The iconic drummer that Phil Collins called “underrated”

Names in the drumming world don’t get much more iconic than Phil Collins. The Genesis drummer took on the rare and difficult feat of simultaneously singing and beat-keeping, and for many years after his time with Peter Gabriel and the band, continued to prove himself as a competent force in the realm of songwriting.

Sadly, Collins has been battling chronic health issues over the past two decades. Most critically, he has sustained considerable nerve damage in his hands, leaving him unable to play the drums properly. Consequently, Collins announced Genesis’ reunion tour date at the O2 in London in March 2022 as their very last.

The former drummer sang the farewell concert from a seat in the centre of the stage. Despite looking frail and somewhat incomplete without a drumkit in front of him, Collins put on a passionate and memorable performance.

Although Collins’ drumming days are behind him, he has left a booming legacy filled with timeless compositions. Whether it’s his Oscar-winning soundtrack for Disney’s Tarzan or the iconic drumline in ‘In the Air Tonight’, Collins will always be a trusted authority as both a songwriter and drummer.

The members of Genesis have long cited the latter work of The Beatles as a prime influence on their sound, especially the group’s seminal 1967 album, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The early psychedelic classic is often cited as the early source of the prog-rock genre.

In a 1992 episode of The South Bank Show, titled The Making of Sgt. Pepper, Collins featured as a keen admirer of the Fab Four to comment on the enduring influence of the landmark album.

During the episode, the Genesis drummer took the opportunity to set the record straight on Ringo Starr’s drumming ability. Over the past few decades, Starr has been unfairly dismissed as your everyday drummer who was just lucky enough to fall in with the other three. In fact, some trace this inaccurate assessment back to an alleged John Lennon quote from the 1970s: “Ringo wasn’t the best drummer in the world… Let’s face it, he wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles”.

Even if Lennon actually said these words, it would have just been another example of the late Beatle’s caustic wit. Alas, it has been more recently debunked as an original Lennon quote, with some saying that its origin instead lay in a Jasper Carrott gag from 1983.

In the 1992 episode of The South Bank Show, Collins endorsed Starr’s ability as a drummer: “Well I think he’s vastly underrated, Ringo. The drum fills in ‘A Day In The Life’ were in fact very, very complex things. You could take a great drummer from today and say ‘I Want It like that,’ and they wouldn’t know what to do.”

Watch Phil Collins and Ringo Starr perform alongside Elton John, Jeff Lynne, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Mark King and Jools Holland at The Prince’s Trust Rock Gala in 1987 below.

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