Late Beatle George Harrison liked to laugh, as evidenced by his fondness for Monty Python and the financial backing he provided for the comedy troupe’s 1979 comedy classic, Life of Brian. According to Genesis singer-drummer and solo superstar Phil Collins, the music legend also got a kick from playing pranks on his acquaintances.
When he was 18, the then unknown Collins got a day’s work playing congas on a session for Harrison’s 1970 triple album, All Things Must Pass. Although Collins’ percussive efforts did not appear on the finished product, the event remains a treasured memory. “I went to Abbey Road, and recorded with Harrison, and Ringo was playing drums,” he tells EW. “Unfortunately, I cashed the check, because I needed it. The 15 quid meant a lot in 1969.”
Collins met Harrison several more times over the years, and the pair became friendly — friendly enough for the Beatle to prank the Genesis member, anyway. In 2001, shortly before Harrison’s death, he put out a remastered version of All Things Must Pass and around the same time sent Collins what he claimed was a version of the track on which he had played featuring the drummer’s missing handiwork.
“I got a tape from George of the song that I played with the congas quite loud,” says Collins. “I thought, Oh my god, this sounds terrible. In fact, it was a Harrison joke. He’d recorded [percussionist] Ray Cooper. [He said] said, ‘Play bad, I’m going to record it and send it to Phil.’ I couldn’t believe that a Beatle had actually spent that much time on a practical joke for me.”
Phil Collins is rereleasing all eight of his solo studio albums this year in remastered and expanded two-disc form. Face Value and Both Sides were reissued in January while Hello, I Must Be Going! and Dance Into The Light will be available to buy, Feb. 26.
A version of this story appeared in Entertainment Weekly issue #1403, on newsstands now