On 11 March 1970, Genesis played one of their biggest gigs of their early career at the Atomic Sunrise Festival at the Roundhouse Club in London. The event featured artists like David Bowie and Hawkwind and was sponsored by Yoko Ono. A few weeks later Genesis signed to the Charisma label.
Genesis in early 1970
At the beginning of 1970, Genesis were writing and rehearsing new music for their second album. Their debut album* had failed to chart and they had quit their contract with producer Jonathan King and the Decca label. The new songs were more adventurous and experimental and far from the pop tunes of their first album. The band consisted of Peter Gabriel (vocals), Tony Banks (keyboards), Ant Phillips (lead guitar), Mike Rutherford (guitar and bass) and John Mayhew (drums).
Genesis opened for David Bowie at the Roundhouse
The band and its members were still very young at the time and far from being famous. So the infamous hippie-festival at the Roundhouse was their biggest gig then. Especially as they were booked to open for David Bowie.
Both Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel were huge fans of David Bowie. Space Oddity* had been released the year before and Bowie was a rock star already. In these days, Bowie and his band appeared on stage in a very theatrical way. Gabriel was impressed and a little later, he used costumes and masks onstage himself. His outfits and theatrical performances leaped Genesis on another level in terms of popularity. Tony Banks on the other hand was a bit disappointed that Bowie and his band put so much focus on the visuals instead of the music. Unbeknownst to them, this gig might have been the beginning of a conflict within Genesis. The conflict grew when Peter Gabriel himself started to dress up and the other band members felt that the stage show distracted from the music more and more.
Yoko Ono sponsored the “Atomic Sunrise Festival” at the Roundhouse
At the festival, the band played songs that would appear on their second album Trespass* later that year. Video snippets exist that show the band performing “Looking For Someone” and “The Knife”. Apparently, “Twilight Alehouse” was also played. Ant Phillips jokingly admits that this footage is the only visual proof that he ever performed with the band.
Althought the gig was a big one for the band, they were not too happy. Peter Gabriel remembers that there were more people onstage than in front of the stage. Ant Phillips was frightened and nervous. His stage fright was one of the reasons he left the group later that year.
Still, Tony Banks and Ant Phillips were both impressed by the professionality behind the scenes. Every gig of the festival was recorded on 8 track equipment and parts of it were filmed. As Yoko Ono sponsored the gig, there might be a chance that the complete film footage still exists in the Apple archive.
A couple of weeks after the gig, Genesis would sign their new contract with Charisma and later in the year release their second album Trespass. Ant Phillips left the same year and a new drummer took over in summer of 1970…but that’s another story.
Title photo: Genesis mixing desk 2 – Revox A77 and associated gear for Genesis at a concert in the Liverpool Empire, 1970s, precise year unknown. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Rodhullandemu / CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).
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