Phil Collins’ last gig with Genesis at Cowdray Ruins on 18 September 1993

On 18 September 1993, Genesis played their last gig with Phil Collins at Cowdray Ruins before he left the band.

Genesis in 1993

1993 was a quiet year for Genesis. In 1992, the group had been on their huge’We Can’t Dance tour‘ following their 1991 album We Can’t Dance*. 1993 saw them returning to their solo projects. Phil Collins’ marriage to his second wife Jill started to fall apart with the tabloid press publishing story over story about the family. Phil wrote and released his solo album Both Sides*, a very dark and angry and certainly his most personal album, which unfortunately did not go very well with the critics. In these turbulent times, Genesis only played one gig, when they resurfaced briefly for ‘a charity gig at Cowdray Ruins in aid of the King Edward VII hospice where they were joined by such rock alumni as Pink Floyd and the remaining members of Queen.’1

Queen performed a set of songs with Roger Taylor and Paul Young from Mike and the Mechanics on vocals. Then Genesis took the stage, but not with their regular live members Chester Thompson on drums and Daryl Stuermer on bass and guitar. Instead, Roger Taylor of Queen and Gary Wallis of Mike and the Mechanivs played drums for them and bass/guitar was played by Mike’s bandmate from Mike and the Mechanics, Tim Renwick, who also played with Pink Floyd.

Genesis’ reunion in the picturesque scenery among these famous headliners saw them playing ‘Turn It On Again’, ‘Hold On My Heart’, ‘I Can’t Dance’ and ‘Tonight Tonight Tonight’/’Invisible Touch’. According to some sources, they were also said to have played Phil Collins’s solo song ‘That’s Just The Way It Is’, but that is highly doubtable.

Next up was Pink Floyd who played some of their classic tracks from the 1970s, some also sung by Paul Young and with Mike on bass. Phil remembers: ‘The Floyd I’ve never loved apart from ‘Arnold Layne’. But we did this gig…I went to the sound check, and I was listening to the Floyd and a couple of the things they played I thought ‘I quite like that. There’s a couple of things in there that, you know. They show promise.”2

After Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton played a few songs (with Mike playing bass) and at the end, the ‘All Star Cowdray Ruins Band’, a band that featured everyone that had performed that night, played ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’, ‘Can I Get A Witness’ and ‘Gimme Some Loving’. YouTube videos and audio recordings of the show exist, but in a very low quality, which is a shame when considering this was Phil’s last gig with Genesis.

It was a successful, but ‘low-profile show’ and ‘few people would have ever believed that it was also Phil Collins’s final appearance with the band he’d now fronted for 18 unexpected years’3.

The show may have been one of the reasons for Phil to leave Genesis, as he remembers: ‘In the middle of my writing and making BOTH SIDES, Genesis did a concert with Queen. […] But I didn’t enjoy it … As I was singing these songs, it didn’t feel natural. Obviously, it was bad timing, going just like that from doing my most personal thing to a Genesis thing and back. But it definitely felt like ‘What am I doing here?’, like shoes that don’t fit anymore’.’4

Some time after this gig, Phil decided to leave Genesis, but his departure would not be announced until 1996. But that’s another story.

The line-up of the Cowdray Ruins band (according to the programme):

TONY BANKS: Genesis Keyboards
ERIC CLAPTON Guitar
PHIL COLLINS Genesis Vocals
JOHN DEACON Queen Bass
DAVID GILMOUR Pink Floyd Guitar
ADRIAN LEE Mike &. Mech Keyboards
NICK MASON Pink Floyd Drums
TIM RENWICK Mech./Floyd Bass/Guitar
MIKE RUTHERFORD Genesis Guitar/Bass
ROGER TAYLOR Queen Vocals/Drums
GARRY WALLIS Drums
RICHARD WRIGHT Pink Floyd Keyboards
PAUL YOUNG Mike &. Mech Vocals

Source: YouTube

Sources

Hewitt, Alan (2000): Opening The Musical Box. London: Firefly Publishing.

Platts, Robin (2007): Genesis. Behind the lines, 1967-2007. Burlington, Ont., Canada: Collectors Guide Pub.

Thompson, Dave (2005): Turn it on again. Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins & Genesis. San Francisco: Backbeat Books.

Title photo: Genesis in corcerto. Nizza – Luglio 1992 . Source: Wikimedia Commons, Valerio Ravaglia / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).

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  1. Hewitt 2000: 64 ↩︎
  2. in Thompson 2005: 254 ↩︎
  3. Ibid. ↩︎
  4. in Platts 2007: 140 ↩︎

Live Aid, July 13, 1985: Phil Collins appears in London and Philadelphia

Live_Aid_at_JFK_Stadium,_Philadelphia,_PA

On July 13, 1985, Phil Collins was the only performer to appear on both Live Aid shows in London and Philadelphia.

Phil Collins is all over the world

In the mid-1980s, it seemed as if Phil Collins had already achieved everything: As a solo artist and as a member of Genesis he had number one hit singles, chart-topping albums and sold-out world tours. By 1985, his third solo album No Jacket Required had been a massive success and produced hit singles that topped the charts worldwide. Phil Collins’ music was all over the world – and so would he be on July 13, 1985.

Phil Collins made rock history

On July 13, 1985, Phil Collins made rock history. He did something that no-one had done before (and probably not since): He appeared live on television around the world twice in a day from two different continents. And as usual with Phil, this had not been an elaborate act of profiling himself as an artist. It had been for the benefit of millions of starving people in Africa. The two appearances onstage and on television had been part of Live Aid, two shows that had been organized by Bob Geldof. The man of the day however, was Phil Collins.

Live Aid

The famous Live Aid concerts from 1985 were the continuation of the Band Aid single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” from 1984, in which musician Bob Geldof had gathered many famous pop stars to raise money for the poor starving population in Ethiopia. The concept worked and half a year later, the Live Aid performances were celebrated with the same intention. There were two parallel concerts, one in London, one in Philadelphia, and the whole 80s pop world seemed to participate in the event. Phil Collins had already played drums on the the million-selling Band Aid single “Do They Know It’s Christmas”. He did not sing on it, as he had recently recorded his own solo album and duets with Philip Bailey and Eric Clapton and the record company told him not to sing anymore until his album “No Jacket Required” had come out and he would be on the tour that followed.

So what exactly happened on July, 13, 1985, “the greatest day in the history of pop music”? Phil Collins proved the impossible, playing at both shows. He appeared at Wembley Stadium in London in the early afternoon and played “Against All Odds” and “In The Air Tonight” alone at the piano. He remembers sweating on the white stage and therefore, his finger slipping off the piano on “Against All Odds”. The bum note was not only heard in front of 80,000 people in Wembley, but also by a global telly audience of 1 billion people. Phil thought “Oh God, what a good start for the day this is.”

Then he was joined by his friend Sting on guitar and vocals for “Long Long Way To To” from “No Jacket Required” (Sting had also provided backing vocals for the studio version). Then the duo played “Every Breath You Take”. Phil left the stadium afterwards, crossed the Atlantic with a Concorde, and played his solo songs in Philadelphia the same way he did in London. In Philadelphia, he also joined his friends Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin. Phil had arrived at the John F. Kennedy Stadium at 7pm, was at the show at ten past, went to Eric to ask what they would play and then went onstage with him at 7.30pm. In between, he also rushed to Robert Plant’s caravan to have a chat with Led Zeppelin about their gig. This pretty much sums up the energy of Phil Collins in the 1980s.

Phil Collins had been an international superstar at this point, but his legendary performances as the only one who appeared at both Live Aid shows, certainly boosted his profile and made him as a solo artist and personality become more famous than Genesis, the band he was part of.

Live Aid – The aftermath

Looking back, Live Aid was a terrible example of using clichés. It is the prime example of “rock musicians trying to help poor Africa”. The intention was certainly good, the realization was maybe good-hearted, but not that effective. The Christmas single with its awful lyrics (“Do they know its Christmas time at all?” – this is colonial thinking at its best) and the Live Aid performances raised a lot of money and made people aware of the problems, but the result was that much, if not all, of the money was taken by the corrupt Ethiopian government. They used it to prop up the brutal dictator Mengistu. Furthermore it turned out that part of the relief donations were diverted by a rebel group to buy weapons. And also, very little food and medicine left the port cities of Assab and Massawa. It was more important to unload military hardware from Soviet ships, leaving hundreds of thousands of tons of food rotting on the docks. Bob Geldof, founder of Live Aid, was seen on TV with Mengistu, smiling and joking around, as he handed over the famine money.

Geldof had actually been warned about Mengistu and his dismantling of tribes, resettlement marches and slaughterings in which 100,000 people died. However, here one can see how the charity for ‘poor Africa’ can turn out and how someone like Geldof, who might have had his best interests, can turn his favours against himself.

For Phil Collins, playing at both concerts helped him gain even more popularity and becoming a proper international superstar. He also helped the event to become even more memorable.

Title photo: Live Aid at JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, PA. Source: Wikimedia Commons, own work. Author: Squelle. / CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).

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Phil Collins’ departure from Genesis in 1996

On 28 March 1996, Phil Collins’ departure from Genesis was officially announced in a press release: ‘Genesis end twenty-year experiment, decide to replace Peter Gabriel as vocalist.’ It was the end of an era. Here’s the story of his (temporary) departure.

Phil Collins decided to leave Genesis in 1993

In 1993, Genesis were at their peak. The group’s We Can’t Dance tour in 1992 had been huge. In autumn 1993, they played a concert in Cowdray Ruins, a charity gig with Pink Floyd, Queen and Eric Clapton. Genesis played four songs and joined everybody for the encore. Nobobdy knew that this would be Phil Collins’ last gig with the band for a long time.

By this point, Phil Collins was writing what would become his most personal solo album Both Sides*. On Both Sides, he played all the instruments and produced the album all by himself. Both Sides was similar to his first solo album Face Value and reflected his situation: His marriage with his wife Jill was going to pieces because he had an affair with an old girlfriend from school, Lavinia Lang. His family was about to break once more. Phil felt he could not sing Genesis songs anymore, but wanted to sing about things he could relate to. Also, he was tired of having to wow whole stadiums with the band. He felt that he had come to the end of the road with Genesis.

On his solo album Both Sides, Phil Collins played all the instruments, sang and produced

Some time after the gig at Cowdray Ruins, he told manager Tony Smith about his decision. Smith, being a manager and businessman, advised him to finish his solo album and tour and then think about the matter again. Phil Collins went on a world tour in 1994 and 1995. In Switzerland, he met a young woman named Orianne Cevey, whom he fell in love with. His marriage with Jill being over, he moved to Lake Geneva to live with Orianne. For this decision (and for his music), he was heavily criticized by the British press. In turn, Phil got to hate his public ‘Mr Nice Guy’-image. At this point in his life, there was no space for Genesis anymore.

Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford decided to carry on

The group met in manager Tony Smith’s kitchen in 1996 and Phil told them that he wanted to leave. Tony Banks’ replied with true British understatement ‘It’s a sad day, a very sad day.’ Mike Rutherford was surprised that Phil had stayed that long in Genesis, having enjoyed a successful solo career for 15 years in 1996. Phil’s departure was announced twenty years and two days after his first gig as a vocalist with the band. With him leaving, the band not only lost their superstar singer and entertainer, but also a great composer and drummer.

Mike and Tony decided to carry on and search for a new singer. Phil Collins continued his solo career, but not as successful as in the 1980s. The three of them remained friends. It was not until the early 2000s that they started to appear again as a trio for certain occasions. Finally in 2006, ten years after Phil’s departure, they reunited officially as a group to go on tour. But that is another story.

Title photo: The world famous band – Genesis. Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford. (Photo 1991) . Source: Wikimedia Commons, David Scheinmann / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).

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