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Phil Collins is literally going out on top

Phil Collins is literally going out on topHe's enjoying his first No. 1 solo album in the U.K. in a dozen years with his Motown covers collection Going Back, which the 59-year-old singer-songwriter-drummer insists will be his last record with no more plans to tour.

"I'm winding down my career -- it's a nice way to finish, go out with a bang," said Collins, 59, relaxing at a Toronto radio station.

"(Going Back) wouldn't have happened if I hadn't wanted to do it all my life. I started telling people in 2004/2005, when I did the Final Farewell tour, this was the last solo tour, and I was going to spend more time at home with my boys (Matthew, 5, and Nicholas, 9) in Switzerland where I live 10 minutes down the road from where they live with their mom (Collins' third ex-wife Oriane).

"I had no real intention of making another record, apart from the fact that I'd been talking about this for quite a long time," continued Collins, who has been dating New York anchorwoman Dana Tyler since 2006.

"I'd always wanted to do it, almost since the picture was taken." (On the album cover is Collins at age 14 behind a drum kit.)

"These are the songs of my teenage years, that I've always wanted to sing. So I'm glad I got 'round to doing it."

Looking sleek in a navy-blue pullover sweater, matching scarf and jeans, Collins is also in the middle of writing a book about Texas history, believe it or not.

"Sort of the Alamo and the Texas revolution -- it's been a fascination of mine also since I was a kid," he said.

"So it's weird it's all happening, things that you wanted to do all your life, you're suddenly sort of (checking off) the check list. But I've been collecting stuff for many, many years, from that period, and so I'm writing a book on the collection."

Collins has also been dealing with an injured left hand -- he pulls up his sweater to display his surgery scar at his elbow -- ever since the last Genesis tour in 2007.

But he was able to play drums on Going Back alongside three members of the Motown backing band, The Funk Brothers -- bassist Bob Babbitt, guitarists Eddie Willis and Ray Monette, no less -- despite having had surgery on his neck, arm and hand.

"I played drums on this," said Collins, who also performed a handful of live shows in Philadelphia, New York and Montreux Jazz Festival.

"My left hand is messed up. So I had to tape the stick to my hand, 'cause I've had an operation. Something happening to a nerve that keeps popping out apparently. And it's kind of done itself damage. It feels marginally better than it used to, but I still couldn't play without taping the stick.

"It doesn't bother me that I can't play drums anymore," he adds. "It bothers me more that it takes twice as long to get dressed, the practical part of life.

"I'm not dying. 'Retiring' -- that's a word I have used."

So what would Collins tell his 14-year-old self in that Going Back photo now?

"Don't do it," he joked. "No, all he wanted to do was play the drums for a living, just earn enough so he didn't have to make a living doing anything else other than play the drums. At that time, I was just about to go into Oliver as the Artful Dodger in London and during that seven-month run I did in '64, I used to go home on the train with a lot of the orchestra pit members, and that's how I figured I'd end up, in the pit at a London show, doing sessions."

Instead, Collins joined Genesis in 1970, first as a drummer, then as the frontman when Peter Gabriel left in 1975, and the rest is history with 100 million solo albums sold (250 million if you count Genesis sales), eight Grammys, an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

"There are things that turn your life in a different direction," he said. "When Peter left Genesis, I really didn't not want to play the drums but I got the short straw and I ended up being a singer, which although it was not something I wanted to do at all at the time, I spent most of my time looking over my shoulder at Bill Bruford, which was our first drummer. It's led to so much."

© Toronto Sun, by Jane Stevenson

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