The band was born in the 1960s, broke apart in the 1970s and grew to maturity in the 1980s, before finally disbanding in the 1990s, with a small comeback in the 2000s.
The history of Genesis can be traced from their album ‘Genesis to Revelation’ which came out in 1969, (and then, later re-released under the name ‘Genesis – in the beginning’ in 1974).
However, the real story of Genesis goes further back to their school days in the early ‘60s. In these days the popular music was Kathy Kirby, soul and junk and eventually The Stones and The Beatles.
Our story starts in 1963 when a young fresh-faced Peter Gabriel arrived at Charterhouse School. Whilst studying at Charterhouse he met another new pupil, Tony Banks. This friendship was consolidated by their mutual interest of Otis Reading and James Brown. Gabriel’s interests were far from academic and didn’t live up to the expectations of Charterhouse.
Anthony Philips came to Charterhouse in 1965 and was more outgoing than Gabriel or Banks and soon formed the group known as The Anon, along with three friends, Rob Tyrell on drums, Riverz Job on bass and Richard MacPhail on vocals with their influences heavily based around The Stones and The Beatles.
The band soon became a five piece when Mike Rutherford on rhythm guitar, although, after a short while, MacPhail left The Anon, leaving Rutherford to replace him on lead vocals. However, The Anon were not the only group at Charterhouse at the time. This group was called The Garden Wall, led by Peter Gabriel and Tony Banks. On stage Peter Gabriel was transformed into quite a different person. Not content with just strumming guitars, he wanted to get people’s attention. The Garden wall intended to do things a little more theatrically than The Anon.
Sometimes Peter Gabriel would wear a kaftan and a top hat and on one occasion he showered his audience with rose petals, (pre-dating The Smiths). Riverz’s friendship with the members of The Garden Wall would allow him to occasionally defect over to The Garden Wall to play bass. Finally, in 1966, The Anon disbanded and merged with The Garden Wall. The core of the new band would be made up of, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, Anthony Philips and Peter Gabriel.
This new line-up improvised a recording studio and wrote a few songs to make a demo’ tape featuring the songs, That’s me, Listen on five, Don’t wash your back, Try a little sadness and She’s so Beautiful. The band members were still lacking in confidence and instead of confronting a music producer, the band simply left their demo’ tape in a producers’ car.
The very same summer the band, now calling themselves Genesis recorded their first album at the Regent Sound Studio in London. The band could not afford expensive electric instruments at the time so they decided to record using only cheap acoustic instruments. The result was the album ‘From Genesis to Revelation. They released two songs from this album, The Silent Sun, released on 22nd February, 1968 and A Winter’s Tale, released on 10th May, 1969.
Genesis were finally signed up to a five year recording contract, although this was quickly reduced to only a one year recording contract upon the behest of their parents who were not happy about the prospect of their sons being led away from the safe world of a life in business. However, this disproval did not blunt Genesis’ enthusiasm.
Genesis continued to write and perform original music. Throughout the late ‘60s and early ‘70s Genesis continued to rehearse and perform, improving their musicianship, and occasionally playing to small ardencies. In 1970, Genesis finally played at Ronnie Scotts’ club, bringing them to attention of Tony Stratton-Smith, who at the time was in charge of the Charisma Record label and quickly signed them. At the time Genesis was to be paid just £10.00 per week.
The first album Genesis recorded was Trespass. Even so this album was not a commercial success it generated a little more interest than their previous album. It did, however, capture a small group of fans and was the start of a cult status. Even so, the band were disappointed and for a while it seemed their situation was hopeless. This was exaggerated by Anthony Philip’s decision to leave Genesis and if that wasn’t bad enough they were soon to be left without a drummer when John Mayhew, who had been working with Genesis for the previous year also left forcing the band to advertise for a new drummer. A small add in ‘Melody Maker’ said ‘Tony Stratton-Smith requires drummer sensitive to acoustic music and acoustic 12-string guitarist’
Out fifteen thousand hopefuls only one possessed the right blend of power and style that Genesis were looking for. His name was Phil Collins. At the time Collins was playing for a band called Flaming Youth, but the band was going nowhere so Collins decided the time was right to get out. Another add was placed in Melody Maker, this time it was not placed by Genesis but for an out of work guitarist looking for a job. The add said ‘Guitarist/writer seeks receptive musicians determined to strive beyond existing-stagnant musical forms.’ Peter Gabriel decided to answer this add and audition the man who would become a significant part in the re-shaping of Genesis. His name was Steve Hackett.
Genesis soon released their third album Nursery Cryme. Once again this album was not well received in the UK but it was a surprise hit in Italy becoming a top five hit. With Genesis’ fourth album, Foxtrot finally gave them their very first No. 1 album. It’s not surprising the country in question was Italy. But it wasn’t until the release of the single ‘I know what I like (In my wardrobe)’, taken from the album Selling England By the Pound that finally made an impression on the UK charts. Now Genesis had finally crossed over from being an obscure cult band into being a commercial success.
Unfortunately in the middle of this newfound success, Genesis were being driven apart by internal divisions. Part of the problem was Peter Gabriel’s domination of the band, particularly his outrages stage shows causing resentment within the band. Their album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway reflects this division. Gabriel insisted on writing every track on the album, in the end, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford had to help out due to Gabriel’s inability to complete the album in time. In 1974 Genesis took The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway on a 102 date tour. In August 1974 Gabriel announced his decision to leave Genesis.
Genesis without Gabriel was considered inconceivable and with Gabriel gone, the collapse of Genesis was widely rumoured and when Phil Collins began playing with Brand X while Steve Hackett released the solo album, Voyage Of The Acolyte, it seemed that the rumours were correct. However, Genesis were not dead yet, even though they were more of a shell of a band since they had lost their lead singer. Genesis began auditioning for a lead singer, auditions came and went and one after the other each singer was rejected. The search for a replacement seemed hopeless. It was only when Phil Collins decided to sing the track ‘Squonk’ that the band realised they had their replacement in their midst all along.
The one thing Collins was determined not to do was to imitate Gabriel’s live performances. Inevitably he thought Genesis needed to undergo a radical musical transformation. Genesis’ first post Gabriel album was Trick Of The Tail and demonstrated that Genesis still contained much of that oddly distorted surrealist feel but still it was an echo of previous times gone by. Genesis were now set out on a new musical direction and would encompass a wider audience.
Trick Of The Tail sold more copies in America than any of their previous albums had. Shortly after their next album The Wind and Wuthering, they set off on a mammoth tour which included three major stadium gigs in Brazil and headlining at Madison Square Gardens in New York. Their success was not all overseas though, when Genesis returned to the UK they played three dates at London’s Earls Court. It seemed that global success had finally arrived. Unfortunately, Steve Hackett, who had been a major force in shaping Genesis’ new found sound decided the time had come to quit the band. Hackett believed there was too much competition within the band. Every member wanted to write their own material and believed he was never given the chance to exploit his own ideas with Genesis. So the only way he believed he could do this was to go off and do them on his own.
The next album was appropriately titled And Then There Were Three. Some of their hard-core fans believed this album to be a great disappointment. The music had become simpler and more conventional. Some feared that this was nothing more than a downward step on a steep artistic decline that had set in after Gabriel had left. But these fears were without foundation. In fact And Then There Were Three proved to be a defining milestone for them, with the single Follow You Follow Me giving them their first UK top ten hit.
By this time their tours were becoming huge, even in comparison to some of today’s biggest rock bands. They played over 100 concerts over a period of 8 – 10 months. Taking with them massive stage sets including computer programmed mirrors that could revolve and reflect lights and speakers and backing musicians and soundmen and convoys of lorries to transport them all. And then, in 1979, Genesis decided that the pressures of success had taken the edge of plain day-to-day living and packed their equipment away and took a well-deserved rest.
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