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Famous Last Words Phil Collins

How the devil are you?

I'm very good. Overworked. I can't say overpaid. But happy.

What was the first gig you went to?

The Yardbirds at the Marquee in 1965. It was the day the Jeff Beck joined the band. I was 14, and that was my first experience of a really low bass. It made me feel a bit sick.

What were you like at school?

I first went to a grammar school where the headmaster wore a cape and mortar board. Then at 12 I went to a stage school where you played records while studying. I played the Artful Dodger in the West End. I had a school band, and I was considered the cool guy. I ended up marrying one of the students who was there at the same time. And another loomed large in my history recently. We have reunions.

If you weren't a rock 'n 'roll star what would you be?

I used to think I'd like to be a goalkeeper. Maybe I liked the responsibility of being at the back, like a drummer. Now, I don't know. If I couldn't play, I'd try to be a professional actor. If I'd never gone into music who knows. Chartered accountant?

What's your most treasured material possession?

My Dad's cricket bat, clock, wallet and watch. Those are the things I take with me.

What's the worst record you've made?

Ark 2, a record I made in 1969 with Flaming Youth, the band I was in before Genesis. It was full of pretentious concept space opera. It was done around the time the men were on the moon. I recently heard it by mistake, and it was embarrassing.

When did you last cry and why?

I was in LA with my nine-year-old girl watching Father Of The Bride. It's a syrupy movie, but some of the sentiments are good. Like the scene where the grown-up daughter says she wants to get married, and all the father can see is a four-year-old talking to him. That brought a tear to my eye. I don't live with my daughter, and it made me think about those moments you might not be there.

What's your poison?

Grappa. It's an Italian liqueur. It's Italian paint stripper really. You end up with a terrible hangover. Pick five words to describe yourself. Conscientious. Over-precise. Considerate. Understanding. Funny.

What's in your pockets right now?

Front door key, bit of change. Couple of bits of paper. My credit card statement. If I see something on the floor I pick it up and put it in my pocket, so I end up with a lot of rubbish.

Who was the last person you punched?

The last person I made contact with was at school. It was about territorial rights to a park. There was a group of boys in one gang, and I had my lot. Because I was the musician I was regarded as the hip guy. Me and this boy started throwing punches and then stopped. We agreed we weren't getting anywhere and shook and made up. I can't really hit someone now because it's crushing their face. When you heard the sound of fist on flesh, it's nauseating.

What was the last record you bought?

Teenage Fanclub's last album. I like the guitars and melodies. It sounded like a '60s thing. To me, Oasis do it less successfully. That Beatles-esque spirit is better captured by bands like Teenage Fanclub or Dodgy.

What are you most likely to complain about in a hotel?

Noise. I can't stand when they're renovating.

What characteristics do you think you've inherited from you parents?

The considerate side from my mum. Impatience from my dad. My dad is best described by that bit in Fawlty Towers where Basil beats a car with a tree. I've found myself doing that. Shouting a lot. I've inherited an awful lot from my dad.

What is your most unpleasant characteristic?

I'm constantly checking that everybody who works for me has done what the said they were going to do. And my lady friend Orianne hates it when I burp.

What's your culinary specialty?

Liver, well-done, with mashed potato and onions. And beans on cheese on toast.

What is your greatest fear?

Crocodiles. It's that machine. The finality of it. The total disregard for anyone's feelings. He just does it.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

I've always loved Nimrod by Elgar. Or Aretha Franklin's version of Somewhere from West Side Story.

What's the greatest film ever made?

It's A Wonderful Life. It's got a great, warm story, a great sentiment. This is what life would be like if you weren't here, so don't ever think your life is worthless. That's a great philosophy. They should make those kind of films now.

Can you recite a line of poetry?

I remember some poetry from school, I went to elocution lessons. "Runnymede at Runnymede/What say the reeds at Runnymede"

Have you ever been arrested?

Yeah, once. Drunk driving in 1973. I was banned for a year. During that year I went to Rent-a-car. I suspected they shouldn't have rented me the car, so I got out and called them from a phone box. That's how honest I am! They got the car back and I went home by bus. Most people would have driven off and thought, Fuck it.

What turns you on?

In a serious relationship, a sense of humor. If you're talking titillating, I suppose underwear. Happiness is... Never having to explain why you want the other person to dress up.

Where are you off to now?

I've got to do another interview, with Jools Holland, about my twenty-piece jazz band. After that, it's out to buy some bread. We have no bread.

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