Musicians Who Can't Stand Phil Collins

The Phil Collins hate train has lost steam in the last few years. From The New York Times to The Guardian, critics and journalists have called for an end to the rebukes that were thrown the drummer's way so relentlessly throughout the 1980s and '90s. And it must be said that the image of Collins as a terminally unhip ballad man is challenged by several of his songs, the strength of his drumming, and the eclectic group of cutting-edge musicians whom he can count as fans.

But pop culture reputations and grudges die hard, and Phil Collins had a strong, negative brand fixed to him at the height of his unpopularity among certain circles. This is the guy that "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone pilloried relentlessly on talk shows and at the beginning of their show's 4th season after they lost the best song Oscar to him. As Parker put it in a commentary track (via YouTube), "I was fully ready to lose the Academy Award ... but just not to Phil Collins."

Of course, "South Park" is a cartoon that has always traded heavily on mocking celebrities. Even among musicians, though, Collins has picked up detractors, for his music or for personal reasons. Here are a few of his musical critics.

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain was never shy about his fellow musical artists. He championed independent bands from America and abroad, and he dismissed the likes of Guns N' Roses. While he fell into an ongoing feud with that band's front man Axl Rose over personal issues, Cobain's comments on the music were fairly sharp to begin with. Across two interviews in 1991 (via Rolling Stone), he said that Guns N' Roses "[had] absolutely nothing to say" and that rebellion was standing up to bands like that.

Those remarks, however, seem mild in comparison to what he had to say about Genesis and Phil Collins the following year. In an interview with Melody Maker (via Live Nirvana!), Cobain even gave a dramatic pause to gather his thoughts before venting his feelings about Collins's work: "You know what I hate about rock? ... I hate Phil Collins, all of that while male soul. I hate tie-dyed tee-shirts ... I wouldn't wear a tie-dyed tee-shirt unless it was dyed with the urine of Phil Collins and the blood of Jerry Garcia."

Cobain's wife Courtney Love, who was present for that interview, castigated him for the juvenile finish to his remarks. Collins, for his part, made no public reply, though the Chicago Tribune saw in his notably not-avant-garde album "Both Sides" album a suggestion of musical fatherhood to Cobain's rebellious generation.

Roger Waters

In an interview with John Edginton (via YouTube), Phil Collins admitted to not being a fan of some of his musical peers, at least when it came to their work. While he got on well with them personally, he said that Yes, Jethro Tull, and Pink Floyd didn't do it for him. The latter group, he said, grew on him over the years. But back in the 1980s, things were different. "I was in a band that was kind of being always put in the same box as that lot," he said. "But never felt that we actually were in the same box."

As it turned out, the feeling was mutual. At the height of Collins' popularity, he was such an ever-present force on the music scene that Floyd frontman Roger Waters complained about him to the Herald-Journal. "I find the ubiquitous nature of Phil Collins's presence in my life irritating," Waters said. In another interview, with Musician in 1992 (via Pink Floyd & Co), he divided songwriters into those who wrote from the heart and those who wrote to fill up space, and he put Collins firmly in the latter camp. Waters did lighten his comments somewhat. "I seem to always wind up attacking poor Phil Collins," he laughed, "but it's only because he's so visible — he's symptomatic of an awful lot of it ... the 'feeling' I get is that he's pretending to be a songwriter or a rock 'n' roller. It's an act. That's why it's unsatisfying."

Noel Gallagher

Kurt Cobain and Roger Waters' remarks about Phil Collins and Genesis may have been harsh, but they were confined to comments on his music. Noel Gallagher of Oasis was more relentless — and more personal. Not that he didn't have things to say about Collins' discography. "Just because you sell lots of records, it doesn't mean to say you're any good," he once said (via the BBC). "Look at Phil Collins." He was more crass on another occasion. "People hate f****** c**** like Phil Collins, and if they don't, they f****** should," he said (via Rolling Stone). And in the 2005 parliamentary elections, Gallagher took another shot at Collins and his alleged right-wing political views. "Vote Labour," he urged fans (via The Guardian). "If you don't and the Tories get in, Phil is threatening to come back."

Collins hasn't responded directly to some of his musical critics. But being such a frequent target of derision has gotten to him at times, and in an appearance on BBC2's "Room 101," he snapped back (via Gigwise). The gimmick of the show is to name pet peeves and banish them to the titular room. Collins picked Gallagher and his brother Liam. "They're rude and not as talented as they think they are," he said. "I won't mince words here but they've had a go at me personally."

Jimmy Page

Some musicians don't agree on matters of taste. Others have clashing personalities. And others find that collaboration breeds animosity. In 1985, Led Zeppelin emerged from a five-year hiatus to perform at Live Aid, but they were short one drummer (their hiatus had been triggered by the death of their old drummer). They ended up with two replacements: Tony Thompson and Phil Collins, who later said that he'd misunderstood the nature of the gig. He thought he was playing with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant as individuals — not as a reunited Zeppelin. 

Collins' busy playing schedule also meant that he couldn't rehearse with the band before his arrival for the Philadelphia concert and had to listen to the tracks en route. When he arrived for the very brief practice window available — less than two hours — he and Page immediately butted heads. "Robert said, 'Jimmy Page is belligerent,'" Collins later recalled to Classic Rock. "Page says, 'We've been rehearsing!' And I said, 'I saw your first gig in London, I know the stuff!' ... and Page says: 'No, it doesn't! It doesn't go like that!'"

The set was a 20-minute disaster for Zeppelin, and one Page blamed squarely on Collins. Immediately after Live Aid, Page complained loudly about "the drummer" who wasn't prepared or available, refusing to mention him by name. It was a refrain he was still sounding in 2021 to The Sunday Times: "The drummer just could not get the beginning of 'Rock and Roll.'"

Paul McCartney

There's at least one feud with a fellow musician that Phil Collins started himself. In 2002, he was performing at a party in Buckingham Palace when he had a chance to meet one of his heroes, the Beatle Paul McCartney. The encounter did not go well, at least in Collins' mind. When he asked McCartney to sign a copy of Hunter Davies' "The Beatles: An Authorized Biography," he felt the bassist was condescending. "[Paul] has this thing when he's talking to you," Collins told The Sunday Times, "where he makes you feel ... 'I know this must be hard for you, because I'm a Beatle. I'm Paul McCartney and it must be very hard for you to actually be holding a conversation with me.'"

Collins later expressed regret at airing the incident in public and told Billboard that McCartney was upset enough about the comments to reach out. "I certainly didn't get any flowers from him," he said. "I got more of a 'Let's just get on with our lives.'" Collins was almost apologetic for upsetting the former Beatle, but he couldn't bring himself to take it back. "If people don't tell people that sometimes their attitude could be a bit better then you're not gonna get any better, y'know?" he said.