When he was 14 his parents enrolled him in stage school and for a while he was an actor, starring as the Artful Dodger in a stage production of Oliver!and even being cast as an extra in The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night.To this day there is the mistaken assumption that he instigated divorce proceedings by fax.Collins maintains good relations with his ex-wives (he and Cevey were divorced in 2007) although, as he points out, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all friends with each other.
“It’s an old trick but it sort of worked.” It certainly did: Genesis were even more successful as a three-piece with Collins as frontman than they were with Gabriel at the fore.
Counting his work with Genesis, as a solo performer and his collaborations with other artists (such as Earth Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey, with whom he had a worldwide number one, Easy Lover, in 1985), Collins had more hits than anyone else that decade.
It was his very ubiquity, perhaps, that drew criticism.
It was rock’n’roll that rescued him from a fate worse than death – being a ballet dancer.
“I was one of only two guys in drama class and there were 10 girls,” he winces, “and once a week I had to swallow my pride and put tights on. Luckily, my forte was playing the drums and it was incredibly hip to be a musician so that’s what I did.” When he met the other three members – Peter Gabriel, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, all former pupils of public school Charterhouse – it was immediately apparent that they were not like him.