Phil Collins Recalls Offering to Quit Genesis to Join the Who
Phil Collins recalled telling Pete Townshend he’d quit Genesis in order to replace the late Keith Moon in the Who.
By the time he made the offer, Kenney Jones had already been hired as the Who’s new drummer – despite his initial reservations – meaning Collins missed out. In the same interview with Classic Rock magazine from 2017, Collins also recalled how he missed out on appearing on a song with George Harrison, which later resulted in the ex-Beatle playing a complex practical joke on him.
“I played Uncle Ernie in Tommy [in a 1989 concert with the Who], which I loved doing, though it was very politically incorrect – playing a pedophile,” Collins said. “But it was great because I was with the Who. I was working with Townshend just after Moon died [in 1978], and I said to him, ‘Have you got anybody to play the drums? Because I’d love to do it. I’ll leave Genesis.’ And Pete said, ‘Fuck, we’ve just asked Kenney Jones.’ Because Kenney Jones, unbeknown to most people, played on stuff when Keith was too out of it. He was far too polite for the Who. But I would have done the job. I would have joined them.”
Collins also remembered being asked to play bongos on Harrison’s 1970 song “All Things Must Pass.” He found the experience so stressful that he resorted to “cadging cigarettes off Ringo [Starr],” even though he didn’t smoke. By the time Collins was asked to record his part, he’d been playing the unfamiliar instrument for two hours.
"Everybody laughed, but my hands were shot," he recalled. "And just after that, they all disappeared – someone said they were watching TV or something – and I was told I could go. A few months later I buy the album from my local record shop, look at the sleeve notes and I’m not there. And I’m thinking, ‘There must be some mistake!’ But it’s a different version of the song, and I’m not on it.”
Years later, Collins was told by race-car driver Jackie Stewart that his friend Harrison was remixing “All Things Must Pass.” "He said, ‘You were on it, weren’t you?’" Collins explained. "And I said, ‘Well, I was there.’ Two days later, a tape’s delivered from George Harrison with a note saying, ‘Could this be you?’
“I rush off and listen to it, and straightaway I recognize it. Suddenly, the congas come in – too loud and just awful. And at the end of the tape, you hear George Harrison saying, ‘Hey, Phil, can we try another without the conga player?’ So, now I know they didn’t go off to watch TV. They went somewhere and said, ‘Get rid of him,’ because I was playing so badly.”
Collins said Stewart called and told him, "‘I’ve got someone here to speak to you,’ and puts George on, and he says, ‘Did you get the tape?’ And I said, ‘I now realize I was fired by a Beatle.’ And he says, ‘Don’t worry, it was a piss-take. I got Ray Cooper to play really badly and we dubbed it on. Thought you’d like it!’ I said, ‘You fucking bastard!’”
Reflecting on the amount of effort Harrison out into the practical joke, Collins concluded, “It was lovely, wasn’t it?”