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Phil Collins: King of the Wild Frontier

Phil Collins has sold more than 100 million albums — he’s not short of disposable income.

But you won’t find Ferraris or Lear jets at his Geneva home. Instead, the two basement rooms are filled with things that have literally been dug up from the ground in San Antonio, Texas, site of the Battle of the Alamo: a Mexican hand grenade dating from 1836 (very rare), an early Howitzer, cannon balls — some exploded, some not — and endless buttons.

"My kids come down and say, ‘My God, it’s laid out like a museum’," laughs Collins, in conversation with rock writer and broadcaster Patrick Humphries. But his acquisitions of Alamo paraphernalia are as carefully assembled, researched and treasured as any collection in a real repository. He’d been fascinated with the battle since he was a young child and so, in 1980, when he came across an authenticated letter by Davy Crockett in a shop in New York, the Collins custodial project began.

He now owns one of Crockett’s rifles, a knife that Jim Bowie kept folded in his boots, as well as plenty of Mexican items. In fact, the more Collins studies the conflict the less inclined he is to believe that Crockett and co were the all-American heroes of the John Wayne movie. "The saddest thing is the racism," he explains. "The more I find out about it [the anti-Mexican prejudice], the more disappointed I get."

About this programme

Patrick Humphries heads to Geneva, Switzerland, to explore the musician's collection of memorabilia of the Battle of the Alamo - the biggest of its kind outside America. Collins reveals why he began collecting, where he sources the artefacts, and how gift-shop profits have funded excavations at the site. Humphries also looks at TV and film adaptations of the 19th-century conflict between the Texans and the Mexicans, which have shaped the legend of folk hero Davy Crockett.

© RadioTimes, by Jane Anderson

Last modified onSaturday, 24 March 2012 21:56

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