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Hello, I Must Be Going: The Retirement of Phil Collins

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‘Cause people have been talking that seem like friends but it seems to me there’s a means to and end. But he don’t care anymore. Hello and welcome back to SMCD. Sorry if you were here last week and saw a lack of content, but there actually was. The story herein initially broke last weekend and needed some time to be reviewed.

Good thing, too, because it has also completely changed since then. What everyone thought was going on wasn’t really going on. Well, it was, but not for the reasons everyone thought it was. Then, there’s a-whole-nother story going on behind it that no one seems to have picked up on.

Confusing? Tell me about it! I’m the guy having to keep up with and notice all this! Let’s put it all together and see what sense we can make of it.

Last Saturday, it was announced that Phil Collins was retiring from the music business. The report came from an interview done with, of all places, FHM Magazine. That in and of itself would have been huge news, but the reasons he (supposedly?) gave for it almost overshadowed the announcement.

Phil Collins

The quote that was attributed to Collins – and I have to use “attributed to” for reasons that will become clearer—via FHM Magazine by way of Time was:”I’m sorry that it was all so successful. I honestly didn’t mean it to happen like that. It’s hardly surprising that people grew to hate me … 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.” 

For all the hate that Phil Collins has garnered for several years, this didn’t come so much as a surprise but rather a sad confirmation that the career of a legendary singer/songwriter/performer had the final nail put in his coffin thanks to public opinion. Personally, I’m not the biggest Phil Collins fan in the world, but I certainly don’t understand the vitriol he’s accumulated throughout the last several years. An inordinate amount of people ranging from South Park creators to your average joe hates Phil Collins, and it’s astounding to see. 

However, none of that may have had to do with Collins walking away. Collins himself would have you believe that a lot of the comments attributed to him painting him as a suicidal recluse may be completely off the mark. With all of those rumors and the speculation about his emotional state reaching a fever pitch, Collins tried to put those rumors to rest himself, much to the chagrin of his PR people and music label.

This is where our story takes a side turn that went unnoticed. Right after the “announcement” was made by Collins (put in quotes, again for reasons to be discussed later), Collins’ publicist made a very simple but direct statement:

“He is not, has no intention of, retiring.”

Interesting. Especially since Collins had been talking about retiring at least three years ago. There’s also another interesting story-within-a-story; Collins also (allegedly?) told the FHM interviewer:

“It feels like a good time to stop for a while. David Letterman wanted me to go on his show on a Monday night recently but I said, ‘No. Can’t do it. I have the kids on a Monday.’ And my label said, ‘But this is Letterman!’ And I was like, ‘Guess what? I. Don’t. Give. A. F–k!”

If I’m reading all of this right, Collins wants to walk away—and is walking away—from music. At least for the foreseeable future. But it seems like his label and PR really don’t want him to. And why would they? Collins is a multi-platinum, Grammy- and Oscar-winning, bankable star. He’s still worth quite a bit of money to them. In a time when the major labels have (rightly) suffered tons of losses already, losing a name like Collins has to hurt and they’d rather not see that happen.

However, they can’t make him not quit. And, straight from the horse’s mouth, they won’t. Collins himself finally released a statement on his website that clears up not only whether or not he’s retiring, but why (with pertinent info in bold):

“Greetings to all, 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.

1/ I’m not stopping because of dodgy reviews or bad treatment in the press.
2/ 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.
3/ I’m not stopping because I don’t fit in, this was proved with “Going Back” reaching No 1 in the UK, and doing incredibly well worldwide.
4/ 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. 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. They were not meant to be “headlines”, they were small parts of a conversation. This clearly doesn’t come over in print and I should know better. However, 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.

Thanks for all your messages on the Forum regarding this stuff, it means a lot that you care.

But there’s no need for the straitjacket!

As in No StraitJacket Required? Hah!”

See? Collins isn’t some bitter recluse contemplating swallowing a bottle of pills while staring at pictures of the Alamo. Right? Maybe.

Collins is indeed retiring—and it’s simply so he can take time out to be a father. Another reason not mentioned in his statement but has to be taken in to consideration is that, physically, Collins can no longer perform or play the drums like he used to. Severe back problems, nerve damage in his arms, and hearing loss have pretty much seen to it that Collins is out of the game.

So, was Collins actually quoted as saying all this stuff? In his own words, he hasn’t talked to a reporter in months – which would completely invalidate the FHM interview as a made-up story. At the same time he also says he was having to explain this “again,” referring to “various interviews.” Collins has certainly lost his mind before. More than once. And for all of those to be “asides with a smile on [his] face and in passing” is a little hard to swallow.

At the same time, there is enough evidence to call in to question whether or not that particular FHM interview is even legitimate. A lot of those quotes sound parroted; worded just well enough to sound great. As far as getting people talking—and building anticipation towards the entire article, on sale at a newsstand near you soon—that was accomplished as well. But, if Collins “hasn’t talked to a reporter in months,” how did it happen?

The problem is, despite the fact that it has just the right amount of humanity and controversy that spells a “sweet spot” to sell publications, that story is certainly suspect. According to Collins on his site, he simply wants to be a dad without the rigors of doing a job he can’t physically do. That’s all, nothing else. At the same time, there are verifiable interviews where he gave his frustration/depression an outlet. And Collins has certainly been at this game long enough to know that, when a reporter’s around, the juicier stuff is gonna get printed no matter how it might come out of your mouth. Make no mistake, Collins knew better. He simply said it anyway.

As far as his PR and label not wanting him to quit, that may be where some of the controversy is coming from as well. It’s an angle that’s gone invisible because the image of a self-loathing, depressed pariah of musical hatred have completely overshadowed it. All indications from those he’s making money for indicate that they don’t want to lose future income by having him walk away. Why that matters is a mystery to me as Collins, between his solo work and his time with Genesis, has a cash cow of a catalogue that should last well-nigh forever.

All in all, what should have been an announcement of a retirement has turned in to a circus. Some of it may have to do with how the media loves the image of him as an exile too much to let it go, and his employers don’t want to see their golden goose disappear. Some of it may have to do with some form of damage control, although, if Collins was that depressed to say it in a public forum in the first place, why would he care enough to try and spin it back now? Or is that more behind-the-scenes manipulation between his employers? This will certainly be followed, and it’ll be very interesting to see how this continues to play out.

Thanks for reading once again and I’ll see you again soon.

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About Michael Melchor

Michael Melchor has covered pop culture in all its forms for several publications and websites, including BackStage Pass magazine, 411Mania.com, and Examiner.com.
  • cherie g craighead

    I love Phil collins music.He has given me and his fans many years of happiness. Phil’like the one line in The Blindside we got your back and respect your decision to be a full-time dad to Nicholas &Mathew

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Ummm… I’m pretty sure he said that he was fairly done with his music career when he was doing interviews for the album “Going Back”. At least, that’s what he said when he spoke with Mark Hoppus on “A Different Spin”. [can’t find a clip of the whole interview]

    BUT, if those people (and fans) who really care about his position only rely on the word from one source (FHM) – especially on the internet – then they deserve the confusion. Seriously, who wouldn’t check his official website & wait for an official comment?! For example, when Mike Portnoy left Dream Theater, I searched DT’s website, MetalSucks.net, Blabbermouth & Mike’s own website before coming to the conclusion that it was true…. All this other speculation is freaking retarded!

  • grimmless

    Excellent article. I wasn’t even aware of this whole situation until recently. Freaky. I completely respect Mr. Collins decision to dedicate his time to his children. Fuck the haters.

  • Thank you SO MUCH for this long-awaited and much-needed article “Hello, I Must Be Going: The Retirement of Phil Collins.”

    I say long-awaited and much-needed because it’s been almost an entire week since Blogcritics’ first article titled “Hello, I Must be Going?: Phil Collins Retires from the Music Business.”

    Making us wait nearly seven days for another “Hello, I Must Be Going” article about Phil Collins’s retirement is really kind of cruel. Here’s hoping Blogcritics’ scribes can crank out “Hello, I Must Be Going” more frequently than once a week. Geez.