I was born in Edinburgh, then I lived in Dundee for a while. Then when I was 16 my mum and dad split up and we moved to Glasgow and I started a band. The Nu-Sonics. A punk group, I suppose. Then I got too old for that carry on. It wasn’t a very good band I guess. But I progressed, and when I was 17 I made myself Orange Juice. 1980 was Falling and Laughing, the first single. My mum was originally from Glasgow. My dad Peter is a painter but he’s retired now. My mum Myra was a cleaner. It’s hard work, cleaning. But she used to be an artist like Peter. A long time ago. I guess creativity runs in my family.
Music was my passion. It’s still my passion. I think, let’s think of an idea, a possibility. And it always comes out as a song. That began a long time ago. I was 14 years of age and I loved David Bowie and Sparks. This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us. I bought their album, Propaganda, and I went to see them at the Caird Hall in Dundee. First it was Pilot, [sings] ‘Woah oh oh, it’s magic, you know.’ Then Sparks. I went to see Bowie in The Glasgow Apollo in 1977. It’s been pulled down now. I was only 15.
I was a happy-go-lucky teenager, not miserable at all. My sister Petra had just been born. We were a happy family when I was a boy. I wasn’t a quiet boy. I didn’t run with a gang but I had friends at the Demonstration Primary School. When we first got a band together Steven Daly was the singer. I was the guitarist. Then I said, ‘Oh! You can’t sing Steven.’ [Peels of laughter]. I was rude, I suppose. So he switched to drums.
I was proud of the first single, Falling and Laughing. But I wasn’t completely convinced by the singing. I was terribly shy. By the fourth Orange Juice album, in 1984, I felt, I can sing now. But Rip it Up [Orange Juice’s 1983 hit], still at that time I wasn’t sure about my voice. Back then it was a job to convince some people. But these were punk days. Some people liked me and some people didn’t. But so what?
For one year and six months I went all round the world. [His solo track A Girl Like You was a worldwide hit in 1994.] The first sign was when the song got to number four in The Netherlands. I was exhausted by the end of it. It was very hard work. [“It was a huge record and it hung around a long time,” says Collins’ wife, Grace Maxwell. “But Edwyn was 35 by then and we’ve always been quite cynical about the music business. So he wasn’t all starry-eyed about being a pop star. He wasn’t madly impressed by the fleeting nature of pop superstardom. He knew it doesn’t last.”] After that The Magic Piper of Love got to number 30. And that’s it.
I’m lost without singing. Without music, what’s the point?
For six months after my stroke I didn’t sing a thing. [Collins suffered two cerebral haemorrhages in 2005.] I just said, ‘The possibilities are endless’, over and over again. And ‘Grace’, my wife’s name. And a few other things. Not much. I was as daft as a brush. It was a hallucinogenic time. The words might flicker but then they were gone, in an instant. It was incredibly hard getting off the floor but I progressed and I did it. Grace helped me. I had to fight. I remember when I was in hospital, I was too frightened to listen to music for ages. Because it brought memories. Then one day Grace put headphones on me and the first song I heard was Johnnie Allan, Promised Land, a song by Chuck Berry. I cried, I must admit… I cried floods of tears. It was emotion, welling up inside me.