He was playing with anyone he could, and eventually joined a group called The Freeholdafter being the only one to reply to their Melody Maker advert. The Freehold saw Collins make his recording debut with a self-penned number called "Lying Crying Dying", the original demo of which has just recently surfaced.
After a while, supporting John Walker of The Walker Brothers, Collins and his guitarist friend Ronnie Caryl formed Hickory who soon found themselves with a concept album, the backing of Phonogram, and a new name, Flaming Youth.
Their album Ark II, was premiered at the London Planetarium and received lots of favourable press, but musical differences and a lack of commercial success soon meant it was time to answer another Melody Maker ad, this time from a struggling young band from Surrey, called Genesis.
Genesis had been gigging up and down the country without much success, and were still recovering from the departure of guitarist Anthony Phillips. They had also decided a change of drummer was required and after an eye opening audition at Peter Gabriel's parents' house, Collins was in.
Playing for a while as a four piece, including the odd gig with Ronnie Caryl on guitar, Genesis soon felt the benefit of their new percussionist, his much needed sense of humour and an unlimited enthusiasm for playing injected a new energy into the group. As Tony Banks said "He was by far the best musician in the band". Then with the arrival of Steve Hackett on guitar the final piece was in place.
For the next five years Collins played drums, sang, wrote and arranged songs, played sessions, and generally helped Genesis become one of the leading lights in the Progressive rock field. Such classics as "Supper's Ready", "Watcher of the Skies", "The Cinema Show" and "Get 'Em Out by Friday" all bear the trademark Collins feel. The stunning "Apocalypse in 9/8" section from "Supper's Ready" is the group at it's creative peak, and Collins is in there driving it all along. He even had time to join jazz-fusion rockers Brand X, with whom he recorded several albums.
When Gabriel quit the group in 1975, the music press jumped on the 'Genesis to split' bandwagon, the band of course carried on and Collins stepped up to the microphone and ended up sounding more like Gabriel than Gabriel did.
A Trick of the Tail and its follow up Wind and Wuthering, were two well-received and successful albums and put Collins well and truly in the spotlight. By now he was writing more so it was only a matter of time before the solo career arrived.
In 1980 he played drums on Peter Gabriel's third solo album and at the singers request left his cymbals at home. The resulting 'in your face' bombastic drum sound was put to good use by Collins on his debut solo single "In The Air Tonight" released in Jan 81, it raced to no.2 in the UK and achieved a top twenty position in the USA.
His first solo album, Face Value, sold by the truckload and was a number one smash, but again rumours about Genesis splitting up were proved to be wrong. The band decided on a kind of group album then solo album policy, which kept both camps happy. The album made Collins an instant solo star.
In Nov 82 his second album Hello I Must Be Going hit the number 2 spot, and provided him with a number one single, an uptempo cover of the old Supremes song "You Can't Hurry Love". Many old time Genesis fans found all this three minute pop song stuff hard to swallow, but the sales of both band and solo artist kept on rising. And as Collins once said "You don't wear the same clothes you wore ten years ago do you?" Some old Genesis fans obviously did.
Now running two parallel careers at once, it seemed Collins was everywhere. He won a Grammy for the song "Against all Odds", scored another hit with "Sussudio" and in Feb 85 he had a chart-topping album on both sides of the Atlantic with 'No Jacket Required'.
For the Live Aid concerts of 1985, he played a set at Wembley Stadium, jumped on The Concorde and flew to America, where he played in the much anticipated but, as it turned out, very disappointing Led Zeppelin reunion. Even Phil couldn't work miracles. He did however stamp his mark all over the Band Aid single "Do They Know its Christmas".
Always wanting to perform with other artists, Collins dueted with Earth Wind and Fire's Phil Bailey for the "Easy Lover" single, which was another UK No.1 in Mar 85. He also had a US No.1 with "Separate Lives", a duet with Marilyn Martin in Sep 85.
In 1986 Genesis scored another multi-million seller with 'Invisible Touch'. A massive world tour, and a string of hit singles followed. Collins was one of the biggest stars around, either with Genesis or on his own.
He starred in the 1988 movie "Buster" and notched up another US. No. 1 single with "Two Hearts". His next solo effort was released the following year, "...But Seriously" was again No.1 everywhere and spawned several more hits, with "Another Day in Paradise" being the biggest.
The Phil Collins live show was all the things he couldn't do with Genesis. Lots of jazzy work outs, plenty of ballads, and no songs about lawnmowers - and he even had his own brass section. The musicianship was of the highest standard, and of course there was plenty of effortless drumming. The ubiquitous live album soon followed, "Serious hits...Live" showed Phil having fun with his band and doing it rather well.
"Both Sides" from Nov 1993 was very much a solo album with Phil playing all the instruments and wearing the producer's hat, it topped the UK charts but peaked at 13 in the US. Genesis then had their biggest ever album. 'We Can't Dance' sold over 15 million copies and they had so many hit singles that some older fans were hanging up their flares in horror. The resulting tour filled the worlds biggest stadiums, and maintained the position as the world's top live act.
In 1996 Collins stunned many fans by announcing his departure from Genesis after 26 years. He decided that a solo career was all he needed, plus the odd soundtrack, world tour etc., and he released another album. "Dance into the Light" had more of a band feel to it, with the odd Gospel tune thrown in for good measure.
His greatest hits, and there was a lot of them, were released as a 'Best Of' in 1998. Put out a few years earlier the sales would have been frightening, but it still put another shiny disc on the studio wall
His love of big band jazz resulted in an album of his own songs rearranged for big band, called, "A Hot Night in Paris" . It swung, got you snapping your fingers, but didn't really trouble the pop charts, though it charted high in the US Billboard Jazz Charts.
Walt Disney asked him in to compose the songs to their latest animated feature "Tarzan", the resulting single, "You'll be in my Heart", was a major US hit and earned him a prestigious Oscar award. They even threw in another Grammy and a Golden Globe. He is currently working on three new Disney projects.
With a new album in the pipeline, and a continued interest in all aspects of his past, Phil Collins has proved that there is no substitute for talent. Not bad for an Artful Dodger from Chiswick.