GENESIS – 1975 TO 2021: THE PHIL COLLINS YEARS (2021) ***½
by Mario Giammetti
This paperback edition published by Kingmaker Publishing, 2021, 290pp
© Mario Giammetti, 2021
Blurb: The definitive biography of the later years of one of the world’s greatest bands. The book contains numerous exclusive interviews with band members and all of the important personalities who were part of the story of Genesis from 1975 onwards (including Ray Wilson who fronted the band for 1997’s Calling All Stations album and subsequent tour before the return of Phil Collins in 2007). The book covers the full story of the band extensively, taking readers through each album and tour. Additionally it features a number of previously unpublished photographs.
Comment: This is the follow-up to Mario Giammetti’s Genesis: 1967 to 1975 – The Peter Gabriel Years published the previous year. I was hugely impressed with that first volume, which provided much new information on that period of the band’s history through the author’s interviews with band members and offered well-rounded assessments of the band’s output. That this new book is less successful than its predecessor may not be surprising to those familiar with the author’s love of the Gabriel era of the band. Genesis fans are often split into two camps – those who grew up with or preferred listening to the band’s progressive recordings and those who caught up with the band when they became a trio and started having hits. Whilst Giammetti recognises the strengths of much of the material from the latter period, he does not hide his disdain for certain aspects of the band’s success in the mid-80s. He has a particular dislike of 1986’s Invisible Touch album, which he describes as “the weakest album in the history of Genesis”. He laments that the album was the band at its commercial peak and disliked their use of studio electronics and new musical equipment. Whilst I have some sympathy with his case against synthetic drums (the awful Simmons kits of the day lacked player expression), I challenge his view that the songs on the album were sub-standard – he states “there isn’t a single song that is exceptional”. The album produced five top 5 singles in the US and stayed on the UK album charts for over a year. An album with that much success cannot be written off with the casualness it is here. No-one complains that The Beatles’ pop songs were poor because they were commercial hits, yet with Genesis their later albums are seen as a betrayal by fans who wanted them to carry on producing songs in the way they had done in the 70s. This seeming prejudice aside, Giammetti does acknowledge the band could not sustain itself in a changing musical landscape by clinging to old musical philosophies and accepts the simplification of their sound as a necessity. He is much fairer, and clearer, in his assessment of albums such as Duke and We Can’t Dance. However, it is also obvious the author has personally less to say about the songs from this period in general than he did in his first volume and he leaves most of the words to the band members themselves. A lot of what they say is very interesting and there are again new things to be learned from interviews conducted directly with the author and other sources close to him. The book as a whole is generally a good companion to the earlier volume and is both informative and enlightening through those band interviews. What made the first volume so successful, however, was the marriage of the band’s views with the analysis of the author. Here, though, there is an obvious gap between Giammetti’s view of the material and that of the band. Not a bad thing in itself, but the author’s contrary views are often restricted to a couple of sentences without any real substantive analysis or insight to qualify those sentences. It sounds like I have been harsh on this book because I do not always agree with the author’s view. There is an oft-quoted saying that “opinions are like a**holes – everybody has one.” I would also add that everybody is entitled to one – an opinion that is. I would just like to see those views better expressed and rationalised. In its layout, the book follows the same template as the first volume and the sections covering the tours and the evolving set lists are well laid out. There is also exploration of the music scene and its trends to contrast with the band’s albums. This is a book then that completes Giammetti’s overview of the band and one that is welcome for that, but perhaps the definitive assessment of the band’s career, and in particular the so-called “Collins era”, is still to be written. (Note: Despite the title, Giammetti also covers Ray Wilson’s brief tenure with the band following Collins’ departure in 1996).
18 September 2021 is the 40th anniversary of the release of Genesis’ watershed album Abacab. It was the band’s eleventh studio album and their third as a trio The album saw Genesis deliberately steer themselves into a post-new wave direction by rejecting any material they wrote which they felt was treading old ground or adopting what they considered to be group clichés. Gone were the extended solos, long journey songs and elaborate harmonies and arrangements to be replaced by a stark sonic landscape, shorter and more concise songs and a heightened emphasis on Phil Collins’ drums, building on the sound he created with engineer Hugh Padgham on Peter Gabriel’s third album the year before. Padgham was asked to work on Abacab as engineer to help the band establish a new sound. The album was therefore the band’s most stylistically experimental and challenging since 1974’s The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. I remember buying this album on release and being disappointed after the monumental Duke. Now, I can look back on the album and enjoy for its very willingness to surprise and the band’s determination to progress and adapt their approach to songwriting.
The album opener ‘Abacab’ signals the new direction with its raw energy and Collins’ abrasive vocal. The closing jam was indeed an unedited session that relies on spontaneity and eschews composition. ‘No Reply at All’ is a funky song supported by the Earth, Wind and Fire horn section who had worked on Collins’ solo album Face Value, released as the band were writing Abacab. ‘Me and Sarah Jane’ has a more traditional Genesis feel in its two-part structure, but delves into new influences of reggae. ‘Keep it Dark’ motors along on a repeated guitar riff with Banks holding back on synth harmonies until the chorus. ‘Dodo/Lurker’ is the standout track on the album and blends old and new Genesis perfectly with dramatic sweeps and quirky synth lines. ‘Who Dunnit?’ stirred strong emotions amongst old-school fans for its punkish and tuneless approach and can wear a bit thin after repeated listens. ‘Man on the Corner’ was a wistful Collins written song that relied on its sparse arrangement and drum machine pattern for its atmosphere and maybe a little too close to his ‘In the Air Tonight’ in execution. ‘Like it or Not’ is a plodding Rutherford ballad and ‘Another Record’ tails away after a splendidly atmospheric opening. The songs then were a mixed bag, which could perhaps be expected with the band members eager to experiment. The band indeed had sufficient material for a double album and I think that would have been a way to go to fully appreciate the breadth of material Genesis explored in the sessions. Of the tracks excluded from the album the poppy ‘Paperlate’ and romantic ‘You Might Recall’ were unlucky not to make the cut. ‘Naminanu’ and ‘Submarine’ are interesting instrumentals that were initially considered for a longer suite to be based around ‘Dodo/Lurker’. ‘Me and Virgil’ is the weakest song from the sessions – an unsuccessful attempt to emulate The Band’s western rock formula and containing one of Collins’ weakest lyrical contributions. Abacab is not the band’s best album, but it is perhaps their bravest and forty years on it stands up as a key moment in Genesis history.
ABACAB (Charisma, 18 September 1981) – Album Score – 72%
Tony Banks – keyboards
Phil Collins – drums, vocals
Mike Rutherford – guitars, basses
EWF Horns – horns on ‘No Reply at All’ (and ‘Paperlate’)
Thomas “Tom Tom 84” Washington – horn arrangement on ‘No Reply at All’ (and ‘Paperlate’)
Produced by Genesis
Engineered by Hugh Padgham
Recorded at The Farm, Surrey, March–June 1981
2006 remix by Nick Davis assisted by Tom Mitchell and Geoff Callingham
Album Cover by Bill Smith
Sleeve adaptation by Chris Payton for The Redroom
1. Abacab (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (6:57) **** (A-side single 17/8/81)
2. No Reply at All (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (4:33) ***
3. Me and Sarah Jane (Banks) (6:02) ****
4. Keep it Dark (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (4:32) **** (A-side single 26/10/81)
5. Dodo/Lurker (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (7:31) *****
6. Who Dunnit? (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (3:24) **
7. Man on the Corner (Collins) (4:27) *** (A-side single 8/3/82)
8. Like it or Not (Rutherford) (4:58) ***
9. Another Record (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (4:38) *** (B-side to ‘Abacab’)
1. Naminanu (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (3:54) *** (B-side to ‘Keep it Dark’)
2. Submarine (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (4:37) *** (B-side to ‘Man on the Corner’)
3. Paperlate (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (3:25) **** (‘3×3’ EP 17/5/82)
4. You Might Recall (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (5:35) **** (‘3×3’ EP)
5. Me and Virgil (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (6:19) ** (‘3×3’ EP)
GENESIS 3 (2020) *****
by Robert Ellis
Published by The Rock Library, 6 October 2020, 286pp
© The Rock Library, 2020
Blurb: This hard back book measures 250x297mm, has 286 pages, and contains over 600 images. It is not a history or a biography. It is a collection of my photographs from the Genesis line up of Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins. It is arranged in chronological order and spans the tours and events I was at. It begins in 1978 with ‘…and then there were three…’ and continues up to 1987 and ‘Invisible Touch’. I have unearthed a few surprises along the way that even I had forgotten. Take a colourful and spectacular journey down Genesis memory lane with me and a few fans who have contributed their stories.
Comment: Genesis 3 is a hefty photographic album aimed at die-hard Genesis fans, I received this book as a gift from my parents for my 60th birthday. Robert Ellis has delved into his archive of photographs of the band from the period 1978 to 1987 and come up with some real gems. The book covers the majority of the Tony Banks/Phil Collins/Mike Rutherford trio years, where on stage they were augmented by guitarist Daryl Stuermer and drummer Chester Thompson. Included are sessions from the band’s rehearsals for the …And Then There Were Three… shows and on the road from the subsequent tour; individual sessions with band members in 1979 during the hiatus between Three and Duke; promotional shots for the Duke album; coverage of the Abacab, Three Sides Live, Genesis and Invisible Touch rehearsals and tours. The bountiful collection of photographs is printed on hefty paper making for good quality prints and a heavy tome. Whilst it also carries a hefty price tag this wonderful book is a true collector’s item and will be a much treasured part of my band collection.
Photos have emerged this week of Genesis in rehearsal in London for their The Last Domino? tour, due to hit the UK in April 2021. Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford have been joined by guitarist Daryl Stuermer and Phil’s son Nic on drums. The band was originally to have toured in November and December of this year, but the concerts were postponed due to the Coronavirus. Whilst it is by no means certain the band will be able to fulfil the dates next April, we keep our collective fingers crossed.
The dates for the tour are:
Thursday 1, Glasgow SSE Hydro
Friday 2, Glasgow SSE Hydro
Monday 5, Birmingham Utilita Arena
Tuesday 6, Birmingham Utilita Arena
Wednesday 7, Birmingham Utilita Arena
Friday 9, Newcastle Utilita Arena
Saturday 10, Newcastle Utilita Arena
Monday 12, Manchester Arena
Tuesday 13, Manchester Arena
Thursday 15, Dublin 3Arena
Friday 16, Dublin 3Arena
Sunday 18, Belfast SSE Arena
Wednesday 21, Leeds First Direct Arena
Thursday 22, Leeds First Direct Arena
Saturday 24, Liverpool M&S Bank Arena
Sunday 25, Liverpool M&S Bank Arena
Tuesday 27, London O2 Arena
Thursday 29, London O2 Arena
Friday 30, London O2 Arena
GENESIS – 1967 TO 1975: THE PETER GABRIEL YEARS (2020) ****½
by Mario Giammetti
This paperback edition published by Kingmaker Publishing, 2020, 252pp
First published in Italy by Giunti Editore, 2013
© Mario Giammetti, 2013/2020
Blurb: The definitive biography of the early years of one the world’s greatest rock bands! The book contains numerous exclusive interviews with band members and with all the important personalities who were part of the story of Genesis between 1967 and 1975. Features a number photographs which have never been published previously, plus interviews carried out with individual members of Genesis during listen through of each of the band’s first six albums. Mario Giammetti is an Italian music journalist with over 30 years experience. He has written for numerous leading Italian music magazines. In 1991 he founded Dusk (www.dusk.it) the only printed magazine in the world dedicated to Genesis. He has written 14 books related to the world of Genesis. Genesis 1967 to 1975: The Peter Gabriel Years is his first book to be published in English.
Comment: This is the English language release of Mario Giammetti’s biography/chronicle of the period of Genesis’ history when Peter Gabriel fronted the band. It covers the band’s transition from schoolboy songwriters at Charterhouse Public School to becoming one of the top progressive rock acts of the 1970s. For many older fans of the band this is the so-called “classic” period encompassing six studio albums and an extensive touring programme. Although billed as a “biography” the book largely focuses on the music. It draws extensively on interviews with each of the band members and their associates, conducted by the author and Mike Kaufman (the latter extended from those included in the 2006-8 remix box set Extras DVDs) over the period 2000 to 2015 – so there is a small amount of new material to update the Italian language version published seven years ago. Giammetti’s book makes for a fascinating read and unearths a lot of new detail (to those unfamiliar with the Italian language) around the writing and recording of each of the band’s albums during this period. Three of the band members (Tony Banks, Steve Hackett and Anthony Phillips) were also involved in listening sessions with the author on the albums, so were able to offer fresh perspectives on the material. For me (having recently completed my own book on the band’s output) this was the most interesting part of the book and there were a number of new details I discovered as a result. The book is well organised chronologically by album and tour and handsomely illustrated, with a number of rare photos. For a Genesis fan – particularly of that period in the band’s history – this is a must. It stands proudly alongside Armando Gallo’s classic I Know What I Like and the band’s own Chapter & Verse in its coverage and the insights it offers. The book ends with the words “To be continued” and I eagerly look forward to part two of the story. I hope too that Giammetti’s other output on the band and its members gets the translation treatment on the back of this excellent book.
A GENESIS IN MY BED: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (2020) ****
by Steve Hackett
This hardback edition published by Wymer Publishing, 2020, 167pp plus index)
© Stephen Hackett / Wymer Publishing, 2020
Marketing Blurb: The long overdue autobiography from guitar great and former member of Genesis, Steve Hackett. As with his music, Steve has written a highly detailed, entertaining and embracing tome that charts his life in full, but with a firm emphasis on his years with Genesis that saw the band’s meteoric rise to become one of the most successful British bands of all time. Steve talks candidly about his early life, his time with Genesis, and in particular his personal relationships with the other four band members, with great insight into the daily goings on of this major rock band. Naturally A Genesis In My Bed also regales stories of Steve’s career since leaving Genesis and the many different journeys that it has taken him on. With his flair for the creative, and a great deal of levity, A Genesis In My Bed is a riveting read. Indispensable for Genesis fans but also essential for general music lovers and avid readers of autobiographies full of heartfelt and emotive tales.
Comment: The first thing you notice about Steve Hackett’s autobiography is the brief page count. This is both a blessing and a curse. It makes the read quick and concise but also sketches over details that dedicated fans may have wanted, notably on his later solo career. That said I found the book hugely enjoyable and after reading it felt, as a result, I knew much more about what makes Hackett tick – his insecurities in particular. His writing is literate and informative and full of anecdotes. The book is effectively split into three sections: Growing up and family life pre-Genesis; the Genesis years and his post-Genesis solo career. The first section gives much insight into the formation of Hackett’s personality. A shy youngster lacking in self-confidence, but with a natural musical ability, striving to find his niche. His ultimate link up with Genesis, via an interesting Melody Maker ad, is well known through band biographies.
Hackett’s time with the band highlights his initial reticence to assert himself, although he was instrumental in the band purchasing a Mellotron, which helped transform their sound. He grew in confidence once Gabriel had left the band – Hackett had recorded his first solo album, in the interim between The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and A Trick of the Tail. His newfound confidence through solo compositions became more apparent on Wind & Wuthering, but also sowed the seeds for his leaving Genesis when his intention to continue a solo career alongside the band was vetoed by Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford. His ultimate departure was swift, during the mixing of the live album Seconds Out. At the time Hackett let some of his frustrations out in subsequent press interviews. Here, looking back with the benefit of hindsight, he is more objective and sees how if he had been more patient he may well have been able to combine the two further down the road – as became apparent once Banks, Rutherford and Phil Collins launched their own solo careers only two or three years later. Hackett is very complimentary of his former bandmates and makes it clear they all get on well, despite occasional disagreements and insensitivities – notably the editing out of Hackett’s solo career from the band’s 2004 documentary Together and Apart.
The latter part of the book, covering Hackett’s post-Genesis solo career is the most sketchy and therefore least informative – although he candidly documents the stresses of managing his solo career as well as his post-punk struggles with the record companies and the music press. Hackett comes across as an immensely likeable bloke, whose desire to nurture talent and have a settled and supportive partner has been his driving force. His third wife Jo has been a keen supporter and soulmate. Hackett’s return to the Genesis archive to mix the band’s songs with his own solo output in his live set confirms he has come to terms with his inner self and is probably the happiest he has ever been. His final words, “I have finally found home,” confirm this. A pleasurable and heartwarming read.
I received the following e-mail from McFarland promoting a 2-week 40% discount offer on popular culture books, which will include my titles The World of Shaft and The Songs of Genesis:
From our founding in 1979, McFarland has championed serious scholarship about popular culture. Longtime customers remember the classics like Bill Warren’s Keep Watching the Skies!—how many of you own the original hardcover in yellow cloth binding? Today, popular culture studies is perhaps our best-known line, with more than 2,000 books about horror and science fiction film, old time radio, biographies from the Golden Age of Hollywood, current television series, theatre, dance…whatever your interest, you’re sure to find it here. To express our appreciation for readers old and new, we’re offering 40% off ALL titles about popular culture through May 17 with coupon code POP40.
We wanted to fill you in so you can spread the word or take advantage of it yourself. The sale will be shared on McFarland’s website and social media sites first thing on the morning of Monday, May 4…we welcome your likes/shares/retweets.
My new book The Songs of Genesis: A Complete Guide to the Studio Recordings was published by McFarland & Co. on 14 April and is available to order from their site. The book will be available from most online booksellers at some point in May. Kindle versions are available now from Amazon.
I have had confirmation from my publisher, McFarland & Co., that the suggestion of title for my forthcoming Genesis book has been agreed and is The Songs of Genesis: A Complete Guide to the Studio Recordings. I’ll post further updates as the book progresses toward publication.