Phil has left the building

Phil CollinsIn an interview for the latest edition of FHM, Phil Collins apparently announced his retirement from the music industry, which was surprising because we all thought he’d done that ages ago.

In 2009, Collins revealed that a neck injury sustained during Genesis’ 2007 reunion tour, which affects the use of his hands and from which he has still not recovered, meant he was unable to play drums or piano, and may never be able to do so again.

However, still able to sing, he recorded a new album, entitled ‘Going Back’. His first solo record for eight years, it consisted entirely of 60s Motown covers and went to number one in the UK album chart.

In the interview with FHM, Collins discussed his injury, saying: “I’m not worried about not being able to play the drums again, I’m more worried about being able to cut a loaf of bread safely or building things for my kids. My doctors tell me it’s a work in progress, that it’ll take about a year for me to recover. They’re not strong enough to play the drums. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that again”.

Saying that now “feels like a good time to stop for a while”, he also compared the Phil Collins of now to himself in the 80s, saying that he can see why he eventually fell out of favour with many music fans: “Around the time that the music was being played so incessantly people wanted to strangle me. It’s hardly surprising that people grew to hate me. I’m sorry that it was all so successful. I honestly didn’t mean it to happen like that!”

He added: “I look at the MTV Music Awards [now] and I think: ‘I can’t be in the same business as this’. I don’t really belong to that world and I don’t think anyone’s going to miss me. I’m much happier just to write myself out of the script entirely. I’ll go on a mysterious biking holiday and never return. That would be a great way to end the story, wouldn’t it?”

Despite the line that he felt it was the right time to “stop for a while”, reports quickly spread that Collins’ career had come to a complete close, cutting down these quotes into snappier, more final-sounding soundbites and adding a few choice words on reincarnation. However, his UK PR rep was quick to deny the accuracy of the reports on Monday, telling reporters: “He is not, has no intention of, retiring”.

But later the same day Collins came forward with his own denial. Not, however, a denial that he was retiring, but a clarification of why he was retiring.

Writing on his official website, he said: “I’ve decided to write this in response to the articles that surfaced last weekend regarding my retirement. Why they were printed at all is a mystery, as I haven’t spoken to anybody in the press for a few months. However, many of the articles printed over the last few months have ended up painting a picture of me that is more than a little distorted. Therefore, I would like to add my comments and try to explain again my reasons for calling it a day”.

He continued: “I’m not stopping because of dodgy reviews or bad treatment in the press. I’m not stopping because I don’t feel loved, I know I still have a very large fanbase that loves what I do. Thank you. I’m not stopping because I don’t fit in, this was proved with ‘Going Back’ reaching number one in the UK, and doing incredibly well worldwide. I’m not stopping so I can dive full time into my interest for the Alamo. I am stopping so I can be a full time father to my two young sons on a daily basis”.

As for quotes that had been attributed to him in various articles, he said: “Some of the things mentioned above have been said by me in various interviews, but said as asides with a smile on my face and in passing … The result is that I have ended up sounding like a tormented weirdo who thinks he was at the Alamo in another life, who feels very sorry for himself, and is retiring hurt because of the bad press over the years. None of this is true”.

All in all, this is not so much a beef with the media, as a mild dig at them – Collins has had plenty of proper rumbles with the press in his time. But what’s perhaps most interesting is the speed at which this story has spread and developed, largely online. Of course, celebrities getting their side of a story across through blogs, Twitter and so on is nothing new any more, but Collins wrong footed even his own PR representative on this one and clawed back a story which had been widely reported with something of a “Collins has gone a bit loopy” slant in many places.

By the end of the week coverage was altogether more sympathetic, which many ‘Why we’ll miss Phil’ pieces doing the rounds. This is, I think, largely down to Collins getting the tone of his blog post just right. It was forceful without disappearing into a rant, and clearly laid out his points. It’s perhaps a case study a few other celebs should take a look at.

I wrote this for CMU, you can see the original post here.

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