Phil Collins was once one of the most celebrated drummers in the world, but his not being able to wield the sticks still hasn’t stopped thousands of Australians flocking to his seemingly endless world tour.
The former Genesis member turned ubiquitous solo artist may well have given a nod to his own frailty by promoting the Not Dead Yet tour, but even such fair warning hardly prepares fans for the sight of Collins arriving on a cane and sitting through most of his performance.
Like many of his ilk, Collins, 68, has battled alcohol abuse, but also struggles with a drop foot – caused by a back operation – hearing loss and nerve damage.
Reviews of the Collins’ shows have been good, although the UK’s Mirror newspaper perhaps summed it up best with the headline: “In the chair tonight.”
The famous drum roll on Collins’ greatest solo hit is now played on stage by his teenage son, Nicholas, because the man himself can no longer play the instrument that made him famous.
Collins told loudersound.com that he had been unable to play drums for more than a decade, since inexplicably hitting a wall in 2007.
“Something happened on the Genesis reunion tour,” he told the website.
“At the end of each show, I had a drumming duel with Chester Thompson – and one night something happened.
It just went. I tried everything – bigger drumsticks and so on, but it just never came back.
Collins, at least, has been able to meet his touring commitments despite his physical infirmities.
Another ageing rocker, Ozzy Osborne of Black Sabbath fame, has had to cancel gigs after being admitted to hospital this week, suffering from flu complications.
The 70-year-old was forced to postpone the UK and European legs of his No More Tours 2 tour after taking advice from doctors. He’s been diagnosed with a severe upper-respiratory infection, according to a statement on his website.
Doctors feared the infection could develop into pneumonia.
Osborne’s wife, Sharon, tweeted this week that Ozzy hoped to be better soon, although there is no word on whether his illness will impact the Australian leg of his tour in March.
Another rocker who sold millions of records in Australia, but has recently suffered from bad publicity when pushing his ageing vocal chords, is Bat Out of Hell rocker Meatloaf.
In the aftermath of his disastrous, off-key 2011 AFL Grand Final performance, the Loaf has suffered from a series of medical issues, including an on-stage collapse in Canada in 2016.
Rolling Stone magazine interviewed Meatloaf 12 months ago as he shuffled around his home on a walking frame – a legacy of a bad back and numerous falls.
“I don’t have any business going out to where all the bars and bands are,” he told the magazine. “They’d look at me and say, ‘Who’s the old guy? What’s that old guy doing here?’ No, man, I don’t belong in those places …
“My back is driving me crazy. But then I’m probably a little crazy anyway, because of all the concussions.”
Still, never say never.
Last July, The Sun reported that Meatloaf was planning a new tour called Back out of Hell in which he would not actually sing.
If it goes ahead, the tour would feature American Idol winner and Meatloaf lookalike Caleb Johnson on vocal duties, while the Loaf will offer anecdotes about songwriter Jim Steinman and other tall stories between songs.
Meanwhile, there’s been no bigger grumpy-old-man stoush in the music media this month than the one between Kiss frontman Gene Simmons and former bandmate Ace Frehley.
The cantankerous pair, who shared a stage only last year at Melbourne’s Festival Hall, have had a fractious – if mutually beneficial – relationship since Kiss came out of New York in the mid 1970s.
With Kiss’s latest farewell – and promised final – tour set to hit Australia later this year, much discussion has centred on whether original members Frehley and Peter Criss would be invited to take part.
That would probably be a no.
Simmons recently took another swipe at Frehley about his past substance abuse while touring with the band, and last week, that led to a nasty Facebook spat.
The former Spaceman posted an open letter entitled: “The Gloves Are Off.” In that post, Frehley claims Simmons is a “sex addict” who groped and propositioned his wife and rejected Simmons’ suggestion he’d been fired from Kiss three times. Frehley maintained he left Kiss of his own free will, twice.
It had all the hallmarks of two old coots arguing over their back fence about an overhanging branch.
And while Kiss seem prepared to hide their wrinkles behind make-up and corsets for a few more years, there’s one old rocker who has been happy to let it all hang out and is more respected for it.
John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, of the Sex Pistols and PiL, has more music credibility than most touring nostalgia acts, yet still attracted headlines and fat-shaming in the UK when pictured in unflattering tracky-dacks while in an airport lounge waiting for a plane.
Despite that embarrassment, he’s remained unrepentantly casual about how he is depicted in the press.
In 2014, during an address at Oxford University, he spoke about the real tragedy of old rockers on the stage – trying to look young.
Lydon took a swipe at Mick Jagger for his “embarrassing” performance at Glastonbury, with NME.com reporting his response to a question on whether there should be an age limit for performers.
“No, only if you’re Mick Jagger,” Lydon replied. “Did anybody see last year’s Glastonbury? I mean come on Mick … it’s not about age here, it’s about the show-off bullshit.
I wanted the Stones to give us the juice, the stuff that really put them there in the first place.”
“But no, it’s Mick in ladies’ tights and his testicles are frocked and he’s running around like a speed freak, and then there’s the band looking incredibly embarrassed and wearing the awful, I call them Tommy Hilfiger kind of colours, like Cliff Richard-on-holiday wear. And if I turn into that … then you’re all welcome.”
Asked about another Sex Pistols reunion, Lydon said the band was too fat to perform.
“Oh no, that’s finished,” he said. “I mean have you seen us?”