Def Leppard’s Phil Collen Shares His Most Cherished Prince Memory
Def Leppard's Phil Collen says he used to be hesitant about meeting his musical heroes, but a "cherished" introduction with Prince helped change his outlook.
The encounter took place during Prince's Parade tour in 1986, when Collen and his then-bandmate Steve Clark were having dinner in Paris. Suddenly, Collen got a phone call from a friend, who happened to work the lights for Prince.
"He called me and said, 'We're doing a little club gig. You wanna come out to this tiny little jazz club?'" Collen told Ultimate Prince in an exclusive interview. "And I'm like, 'Oh, fuck yeah!'" But Collen noticed that, as opposed to his arena shows, Prince wasn't playing the guitar at the club. So he brought it up when they met in between sets.
"He was so lovely and genuine and gentle and everything," Collen continued. "I shook his hand, you know, huge fan and all that. I asked him, 'Why aren't you playing guitar?' He said, 'It's just on this tour. I'm gonna do it on the next one,' stuff like that. And then he went and got a Fender Stratocaster and got onstage and played 'Red House' by Jimi Hendrix, I thought that was just wonderful. It seemed like a little gift from him, so I cherished that moment."
Even though Collen has achieved levels of multi-platinum success that few have experienced, the thought of getting to know Prince was a bit intimidating. "Whenever you get a chance to meet your idols, I've always been a little hesitant," he said, "because Jesus, supposing he's a dickhead to me, gets out of the wrong side of the bed and he's a real asshole.
"The three of my biggest idols: [Deep Purple's] Ritchie Blackmore is why I play guitar; Prince love him, adore him, one of my favorites; and Sting, from the Police," Collen added. "I turned down a chance to meet Sting, I thought, 'OK, this is gonna be a bit weird.' But then I had such positive interactions with all three of those people, that actually made it even more inspiring."