For Collins, the thrice-married Genesis percussionist and solo star, has become obsessed with the battle of the Alamo to such an extent there are mutterings he may be one drumstick short of a pair.
Collins, who is 59 and was born and raised in Hounslow, West London, believes that he is the reincarnation of an Alamo survivor — having been told this by a clairvoyant whom he met in Texas while on a trip four years ago.
Following his third divorce in 2007 and failing health (nerve damage to his arms makes it impossible for him to drum), Collins’ interest in the Alamo has taken over his life.
The battle in 1836 saw 1,500 Mexican troops lay siege to 200 Texans — including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie — at the Alamo mission, San Antonio. All but a handful of the Texans were killed.
He’s told friends his life as Phil Collins the singer is now ‘over’. Studying the history of the Alamo, and collecting artifacts from the battle, has become an all-consuming passion. ‘F*** music,’ he rather sourly told an interviewer this year.
The full story of how Collins came to believe in his reincarnation has never been told before. Gary Foreman, a fellow Alamo enthusiast, recalled the moment that his wife Carolyn ‘revealed’ Phil’s former life as Texan courier John W Smith, a man who was know as El Colorado — the redhead — because of his hair.
Foreman said his wife called Collins over and shared her conviction with him. ‘When she made the revelation to Phil, his face lit up. His reaction was he felt very much at home at the Alamo and now it made sense.’
It’s a highly unusual and extraordinary story. It all started, according to Collins, when he was a young boy. He’s said in interviews he would watch transfixed as the actor Fess Parker portrayed king of the wild frontier Davy Crockett in the Disney TV series of the same name.
Collins says: ‘It was on every week. It just got me, and never left me.’ He would ask his parents to buy him raccoon-skin hats and toy rifles as birthday presents.
A pupil at the Barbara Speake Stage School in East Acton, which was co-founded by his mother, June, his first solo performance was of the famous theme tune The Ballad Of Davy Crockett. As time went by, he was drawn to other hobbies — he took up the drums when he was five, appeared as the Artful Dodger in Oliver! and as an extra in various films and TV shows.
Then came Genesis, global fame, a solo career and three failed marriages — which have left him with children in Canada, Los Angeles and Switzerland. But for the past 15 years, since around the time of his bitter break-up with second wife Jill Taverman, his main hobby has been pursuing anything and everything related to the battle of the Alamo.
His collection now occupies the basement of his home in Switzerland, where he continues to live in order to be close to his young children. The haul includes weapons, documents, battlefield letters, posters from the 1960 film The Alamo starring John Wayne, shells, bits of horse harness and army uniform.
He also prizes a receipt signed by Alamo commander William Barret Travis for 32 cattle used to feed the Alamo defenders.
And he visits San Antonio, where the Alamo mission still stands, every March on the anniversary of the battle along with hundreds of other enthusiasts, and has done so for years. ‘It’s not as bad as trainspotting,’ he told an interviewer.
‘I’ve met a lot of nice people over there.’ Including aforementioned Alamo enthusiasts Gary Foreman and his wife Carolyn Raine, a documentary producer, lecturer and Native American cookbook writer with a psychic bent.
Ms Raine, 52, is part Seneca Indian and a big believer in reincarnation. She ‘sees’ historic events and can place people within them.
About four years ago, she spotted Phil Collins in San Antonio and thought he was so intense in his Alamo interest he must have been there in a previous life. Naturally, she recognized him as a star, too.
‘My husband and I have been fans forever. Who doesn’t like Phil Collins and his music? He started coming to San Antonio on a regular basis for Alamo anniversaries and we got to know him really well. He is quite shy and likes to play really low-key. He is really nice and easy to talk to.’
Carolyn, who lives in Indiana, decided to give their close band of Alamo pals a gift. She spent hours ‘dowsing’ — swinging a pendulum across 199 Alamo defenders names and ‘psychically matching’ them to people she knew.
She decided Collins was John W Smith, a horseback courier who left before the massacre to take a message. He went on to become mayor of San Antonio. Although Collins lacks Smith’s red hair, she explains: ‘You don’t have to look like the person you were in a previous life. Those who believe in reincarnation run the gauntlet of looks and personalities.’
After matching up her pals with battle characters, she started to tell them. ‘They all want to know because it gives them something stable to believe, that they are not just nutcases collecting this Alamo stuff.
‘We were at a party and Phil was leaving. I wanted to nab him before he got out. I asked him what he felt about reincarnation, he said he’d got someone doing his genealogy. I said I wasn’t talking about genealogy. I said: “You’re Smith.”
‘Smith didn’t die at the Alamo, he had lots going on after that. He wanted to rebuild the city, transform it. It makes perfect sense because Phil Collins wants to do the same.
‘Phil was like everyone else I told. He looked quizzical. Then he went: “Oh my God. The very first thing I bought was a receipt from John W Smith when he had to sell his saddle. It’s my most prized possession.” I didn’t know until then that he had the receipt.
‘He didn’t think I was a kook — he told me his kids have told him before that he was there at the Alamo. Children are most close to past life experiences, they lose that as they get older. Phil said his kids knew.’
Gary Foreman is a historian and film-maker who is leading a controversial campaign to recreate some of the long-destroyed walls around the Alamo. He is being supported in this campaign by Collins. He says: ‘Carolyn’s psychic. It’s not something she takes lightly or delights in. She picks up on energy, she’s clever like that.’
Admittedly, Collins remains a little defensive about his reincarnation, telling Rolling Stone magazine he was not a ‘weirdo’ for believing it was possible, and producing pictures showing orbs of light, claiming that it was paranormal energy.
A few years ago, Collins bought into 76-year-old Jim Guiman’s History Shop on the edge of the Alamo. He tunnelled under it looking for relics. Mr Foreman said: ‘They found bullets, shot and rifle balls. It was fascinating.’
And Collins has even gone so far as to have a painting made of him in military uniform alongside the rest of the Texan garrison at the Alamo.
Where he once played stadiums, you will now most likely see him addressing historical associations.
He seems to come to Texas alone: his new girlfriend, news anchor Dana Tyler, isn’t much in evidence. He’s been given a tour of the newsroom at CBS where she works, and the two of them spend time together in his apartment in Central Park West.
But, it seems, when he walks tall as a son of Texas, he walks alone.