Phil Collins on Speaking Up About Paul McCartney Slight: 'He Was Upset'

Phil Collins
Rick Kern/WireImage

Phil Collins photographed at the Alamo Shrine in San Antonio, Texas.

"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 tells Billboard.

Phil Collins' revelation about feeling slighted by Paul McCartney some years ago has gotten the former Beatle's attention.

Collins, in New York to promote his new autobiography Not Dead Yet: The Memoir (out Tuesday), recently told the Sunday Times in England that McCartney treated him condescendingly when he asked him to autograph a first-edition copy of Hunter Davies' The Beatles book when both were performing at Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee in 2002. According to Collins, McCartney -- then with second wife Heather Mills -- said, "Oh, Heather, our little Phil's a bit of a Beatles fan," which Collins took offense to.

"I'm afraid it happened, you know, and I'm afraid it affected me the way it did and I'm afraid I wrote about it," Collins tells Billboard. "I think maybe I should just brush it under the carpet and forget about it and move on, but it did happen." Collins says he did receive an email from McCartney, though he's keeping the contents private.

"He's been in touch about it because he was upset," Collins says. "I certainly didn't get any flowers from him; I got more of a 'Let's just get on with our lives.' And I'm sorry he's upset that I kinda said something nasty about him -- well, it wasn't really nasty. 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?"

Collins' promotion for the book also accompanies the release of his new compilation, The Singles, which in turn wrapped up a year's worth of reissues of deluxe editions of his entire catalog, with unreleased studio and live material and newly shot covers replicating the original album images with current photos of Collins. Equally exciting has been the announcement of Collins' return to the stage in 2017. After a pair of performances at benefit concerts in Miami Beach and Switzerland for the Little Dreams Foundation, a charity Collins co-founded with ex-wife Orianne, and at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, he's announced nine shows next June in London, Paris and Cologne, Germany. His 14-year-old son Nicholas will be playing drums, and fans are of course hopeful that this is a sign of more shows to come.

"I'm back -- a bit," says Collins, who had back surgery a year ago and still has issues with his right foot and a hand. "We're basically taking it as it goes. I certainly don't want to go back on tour again, but I think two or three weeks of shows, then a month off, then two or three more weeks of shows, that kind of thing might work. I'm hedging my bets here. I'm just taking baby steps. But it's exciting and the dates are sold out, so that's more exciting 'cause it adds a bit of an edge to it."

Collins is hoping to do some drumming during the shows as well. He keeps at kit in his Miami garage and is planning to undergo physiotherapy and aquatherapy to help prepare. "Now that we've announced [the shows] and the book's out, I've got no excuse, really. I've just got to go in there and start practicing," Collins says.

And the book's publication may also lead to some new music from Collins, potentially in time for the tour. "My excuse has been the book, and now that the book's out and the reissues are out and the Singles collection is out, I don't know if I've got any more excuses I can pull up," he says with a chuckle. There is "something which is possible that we play in London," but Collins thinks it's wise not to commit to anything definite just yet. "It's a big jump," he explains. "I haven't really written anything...well, bits and pieces, but nothing since Testify [in 2002]. So that jump, it's either going to pour out or it's going to dribble. I have no idea what to expect."

He takes the same cautious approach to questions about doing anything with Genesis, which was last on the road for its 2007 Turn It On Again reunion tour in Europe and North America. "Throughout [writing] the book, I realized -- and I didn't need too much pushing -- just how close these guys [Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks] are to me and how good of friends they are and...why aren't I doing this?" Collins says. "But there's been nothing talked about, and the thing is that as soon as you say 'possibly' people start badgering about 'When is it gonna happen?' I think it's safer to say it's not going to happen and be surprised if it happens, thank you."

For now, and until it's time to start rehearsing for the tour dates, Collins is looking forward to the world reading his story in "Not Dead Yet," a frank, revealing and often self-deprecating account (co-written with Craig McLean) that doesn't always paint Collins in the best light -- by design. "I didn't see it as a kind of confession. It was meant to be just a book taking the lid off occasionally and telling people what it was really like," he says. "I've got a lot of things to be thankful for, but I've also got a lot of things to accept that maybe it was me that f---ed up. I'm just like everybody else; I have my insecurities, my foibles, my guilt. I didn't see it as any kind of confession, but I don't mind some of the sheen coming off so people can see it as an honest account. It's just, 'This is the way I am.'"