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Phil Collins: 'I always compare Genesis to Monty Python'

This was taken on a photoshoot for the Melody Maker during our first trip to New York This was taken on a photoshoot for the Melody Maker during our first trip to New York

Back in the early 70s, Genesis were a little-known band trying to break America. Here Phil, 63, tells how they made it against all odds.

“This was taken on a photoshoot for the music newspaper Melody Maker during our first trip to New York – we’re under one of the bridges in Central Park. That’s me second left next to Tony Banks, then to my right are Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett and Peter Gabriel. 

It was December 1972, three months in to our year-long Foxtrot tour, which included our first US dates. We’d just played an awful lunch-time show in Boston. The audience – about 30 or 40 students – were all studying while we were playing. We thought, ‘This can’t be Boston.’ 

It was a place we’d heard liked English bands, but we didn’t go down well at all.

Our rise to fame wasn’t a catapult – it was a very slow grind

Next stop was New York’s Philharmonic Hall, now the Avery Fisher Hall, and it was another awful show. There were all kinds of tuning problems and everyone came off very unhappy. Mike threw his guitar on the ground – like he did – but somehow we went down very well. That was when we made our name in New York. At the time we thought, ‘Ok, that’s America – next please!’ That first tour was a long, hard struggle.

In those days, we were highly strung and argumentative – Peter and Tony probably most so. When the five of us are in the same room, we still revert to type. I’m not treated like the leader or singer of the band – I’m just the drummer, the one who makes jokes and diffuses the tension. Steve is the dark one, Tony and Peter are a little bit niggly towards each other, while Mike tries to calm the waters – and that’s the way we’ve always been. 

It all meant an awful lot at that point – every note was really important. We worked hard but we loved it and we were getting somewhere, even in Europe. That made it all worthwhile.

You didn’t mind sitting in a van for seven hours, breaking down, arriving late, then breaking down again on the way back, so long as you were playing.

Our rise to fame wasn’t a catapult – it was a very slow grind. And that’s what made it interesting – you could see the difference every time we went to America. We’d be playing bigger places or two nights at the same place. It’s so different to nowadays – there was no MTV or anything then.

This was 1972 – we would go round all the radio stations, even the college ones, and you got to know your fans. They’d queue up outside the hotel and we’d say hello, then meet them after the gig for a drink.

You constantly thought, ‘This is as big as it’s going to get,’ but then we would get to venues like Madison Square Garden in New York.

There’s still a lot of affection between all of us and we are great mates. I’ve always compared us to Monty Python because they were five guys that came together at university then grew up and decided to do different things on their own. But occasionally they’ll reunite.  I’ve always seen us that way. 

Although there are no plans to do anything more together, there’s nothing to stop us writing together. I would never write anything off.”

© Sunday Express, by Rachel Corcoran

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