“Not Dead Yet” by Phil Collins (Crown, 2016)


Phil Collins has been kind of quiet for the last five or so years. He said it’s because he wanted to semi-retire and actually spend time raising a family for once, having never had this experience with his previous three families during his multiple decade-spanning superstar career. He also spent it working on this autobiography. And he also spent it as an alcoholic and addicted to intense pain medications, a deadly cocktail that almost killed him multiple times. The last five years have been pretty busy for Phil, much like the previous four decades. Not Dead Yet is his story in his very own words from birth to the present.

Unlike the four founding members of Genesis, Philip David Charles Collins didn’t go to a fancy private school but lived in a poor household and had to earn everything in life from the very beginning. With a mother who loved and supported him greatly, and a father who was distant and indifferent and never seemed to believe in him, Phil knew from a young age he wanted to be a drummer. It was either that or an actor. But when his voice dropped and he had trouble getting roles that paid anything, he dedicated himself to drumming. A lesson or two was all he ever bothered with, and self-taught everything else. During the late sixties he went to every gig he could and got the chance to see acts like Eric Clapton with Cream and Led Zeppelin before they were Led Zeppelin. From a young age he had his heroes and knew where he wanted his life to go, fostered with a foundation in the growingly-popular Motown scene.

A succession of bands led to occasional gigs but nothing really stable and longterm, until he saw an ad for a drummer and went to an audition in front of Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford. He got to cool off in the pool on the private estate while waiting his turn, and was able to hear the other drummers’ auditions and learn from their mistakes. It was 1971, and that was the start of his career with Genesis.

In 1975 Peter Gabriel left the band, but Genesis would keep going on. They recorded an album with Phil doing some vocals while auditioning over a hundred singers for the lead singing role. None of them fit and at the end with touring and commitments to be made, Phil said, “Well, why don’t I have a go?” and thus the new front man for Genesis was decided. In 1980 after his marriage fell apart, Phil spent some time alone recording and eventually the result was his first solo album, Face Value, with the iconic hit and opening track that will never leave him, “In the Air Tonight.”

From then on when he wasn’t recording a Genesis album, he was recording a solo album. If he wasn’t doing that he was producing albums for Eric Clapton or Robert Plant, or going on tour with them as their drummer, or performing at both Live Aids in London and Philadelphia with the aid of a Concord, or he was becoming very close with British royalty as an important member of the Prince’s Trust. And then there was his acting career. The man was everywhere, his music was on every radio station, and the awards started pouring in. But as Mr. Collins recounts in the book, he never asked to do all these once in lifetime opportunities, but when Eric Clapton or Robert Plant asks you to work with them, how can you say no?

Not Dead Yet is both a fascinating and sobering read. Phil Collins is a millionaire many times over, and readers see how with the insane workaholic he was for over thirty years, but at the same time there are those who have suffered, who have loss, mainly family, and Phil himself has had a lot of hardship and pain himself. But he makes no excuses, admitting to his faults and failings as a father and a husband, and goes into excruciating detail when he hit rock bottom as a drug addict in his late fifties and having to go into rehab.

Not Dead Yet is a very moving book, as readers enjoy the many highs of Phil’s life and career, as well as suffering through the many painful lows. If fans want to go that extra yard, they may want to listen to the audiobook as it is read by the great man himself, with his still very prevalent London accent.

Originally written on January 4 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Genesis Chapter and Verse” by Tony Banks, Phill Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007)

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With the Genesis Turn It On Again 2007 World Tour now over, and no future plans yet for the band, fans of all varieties are left in a vacuum of sorts. Thankfully there’s the double-CD live album of the tour just released, and then the DVD of their Rome concert due out in February of next year. There’s also an incredible book spanning their entire career, giving you details to questions you never even thought to ask. And it’s not written by a fan, or someone in the music business, no, it’s written by the members of the band. Genesis Chapter and Verse is the autobiography fans have been waiting a long time to read: the Genesis story as told by Genesis.

Arranged in chronological order spanning the band’s entire career from their early days as young boys at school to the reshaping of the band in 1970 with the addition of Phil Collins and Steve Hackett, to the leaving of Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett, and then Phil Collins, and then the reforming for the Turn It On Again Tour; Genesis Chapter and Verse covers every piece of the band’s history. Printed in a large picture book form, it’s the ideal size for lots of colorful glossy pictures of Genesis through the decades. Along with the photos is the text: words and commentary from the current three main members – Tony Banks, Phil Collins, and Mike Rutherford – along with additions from Gabriel and Hackett, and the earlier Genesis members like Ant Phillips; each of these commentaries begins with the band member’s name, so you know who is saying what about when, and how multiple members saw the same event differently. Coupled with these are sidebars and interludes featuring different producers, managers, and the various drummers that Genesis had in their first five years, each telling their own unique story about this popular band.

Genesis Chapter and Verse is the required gift for any fan, whether they be short- or long-time, who is unsure of where Genesis is going next: to distract them they can relive the band’s history through the band’s eyes and in the band’s words. It will leave the fan with a satisfied and happy feeling as they wait to find out what the future holds for one of the most important rock bands of the last four decades.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on November 27th 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.