On October 2, 1982, the legendary ‘Six Of The Best’ reunion show with Peter Gabriel and Genesis took place at Milton Keynes.Continue reading “Six Of The Best”
The Melody Maker rumoured in its edition of 16 August 1975 about Peter Gabriel’s departure from Genesis.
Peter Gabriel left the band after the 1975 tour
After the The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway tour in 1975, lead singer Peter Gabriel left Genesis. The band did not announce his departure right away, but instead went into the studio to record what became their next album A Trick of The Tail and audition new singers. By August 1975, the press had heard rumours about Peter Gabriel’s decision to leave Genesis. On 16 August, the Melody Maker put a picture with him wearing the batwings on the cover and featured the headline GABRIEL OUT OF GENESIS?
Here’s the text from the Melody Maker’s front page:
GABRIEL OUT OF GENESIS?
PETER GABRIEL’S position in Genesis was uncertain this week as mounting speculation suggested he had quit the band.
Gabriel had remained incommunicado since the end of Genesis’ British tour in the Spring – he has refused repeated requests for interviews and reliable sources told the Melody Maker this week that he has decided to leave the band.
The speculation comes as various members of Genesis are becoming increasingly involved in solo projects. Guitarist Steve Hackett has finished work on his first solo album and Michael Rutherford, the bass player, is also planning to record. Phil Collins, the band’s drummer, has been playing with his own pub group.
Commenting on the reports of a split, the band’s manager Tony Smith told the MM: “The group are being rather broody at the moment, but this happens every year when they are thinking and writing for the next LP.“
And Tony Stratton-Smith, head of Genesis’ record label, Charisma, said: “Peter has been involved with one or two summer projects including producing a single for Charlie Drake.” Both Smith and Stratton-Smith, however, denied a split in Genesis.
Genesis manager Tony Smith first denied the rumours, but a week later, the band announced it officially and explained that they were searching for a new singer. Hardly did they know that the singer was already in the group: Their drummer Phil Collins. But that’s another story.
Title photo: Melody Maker 16 August 1975: Gabriel out of Genesis?
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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.
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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.
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 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 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.
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 differently 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 took 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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In June 1998, Genesis released their first of two ‘Archive’ box sets: Archive 1967 – 1975 covers the era with Peter Gabriel as lead vocalist.
The plans to release ‘Archive’ box sets dated back to 1994
After the release of their last studio album Calling All Stations* in 1997, Genesis began putting together unreleased material from their history. The idea dated back to 1994. Originally there were plans to release three box sets. The first would have featured the Gabriel years, the second the period from the mid 1970’s to the early 80’s and the last the period from the mid 80’s to the early 90’s.
But over the years, there were delays and plans were changed. The recordings were released on two box sets, the first one being Archive 1967-75* , released in 1998, the second one being Genesis Archive 2 1976-1992*, released in 2000, which covers the era with Phil Collins on lead vocals. Both sets feature unreleased live performances, studio tracks and demo songs.
A complete live performance of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Archive 1967 – 1975 is a box set that includes four discs. The mixing was done by Genesis producer Nick Davis. The first two discs feature a complete live performance of Genesis’ magnum opus The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway*. When the band toured the concept album in 1974/75, they played the whole double album. After this tour, Peter Gabriel left the band. The live performance in the box set comes from The Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles. Unfortunately, Peter Gabriel’s stories between songs about the adventures of Rael were left out.
Peter Gabriel re-recorded his vocals at Real World Studios in 1995
Also, it is not a completely live recording. Peter Gabriel and former lead guitarist Steve Hackett re-recorded some of their parts in 1995. You can hear the difference in Gabriel’s voice if you compare the studio versions from 1974 to the live version on Archive I. Gabriel recorded his vocals at his Real World Studios. Also, the last song ‘It’, fades out because the tape machine at the Shrine ran out halfway through the song.
The live performance in general sounds more powerful than the studio version and the crowd seems to be enthusiastic. Apart from that, the songs are almost identical to the studio versions. The only exception is ‘The Waiting Room (Evil Jam)’, which was an instrumental with lots of space for improvisation that was therefore played differently every night. Apart from that, especially the title track, ‘Fly On A Windshield’ and ‘Carpet Crawlers’ stand out.
A live performance of ‘Supper’s Ready’ from 1973
Disc 3 includes live performances from the Rainbow Theatre in London, recorded on the Selling England By the Pound* tour in 1973. We finally get to hear songs like ‘Dancing With The Moonlight Knight’ and ‘Supper’s Ready’ live with Peter on vocals on an official release. Here, the stories are included. It also features a 1971 BBC recording of ‘Stagnation’ and b-sides and studio tracks from that era like ‘Twilight Alehouse’ and ‘Happy The Man.’
The last disc is also the most interesting one, at least for the fans. It features songs from the band’s earliest period, still with Anthony Phillips on guitar. There are BBC sessions and many demo songs. You can hear the band becoming Genesis on this disc. Some of the tracks are real gems, from the early version of ‘Dusk’ to the appealing ‘Hey!’. There is an atmosphere in these early recordings that went missing after Ant Phillips left the band.
Apart from the four discs, there is a 82-page booklet which contains the band’s history and interviews with band members and associates.
So Archive 1967 – 1975 is a quite interesting box set. We finally get to hear official live versions of Gabriel-era songs sung by him. The only official live release with him had been Live* from 1973, which only covers songs from Trespass*, Nursery Cryme* and Foxtrot*. The inclusion of b-sides and unreleased studio tracks like ‘Twilight Alehouse’ make this box set special. Some would argue that disc 4 is only for the hardcore fans, but it also is the most surprising and most interesting of the four discs. Unfortunately some rare tracks and demos that are known to exist did not make it onto the box set. But all in all, Archive 1967-75 is an extraordinary release. Fans seemed to agree with that: It reached no. 35 in the UK charts in 1998.
The band met at Heathrow Airport to promote the release
To promote the release of Archive I, Genesis members past and present reunited for a photo shoot (and a following dinner) at Heathrow Airport in May 1998. There were Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel, Anthony Phillips, former drummer John Silver, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford. The band’s first drummer Chris Stewart only made it to the dinner. Trespass-era drummer John Mayhew did not attend the event.
Genesis’ next ‘Archive’ release would be in 2000. It would be entitled Archive II 1976 – 1992 and feature the period with Phil Collins as lead vocalist.
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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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On 15 March 2010, Genesis were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and Steve Hackett were present alongside live members Chester Thompson and Daryl Stuermer. Peter Gabriel did not attend the event. The band was inducted by Phish frontman Trey Anastasio.
Phil Collins had damaged his health on the ‘Turn It On Again’ tour
By the time Genesis were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they had been in a hiatus for three years. Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, along with Daryl Stuermer and Chester Thompson, had last been on tour in 2007. The ‘Turn It On Again’ tour had been hugely successful. It was great, no matter if it were the starting point for something new, or if it was a farewell tour.
On this tour, however, Phil Collins had damaged his health. When playing drums, he felt a numbness in his left arm and his fingers. It turned out that he had damaged the nerves in his neck and his back. Years of drumming had taken its toll. With Phil Collins being unable to play the drums, further Genesis live gigs seemed very unlikely.
Would Peter Gabriel join his old bandmates for the induction?
But when it was announced that Genesis would finally be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, rumours started to spread again. Would they all attend? Would Peter Gabriel also join his former bandmates? And would they perform together?
The answer was: no. Peter Gabriel was in preparation for a tour and decided not to take part in the ceremony. Also, he had cut most of his ties with Genesis over the years. He had left the group in 1975 when he was 25 and had started a tremendously successful solo career. Going back to Genesis was not something he wanted. So to stop all the rumours right away, he did not attend the ceremony. But the other four ‘classic’ members Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins and Steve Hackett did. They were joined by their families and long-time live members Daryl Stuermer and Chester Thompson. The induction speech was held by Trey Anastastio of Phish.
Phish performed two Genesis songs
Phish also performed two Genesis songs: ‘Watcher Of The Skies’ and ‘No Reply At All’. One song from each era, but two very odd choices. It was interesting to observe that they struggled much more with the ‘pop’ song ‘No Reply At All’.
But Trey Anastasio gave a wonderful speech. Being a musician who is also into complex music, he knew what he was talking about. So instead of focussing on the obvious stories and tales, he gave a brief insight into the art behind the albums Trespass*, Selling England By the Pound* and Duke. It was a fitting speech for this evening. Genesis were not inducted because they were superstars, but because they were great musicians and performers.
Phish frontman Trey Anastasio held a wonderful induction speech
The four ‘classic’ members went onstage and Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins and Steve Hackett said some nice words (Steve’s speech was a bit embarrasing, to be honest) and Mike mentioned that Peter was in preparation for his orchestra tour.
Phil Collins later admitted that he was happy that Peter had not been there, because there would have been questions about a big reunion. Being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seemed like a cherry on the cake in Genesis’ career. Although it was just a festive occasion, this was to be the last time that Genesis appeared together in public for some years. It was also the last time Chester Thompson appeared with them. Neither the band nor the fans knew at that point.
Trey Anastasio celebrated Genesis in his speech as ‘rebellious, restless and constantly striving for something more.’ This sums up their career perfectly.
Title photo: Genesis on stage during the The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway tour, 1974-75. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Nick Contador/ CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).
First photo: Genesis live, July 29th, 1992 Kiel, Germany. The Nordmarksportfeld. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Derzsi Elekes Andor/ CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).
Second Photo: The Way We Walk – The Shorts (Cover).
Third photo: Genesis live, July 29th, 1992 Kiel, Germany. The Nordmarksportfeld. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Derzsi Elekes Andor/ CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).
Fourth photo: Daryl Stuermer, Chester Thompson and Mike Rutherford, Liverpool Empire, Duke Tour 1980. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Rodhullandemu/ CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).
Fourth photo: Genesis, Phil Collins, Strasbourg, October 1981. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Philippe Roos from Strasbourg/ CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0).
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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. Still, 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 huge success, showing that Genesis could survive the loss of their lead singer Peter Gabriel. Phil Collins demonstrated his singing skills and his variety of range on heavy tracks like ‘Dance On A Volcano’ and softer songs like ‘Ripples’.
There was still a problem: 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 when the band planned to tour the new album, he became very reluctant. 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 in the end convinced him to become their proper frontman.
Bill Bruford of Yes was going to be the drummer for the tour. With a drummer like him onstage, the band and also the audience knew that Genesis could not fail. Their first gig of the tour was in London, Ontario, on 26 March 1976.
Could he replace Peter Gabriel?
Having listened to A Trick of the Tail, the audience knew that Phil Collins could sing.But what about the older songs? Could Phil replace Gabriel and sing his songs? Of course he could. Not only had they similar voices, Phil had always accompanied Peter as a backing vocalist. It 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 songs were received very well. On ‘Robbery, Assault & Battery’, Phil showed his acting skills from drama school and brought the Victorian story to life onstage. The instrumental ‘Los Endos’ became even more adventurous than on record: Onstage 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. It was something new for Genesis to hve two drummers onstage and they truly celebrated it. During the instrumental parts, Phil joined Bill and the two drummers added a new dimension to the music. On later tours, they would bring the double-drumming to perfection, when Phil played with Chester Thompson. Whereas Bill and Phil played more against each other, Chester and Phil played with each other.
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 sang together with Mike Rutherford into the microphone. And he invented his famous tambourine dance during the song which even made Tony Banks smile onstage.
Whereas Peter was the mysterious traveller, Phil was the bloke next door. He did not tell strange stories but communicated with the audiences directly. Peter Gabriel often statedt that he was happy when Phil replaced him. He knew that technically he was a better singer 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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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 reunion tour in 2007 (with the exception of the 1998 “Calling All Stations” tour). Unfortunately he was 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).
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