Genesis at Reading Festival 1971

Reading Festival Line Up 1973

On June 26, 1971, Genesis appeared at Reading Festival for the first time.

Peter Gabriel had broken his ankle

On their first appearance at Reading Festival, Genesis were low on the bill. Other artists that performed at the festival were Lindisfarne, Terry Reid, Renaissance and Sha Na Na. There were the usual problems that a festival and its visitors have to deal with: Rain, mud and an unscheduled police squad. For Genesis, the gig at Reading followed the incident at the Friars Club, where Peter Gabriel had broken his ankle.

On June 19th, Genesis had played at Friars in Aylesbury and during the encore of “The Knife”, Peter Gabriel had jumped into the crowd. Unfortunately, the audience parted when they saw him coming and he hit the floor, breaking his ankle. Following the incident, he played at least one show in a wheelchair at the art college in Lincoln. Tour manager, roadie, sound engineer and friend of the band Richard Macphail remembers Gabriel cavorting in the wheelchair on the stage, which was a traditional theatre stage that sloped forward towards the audience. He thought that Peter was going to fall off the stage and break his neck. Luckily, he did not and the band could play Reading Festival at June 26, 1971.

Reading Festival

The 11th National Jazz and Blues festival took place in Reading for the first time that year. Before, the event had taken place in Richmond, Windsor, Sunbury and Plumpton, but each time, the locals had complained, so the festival had to move on. The festival usually takes place in August, so admittedly it is a bit unclear to the author why the festival took place on 25, 26, and 27 June 1971. The ticket names the location as “Thames-side Arena, Richfield Avenue” and the festival is titled “Reading Festival of folk and progressive music”. The ticket for Saturday, June 26, cost £1.50.

Over the next few years, the festival would become one of the leading British rock festivals. Not only the greatest bands of the age played there, but it was also the birthplace for future superstars. Organizer Harold Pendleton was allowed to stage the festival in Reading, because the local council wanted to celebrate the town’s 1000th anniversary and really believed it to be a jazz and blues festival, which it had originally been in the 1960s.

Genesis performed on Saturday

In 1971, Genesis was not the only act of Charisma Records that played at Reading Festival. The already mentioned Lindisfarne were there as well as Van der Graaf Generator, and Bell & Arc and Audience. Other notable acts from this year were Arthur Brown, Rory Gallagher, Wishbone Ash, Medicine Head, Osibisa, Ian Matthews and Ralph McTell.

Due to their low billing, Genesis played midafternoon on the second day of the festival. Their performance was highlighted as one of the best of the event, and consequentially, they were invited back for the next two festivals.

During the summer of 1971, Genesis started to appear at outdoor rock festivals. Steve Hackett remembers that it used to rain for the first five years they played at festivals in England or Europe, always resulting in a mud bath. At Reading Festival, the power was fluctuating and the band could not get the organ in tune (and that meant that the Mellotron would be even worse to tune). They also tuned their twelve-string guitars in the dressing rooms and by the time they got on stage, they were already out of tune. Tuning a twelve-string guitar in front of an audience was almost impossible.

Not a festival band

Tony Banks thinks that Genesis were never a good festival group. It was difficult to build a dramatic atmosphere in daylight and most of the audiences did not really understand the long song with lots of chord changes. Also, the sound was mostly rubbish. Nevertheless, they builded a live following and got a reputation of being a good live band for festivals, but the best times were when they could play after dark at the end of a day with their own fans in the audience. However, at their first appearance at Reading, they already got some fans waving their Genesis flag during the gig.

Photo: Reading Festival Line Up 1973. Reading-festivaalin vuoden 1973 esiintyjälista Source: Wikimedia Commons, National Jazz, Blues and Rock Festival. / CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).

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Genesis first gig abroad in Belgium

Genesis played their first gig abroad in La Ferme, Woluwe St. Lambert, Belgium on March 7, 1971. This is the story of their first gig overseas.

“Trespass” had charted in Belgium

In early 1971, the band had not yet been very successful in the UK. But things looked different on the continent: Trespass* had reached number one in Belgium. So the band with their new members Phil Collins on drums and Steve Hackett on guitar went to Belgium to play their first gig overseas.

The band could not afford cabins on the ferry

They crossed the channel on the night ferry and arrived the next morning. They had not slept, as they could not afford bunks and had therefore sat overnight on the boat with Phil throwing up. Getting through the day with beer and sandwiches, they drove straight to the gig and played.

The setlist

The setlist included a mixture of songs from Trespass, live favourites and two new songs. As usual during that time, they started with acoustic material and then built up to the heavier numbers. Luckily for us, a recording of the gig exists so we can listen to almost the whole gig (some bits are missing). It also includes the only available recording of the famous song “The Light”, which features embryonic elements of later songs, notably “Lilywhite Lilith”.

Starting with acoustic numbers, the first song was their newest one. “Happy The Man” (introduced by Peter as a song about a “man who eats his fingernails, probably”) is based on a Mike Rutherford riff and includes a Lindisfarne-like sing-along chorus. It was another attempt by the band to produce a hit single. The song was played a bit slower on that gig and has a very laidback attitude. “Stagnation” from Trespass follows (according to Gabriel a song about people “with bad breath”) and Phil’s drumming adds a swing to it that the studio version misses.

The Light

Several minutes and attempts to introduce the band follow, then they play the rare track “The Light”. The bass intro later became the verse of “Lilywhite Lilith” on The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway* with Hackett’s guitar parts also being reused. “The Light” then turns into a prog rock song with a long jam between Banks and Hackett until the nice harmony vocals go back into a part that is familiar from the later “Lilywhite Lilith”. In comparison to other songs of the time, “The Light” seems very unusual for Genesis.

A mixture of songs from Trespass, live favourites and new songs

It is getting a bit quieter when “Twilight Alehouse” begins, a live standard at the time in which Tony dominates on the dramatic organ passage in the end. Peter then introduces the other new song “The Musical Box” in English and French and the version is slightly different to the album version. There is some extra music before the “And the clock” part, which is sung twice. Tony’s solo is longer and Steve’s shorter as he had only been in the band for two months. Even the iconic ending of this classic Gabriel-era tune is sung a bit different by Peter.

The Trespass-classic “The Knife” is introduced in French and the whole band rushes into the song. Tony’s organ leads them, Mike’s bass is the driving force, Steve still seems to have some trouble with the guitar solos, but is shining at the end. Peter’s flute part from the middle is unfortunately missing from the recording. The audience seems to have loved it; they applaud enthusiastically. The live classic “Going Out To Get You” is the encore, described by Peter as “A very old number about passion”. Again, Tony leads the band and Steve seems to be non-existent on the track. It even sounds as if he is not playing with the rest of the band on this last song.

It is interesting to listen back to the recording as it not only consists unreleased songs, but also songs that were still being created lyrically and musically. And of course it features the only known recorded version of the rare track “The Light”.

An important gig in Genesis history

The show was a success and a very important gig in Genesis history. At the end of this trip, they too the ferry back home, completely exhausted with Phil limping home, almost collapsing.

Photo: FOH PA mixing desk 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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Peter Gabriel’s first solo gig

Peter Gabriel’s first gig as solo artist took place in the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey on 2, 3 or 5 March 1977.

His first album had come out in February 1977

The album Peter Gabriel* had come out in February and had produced the hit “Solsbury Hill”. Just like for the album, the motto of the following tour was “Expect the Unexpected”. His band was a group of top studio musicians and old friends.

Photo of Tony Levin during his visit to Caracas (Venezuela), playing bass for Peter Gabriel.

Tony Levin was there on bass and has been with Peter since then. The bass player, who had worked among others with Paul Simon, is the only musician from the first album that is still with Peter Gabriel today.

The other musicians on that first gig and the first leg of the tour were Allan Schwartzberg on drums, Larry Fast on synthesizers, Steve Hunter on guitars, Jimmy Maelen on percussion and Phil Aaberg on keyboards.

A bit surprisingly, Robert Fripp, who had been on the album, was also there on guitar; he performed on the tour as “Dusty Rhodes”, often standing behind the amps or offstage, showing once again that he did not like the rock-tour machinery. He also preferred to be introduced by Peter as the totally unknown Dusty Rhodes.

When did they play the first gig?

The first gig of the tour took place in the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey in early March 1977. There are various dates named for his first gig: The 2nd, the 3rd or the 5th. Peter opened the show with “Here Comes the Flood” with just him on vocals and piano and Fripp’s guitar. It was a deliberate and interesting way not only to open the show, but also to present himself as a solo artist. Gone were the days of masks and costumes, here was a simple musician on the piano wearing jogging clothes. On the second song “On the Air”, the whole band set in and the groovy synths woke up the audiences and they went wild. “Moribund The Burgermeister”, which was seen by some as a throwback to Genesis, still sounded a bit stiff. “Solsbury Hill”, his first solo hit that had also introduced him to many American listeners, was also in the set. The songs were not as orchestral as on the album, but more aggressive.

Alongside the songs from Pete’s solo record there were some cover versions in the set. The inclusion of Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar” was a tribute to Gabriel’s love for soul music, and the Kinks cover “All Day (And All Of The Night)” sounded rather heavy. The almost complete American band was professional, had a lot of fun (you can hear that especially in the R&B cover) and there was a relaxed atmosphere between the musicians, something that a proper band sometimes lacks onstage. Peter seemed to enjoy it a lot.

The fans expected solo and Genesis material

On the encore, he returned with Rael’s leather jacket, jeans and T-Shirt and performed “Back In N.Y.C” from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway*. He knew that the audience expected solo and Genesis material. Throughout the set, some fans had even felt disappointment over the stark staging and that only solo songs were played. But the crowd exploded when Peter came out for the encore of “Back in N.Y.C”. It left them wanting more. And they got it. Peter Gabriel became a successful solo artist with a varied career and a distinctive identity. The fact that he once sang with Genesis only became a footnote when we look back on his career from today’s point of view.

Photo: Peter Gabriel, Chateau Neuf, Oslo, Norway. Description=Peter Gabriel at Chateau Neuf in Oslo, Norway on August 31st 1978 |Source=http://www.helgeoveras.com/gabriel.shtml |Date=August 31st 1978 |Author=Helge Øverås (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).

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The “Turn It On Again” reunion tour

On 11 June 2007, Genesis started their “Turn It On Again” reunion tour in Helsinki. It saw the return of Phil Collins on vocals.

Genesis announced their reunion in 2006

On 7 November 2006, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins announced that they were reuniting as Genesis to play a series of shows in Europe in the summer of 2007 and in North America in autumn. Phil Collins had left Genesis in 1996. Although he had appeared with his former band members in the past, this was his official return. The reunion also included Genesis’ long-time live members Chester Thompson on drums and Daryl Stuermer on guitar. Both had not played with the band since 1992.

The first proper gig was planned for 11 June 2007 in Helsinki. With no new album to promote, the band had enough time to go through their material and dust off the old songs. Having not played together for 15 years, rehearsals were a bit more difficult than they all had expected.

Rehearsals for the “Turn It On Again” tour

Tony Banks (keyboards) and Mike Rutherford (guitars, bass) not only had to relearn the songs. They also had to change keys so that Phil Collins, whose voice had dropped over the years, could sing the songs.

He had some trouble relearning some of lyrics. But once he did, he struggled less with them than he had in the past. Songs like “Domino” and “Home By The Sea” with lyrics by Tony Banks were always a challenge for him to sing. (For example lines like “Sheets of double glazing” or “Nylon sheets and blankets”). He also listened to live recordings from the past and realized that he had often added some little extras. On this tour he went back to singing the songs the way they were written.

He also had not played Genesis songs on drums for years. On his solo tours, he had done the drum duet with Chester Thompson and played on “In The Air Tonight”. But now he had to get himself back in shape and play things like “Second Home By The Sea”. Luckily enough, Chester Thompson and Daryl Stuermer were there to back them up and help them out. Daryl had to show them how to play their own songs because he knew and had learned them so well.

But the five of them had played for so long that even after a break of 15 years, the chemistry was still there. Also, they got along much better than ever before. Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford had become looser with age whereas Phil Collins had become a bit more serious. They could talk about things they never dared say to each other 15 years before.

The setlist

And what would Genesis play on this reunion tour? They had plenty of material to choose from. Of course, there some inevitable hits that the fans wanted to hear like “Follow You Follow Me”, “Invisible Touch”, “Mama” and “I Can’t Dance”.

They also played their hit “Land Of Confusion” a bit heavier than usual. It sounded more modern, which was a nod into the direction of the band Disturbed. They had done a metal cover version of the song.

A trip down memory lane on the Genesis reunion tour

Apart from the hits, they also played more ambitious songs from their later period like the already mentioned “Home By The Sea” and “Domino”, two of Tony Banks’s favourites. As opener, they decided to do the instrumental intro of “Behind The Lines” from “Duke“. They added a piece of “Duke’s End” and called it “Duke’s Intro”. It was a very strong and powerful opening for the reunion shows and would always make the crowd go wild.

Overall, Phil Collins played much more drums throughout the show than he had in the past. And for “I Know What I Like” he looked at the tambourine dance from 1976 and after a bit of training, was able to do it also on this tour.

Also, they dug out “Ripples” from “A Trick Of The Tail” (the first album with Phil Collins as lead vocalist from 1976), which they had not played for years. It was a real surprise in the setlist. The same goes for a bit of “Duke’s Travels” that was incorporated into a medley. The setlist was a great mixture of material from all of their history. They played songs from almost every album since 1973. The last song of the set was the “Lamb”-classic “Carpet Crawlers” from 1974. It was always a very emotional ending for the band and the audiences.

Behind the scenes

The stage set-up for the tour came from acclaimed stage designer Mark Fisher, the lighting design came from Patrick Woodroffe. Behind the band was a huge screen which created a different look and a different setting for each song.

Producer Nick Davis supervised the sound of the band. Also, the band decided to release sound board recordings of each show through an Encore Series.

The first concert in Helsinki

And finally the first gig was played in Helsinki on a warm summer night. The band played flawlessly, the screens showed the right visuals at the right time and the audiences were happy to see Genesis again.

Phil Collins later said that some people expected them to release a new album during this period. But for him, the tour was not only a Genesis reunion tour but also a Genesis farewell tour.

The tour went on until autumn 2007 when the band played North America. After that, it seemed that Genesis had closed the final chapter. When asked what they enjoyed most about the reunion tour, they all agreed that the greatest thing was to be back with old friends and laugh together.

Photo: Genesis, ofwel: Phil Collins, Michael Rutherford, Tony Banks, Chester Thompson en Daryl Stuermer.}} |Source=Maikel Koek, via Wikiportrait |Date= |Author=Maikel Koek |Permission={{Wikiportrait|2008041010026495}} (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).

Phil Collins’ first show as frontman

In 1975, Peter Gabriel left Genesis. After unsuccessfully auditioning for a new singer, drummer Phil Collins took over and sang on “A Trick Of The Tail“* (1976), the first album after Gabriel’s departure. But he did not want to sing on the following tour. This is the story of how he became Genesis frontman.

Phil Collins did not want to be the singer

The album “A Trick of the Tail” was a big success and showed that Genesis could survive the loss of their lead singer Peter Gabriel. Phil Collins showed his singing skills and his variety of range on heavy tracks like “Dance On A Volcano” and softer songs like “Ripples”.

But Phil Collins did not want to be the singer. He wanted to be the drummer, which for him was the most respectable part of the group. In his eyes, the singer was only up front to wiggle his bum and look good. So he was very reluctant, when the band planned to tour the new album. Would he sing? Who would play the drums? Who would be the singer if he played drums? Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett already knew the answer and convinced him to become their proper frontman.

Bill Bruford of Yes was going to be the drummer for the tour. With him in the band, there was no chance they could fail. Their first gig of the tour was London, Ontario, on 26 March 1976. The audience knew that Phil Collins could sing. The band’s new album had sold better than any of its predecessors.

Could he replace Peter Gabriel?

But what about the older songs? Could Phil replace Gabriel and sing his songs? He could. They had similar voices and Phil had always accompanied Peter as a backing vocalist. So there was no problem when Phil Collins approached tracks like “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”, “Firth Of Fifth” or the epic fan favourite “Supper’s Ready”.

Also, the new material was received very well. On the song “Robbery, Assault & Battery”, Phil could show his acting skills from drama school and bring the Victorian story to life. And the instrumental “Los Endos” became even more adventurous, when it was played with two drummers.

The addition of Bruford was the right decision at that point. Having played with Yes, he was a well-known drummer in the progressive rock world and one of the best out there. Two drummers onstage were something new for Genesis. During the instrumental parts, Phil joined Bill and the two drummers added a new dimension to the music. If compared to later shows, when Phil played with Chester Thompson, Bill and Phil played more against each other than with each other. The “double-drumming” worked much better with Chester Thompson from the next tour onwards.

A happy audience welcomed the “new” singer

The audience was happy. They wanted this line-up to work and they welcomed the “new” singer because he came from within the group.

They also liked Phil’s down-to-earth approach combined with a bit of Pythonesque humour. In fact, the band seemed more relaxed onstage and the focus was not only on the front man, but also on the other members. On “I Know What I Like”, Phil involved them by putting funny hats on their heads and singing together with Mike Rutherford into one microphone. And he invented his famous tambourine dance during the song which even made Tony Banks smile onstage.

Peter was the mysterious traveller, whereas Phil was more the bloke next door. He did not tell strange stories but communicated with the audiences directly. Peter Gabriel was really happy that Phil replaced him. He knew that technically he was a better singer than himself. And he also knew that Phil’s communication with the audience would work.

And he was right. Although Phil was nervous on this first show in London, Ontario, this approach worked – the band went on with him as lead singer since then, only with a short interruption in the 1990’s when Phil also left the group and Ray Wilson took over. But this is another story.

Title photo: Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins of Genesis in 1977. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Jean-Luc Ourlin from Toronto ontario, Canada / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

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