Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How Phil Collins Was Invited To Join Genesis ... Or Was He? AKA The Legend Of Finn Coughlan's Foot

Look at that sexy body. As a strapping young English gentleman, Phil Collins had the world at his feet. And yet, in the potent spring of adolescence, it was not yet clear what fortune truly held in store for this humble lad. From Wikipedia:
He began a career as a child actor and model, and won his first major role as the Artful Dodger in the London production of Oliver! ... Despite the beginnings of an acting career, Collins continued to gravitate towards music. While attending Chiswick Community School he formed a band called the Real Thing and later joined the Freehold. With the latter group, he wrote his first song titled "Lying Crying Dying" ... Collins's first record deal came as drummer for Hickory, who changed their name to Flaming Youth by the time of their sole album, Ark 2 (1969) ... After a year of touring, band tensions and the lack of commercial success dissolved the group ...
He also wrote a second song called "Flying Trying Spying," but it met the same obscure fate as its predecessor. Meanwhile, on the other side of London, a fledgling, slightly derivative progressive rock band was struggling to find its voice - and a drummer:
In 1970, Collins answered a Melody Maker classified ad for "...a drummer sensitive to acoustic music, and 12-string acoustic guitarist." Genesis placed the ad after having already lost three drummers over two albums. The audition occurred at the home of Peter Gabriel's parents. Prospective candidates performed tracks from the group's second album, Trespass. Collins arrived early, listened to the other auditions while swimming in Gabriel's parents' pool, and memorized the pieces before his turn.

Fun story - aside from its being utter balderdash. The truth is, the band had originally tried to enlist the services of Mancunian drummer Finn Coughlan, not so much for his drumming prowess as for a much more ribald skill. According to an interview with longtime Genesis roadie Pops MacIntyre:
We originally wanted to get Finn Coughlan, because he was an absolute chick magnet. I mean a magnet. The rest of the band just wasn't getting any, you know? We thought we could snag a new drummer and some new groupies in one fell swoop. There was a legend about Finn, we'd all heard about it, but we wanted to find out if it was true - that he could impregnate a woman ... with his foot. No one knew how he did it. At any rate, we told the band's manager, and I guess there was some sort of mix-up, this little pipsqueak shows up and says he's "Phil Collins." I mean, my accent can be thick, but this was just a real fuck-up. Then we thought, "What a great joke, we'll send this poor fellow in to the audition, with the band thinking he's Finn Coughlan!" So the sad little bastard shows up, and they start asking him, "So how do you do it?" "Do what?" "You know - with your foot? Up a lady's ... come on, how does it work?" And they keep pressing him about the foot thing and he's completely flummoxed and he's turning red in the face. Meanwhile, Mickey and I are standing in the hallway almost choking to death from laughter.

So after the audition, Peter and Mike come up to me and say, "Hey, what's the deal, he didn't seem to live up to his reputation, you know." So I tell them the truth, and they're ready to kill me. "Phil 'Collins'? Who the fuck is Phil 'Collins'? No wonder why he was looking at us so funny. Not bad drumming, though." So it was just a prank, he wasn't the right guy. A couple of days later we found out that Finn Coughlan joined a glam rock band in Edinburgh. So they stuck with Phil, and I guess it worked out.
If Phil ever learned about the less-than-flattering circumstances behind his inclusion in the band, he hasn't let on. He certainly felt nothing but pride at the time, with a touch of uncertainty. From In The Air Tonight:
The night they told me I was going to be the new drummer in Genesis, I was sitting in my flat with Rot Rot, and I simply couldn't believe it.

"Do you think I'll be good enough?" I asked him.

"Oh Phil, I never think of humility as a flaw, but in your case, I'm afraid that it is." The spiny creature smiled his benevolent smile.

"Do you think I'll ever get the chance to sing lead, or maybe even write a song?"

"Not only that, but I think that one day, the name 'Phil Collins' will be more famous than the name 'Genesis'."

"Now Rot Rot, don't be preposterous."

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