Phil Collins Biography

Collins was given a toy drum kit for Christmas when he was five. Later, his uncle Mark Wade made him a makeshift one that he used regularly. As Collins grew older these were followed by more complete sets bought by his parents. He practiced by playing alongside the television and radio, and never learned to read and write conventional musical notation; instead, he uses a system he devised himself.

His professional training began at fourteen when he entered Barbara Speake Stage School. He began a career as a child actor and model, and won his first major role as The Artful Dodger in the London production of Oliver!. He was an extra in The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night - one of hundreds of screaming teenagers during the TV concert sequence and seen fleetingly in a close-up. He was also in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as one of the children who stormed the castle at the end of the movie but was edited out. He also auditioned for the role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet (1968), a role won by fellow "Artful Dodger" actor, Leonard Whiting. Collins was among the last three finalists for the role of "I.Q." on the American children's television show The Bugaloos (he lost out to English actor/musician John McIndoe).

Despite the beginnings of an acting career, Collins continued to gravitate towards music. While attending Chiswick Community School he formed a band called The Real Thing and later joined The Freehold. With the latter group, he wrote his first song titled "Lying Crying Dying".

Collins' first record deal came as drummer for Flaming Youth who released a single album, Ark 2 (1969). A concept album inspired by the recent media attention surrounding the moon landing, Ark 2 (with Ronnie Caryl, Brian Chatton and Gordon (Flash) Smith), failed to make much commercial success despite positive critical reviews. Melody Maker featured the album as "Pop Album of the Month", describing it as "adult music beautifully played with nice tight harmonies". The album's main single, "From Now On", failed on the radio. After a year of touring, band tensions and the lack of commercial success dissolved the group. In 1970, the 19-year old Collins played percussion on the George Harrison song "The Art of Dying". Harrison credited him in the liner notes to the remastered CD version of the album released in 2000.

In 1970, Collins answered a Melody Maker classified ad for "...a drummer sensitive to acoustic music, and acoustic twelve-string guitarist". Genesis placed the ad after having already lost three drummers over two albums. The audition occurred at the home of Peter Gabriel's parents. Prospective candidates performed tracks from the group's second album, Trespass (1970). Collins arrived early, listened to the other auditions while swimming in Gabriel's parents' pool, and memorised the pieces before his turn.

Collins won the audition. Nursery Cryme was released a year later. Although his role remained primarily that of drummer and backing vocalist for the next five years, he twice sang lead vocals: once on "For Absent Friends" (from Nursery Cryme) and once on "More Fool Me" (from Selling England by the Pound).

In 1974, while Genesis were recording the album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Brian Eno (who is credited with "Enossification" for electronic vocal effects on the track "Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging") needed a drummer for his album Another Green World. Collins was sent to fill the gap, and played drums in lieu of payment for Eno's work with the band.

In 1975, following the final tour supporting the concept album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Gabriel left the group to pursue a solo career. Collins became lead vocalist after a lengthy but ultimately fruitless search for Gabriel's replacement (where he sang back up with the over 400 hopefuls that reportedly auditioned). In the short term, the group recruited former Yes and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford to play drums during live shows, although Collins continued to play during longer instrumental sections. Bruford's drumming can be heard on the track "The Cinema Show" on the live album Seconds Out. He was soon replaced by ex-Frank Zappa band member Chester Thompson, who became a mainstay of the band's live line-up. Collins, however, continued to play drums on all of the band's studio recordings.

The first album with Collins as lead vocalist, 1976's A Trick of the Tail, reached the American Top 40, and peaked high as #3 on the UK charts. Said Rolling Stone, "Genesis has managed to turn the possible catastrophe of Gabriel's departure into their first broad-based American success.". Following the recording of Genesis' next album Wind and Wuthering guitarist Steve Hackett left the group to pursue his own solo career. The group decided to continue as a trio for recording with Mike Rutherford playing guitar and bass in the studio, although the lineup was regularly augmented by Chester Thompson and American guitarist Daryl Stuermer for concert tours.

Collins simultaneously performed in a jazz fusion group called Brand X. The band recorded their first album, Unorthodox Behaviour, with Collins as drummer, but because Genesis was Collins' priority, there were several Brand X tours and albums without him. Collins credits Brand X as his first use of a drum machine as well as his first use of a home 8-track tape machine.

Collins also performed on Steve Hackett's first solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte, on which he sang lead vocals and played drums.

As the decade closed, Genesis began a shift from their progressive rock roots and toward more accessible, radio-friendly pop-rock music. The album …And Then There Were Three… featured their first UK Top 10 and U.S. Top 40 single, "Follow You, Follow Me".

In the 1980s, while Collins developed as a songwriter and established a parallel career as a solo artist, Genesis recorded a series of highly successful albums including Duke, Abacab, Genesis, and Invisible Touch. The latter album's title track reached #1 on the American Billboard singles chart, the only Genesis song to do so. The group received an MTV "Video of the Year" nomination in 1987 for the single "Land of Confusion" (which featured puppet caricatures created by the British satirical team Spitting Image) but lost out to Peter Gabriel's solo hit, "Sledgehammer". Reviews were generally positive, with Rolling Stone's J.D. Considine stating, "every tune is carefully pruned so that each flourish delivers not an instrumental epiphany but a solid hook."

Collins left Genesis in 1996 to focus on his solo career; The last studio album with him as the lead singer was 1991's We Can't Dance. He and Gabriel reunited with other Genesis members in 1999 to re-record "The Carpet Crawlers" for Genesis' Turn It on Again: The Hits. When in the mid-2000s discussions of a possible Genesis reunion arose, Collins stated that he would prefer to return as the drummer, with Gabriel handling the vocals. Eventually Turn It On Again: The Tour was announced for 2007, with the Collins/Rutherford/Banks lineup.

The dominant theme running through Collins’ early solo recordings (although never specifically mentioned in his songs) was the acrimonious breakdown of his first marriage and then-recent divorce. Two songs he wrote on the Genesis album Duke, "Please Don't Ask", and the Top 20 hit "Misunderstanding", dealt with failed relationships. One year earlier, he had produced and played drums on John Martyn's Grace and Danger, an album whose main theme is also marriage breakup.

With the recording of his first solo album, Face Value, Collins attributed his divorce as his main influence, as can be inferred from songs such as "If Leaving Me Is Easy".

In September 1981, he made his live debut as a solo performer, appearing at the invitation of producer Martin Lewis at the Amnesty International benefit show The Secret Policeman's Other Ball at the Theatre Royal in London. Collins performed two songs "In The Air Tonight" and "The Roof Is Leaking" accompanying himself on the grand piano. His performance was augmented by Daryl Stuermer on acoustic guitar and banjo. The performance was the first time that Collins had performed live as a soloist and the first time that he performed at a charity show. In addition to performing his two solo songs, Collins joined the chorus on the finale of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" performed by the all-star Secret Police led by Sting, and featuring Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Bob Geldof, Midge Ure and Donovan. Collins would subsequently team up with Geldof and Ure to play drums on the 1984 Band-Aid single "Do They Know It's Christmas", and with Sting to perform together at the Geldof-organized Live Aid in 1985.

Collins' performances were prominently featured on the Secret Policeman's Other Ball - The Music album released in 1982, which was a Top 30 album in the UK, U.S. and other countries. His performance of "In The Air Tonight" was included in both the UK and U.S. versions of the movie of the show. His performance of "The Roof Is Leaking" was included in the U.S.-only home-video sequel The Secret Policeman's Private Parts in 1983.

In 1982 he produced Something's Going On, a solo album by Anni-Frid Lyngstad (Frida), of ABBA fame. Frida, who had just parted with bandmate and husband Benny Andersson, had been impressed by Collins' solo efforts. Consequently, she approached Collins with her own solo project. The resulting album, featuring Collins on drums, spawned the 1982–83 international smash hit "I Know There's Something Going On" (Russ Ballard) and Collins’ duet with Frida titled "Here We'll Stay." An edit featuring Frida on all vocals was released as a single. A one hour documentary about the making of this album can be seen on Frida the DVD. Swedish television filmed the whole recording process from day one in the studio to the release party. The programme includes interviews with Phil and Frida, as well as all the musicians on the album.

Songs inspired by Collins’ marital problems formed the bulk of his first two solo albums. His second album, Hello, I Must Be Going!, released in 1982, included songs such as "I Don't Care Anymore". Collins’ early albums had a dark presence, usually heavy on the drums. Regarding Face Value, he says, "I had a wife, two children, two dogs, and the next day I didn't have anything. So a lot of these songs were written because I was going through these emotional changes." There were occasional poppier influences–Face Value's "Behind the Lines", for example, was a jazzy remake of a Genesis song he co-wrote. Face Value was a critical and multi-platinum success, and saw Collins’ profile increase further. Hello, I Must Be Going! gave him a UK #1 for his cover of The Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love". The album went triple-platinum in the United States, like its predecessor. The Supremes' cover was his first Top 10 U.S. hit (it also hit the Top 10 of Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart). The album also reached #2 on the UK album chart, spending well over a year there.

Two years previously, Collins had played drums on Peter Gabriel's third self-titled record (often referred to as Melt), which was the first record to feature the "gated reverb" sound, which was used on the song "Intruder". Gabriel reportedly "didn't want any metal on the record" and asked Collins to leave his cymbals at home, to concentrate on the sound of his kit more heavily than usual. Studio engineer Hugh Padgham augmented the drum sound by using a microphone normally intended for studio communication rather than recording and feeding it through a signal processor called a noise gate. This allowed the reverberation added to the drums to be suddenly cut off before it naturally decayed. The result was the arresting "gated reverb" which became Collins signature sound. This was the same 'big drum sound' used on such songs as "In The Air Tonight", "Mama" by Genesis, and Frida's "There's Something Going On".

A turning point in Collins' musical style came when he was asked to provide the title track for the film Against All Odds, a song which he re-worked to become "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" from an original Face Value session out-take entitled "How Can You Sit There?". The emotionally-charged ballad shot to #1 in the U.S. and #2 in the UK.

In 1984, Collins produced Philip Bailey's Chinese Wall album. He performed a duet on one of the album's tracks, "Easy Lover" which went to #2 on the U.S. pop chart and spent four weeks at #1 in the UK. Collins worked with the horn section of Bailey's band, Earth, Wind & Fire (later known as the Phenix Horns) throughout the 1980s, both on solo and Genesis tracks. By the end of 1984, Collins participated in Bob Geldof's Band Aid charity project, as well as, playing drums on the Band Aid single "Feed The World (Do They Know It's Christmas)", a drum part he laid down in one take (while being filmed).

Collins released his most successful album, No Jacket Required, in early 1985. It contained the hits "Sussudio", "One More Night", "Don't Lose My Number", and "Take Me Home", as well as the less known yet equally robust "Who Said I Would", and "Only You Know and I Know". The album featured Sting, Helen Terry and ex-bandmate Peter Gabriel as backing vocalists. He also recorded the successful song "Separate Lives", a duet with Marilyn Martin, and an American number one, for the movie White Nights. Collins had three American number one songs in 1985, the most by any artist that year. No Jacket Required went on to win several Grammy awards including Album of the Year.

No Jacket Required received criticism that the album was too safe, despite its upbeat reviews and commercial success. A positive review by David Fricke of Rolling Stone ended, "After years on the art-rock fringe, Collins has established himself firmly in the middle of the road. Perhaps he should consider testing himself and his new fans' expectations next time around." "Sussudio" also drew criticism for sounding too similar to Prince's "1999", a charge that Collins did not deny. Nevertheless, the album went straight to #1 in the U.S. and UK.

In 1985, Collins was invited by Bob Geldof to perform at the Live Aid charity event. Collins had the distinction of being the only performer to appear at both the UK concert at Wembley Stadium and the U.S. concert at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. He accomplished this by performing early in the day at Wembley as both a solo artist and alongside Sting, then flying on a special Concorde flight to the USA enabling him to perform his solo material, and drum for Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton in Philadelphia.

Howard Jones re-recorded his song "No One Is to Blame", from his Dream into Action album, featuring Phil Collins as drummer, backing vocalist, and producer. He has also played drums on singles for Robert Plant and Tina Turner on their respective albums. Collins also produced and played drums on the Eric Clapton albums Behind the Sun, August, and Journeyman, and appeared in the videos for Clapton's "Pretending" and Bad Love. He also toured with Clapton during 1986 in support of the release of August as the band's drummer, appearing in both of Clapton's concert videos Live from Montreux and Eric Clapton and Friends. Collins was also a regular fixture through the 1980s and early 1990s at the Prince's Trust concerts. Collins' solo success, as well as his concurrent career with Genesis, led to a 1985 cover story in Rolling Stone, with the tag reading "Phil Collins Beats the Odds".

In 1988, Collins starred in the movie Buster about the Great Train Robbery, which took place in England in the 1960s. The movie received good reviews and Collins contributed four songs to the films soundtrack. "Two Hearts" -- , which he wrote with Lamont Dozier; a cover of "A Groovy Kind of Love" (originally a 1966 hit for The Mindbenders, lyrics by Toni Wine, and music by Carole Bayer Sager, but with the melody of the Rondo section of Muzio Clementi's "Sonatina in G major", op. 36 no. 5.); "Big Noise", written by Phil Collins and Lamont Dozier, which included Collins on vocals (although the song was not released as a single, an instrumental version of this song appeared as the B-side to the single version of "A Groovy Kind Of Love".) The final song, "Loco In Acapulco", was another collaboration between him and Dozier, with the vocals performed by the legendary Motown group The Four Tops.

In 1989, Collins produced another successful album, ...But Seriously, featuring the anti-homelessness anthem "Another Day in Paradise", with David Crosby on backing vocals. (Collins later went on to co-write, sing and play on the song "Hero" on Crosby's 1993 album Thousand Roads.) "Another Day in Paradise" went to Number 1 on the Billboard Charts at the end of 1989 and won Collins a Grammy for Record of the Year (1990). In the process, it became the last #1 U.S. pop hit of the 1980s. The album ...But Seriously became the first #1 U.S. album of the 1990s. Other songs included "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven" (#4 U.S., #15 UK), "Do You Remember?" (not released in the UK, but a #4 hit in the U.S.), and "I Wish It Would Rain Down" (the latter featuring Clapton on guitar) (#3 U.S., #7 UK). Songs about apartheid and homelessness demonstrated Collins’ turn to politically-driven material. This theme recurred on his later albums. A live album, Serious Hits… Live!, followed.

During this period, Collins appeared on various albums as a guest vocalist. Collins appeared on David Crosby's Thousand Roads album, singing the backing vocals for the single "Hero". Collins also appeared on the Curtis Mayfield album, A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield, covering Mayfield's song "I've Been Trying". He also sang a cover of Elton John's hit "Burn Down the Mission", in Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. Collins also sang on Quincy Jones' Q's Jook Joint album, singing "Do Nothin' Til You Hear From Me". Collins also sang on The Songs of West Side Story, providing lead vocals for "Somewhere", which was also released as a single.

Collins’ record sales began to drop with the 1993 release of Both Sides, a largely experimental album that, according to Collins, included songs that "were becoming so personal, so private, I didn't want anyone else's input". Featuring a less polished sound and fewer up-tempo songs than his previous albums, Both Sides was a significant departure. Collins used no backing musicians, performed all the vocal and instrumental parts at his home studio, and used rough vocal takes for the final product. The album was not well received by radio. Its two biggest hits were "Both Sides of the Story" and "Everyday". Collins worked on the album completely independently of his record company, and took them by surprise when he delivered them a completed album that they were unaware he was making.

Collins attempted a return to poppier music with Dance into the Light, which Entertainment Weekly reviewed by saying that "(e)ven Phil Collins must know that we all grew weary of Phil Collins." It included minor hits such as the title track and the Beatles-inspired "It's In Your Eyes". Although the album went Gold in the U.S., it sold considerably less than his previous albums. Only the title track made a brief appearance on Collins’ then forthcoming Hits collection. Despite this, its subsequent tour regularly sold out arenas.

In 1996, Collins formed The Phil Collins Big Band. With Collins as drummer, the band performed jazz renditions of Collins’ and Genesis's hits. The Phil Collins Big Band did a world tour in 1998 that included a performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival. In 1999, the group released the CD A Hot Night in Paris including big band versions of "Invisible Touch", "Sussudio", and the more obscure "The Los Endos Suite" from A Trick of the Tail.

A Hits album released in 1998 was very successful, returning Collins to multi-platinum status in America. The album's sole new track, a cover of the Cyndi Lauper hit "True Colors", received considerable play on US Adult Contemporary stations while peaking at #2. Some of Collins’ earlier hits (e.g. "I Missed Again", "If Leaving Me Is Easy", etc.) and other successes were not included in this compilation.

Collins' next single, "You'll Be in My Heart", from the Disney animated movie Tarzan, spent 19 weeks at #1 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart - the longest time ever up to that point -- and Collins won the Oscar. It was his third nomination in the songwriters category, having been previously nominated in 1985 and 1989.

Metacritic's roundup of album reviews found his most recent studio album, 2002's Testify, to be the worst-reviewed album by the time of its release, though it has since been "surpassed" by three more recent releases. The album's "Can't Stop Loving You" (a Leo Sayer cover) was yet another #1 Adult Contemporary smash hit for Collins. Testify sold 140,000 copies in the United States by year's end, although a successful worldwide tour followed.

The hip-hop group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony recorded a remake of the song "Take Me Home" titled "Home" on their album Thug World Order. The song features verses by the group, with the chorus sung by Collins. Though the BTNH-Collins collaboration was criticized in the United States (for example, VH1 rated it #9 on its "top 20 least hip-hop moments in history), it received so much positive reception in the UK that Bone Thugs decided to name Collins an honorary member under the moniker "Chrome Bone".

Collins reported losing his hearing in one ear, and in 2003 announced his last solo tour. He called it the "First Final Farewell Tour", a tongue-in-cheek reference to the multiple farewell tours of other popular artists. He continued touring through 2006 while working with Disney on a Broadway production of Tarzan, a musical which received generally poor reviews. In 2007, Collins reunited with his Genesis bandmates for a tour of Europe and North America. He accepted an invitation to drum for the "house band" celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee. He has played drums for Paul McCartney, Ozzy Osbourne, Cliff Richard, Eric Clapton, as well as Led Zeppelin.

With the exception of Paul McCartney, Collins is the only recording artist that has ever been a principal member of a band that has sold at least 100 million albums worldwide, and sold at least 100 million albums worldwide as a solo artist. According to Billboard, when you count his work with Genesis, his work with other artists, as well as his solo career, Collins has the most top 40 hits on the Billboard charts for the 80s.
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