Peter Gabriel probably deserves (Note to self: Ya think?) the exquisite ribbing he gets in The Life of Rock with Brian Pern, but considering that the great man himself actually participated in the hilarious BBC Four spoof rockmentary series that “affectionately” ridicules his entire life and career, he proves beyond all shadow of a doubt that he must have a wonderful sense of humor.
Examples of Gabriel’s willingness to allow others a little fun at his expense come early on. I mean look at that fucking haircut! You’d have to have a good sense of humor—nay a great one—to walk into the hairdressers and ask that they make you look like Friar Tuck after he’s had a frontal lobotomy. And in the early 70s to boot. Certainly—along with David Bowie’s Ziggy-era shag and Johnny Rotten’s trendsetting bedhead—Gabriel’s particularly peculiar hairstyle is among a handful of the most iconic hairdos of the decade. Not in a good way like the other two. His hairdo was more of a hairdon’t and as far as I can tell, this cautionary coif was not one that was really copied by too many people. You’d have to be really weird to do your hair like this, eh? It was a brave, if odd, fashion statement to be sure. (If you were a teenage Genesis freak and had this hairstyle, for the love of God, PLEASE post a pic in the comments.)
Is there any doubt about who is being “fictionally” portrayed here?
In any case, seen in retrospect, the epic TV appearances and filmed live performances by Genesis—as ripe for Spinal Tap-type bludgeoning as they might be—are (in my opinion at least) the best way to appreciate “early” Genesis. How did they make these sounds? I want to see their hands. Was it a twelve-string guitar there? In these extended clips, you can see all this and more, but besides getting to see the musicians in action, as led by Gabriel, Genesis were arguably the most theatrical rock act of the era other than Alice Cooper. Their stage act was so elaborate that to divorce how it was presented to the audience would be like only ever hearing the soundtrack album of a Broadway musical. Lest you think I’m getting this backasswards—which I am, sort of—yes, of course they toured in support of a particular album with a particular stage show like every other group, but do consider that their 70s tours have been recreated down to the fine details—as if they were indeed works of musical theater, which indeed they clearly were—by the ultimate tribute band, The Musical Box.
I’ve always been rather lukewarm on the subject of Genesis. In fact, for the most part, growing up, I actually pretty much hated them. But when you’re—ahem—my age and you’ve already chewed through the catalog of just about every major and minor rock act under the sun, it gets to the point where you’re willing to listen again to things that you initially turned your nose up at.
First off, for clarification, I’m not talking about the post-Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins led version of the band at all here. There is no hope of redemption, critically speaking, for that band in my eyes. No way. Don’t get me wrong, I love much of Peter Gabriel’s solo work, but having said that—the Eno-drenched parts of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway aside—I could never get into the earlier era of Genesis, either. I tried, believe me but ‘twas not for sir. At least that’s what I thought until a friend of mine, a prominent DJ with great taste, recommended that I give a listen to the “forgotten” Genesis album, From Genesis to Revelation, recorded when the group were classmates at the prestigious Charterhouse School in Surrey, during 1968, and all between the ages of 16 and 18 years old. The album’s tracks were laid down over ten days during summer break and released the following year. No really, this was recorded when they were high school kids. And it’s incredible. The All Music entry describes From Genesis to Revelation as “largely of historical interest” but that’s nonsense. It’s a remarkable album, period. If it was made by a group who never recorded anything else, it would still be good.
From Genesis to Revelation is a loose song cycle, with no gaps between the tracks, (apparently) about God’s creation of the Earth and various books of the Bible. Produced by the now rather infamous pop music impresario Jonathan King (a former Charterhouse School student himself), From Genesis to Revelation, sold a depressing 650 copies when it came out due to its title and somber solid black album cover with embossed gothic lettering which led record stores to place it in the religious music section! In fact, what the album is, is an absolutely luscious sounding orchestral pop masterpiece, that sounds a lot like the early Bee Gees.
If you’re a fan of, say, Scott Walker, early Cat Stevens, and yes, the Brothers Gibb, this album will really blow your doors off. I still put it on all the time and I’ve become a bit of an evangelist for it, pushing it on other rock snobs who, like me, thought they hated Genesis. I’ve read that the group hated the added orchestral flourishes—arranged by Arthur Greenslade (who also worked with Serge Gainsbourg, Cat Stevens, Diana Ross, Shirley Bassey and Dusty Springfield)—which are a bit over the top in places, but given the fact that these kids were getting Moody Blues-level production value on their very first record made when they’re all high school students, I can’t see what they had to complain about! Certainly the album would be greatly diminished without King’s lush production and Greenslade’s after-the-fact orchestral arrangements.
In truth, From Genesis to Revelation’s only relationship to the later, prog rock Genesis sound is quite minimal. Aside from Gabriel’s voice, incredible even when he was a teenager, there’s virtually nothing in their original sound that they kept for their next LP, 1970’s Trespass, which they seem to consider to be their proper debut. When the “official” box set of Genesis albums came out, From Genesis to Revelation, which has been released and rehashed repeatedly over the years (also under the titles And the Word Was…Genesis and In the Beginning) under license by King, was not included.
A 23-year-old Peter Gabriel of Genesis in costume as “The Watcher in the Skies,” 1973
During the tour for their cosmic 1974 double record, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (the subject of an excellent book by the same name by Kevin Holm-Hudson), Peter Gabriel and his many different theatrical personalities took center stage. But that wasn’t the first time Peter Gabriel tripped his bandmates out with his on-stage personas.
In an 2012 interview, Gabriel recounted how the audience reacted the first time he appeared on stage in his wife’s dress, and a custom made fox head back in 1972 during Genesis’ tour for their album Foxtrot.
With the costumes, I started wearing bat wings and stuff, and getting a little more outlandish, and then on Foxtrot I wore the fox head and the red dress. My wife, Jill, had a red Ossie Clark dress which I could just about get into, and we had a fox head made. The first time we tried it was in a former boxing ring in Dublin, and there was just a shocked silence.
Peter Gabriel as “The Fox” during the tour for the 1972 album, ‘Foxtrot’ with his wife’s red dress and a custom made fox head
When it comes to how the other members of Genesis felt about Gabriel’s getups, he said that “some of them hated it” (I’m looking at you Phil Collins). According to Gabriel, none of the members of Genesis knew what “clothing” he had packed in his suitcase for the six-month Lamb tour, until he arrived to rehearsals. After the last performance of the tour, Gabriel left the band.
Peter Gabriel as “Old Man Henry” during a performance of “The Musical Box” from the album ‘Nursery Cryme’
If for some reason you’re not acquainted with this era of Genesis (which is perfectly understandable if you are of a certain age), the following images of a young Peter Gabriel, will probably blow your mind (man). Even if you are long-running fan of the band, it’s nearly impossible to not admire Gabriel’s pioneering weirdness, and chameleon-like ability to look like anyone but himself.
Peter Gabriel as the deformed “Slipperman” (Phil Collins’ most hated costume of the ‘Lamb Lies Down’ tour)
At the start of Three Dates with Genesis an engaging BBC documentary from 1978 on the long-lasting prog rock outfit that eventually (well after this show aired) and improbably morphed into one of the world’s most reliable and mainstream pop acts, guitarist Mike Rutherford says, “I remember we were once described by an East Grinstead local paper as a ‘folk-blues-jazz-rock-mystical group.’”
It may be precisely that chameleonic quality that ensured the gang such success in the 1980s. This is the era of And Then There Were Three.... As the album’s title indicated, Genesis had just become a trio—Peter Gabriel had left in 1975, and Steve Hackett left while the 1977 live album Seconds Out was being mixed. Nobody involved could have had the slightest inkling that this new trio formation would prove to be the band’s most successful incarnation—by far—and also easily the longest-lasting, managing to stay together for thirty years (or twenty, depending on whom you ask).
Call me crazy, but the decision to continue as a trio was the revolutionary step, abandoning the convoluted and complex five-person lineup more befitting a pretentious, D&D-and-Tolkien-influenced, noodly prog outfit. As a trio, Genesis became leaner, and the pop sensibility of Phil Collins stepped to the fore. Keyboardist Banks always cherished his long solos, but the more innately humble Rutherford and Collins managed to rein them into a more standard pop format, famously heavily influenced by Motown and Stax (think horns)—hell, Collins would even cover the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” on his second solo album.
Genesis are one of those love-em-or-hate-em kinda bands. Kinda like Rush, except that with Genesis, you have rabid fans who are loyalists to the Peter Gabriel-era and simply HATE the Phil Collins-led band. And vice-versa. And then there are some hair splitters who can only go along with that group until Steve Hackett buggers off and then, you know, forget it.
Me, I always thought they sucked, with Peter Gabriel or without him. There were two weird kids in my junior high school who absolutely loved them, and would insult anyone “not smart enough” to “get” Genesis with withering and dismissive putdowns. These two also spoke to each other in a made-up language only they knew. You know how some people hate the Grateful Dead solely due to their distaste for tie-dye and hacky sacks? Maybe I was unfairly blaming Genesis for their geeky fanboys?
About five years ago I decided to go through the Genesis back catalog to see what I was missing. The one I really LOVE is their self-titled debut album that was recorded while they were still teenagers—apparently they themselves hate it—and I came to quite like the rest of the Peter Gabriel-era stuff. If you tell people who are normally Genesis-haters that Brian Eno is sprinkled liberally throughout The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, they’re usually more inclined to give it a chance. (I know because that ruse worked on me.)
As for the post-Gabriel group, I will admit to having a soft spot for Duke‘s “Turn It On Again.” It’s my jam! I’m playing it now as I type this. My wife must be groaning in the next room, but I can’t see her expression. I even have Duke in a 5.1 surround mix.
I threw the question out to the Dangerous Minds editors: “What’s your favorite Genesis track, but one that’s post-Peter Gabriel?”
Christopher Bickel: I think Abacab is a legit jam. Is there something wrong with me?
Richard Metzger: Why does everyone always use the term “jam” when describing the Phil Collins-led era of Genesis? I do it, too. What’s that all about?
Martin Schneider: I’m very fond of Abacab. I really like a bunch of Phil Collins-era Genesis stuff. I find the Gabriel-era of Genesis a little meander-y. If you listen to Seconds Out you get the best of both worlds, live Phil Collins hammering out a bunch of Gabriel’s best songs.
Ron Kretsch: In before someone posts the Patrick Bateman monologue.
Martin Schneider: The Sum of the Parts documentary on Genesis is very good—one of the things they mentioned that I didn’t really know is that the whole “I’m embarrassed to be a Genesis fan” stank has clung to them from the very first. “Genesis sucks man, and I love ‘em!” Or something.
Tara McGinley: Please take me off this conversation. Thank you.
Christopher Bickel: We’re totally being “those dudes at the party.” In some ways I’d rather listen to Wind and Wuthering than the Gabriel-era stuff because, even though Gabriel was better in every way, the music from that period is darker and less Renn Faire-y. Even some of the tracks from the time of edging into their MTV pop hit days were pretty good. “Mama” is a really creepy and weird song about being obsessed with a prostitute. It’s almost a pop version of Throbbing Gristle!
Ron went with “Man of Our Times” from Duke:
Duke sits very nicely in the sweet spot of post-Gabriel Genesis, avoiding both the overwrought airy-fairyness of Trick of the Tail and the abominable slickness (and that fucking gated-reverb drum sound) that was to come after Phil Collins’ solo success. “Man of Our Times’ hits all the right notes—it’s played as epically bombastic prog, but it’s possessed of pop restraint, competing with “Cul de Sac” as Duke‘s deep cut to beat.
Paul Gallagher chose “Trick of the Tail”:
Genesis were worried how their fans would respond to the band after Peter Gabriel had left. Their response was to knuckle down and start writing songs just to see what would happen.
Of course, there was another problem—a bigger problem: who would replace Gabriel as lead singer. The seemingly ever optimistic Phil Collins thought Genesis should just carry on as a four piece instrumental group—at least this would show they were not just “Pete’s band.” Of course, Genesis were never “Pete’s band”—they were always bigger and better than that. They tried out one singer, but he didn’t work, and so by good fortune as much by necessity Collins found himself singing the songs.
Genesis’ first single post-Pete was “Trick of the Tail.” It was also their first ever music video. Mike Rutherford later told Rolling Stone that he thought the promo was “really crappy.”
“I watch this video and I cringe. It’s just embarrassing. This was pre-MTV and we shot videos for this and ‘Robbery, Assault and Battery’ just to show them on TV. It’s really crappy.”
Written by Tony Banks “Trick of the Tail” is one of the very few pop songs inspired by a book by a Nobel prize-winning novelist—William Golding’s The Inheritors.
Chris Bickel ultimately went with “Abacab” from Abacab:
The title track from the last of the great, dark, “all new-wavey and weird,” post-Gabriel Genesis albums before they went full-blown radio-pop, “Abacab” is driven by an eighth-note pulse-beat groundwork over which an angular guitar barks at a variety of horror-synth sounds. Phil Collins’ vocals are especially aggro, proving the guy did actually have some range—no matter what the Gabrielphiles may have to say about it. Yeah, this is Genesis, but “Abacab” ain’t prog—this is straight-up post-punk. The LP version is superior, as it contains a haunting extended Eno-esque instrumental break not found on the single.
Martin sided with “Dodo/Lurker,” also from Abacab:
When assessing the glories (such as they are) of early-1980s Genesis, a word to keep firmly tucked in your brainpan is drama. How do these three blokes end up sounding so goddamn big? Mainly by twiddling a bunch of poncy knobs? It’s a mystery that cuts deep to the root of Genesis’ ever-widening appeal. Not for nothing was the working title for this ditty “German I & II,” which for a band from England surely evoked the biggest brand of drama you could demand.
This morning, Genesis News announced that the BBC is producing a career-spanning documentary on the long-running band that emerged from the prog scene to become one of the biggest-selling pop bands of the ‘80s.
Monday has arrived and Genesis have now officially announced a new documentary. The BBC production is called Together And Apart and reflects the band’s entire career - with full cooperation by all members (Anthony Phillips and Ray Wilson are not mentioned, though). Also, the band reunited earlier this year for the new promo photo which you can see here. There is no information yet when the documentary will be aired. Based on the information we have right now, the documentary will also be released on DVD and Blu-ray.
The band’s classic lineup made big waves in the 1970s with complex music and highly theatrical performances, with gifted weirdo visionary Peter Gabriel out in front of classic prog LPs like Nursery Cryme and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. When Gabriel left to embark on his highly worthy solo career, drummer Phil Collins took the microphone, and by the ‘80s the group was eventually whittled down to a trio, which became at once massively popular and incredibly divisive. Genesis might boast the single most broken fan base in all of rock—the two eras of the band have separate fans, some of whom barely even recognize the existence of the other era, or even just flat out refuse to. I straddle the line somewhat—the Genesis Mason/Dixon Line for a lot of fans seems to be 1980’s Duke, but I find that there’s at least some material of worth up to their 1983 self-titled album. I absolutely join the late-era haters after that though—once the band (and Collins on his own, of course) became firmly ensconced pop-chart beasts, their albums became completely unlistenable.
Speculation about a reunion of the classic five-piece lineup of the band’s prog years started growing in the last half-decade or so, kiboshed by nerve damage issues that made it difficult for Collins to play drums. But this morning’s news release goes on to tease:
Despite this, there are still rumours that the band has more plans, yet it’s still unclear what that might be. So, the wait may not be over yet. It looks like this year the band itself is simply coming back to life, but at this point they only know what that means ...
Here’s a documentary from 1991, which, though it was produced during a really awful period for the band musically, features a lot of terrific early footage and interviews.
Lastly, enjoy this concert from 1974, when the band was still a five-piece.
The restoration of the film of Genesis performing at Shepperton Studios in 1973 is perhaps the single most heroic episode in the history of fanatical fandom.
I might not have all the details exactly correct, but the gist of it is that about ten years ago a guy who goes by the online handle of “King Lerch” became aware of a 16mm film of of a live Genesis concert from 1973 that was being auctioned off as part of an estate sale in New York. He then noticed that a small group of Genesis fans were planning to pool their resources, rather than bid against each other and joined forces with them. No one had any idea what exactly was on the film or even what condition it was in, so by banding together, their risk was spread out, and minimized.
Like most reels of Kodak film from 1973, the film had gone a bit red and required significant clean-up in that department. The audio was kind of iffy, too, coming as it would from the magnetic track on the celluloid print. Apparently a few hundred man hours were devoted to the project and it became widely known when it was released—for free—to grateful Genesis fans on the Internet.
The version that was done ten years ago amazed and delighted fans of the group, but a couple of years ago, good King Lerch and his merry men opted to make yet another better version, taking advantage of updated audio/visual technology, and the fact that many people now have Blu-ray burners, to offer an HD version—it’s free for download at the Genesis Museum—of the Shepperton concert. That’s… really generous
Old Michael went past the pet shop, which was never open, into the park, which was never closed, and the park was full of a very smooth, clean, green grass. So Henry took off all his clothes and began rubbing his flesh into the wet, clean, green grass. He accompanied himself with a little tune - it went like this….
“Watcher Of The Skies”
“Dancing With The Moonlit Knight”
“I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)”
“The Musical Box”
This is perhaps the single best representation of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis on film. Sadly there is next to nothing that exists of live footage of them playing their enigmatic, inscrutable masterpiece, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, but if I had to pick a second choice, it would be seeing them do their seven-movement progressive rock sonata, Foxtrot‘s epic “Supper’s Ready.”
Genesis performing their epic, seven-movement progressive rock sonata “Supper’s Ready” onstage at Shepperton Studios in 1973.
“Old Michael went past the pet shop, which was never open, into the park, which was never closed, and the park was full of a very smooth, clean, green grass. So Henry took off all his clothes and began rubbing his flesh into the wet, clean, green grass. He accompanied himself with a little tune - it went like this…”
It always seems to work this way: I leave town and something awesome—that I would, for sure, attend—happens! I’m shoving off for NYC in the morning and look what’s rolling into town Oct 20th at the Nokia Theatre. This looks ultra nuts:
The Musical Box, the only band in the world to acquire from Peter Gabriel and Genesis the performing rights and access to archives, audio tracks and original slideshow for “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”, re-stages 25 years later the original concert in painstaking details.
The show, critically acclaimed, is a great success and is produced in some of the most prestigious amphitheaters in the world, such as London’s Royal Albert Hall and the Paris’ Olympia. In 2005, Phil Collins joins the band on stage in Geneva.
“The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” reclaimed its deserving glory.
In 2008, Serge Morissette, The Musical Box’ artistic director, participates in the re-editing of “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” and recreates the original slide show sequence for the DVD version of the album.
I’ve been listening to The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway frequently in the past month, looking at the (very) few clips on YouTube relating to that mythical tour and reading all about it Internet. It’s currently the new (old) thing that I’m most excited about. Just last week I downloaded a live “quadraphonic FM” radio broadcast of a live show from the Lamb tour.
Man, would I love to see this concert! Normally they idea of a tribute band seems either horrible or goofy or both, but this seems more like a Broadway musical revival than a mere tribute band. Here’s a video: