Live Aid, July 13, 1985: Phil Collins appears in London and Philadelphia

Live_Aid_at_JFK_Stadium,_Philadelphia,_PA

On July 13, 1985, Phil Collins was the only performer to appear on both Live Aid shows in London and Philadelphia.

Phil Collins is all over the world

In the mid-1980s, it seemed as if Phil Collins had already achieved everything: As a solo artist and as a member of Genesis he had number one hit singles, chart-topping albums and sold-out world tours. By 1985, his third solo album “No Jacket Required“* had been a massive success and produced hit singles that topped the charts worldwide. Phil Collins’ music was all over the world – and so would he be on July 13, 1985.

Phil Collins made rock history

On July 13, 1985, Phil Collins made rock history. He did something that no-one had done before (and probably not since): He appeared live on television around the world twice in a day from two different continents. And as usual with Phil, this had not been an elaborate act of profiling himself as an artist. It had been for the benefit of millions of starving people in Africa. The two appearances onstage and on television had been part of Live Aid, two shows that had been organized by Bob Geldof. The man of the day however, was Phil Collins.

Live Aid

The famous Live Aid concerts from 1985 were the continuation of the Band Aid single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” from 1984, in which musician Bob Geldof had gathered many famous pop stars to raise money for the poor starving population in Ethiopia. The concept worked and half a year later, the Live Aid performances were celebrated with the same intention. There were two parallel concerts, one in London, one in Philadelphia, and the whole 80s pop world seemed to participate in the event. Phil Collins had already played drums on the the million-selling Band Aid single “Do They Know It’s Christmas”. He did not sing on it, as he had recently recorded his own solo album and duets with Philip Bailey and Eric Clapton and the record company told him not to sing anymore until his album “No Jacket Required” had come out and he would be on the tour that followed.

So what exactly happened on July, 13, 1985, “the greatest day in the history of pop music”? Phil Collins proved the impossible, playing at both shows. He appeared at Wembley Stadium in London in the early afternoon and played “Against All Odds” and “In The Air Tonight” alone at the piano. He remembers sweating on the white stage and therefore, his finger slipping off the piano on “Against All Odds”. The bum note was not only heard in front of 80,000 people in Wembley, but also by a global telly audience of 1 billion people. Phil thought “Oh God, what a good start for the day this is.”

Then he was joined by his friend Sting on guitar and vocals for “Long Long Way To To” from “No Jacket Required” (Sting had also provided backing vocals for the studio version). Then the duo played “Every Breath You Take”. Phil left the stadium afterwards, crossed the Atlantic with a Concorde, and played his solo songs in Philadelphia the same way he did in London. In Philadelphia, he also joined his friends Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin. Phil had arrived at the John F. Kennedy Stadium at 7pm, was at the show at ten past, went to Eric to ask what they would play and then went onstage with him at 7.30pm. In between, he also rushed to Robert Plant’s caravan to have a chat with Led Zeppelin about their gig. This pretty much sums up the energy of Phil Collins in the 1980s.

Phil Collins had been an international superstar at this point, but his legendary performances as the only one who appeared at both Live Aid shows, certainly boosted his profile and made him as a solo artist and personality become more famous than Genesis, the band he was part of.

Live Aid – The aftermath

Looking back, Live Aid was a terrible example of using clichés. It is the prime example of “rock musicians trying to help poor Africa”. The intention was certainly good, the realization was maybe good-hearted, but not that effective. The Christmas single with its awful lyrics (“Do they know its Christmas time at all?” – this is colonial thinking at its best) and the Live Aid performances raised a lot of money and made people aware of the problems, but the result was that much, if not all, of the money was taken by the corrupt Ethiopian government. They used it to prop up the brutal dictator Mengistu. Furthermore it turned out that part of the relief donations were diverted by a rebel group to buy weapons. And also, very little food and medicine left the port cities of Assab and Massawa. It was more important to unload military hardware from Soviet ships, leaving hundreds of thousands of tons of food rotting on the docks. Bob Geldof, founder of Live Aid, was seen on TV with Mengistu, smiling and joking around, as he handed over the famine money.

Geldof had actually been warned about Mengistu and his dismantling of tribes, resettlement marches and slaughterings in which 100,000 people died. However, here one can see how the charity for ‘poor Africa’ can turn out and how someone like Geldof, who might have had his best interests, can turn his favours against himself.

For Phil Collins, playing at both concerts helped him gain even more popularity and becoming a proper international superstar. He also helped the event to become even more memorable.

Title photo: Live Aid at JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, PA. Source: Wikimedia Commons, own work. Author: Squelle. / CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).

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The end of the Invisible Touch Tour at Wembley 1987

On July 4, 1987, Genesis finished their gigantic Invisible Touch tour at Wembley Stadium. It was the fourth sold out night in a row at Wembley.

Invisible Touch

In 1986, Genesis released the album “Invisible Touch“*. It became their most successful album, peaking at #1 in the U.K. and #3 in the U.S. It produced five hit singles: “Invisible Touch”, “Tonight Tonight Tonight”, “Land of Confusion”, “In Too Deep” and “Throwing It All Away”. Songs like the title track, “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” and “Land Of Confusion” with its famous spitting image video would dominate the radio and music TV stations and the international charts of 1986/1987. Genesis were everywhere and bigger than ever. So of course, the band went on a massive tour through North America, Australia, Japan and Europe before finishing in Britain with four sold-out nights at Wembley Stadium in front of 300,000 people.

The Invisible Touch tour

The tour began in the U.S. in September 1986 and included 112 dates and sold close to two million tickets. It ended in July 1987. In Australia and New Zealand, the five-man line-up was accompanied by a four-piece string section on “In Too Deep” and “Your Own Special Way”. They had to invite the quartet because of local regulations that required them to employ local musicians.

At this time, the band was not only a hit-machine, but a working and brilliant live act. The Vari Lite light show was impressive as always. The band had much material to rely on, but chose mainly new songs from their hit album and the albums before.

The shows were always opened with “Mama” (which sometimes lacked a bit of atmosphere in daylight) and ended with the “Turn It On Again” hit medley that the band had established on the previous tour. The medley included “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”, “Satisfaction”, “Twist and Shout”, “Pinball Wizard”, “All Day and All of the Night” and “Karma Chameleon”.

Older songs in the set included “Los Endos”, “Home By The Sea” (including it’s meanwhile standard ghost-story introduction) and another “In The Cage” medley. When the tour began, they had played “In That Quiet Earth” and the second half of the epic “Supper’s Ready” after “In The Cage”. However, during the tour Phil had difficulties reaching the higher notes in “Supper’s Ready”, so by the middle of the tour they had gone back to the usual ending of “In That Quiet Earth” and “Afterglow”.

New songs included “Domino” (with another – soon to be famous – introduction by Phil), “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”, “Throwing It All Away”, where the call-and-response singing developed throughout the tour, and “Invisible Touch” itself.

Live at Wembley Stadium

By the time Genesis got to Wembley, they had performed the set so often that it had become a true piece of fine art and musicianship. Interestingly, only two shows were scheduled at Wembley, but the demand for tickets was so high, that a third and then a record-breaking fourth night were added.

The Wembley shows were filmed and released as video and as DVD in 2003*. Unfortunately the famous “In The Cage” medley was left out of the release because on every night, the tapes had to be changed during that song.

Apart from that, the results and the performance are astonishing. The band truly ended the tour on a high note there. Looking back at the videos and listening to the songs and performances, we can say that Genesis were at their peak at this very point at Wembley Stadium. Afterwards, the fans had to wait four more years for a new Genesis record.

Title photo: Genesis Nancy 1987. Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Daryl Stuermer, Chester Thompson. Genesis en concert à Nancy le 14 juin 1987 au stade Marcel-Picot de Nancy-Tomblaine Source: Wikimedia Commons, Fredamas / CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).

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Steve Hackett’s last show with Genesis

On July 3, 1977, Genesis played the last show of their “Wind And Wuthering” tour and (unbeknown to them at that point) also the last show with lead guitarist Steve Hackett.

Wind And Wuthering

In December 1976, Genesis had released “Wind and Wuthering“*, their second album since Peter Gabriel’s departure. The band had become a foursome the year before, drummer Phil Collins had taken over the vocal duties. He had proved that he could fill this role easily on the previous album “A Trick of the Tail“* and the following tour in 1976.

By this point, keyboardist Tony Banks and guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford were the main songwriters with Phil Collins being more of a player and arranger. Guitarist Steve Hackett felt that not enough of his material was used. He was frustrated about his role in the group and decided to leave Genesis after the 1977 tour.

The Wind & Wuthering tour

The band set out for a huge tour in 1977 that would lead them to South America for the first time and through Europe and the US. On drums, they were accompanied by American drummer Chester Thompson. It was his first tour with them and he would remain with the band as a live drummer until 2007 (with a short interruption in the 1990s).

Genesis reached a new peak in live performances and was voted “Best live group” in 1977. This was captured in the double live album “Seconds Out“*.

The last show

The last show of the tour (and also Steve Hackett’s last show as a member of Genesis) took place in the Olympiahalle, Munich, on July 3, 1977. They opened the set with “Squonk” as they had done throughout most of the tour, then they played “One For The Vine”, a Banks composition from the new album. “Inside And Out” from the recent EP “Spot The Pigeon” was added on some European dates and was also played in Munich. Among the highlights of the show were songs like “The Carpet Crawlers”, “I Know What I Like” and “Supper’s Ready”, some of which had changed a lot since the days when Peter Gabriel sang them. Also, the band had started to play medleys on the tour before and continued to do so on the “Wind & Wuthering” tour. “Dance On A Volcano” and “Los Endos” were combined as well as “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” and the closing section of “The Musical Box”. The band also played “Firth Of Fifth” that night in which Steve plays the famous guitar solo. Neither the fans nor the band knew that they had witnessed him playing it live for the last time.

Steve leaves the band

Steve Hackett had been the first Genesis member to record a solo album. There, he included some of the music that was not used on Genesis albums. During the period as a four-piece-band, he wanted to have a certain percentage on each album for his own songs. The others disagreed; they were a democratic band. So he started recording solo albums and felt that his input on Genesis albums became less and less.

Also, when the band mixed the live album “Seconds Out” in July 1977, he could not stand listening to tracks like “I Know What I Like” anymore after having played them for months at this point. Also, he felt that after playing shows with audiences of 20.000 people, there was nothing new to strive for. So one day he phoned Mike Rutherford and told him he wanted to leave. Mike knew that Steve had been unhappy in Genesis for some time, so he did not try to talk him out of it. Later that day or the following day, Phil Collins drove from West London to Trident Studios, where they mixed the live album. He passed Steve on the street and told him to jump into the car. Steve acted a bit oddly, said “Speak to Mike, he’ll explain” and went off. When Phil arrived at the studio, Tony and Mike informed him that Steve had left the band.

The three remaining members then went on mixing “Seconds Out” and afterwards went into the studio to record their next album. They would remain a three-piece-band in the studio for the rest of their career and Steve Hackett would continue his career as a solo artist.

Title photo: Genesis Steve Hackett. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Jean-Luc / CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0). Originally posted to Flickr as Genesis.

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The last show of “The Lamb” tour

On 22 May 1975, Genesis played the last show of their ambitious “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” tour. It was also their last gig with Peter Gabriel as lead singer.

“The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”

In 1974, Genesis went into the studio to record the album “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway*”. It was a double concept album, based on a complex story by lead singer Peter Gabriel about a Puerto Rican boy named Rael. Rael lives in New York City and is sucked into a netherworld, where he encounters strange characters on his adventures.

The story and the American setting were a break from their earlier tales of British myth and fantasy. Previous to the album, the band had toured North America and were trying to become successful in the United States. It was also (after the failed attempt on their first record) their first real “concept album”, a trademark for many progressive rock bands.

There were tensions going on inside the band, when they wrote the ambitious album. Peter Gabriel wrote the lyrics and the story separately, while his bandmates wrote all the music. Only the lyrics for one song, “The Light Dies Down On Broadway”, were written not by Gabriel, but by Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford. Most of the music came from jam sessions by the trio Tony Banks (keyboards), Mike Rutherford (bass and guitars) and Phil Collins (drums). Lead guitarist Steve Hackett did not contribute much to the music.

Tensions within the group

There were two main reasons for the split between Gabriel and the rest of the band that overshadowed the making of the album: For one, William Friedkin, director of “The Exorcist*” was interested in working together with Peter Gabriel on a film script. Peter Gabriel was interested and even thought about leaving the band for this project, but Friedkin backed away when he realized that.

The other reason was that Peter’s wife Jill was pregnant with their first child Anna. She was was born in July ’74 and there were some complications in the aftermath. Gabriel started to alienate from the band during that time. He was the first one to have a child and see that there were other opportunities and possibilites in life besides being in a rock band. His inner conflict is also reflected in the story of “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”, for example in the lyrics of “In The Cage”: “Get me out of this cage!”

Up to this day, the album divides fans and critics. Upon its release, “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” received decidedly mixed reviews and was a commercial failure. Ticket sales did not go as well as planned and they had to cancel several shows. Nowadays it is looked upon in a hazy retrospective because it is Gabriel’s last work with the group.

The “Lamb” tour

Peter Gabriel was frustrated by the failure in terms of success and sales, especially because it was his story. For the tour, the band decided to play the entire album live, often to an audience who had never heard it because the tour began before the album was released.

Having become famous for his use of masks and costumes, Peter Gabriel wanted to use visual aspects to underline the story of the album. This time he overused them. Again, he wore costumes, the most famous being the “Slippermen” outfit, which covered him from head to toe and did not allow him to get the microphone close enough to his mouth, so his vocals could not be heard clearly. The band did not like this exaggeration and felt that the costumes and the performance had become the focus of the show to the disadvantage of the music.

The spectacular stage show also brought along some problems. There were slides at the back of the stage and they never were in the right order or stopped and did not move on. One night, a dummy of Peter Gabriel, which used to mirror him during one of the songs, was replaced by a naked roadie. And once when there had to be a small explosion for one song, the production manager caused a big explosion, so loud that the band stopped playing in the middle of the song. He poked his head round the curtain and said “Sorry!” to which Phil Collins shouted back: “You’re fired!”

Peter Gabriel decides to leave Genesis

During the course of the tour, Peter Gabriel decided to leave. It was no surprise to manager Tony Smith and the rest of the band. Smith only wanted Gabriel to finish the tour and announce the news afterwards.

Peter Gabriel played his last gig with Genesis at St Etienne in France in May 1975. It was a strange last gig, because St Etienne was meant to be the penultimate date of the tour, but the final date was cancelled just the day before. And so, Gabriel’s time with Genesis was over. He had founded the band in 1967 with Tony Banks, Anthony Phillips and Mike Rutherford. When it was announced publicly, the fans were greatly shocked. Many doubted if Genesis could survive without him but we know they did and so did he.

Photo: Peter Gabriel in 1975. Photographer unknown. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: Peter_Gabriel,_April_1975.jpg. Unknown author / CC0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).

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Ray Wilson announced as new lead vocalist

On 6 June 1997, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford of Genesis announce the band’s new lead singer after Phil Collins’ departure: 28 year old Ray Wilson.

When it was announced in March of 1996 that Phil Collins would leave Genesis after 25 years, the public was impatient to know who would become the next lead singer of the band. Genesis had survived the loss of their first singer Peter Gabriel in 1975. And when Phil Collins left the band in 1996, the two remaining members Tony Banks (keyboards) and Mike Rutherford (guitars) decided to survive a singer’s loss once more. The two founding members of Genesis started to write and record new songs and tried to find a new singer. Music media suggested several vocalists, until on June 6th 1997, the band announced that Ray Wilson would be their new lead singer.

Ray Wilson

Ray was born in Dumfries, Scotland, on 8 September 1968. He had previously been in a band called Guaranteed Pure and was a frontman for the band Stiltskin. Their biggest hit was the song “Inside”, used in a Levi’s commercial in 1994. The song had reached No. 1 of the charts. So Ray was not an unknown singer when he joined Genesis, but theirs and Stiltskin’s music was worlds apart. So his fans and Genesis fans were both surprised and suspicious.

Ray remembers on the Songbook DVD: “I was in my little studio writing songs. It was ten in the morning, I was making a coffee, and Tony Smith, the manager of Genesis, was on the phone: “Would you like to come and audition to replace Phil Collins?””

In the last years, Phil Collins’ solo success had created an image of “Phil Collins and Genesis”, as if Genesis was the band behind him. Filling out this role and changing this public image, would be very difficult.

Calling All Stations

Ray, Mike and Tony went into the band’s studio “The Farm” in Surrey and recorded the new album “Calling All Stations“*. Most of the songs were already written by Tony and Mike, but Ray was able to add some of his ideas. The album was very dark and melancholic. Phil Collins’ influence on Genesis music, his energy and cheerfulness combined with Mike’s and Tony’s music, was missing. The Genesis chemistry only worked fully when all three of them worked and wrote together.

Ray’s expressive voice worked with the melodramatic music. He did a remarkable job on the album and the following tour. His voice and style was a bit closer to Peter Gabriel’s, but the music on “Calling All Stations” seemed to be closer to its predecessor “We Can’t Dance“. Like “We Can’t Dance”, “Calling All Stations” was produced by Nick Davis.

Three singles were released from the sombre, dark record: “Congo”, “Shipwrecked” and “Not About Us”. Ray co-wrote the last song as well as the songs “Small Talk” and “There Must Be Some Other Way”. The drums on the album were played by Israeli session drummer Nir Zidkyahu and Nick D’Virgilio from American prog band Spock’s Beard.

The critics were not too kind. NMW wrote that “the world doesn’t care enough about Genesis to make the effort” to buy the album and “like the rest of the population, they’ve forgotten why they were once any good”. Q wrote that the album consists of “just darkness, confusion, individual isolation” and described it as “one-paced and one-dimensional.”

Live on tour 1998

On tour, Ray proved that he could sing songs from all the eras. The setlist covered hits like “Invisible Touch”, “No Son Of Mine” or “Follow You Follow Me” (in a lovely acoustic version), younger epics like “Home By The Sea” and Gabriel-era songs like “Carpet Crawlers” and “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”. The new material worked well between these songs and some tracks, like the title track, were even better live. Ray, Mike and Tony were accompanied by drummer Nir Zidkyahu and guitarist Anthony Drennan, who filled the roles of Chester Thompson and Daryl Stuermer.

The album was not as successful as the ones before

But unfortunately the album was not a big commercial success when compared to the albums before. It reached no. 2 in British charts, but only no. 54 in America. Also, ticket sales were not as high was they used to be and the tour had to be minimized in terms of production and venues. The American leg of the tour had to be cancelled completely. So after the 1998 tour, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford decided to put Genesis to rest.

It was not to be the end of Genesis. But back in 1998 it looked like it. Unfortunately, Ray Wilson, who had been thrown into this situation, was even made responsible by some fans and critics. This is simply not fair. Ray has a unique voice and delivered the songs – his own and Peter’s and Phil’s – in a special way.

After the end of Genesis, Ray took some time to recover and has since started a solo career. He releases solo albums and still plays some Genesis and Genesis-related songs during his live shows.

Title photo: Ray Wilson live in Dortmund in 2017 (Photo: André Wilms of “The Photography Of Mister Ilms)“.

Live at the Roundhouse 1970

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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Phil Collins’ departure from Genesis in 1996

On 28 March 1996, Phil Collins’ departure from Genesis was officially announced in a press release: “Genesis end twenty-year experiment, decide to replace Peter Gabriel as vocalist.” It was the end of an era. Here’s the story of his (temporary) departure.

Phil Collins decided to leave Genesis in 1993

In 1993, Genesis were at their peak. The group’s “We Can’t Dance” tour in 1992 had been huge. They could not become much bigger. In autumn 1993, they played a concert in Cowdray Ruins. It was a charity gig with acts such as Pink Floyd, Queen and Eric Clapton. Genesis played four songs and joined the whole lot for the encore. Nobobdy knew that this would be Phil Collins’ last gig with the band for a long time.

By this point, Phil Collins was writing what would become his most personal solo album Both Sides*. On this he played all the instruments and he produced the album all by himself. Both Sides was similar to his first solo album Face Value and reflected his situation: His marriage with his wife Jill was going to pieces because he had an affair with an old girlfriend from school, Lavinia Lang. His family was about to break once more. So he felt he could not sing Genesis songs anymore. He wanted to sing things he could relate to. Also, he was tired of having to wow whole stadiums with the band. He felt that he had come to the end of the road with Genesis.

On his solo album “Both Sides”, Phil Collins played all the instruments, sang and produced

So after the gig at Cowdray Ruins, he told manager Tony Smith about his decision. Smith, being a manager and businessman, advised him to do his solo album and tour and then think about the matter again. So Phil Collins went on a world tour in 1994 and 1995. In Switzerland, he met a young woman named Orianne Cevey. He fell in love. His marriage with Jill was over and he moved to Lake Geneva to live with Orianne. For this (and for his music), he was heavily criticized by the British press. Phil got to hate his public “Mr Nice Guy”-image. There was no space for Genesis in his life at this point. And so he flew to England to talk to Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, his oldest (musical) friends.

Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford decided to carry on

The group met in manager Tony Smith’s kitchen in 1996 and Phil told them that he wanted to leave. Tony Banks’ replied with true British understatement “It’s a sad day, a very sad day.” And Mike Rutherford was actually surprised that Phil stayed that long in Genesis, having enjoyed a successful solo career for 15 years in 1996. Phil’s departure was announced twenty years and two days after his first gig as a vocalist with the band. With him leaving, the band not only lost their superstar singer and entertainer, but also a great composer and drummer.

But Mike and Tony decided to carry on and search for a new singer. Phil Collins continued his solo career, but not as successful as in the 1980’s. The three of them remained friends and saw each other every now and then. It was not until the early 2000’s that they started to appear again as a trio for certain occasions. Finally in 2006, ten years after Phil’s departure, they reunited officially as a group to go on tour. But that is another story.

Title photo: The world famous band – Genesis. Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford. (Photo 1991) . Source: Wikimedia Commons, David Scheinmann / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).

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The Silent Sun (1968) – Genesis

In February 1968, Genesis’ debut single “The Silent Sun” was released on Decca Records. Peter Gabriel was just 17 when it came out. Let’s take a look at the band’s first single!

Genesis at Charterhouse

Genesis were still at Charterhouse in 1968. Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel, Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips had met at the public school and formed the group Genesis to break away from the oppressing school life. Back then, the group consisted of two songwriting pairs: Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel on the one hand and Anthony Phillips and Mike Rutherford on the other. They had recorded some demos while at school and had passed them on to producer Jonathan King. King was an ex-Charterhouse pupil and had become a successful producer and musician (his famous hit back then was “Everyone’s Gone To The Moon”).

King liked the music, in particular Peter Gabriel’s voice. He signed them at Decca Records and decided to produce an entire album with them. But when the band came with their next demos, he was not impressed with what he heard.

Their producer Jonathan King was a Bee Gees fan

Knowing that he was a Bee Gees fan, Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel then composed “The Silent Sun“*, a Bee Gees-style effort.

Naturally, King liked it, it became their first single and he went on to produce their first album “From Genesis to Revelation“*.

The song is pure pop and the focus is on Peter and his voice. It is very different from everything they would do later. It is a mixture of folk and pop with Tony Banks’ piano (already) being very dominant. The strings were added later in the studio by King. It is also one of very few official recordings that feature the group’s original drummer Chris Stewart.

Anthony Phillips (considered by the band to be best and main writer at the time) did not like the song. He also did not like the idea of “selling out”, of writing a hit single to be able to release more complex music. The song did get some airplay and the boys and their relatives were very excited about being played on the radio. Mike Rutheford remembers hearing it on the radio in Ant Phillips’s kitchen and being convinced that they would be invited to Top Of The Pops. Peter Gabriel recalls the band going to Carnaby Street to buy outfits for the TV appearance. But the single did not chart and the call to appear on Top Of The Pops never came.

“The Silent Sun” failed to chart

The single was a flop as well as the following album and ultimately, the band and King separated ways. Genesis went on to produce more adventurous music (which they always wanted to do) and once they were famous, King kept re-releasing his early recordings with the band in different versions over the years.

Still, it is it is a good pop tune and a remarkable first single. One might wonder in which direction Genesis would have developed if it had been a success. Imagine this song being played by the band and sung by Phil Collins in the 80’s between “Mama” and “Supper’s Ready”!

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The Rainbow shows in January 1977

Genesis started their “Wind & Wuthering” tour at the Rainbow Theatre in London on 1st January 1977. They played the venue for three nights. Those shows were the first with Chester Thompson on drums. Also, the tour was the last with guitarist Steve Hackett.

Wind And Wuthering

In December 1976, Genesis had released “Wind and Wuthering”, their second album since Peter Gabriel’s departure. The band had become a foursome the year before, drummer Phil Collins had taken over the vocal duties. He had proved that he could fill this role easily on the previous album “A Trick of the Tail” and the following tour in 1976. On this tour they had Bill Bruford of the band Yes on drums. Being a famous “prog rock” drummer, this gave the band and the fans huge confidence. It was a signal that the band was stronger than ever after Gabriel had left them.

So they went in the studio to record their next album “Wind & Wuthering” in 1976. By this point, keyboardist Tony Banks and guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford were the main songwriters. Phil Collins was still more of a player and arranger. Guitarist Steve Hackett felt that not enough of his material was used. He was frustrated about his role in the group. “Wind & Wuthering” was released in late 1976. The band set out for a huge tour in 1977 that would lead them to South America for the first time.

Their new live drummer

Since Bill Bruford was busy in other projects, Genesis had to find another drummer for the tour. Phil Collins found the perfect candidate in Chester Thompson of Weather Report. Chester had also played with Frank Zappa. Phil had heard him on Zappa’s “Roxy & Elsewhere” and liked his style. So he decided to offer him the job in Genesis. Although he hardly knew the band, Thompson agreed. He came to London for only a few days of rehearsals before the tour started.

The music was totally new to him. He knew a bit of “A Trick Of The Tail” because Weather Report’s bass player Alphonso Johnson (who was friends with Phil Collins) had listened to the record on the last Weather Report tour all the time. But now he, an American jazz drummer, had to learn and rehearse a two and a half hour set of British progressive rock music in ten days. Chester wrote down the music in a little book. He learned it by night and played it the next day at rehearsals. Tony Banks was (of course) very impressed by Chester’s notes and his way of working.

Chester Thompson played with them until 2007

From the moment Phil and he played together, they knew that they had something special going on. The both of them clicked instantly. There is a greater chemistry when they play together than when Phil played with Bill Bruford. Thompson was criticized by some for these first performances at the Rainbow. Music journalist Chris Welch admitted that Thompson was technically better than Collins or Bruford but that he lacked excitement. Peter Gabriel, who was in the audiences at the Rainbow shows, felt a bit sorry for Chester, because he had to learn this kind of music and its feeling in such a short time.

But Chester became much more familiar with the music during the course of the tour and could put his own stamp on the songs. Songs like “Los Endos” or “Wot Gorilla” that were influenced by jazz rock reached another level, especially with two drummers. But also the epic fan favourites benefitted from the new influence. “Supper’s Ready”, “Lilywhite Lilith” and the ending of “The Musical Box” were played with a groove that was missing before. The band and the audiences liked Thompson’s input. The collaboration worked so well that Thompson toured with them until their last tour in 2007. Unfortunately he is not part of the “The Last Domino?” tour in 2021/2022.

Live at the Rainbow 1977

When Genesis announced the Rainbow shows, 80.000 people applicated for 8000 tickets – despite critics saying that punk killed progressive rock that year. Fans that were lucky enough to see the shows were also suprised by new visiuals. The “Wind & Wuthering” tour introduced a new light show, which included lasers and Boeing 747 landing lights.

The new songs were welcomed by the crowd. Genesis opened the Rainbow show with “Eleventh Earl Of Mar” from the new album. This song was also lifted to another level by Thompson’s playing. The jazzy new instrumental “…In That Quiet Earth” was unbelievably groovy with two drummers. At the end of Tony Banks’ ballad “Afterglow”, Thompson and Collins reproduced a drum fill that Thompson had played with another drummer on the Zappa live album.

“Best Live Band” in 1977

Tony Banks’ epic “One For The Vine” proved to work just as well as “Supper’s Ready” or “The Musical Box”. The quirky “All In A Mouse’s Night” was a humorous moment to relax between the heavy stuff. “Squonk””from “A Trick Of The Tail” suffered a bit in comparison to the album version and is a reference point for the Thompson critics. “I Know What I Like”, originally a rather short single from 1974, became even longer than on the previous tour and had much more groove. For Genesis, the three nights at the Rainbow theatre were highly successful and a strong start for a long and successful tour.

The tour would lead them through Europe, the US and South America. Genesis had reached a new peak in live performances and was voted “Best live group” in 1977. This was captured in the double live album “Seconds Out”. After the tour, guitarist Steve Hackett left the band. The three remaining members Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks returned to the studio to record their next album.

Title photo: Genesis_(the_band). Source: Wikimedia Commons, Jean-Luc / CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).

Steve Hackett’s first gig with Genesis

On 14 January 1971, Steve Hackett played his first gig with Genesis at University College, London. It was not the best start for the guitarist.

When Steve joined the band in late 1970, Phil Collins had already been in the band for a few months. Up to that point, Genesis had performed as four piece for some time: Tony Banks on keyboards, Mike Rutherford on guitar and bass, Phil Collins on drums and Peter Gabriel on vocals. They were used to playing live. Phil had established his role as the drummer, being the backbone of the band.

So Steve Hackett was quite nervous before he played his first gig with Genesis. On 14 January 1971 the band played at University College in London. The guys came in the afternoon. The stage was set up, they did a soundcheck and had something to eat and a few drinks.

Phil decided to test the rule of how many Newcastle Brown Ales you could drink and still play the drums

Unfortunately on this evening, Phil decided to test the rule of how many Newcastle Brown Ales you could drink and still play the drums. By the time the band was onstage, he did all the right fills but three inches to the right of each drum.

For nervous Steve, the whole gig was a nightmare. Not only because of Phil’s experiment, but also because the usual equipment problems of the early Genesis days kicked in, when his fuzzbox did not work properly.

The usual equipment problems of the early Genesis days kicked in

After the show he thought that he had failed and the others did not want him in the group. He heard Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford arguing with Phil backstage and thought it was about him. Of course they gave Phil a hard time because of his performance!

Although this certainly was not the best first gig for Steve Hackett, the audiences were happy and the band wanted him to stay. They liked his contribution and played more gigs throughout the year and recorded their first album together, “Nursery Cryme“*. But that is another story in Genesis history.

Title photo: Wikimedia Commons, Jeff Wurstner / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

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