Phil Collins on his disastrous Led Zeppelin performance: “If I could have walked off, I would have done”

"I wasn't needed and I felt like a spare part"

Phil Collins has opened up about his infamous 1985 Live Aid performance with a reunited Led Zeppelin, saying he felt like “a spare part”.

Collins and Paul Martinez both played drums on the night, alongside bassist Tony Thompson and the band’s surviving members – Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones.

Speaking to Classic Rock Magazine, Collins recalled a litany of problems from the offset – notably a lack of rehearsal, equipment problems, and Plant losing his voice.

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The majority of Collins’ rehearsal came from listening to the band’s songs on the flight over, as the former Genesis singer and drummer recalls: “I didn’t rehearse when I got there, but I listened to ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on Concorde. I arrived and went to the caravans, and Robert said: ‘Jimmy Page is belligerent.’

After being quizzed by Page on how to play ‘Stairway to Heaven’, Collins explains that the legendary guitarist wasn’t impressed. “I sort of… [mimes the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ drum part], and Page says: ‘No, it doesn’t! It doesn’t go like that!’ So I had a word with [co-drummer] Tony Thompson – ’cause I’ve played as two drummers a lot and it can be a train wreck – and I say: ‘Let’s stay out of each other’s way and play simple.’

“Robert [Plant] wasn’t match-fit. And if I could have walked off, I would have done, ’cause I wasn’t needed and I felt like a spare part.”

Phil Collins also spoke about how he “didn’t want the job” of taking over as Genesis frontman, stating he would have preferred to remain behind the drum kit.

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“I wanted to stay the drummer. We had people down every Monday [auditioning], five or six people, and I would teach them what they had to do. We were writing ‘A Trick of the Tail’ and I would teach them some old songs – ‘Firth of Fifth’ or whatever – and I ended up sounding better than anyone else.

“And this [Genesis] was kind of a family. ‘Do we want this person in our family? Will he fit in with the way we do things?’ Anyway, we didn’t find anybody and ended up with me.”

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