition into the solo career, all of which Collins claims that it was because he had some songs demos and the other band members also were doing solo work. His songs “In The Air Tonight” and “Against All Odds” were started as early as 1979, according to the book, which in 1981 (when Phil signed his solo deal), the record company did not want to release “In The Air Tonight” and settled on “I Missed Again” as the first single for the U.S.
Once the hits came in the 1980s, Collins was everywhere, much to the hatred of some critics and fans, especially with his double billing at Live Aid, but Collins states in the book that his other friends in the business asked him to be a part of the show, like Sting and Robert Plant. When he agreed to join Plant, Collins talks about how it turned into a nightmarish event that ended up trying to be a Led Zeppelin reunion, which Collins showed up to the event just to play some songs with Plant, and turned into a monster. Collins also says that Duran Duran was originally also to do both shows at Live Aid until they decided only to perform the U.S. part of the event.
Collins talks about his acting career after he broke as a solo artist, from the movies “Buster” and “Hook,” to his “Miami Vice” appearance. There is a funny story about Dustin Hoffman on the set of “Hook” that created more cutting room time for Collins. He tells tales about several actors ( He and Johnny Depp in a bar) and rumored projects that included a Dr. Who TV special.
The book discusses his failed marriages, his relationship with his children, and his later drinking problems, which “my pancreas is on the verge of shutting down.” His hearing loss and pain of decades of drumming is also discussed.
The book overall is a good read, with lots of honesty and comedy , such as when Collins made a deal as a child with his mother to go halves in paying for his first drum set, he states, “I will sell my brother’s toy train set..It’s doesn’t occur to me that I should have asked his permission.” There are great stories about his friendships with his Genesis band mates, the truth about how he felt when Gabriel left the band and his honesty with his career and failed family problems. For drummers, this is a great read, getting his point of view of both playing in a band and as a solo act, along with the medical problems he encounters, but the book is filled with great stories and is an enjoyable adventure. This is a great Rock and Roll book.
Collins, Phil. Not Dead Yet. Crown Archetype, 2016.
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My favorite Phil Collins video and song- “Do You Remember?” (1990)