“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.

To purchase a copy of Not Dead Yet from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Living Years: The First Genesis Memoir” by Mike Rutherford (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015)

Living Years
starstarstarstarstar

Perhaps the most exciting thing about The Living Years, other than the kickass cover, is the subtitle: “the first Genesis memoir,” which hopefully is more than an advertising ploy, but a foreshadowing of future biographies to come. The book is only 250 odd pages long, which is kind of an ideal length for a music biography, as Rutherford doesn’t spend too long waffling on about old stories that just loose the reader.

The Living Years is a biography of the founding member and eventual lead guitarist of Genesis, Mike Rutherford, but it is also his introspection into his father’s life and career, which he didn’t really know about until his father passed away. Hence, the title – if you know the Mike + the Mechanics song – is perfectly fitting.

Rutherford begins with his birth and upbringing and then his meeting friendships with some teen musicians at Charterhouse. He then takes the reader in a complete overview career of Genesis, touching on each album, and paying attention to each band member leaving and what effect it had on both the band and himself. Throughout the book he includes short paragraphs from his father’s journal looking at where Rutherford’s and his father’s life and career crossed over in a way.

The Living Years is a great read. Rutherford has an enjoyable easy-going voice that immediately engrosses you. The chapters are nice and short and the story moves along at a good clip, not giving the reader a chance to get bored. But Mike also has plenty of stories and anecdotes to tell and doesn’t hold back when it comes to commentary on “drugs and rock’n’roll.”  Rutherford has no reservations, telling it as it is, in this fascinating look at one of the biggest rock acts in the history of music.

Originally written on March 23, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Get in Trouble from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

You might also like . . .

Genesis Chapter and Verse