“I almost died from the damage”: Phil Collins, the silent retirement of rock’s impossible hero

“I guess after tonight we’ll all have to get real jobs.”Phil Collins noted, on the last night he took to the stage with keyboardist Tony Banks and guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford, his partners in Genesis’ most successful era, who on March 26 said goodbye with three concerts at the O2 Arena in Wembley. A milestone to which they tried to include -unsuccessfully- their former teammates Steve Hackett and Peter Gabriel, who also attended as a guest and allowed himself to be photographed with Collins backstage, perhaps to silence any rumors of difference between the two -despite the fact that the set included two nods to his era; The Carpet Crawlers and an excerpt from Dancing With the Moonlit Knight-.

The way of Collins (71) – the only one along with Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney to sell more than 100 million records, adding his projects – closes more due to the forced foot of his health problems, than of his own will. More when seeing other old rockers who, despite being almost octogenarians (there is a gallery that goes from Jimmy Page to Pete Townshend), are still active, so as not to let their legends die before the passage of time and oblivion . But the case of the drummer has other flats; unlike his colleagues he had a different exposure.

Somehow he was always in the right place at the right time. He came to Genesis almost by chance when answering an ad in Melody Maker magazine to attend an audition. at Peter Gabriel’s family home. Until then he was nothing more than the drummer of an obscure band called Flaming Youth, and even had an eventful participation playing the congas during the crowded sessions of All Things Must Pass, until George Harrison himself expelled him. But he, stubborn, kept trying.

Thus, handling the intricate compositions of the band with brio, he earned a position as a more than competent drummer, and even dared to sing in pieces such as For Absent Friends (1971) and More Fool Me (1973). But beyond doing some backing vocals -as in I Know What I Like (1973)-, went unnoticed by the theatricality and power of Gabriel as one of the key frontmen of his time. But his sudden departure to become a respected solo artist gave Collins the chance to earn his place in rock royalty.

A long and unsuccessful search was what gave him the position; he himself recorded the demos for the singers who were tested, but his colleagues noticed that none of the candidates managed to do better than the little Phil. Thus, in A trick of the Tail (1976), the first work without Gabriel in the line-up, his voice surprised and left a convincing mark; his interpretation in ripplesa heartfelt ballad about the passage of time, seemed to anticipate the band’s turn in the decade that followed.

It was the divorce -because of his incessant activity with Genesis and as a session musician- that pushed him to compose songs on his own. Thus came his first solo adventure on the album FaceValue (1981)which includes one of his biggest hits, In the air tonight, with a drum sound -through gated reverb- that defined the decade. Thus, not only had he achieved success (to which other later ones were added, such as Another Day in the Paradise, Against all odds), but instead achieved a recognizable sound of his own that was a stark departure from his days as a progressive rock beast.

From there, the move to music production was immediate; she worked with ABBA’s Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Robert Plant, while Along with Genesis, he shipped records like Duke (1980), Abacab (1981), Genesis (1983) and Invisible Touch (1986)which brought the band to a different audience -Despite the fact that they did not lose the desire to experiment, there is the instrumental The Brazilian– and established him as one of the influential composers of his time. And more importantly, he imposed hits like Invisible Touch Y tonight, tonight, tonight. The highly unlikely rise to popularity had taken hold.

The nineties were the decade in which the influence began to decline, before the rise of currents more disheveled than They threatened to leave the old Phil as a sugarcoated and very old-fashioned balladeer, but who still retained that fine musicality halfway between experimentation and pop scope.. There are his works like Both Sides Y dance into the light, with mixed reviews and so-so sales results, as the Genesis era closed with We Can’t Dancewhich of course, imposed new hits like the fast-paced I can’t dance Y They are not of mine.

But the new millennium has been more of an ebb and flow of health problems and frustrations. The pain -and the accumulated debts- of a new divorce drowned them in alcohol. “I was not falling drunk but I started drinking”, he admitted in a chat with the Daily Mail. “I used to get up and start drinking and watching cricket. Red wine, white wine. He even suffered from acute pancreatitis that made him very ill.

From there came the announcement of his departure from the stage. “I retired so I could be home with the kids. So my wife left me and took the kids, they moved to Miami, so I found myself in a void with no job.”, he pointed out in an interview with the Loudersound portal. Little by little, he began to rise to the surface, although very damaged. His last years on stage were spent singing while sitting in a chair -with all the difficulty that this implies-, almost as if it were a ghost from those days of glory.

But Collins somehow managed to hang on. “I haven’t had a drink in more than three years. he told Loudersound in January 2020. I almost died from the damage, the organs began to decompose. It was a series of things and I felt like I wanted to be someone else.” One that she decided to leave music, before it ended up leaving him.