Phil COLLINS (1951-)

Phil Collins This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 739
  • Subject No: 733
  • Broadcast date: Wed 26 Oct 1988
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Mon 19 Sep 1988
  • Venue: Teddington Studios
  • Series: 29
  • Edition: 2
  • Code name: Jacket

on the guest list...

  • Jill - wife
  • Philip Gadd
  • Martin Gadd
  • Kim Goody
  • Peter Newton
  • Brian Chapman
  • Richard Branson
  • Ahmet Ertegun
  • Daryl Stuermer
  • Chester Thompson
  • Tony Smith
  • Howard Jones
  • Julie Walters
  • Midge Ure
  • Bob Geldof
  • Joely - daughter
  • June - mother
  • Carole - sister
  • Bob - brother-in-law
  • Clive - brother
  • Lynne - sister-in-law
  • Mark - nephew
  • Angela - niece
  • Lucy - niece
  • Philip - nephew
  • Reg Tungay
  • Len Tungay
  • Barbara Speake
  • Mike Rutherford
  • Tony Banks
  • Jim Gardner
  • letter from HRH Prince Charles
  • Simon - son
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Peter Gabriel
  • Robert Plant
  • Philip Michael Thomas

production team...

  • Researcher: Sue Green
  • Writer: Roy Bottomley
  • Directors: Brian Klein, David Clark
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

Top of the Pops

charting the pop stars

Michael Aspel

a career review

New Lease of Life

the programme's relaunch

Behind the Scenes

the programme's best kept secrets


the show's fifty year history

How they asked Aspel

TV Times interviews new presenter Michael Aspel

Secrets Of 'Life': The ones who got away

Producer Malcolm Morris exposes some production secrets to TV Times

My Life in Their Hands

The Mirror interviews Michael Aspel

Richard Branson

Mike Rutherford

Midge Ure

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Screenshots of Phil Collins This Is Your Life

Roy Bottomley This Is Your Life book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

We persuaded the normally immaculate Michael to become a Covent Garden busker - unshaven, shabbily dressed, and wearing a wig of long, greasy hair. We also persuaded some big stars - Bob Geldof, Midge Ure and Howard Jones - to become buskers for the afternoon, so that the scruffy Michael could hide behind them. They were also part of our insurance: we had been tipped off that Phil Collins might do a runner if he saw the Big Red Book, so we hoped his pals from the rock scene would stop him! Phil was taken to Covent Garden for an interview with an American television company about his latest film, Buster, based on the Great Train Robbery. That was our white lie.

When our own director and his production assistant arrived in Covent Garden to supervise the hoped-for pick-up, a scruffy, bearded figure shuffled towards them.

'Hello' he growled.

They looked at each other. Surely no one they knew.

'Gotcha!' beamed Michael. They simply hadn't recognised him.

And if they were surprised, Phil Collins was absolutely stunned when the scruffy old busker produced the Big Red Book - for his first time - from under his tatty anorak. Phil was so taken aback he looked as though he couldn't have done a runner if he had tried.

To everyone's relief - especially Michael's - try he didn't, and it was the new lease of Life that was up and running.

Malcolm Morris biography

Producer Malcolm Morris recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is My Life...

Michael Aspel joined Thames in July 1988, just in time to make the next series of This Is Your Life, due for transmission by that October. Michael and I had worked together before on other programmes. He did not know the Life team but it took only a few meetings before we were all very much at home. There was never the question of 'well, Eamonn would have done it this way' because Michael was his own man with his own distinctive style, and we were going to do it his way. Yet – as ever – the fun and the problems were just beginning.

One huge problem for Michael was that he was following an already established programme that had been a part of Eamonn Andrews' persona for over 25 years. Michael, who had been the subject of the programme back in 1980, told me that he couldn't hear himself say the words 'this is your life' without it sounding like an impression of Eamonn.

He would go off by himself and I could hear him saying the words over and over all with different inflections.

It also did not help to know that the man we were after was a shy man who told all his friends and family that he would run a mile if he ever saw the Red Book. I must confess now that I did not give Michael this information because being Michael's first one of the series, I didn't think he needed any additional doubts. The person we had our sights on was Phil Collins, world famous and highly protected by his friends and management.

The key was in two things; first I promised that if Phil really objected we would quietly withdraw and go on our merry way, and secondly we would get him into a completely natural situation surrounded by his friends to give Phil the maximum confidence.

The ruse we came up with was a journey across Covent Garden that Phil would have to make to attend a meeting to discuss his new film Buster. This was when we could get close without Phil spotting our cameras and Michael, whom he knew quite well.

Covent Garden has many buskers and our plan was for several of Phil's music friends, namely Bob Geldof, Midge Ure, Howard Jones, Mark Brzezicki and Mike Lindup, to be buskers in 'down and out' coats and hats. They would be playing in the open and that alone would distract Phil long enough for Michael to get close, providing Michael could also be disguised. Elaborate make ups were not on for Michael because they take a long time and time is in short supply at our 'hits'.

'I know,' I said to Michael. 'Don't shave for a few days and with a grey, matted wig and a dirty, old, tattered coat plus an old satchel over your arm for the book, that will give us at least twenty seconds by which time you are in business or we'll all go home. Oh, and just for a bit of fun, how about playing an old violin?'

Michael looked at me as though I was completely mad. He is always squeaky clean and the idea of not shaving for three whole days and wearing old clothes for his first show appalled him. Then there was the violin!

I hadn't finished. 'And as he arrives I want you to conduct this million pound set of buskers by shouting out, "OK lads, let's play Vollare".'

I had now gone too far; the outfit plus the indignity of the corniest pop number in the world was too much. Michael began to have doubts but persuasion and false confidence on my part eventually did the trick and he agreed to give it a try.

On the day in Covent Garden, we set up the hit. It was 2.30pm and Phil was due any minute. Everyone was in place complete with two 'spotters' on radio links back to me so that I could wave Michael in at the right time. The car arrived at one side of the Covent Garden and Phil got out and began to walk across.

Wait, wait, wait for it … now! I waved to Bob Geldof who started to play and waved to Michael who yelled out 'Vollare … oh-oh.' Then came musical chaos as Phil spotted Bob and stopped to talk to him. He thought they were filming for something or other. Michael then moved into place. I was watching the picture from a high up camera; I crossed everything I had and looked up at the great TV producer in the sky. Please don't let it go wrong, not on the very first show!

Phil Collins was wary of this strange dirty old man closing in on him. Michael threw down the violin, whipped off his wig and shoved the book in Phil's face.

'This Is Your Life, Phil Collins.' The world stopped and Michael waited. Phil looked really shocked as Bob, Midge and the boys began to laugh and clap. He looked at Michael and then at the book. 'Oh shit,' he said and smiled and we knew it was going to be all right.

The show was Michael's from that moment on, but that doesn't mean it got any easier.

Series 29 subjects

Mickey Rooney | Phil Collins | Paul Daniels | Tom Finney | Esther Rantzen | Richard Todd | Engelbert Humperdinck
Barry McGuigan | Robert Maxwell | Harry Corbett | Cliff Morgan | Roy Hudd | Claire Rayner | Cyril Bertram Mills
Dora Bryan | Margaret Hayles | Denis Healey | Gillian Lynne | Nigel Mansell | Su Pollard