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A DVD less ordinary

A few years ago Phil delighted us with his Face Value DVD from the TDK-....... series. Here is now another gem that is going to please not only pure-bred Phil Collins fans.

02Let’s have the result at the beginning: The DVD is worthwhile buying. A Life Less Ordinary was produced for the BBC who broadcast it on British TV in November 2002. Releasing this documentary as a DVD was a good idea, the more so because there had been no comparable biography in video before. The addition of bonus material makes the idea of acquiring the DVD for around 25 Euro and have more than just the taped TV broadcast.

The viewer is taken through the very active life of Phil Collins in chronological order. A life less ordinary – the title could not be more fitting. Mr Nice Guy’s musical output is discussed as is the rollercoaster that is his private life. Since the production began in summer 2002, around the time Testify was released, Phil’s second collaboration with the Disney Company, i.e. the Brother Bear soundtrack, is not mentioned yet. The interviews that were conducted with numerous stars, friends, acquaintances and relatives are brand-new. The producers did not go back to the archives, but made sure they had up-to-date material.

01A Life Less Ordinary pleases with a whole arsenal of rare recording never seen before in the Genesis camp. In this respect, it is a continuation of the TDK DVD  which also had a careful selection of video material. The output will delight fans of old visual material on 8mm or 16mm film and video tape. Never before were we given such a good look at Phil’s youth. We see Phil as a very young intense musician at his drum kit. We also get to see an excerpt from a TV appearance by Flaming Youth on which they performed Guide Me Orion. Who would have thought that such a rarity still exists! Surprise follows surprise and we are overwhelmed with wonder. There is the odd scene that was already included on Genesis’ 1991 video A History, but the quality of the images is just so good.

11Apart from the great insights into Phil’s life provided by the film material this DVD is chock-full of very interesting interviews that were conducted with many well-kown and less well-known people. We hear peope like Joely Collins (Phil’s adopted daughter), Steve Jones  (his drum roadie), June Collins (Phil’s mother), Clive Collins (his brother), Chris Welch (music journalist), Ozzy Osbourne and Fish (musicians), Bob Geldof (musician, he also set up Live Aid), Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel to name but a few. Phil himself speaks, too, of course. From all these statements we find out many interesting things and a number of anecdotes. Phil, for example, explains that it was just a coincidence that there was a paint bucket and a brush on his piano during his early 80s shows (his then wife Andrea had had an affair with a painter at the time). The fans drew their own conclusions and many had wondered what would have sat on the piano had she betrayed him with a fishmonger. Another funny story is provided by Mike Rutherford. He said that he bought three of the very first drum machines that were coming out when Genesis were touring Japan (in 1978) – one for himself, one for Tony and one for Phil. At first, Phil was not at all happy with the thought that a died-in-the-wool drummer like him was supposed to leave his work to a machine. But of course it was Phil who was one the first artists to use the new device (you can hear it on Face Value). In the 80s, Phil was omnipresent. Musicians like Bob Geldof or Ozzy Osbourne turn up their noses at that, but they make it clear that nobody could not stand Phil because he was just like the bloke next door. Bob Geldof points out the professionalism and talent Phil showed at the rehearsals for the Live Aid concerts in 1985 when they were trying to rig the audio equipment so that his unique drum sound would come across.

13As all good productions, A Life Less Ordinary contains bonus material. When you’ve finished watching that, you may well say “Thank god, it’s over” because the bonus material consists only of interviews. Very insightful interviews, it must be said, but  a) some of the material from the main film reappears and b) it’s the same people we’ve seen before. After more than 90 minutes of bonus interview material we are well-provided with all kinds of statements. It is a pity, though, that we do not get to see Flaming Youth’s TV appearance in full. That would have been another fantastic add-on and a delightful ending of this great DVD.

by Bernd Zindler

translated by Martin Klinkhardt

Phil Collins

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