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 being ‘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 presented their next demos, he was not impressed with what he heard.
Their producer Jonathan King was a Bee Gees fan
Jonathan King wanted to have a potential hit single from his group. Peter and Tony knew that King liked The Bee Gees, so they wrote a Bee-Gees-pastiche called ‘The Silent Sun‘.*
‘I tried my best Robin Gibb impersonation,’ Peter laughs.
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 a mixture of folk and pop with Tony Banks’ piano (already) being very dominant. The main focus is on Peter’s voice. The strings were added later in the studio by King. ‘The Silent Sun’ is also one of very few official recordings that feature the group’s original drummer Chris Stewart.
‘’The Silent Sun’ came after we’d been drilled in the art of trying to write short pop songs by Jonathan King, which I resisted,’ Ant laughs. ‘I didn’t like ‘The Silent Sun’ at all.’ He also thinks that it was a good thing the single was not successful: ‘If the single had been successful the group would never have developed its proper style.’
Tony Banks agrees but thinks that the song would have made a great hit single. For Peter Gabriel, one of the most exciting moments in his musical career was seeing the name Genesis in the Record Mirror. Mike Rutherford remembers the excitement hearing ‘The Silent Sun’ for the first time on the radio in Ant’s kitchen.
The Decca release list from 2 February 1968 called the single ‘quietly attractive’. The New Musical Express wrote: ‘Competently handled by Genesis, with a beautiful flowing arrangement of violins and cellos. A disc of many facets and great depth, but it might be a bit too complex for the average fan.’
‘The Silent Sun’ failed to chart
Despite their enthusiasm, ‘The Silent Sun’ did not make the charts. The following album From Genesis To Revelation was also a flop and ultimately, the band and King separated ways.
Genesis were able to write and produce more adventurous music and once they were famous, King kept re-releasing his early recordings with the band in different versions over the years.
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Thompson, Dave, Turn it on again. Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins & Genesis. (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2005).