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.


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.


“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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