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.
MY BOOK OF GENESIS (2017) ****
by Richard Macphail (with Chris Charlesworth; Foreword by Peter Gabriel)
Published by Argyll & Bute, 2017, 234pp
Blurb: School friend, aide-de-camp and tour manager, Richard Macphail was for almost five years the glue that held Genesis together, and in his affectionate memoir My Book of Genesis he tells his own unique story of the group’s early years. Richard was the singer in Anon, the Charterhouse school group that included Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips, which would later merge with Peter Gabriel and Tony Banks’ group The Garden Wall to become Genesis. Richard then became their one-man road crew, shepherding them from gig to gig, providing a cottage where they could live and rehearse and offering support when it was most needed. Richard was there when Phil Collins was auditioned, when Steve Hackett was recruited to replace Anthony Phillips and when Peter Gabriel left for a solo career. He was in the thick of it as they fulfilled their ambitions, signing to Charisma, touring Europe and America and recording a series of albums that fans fondly remember as the bedrock of Genesis’ extraordinary career. In his book’s final chapters he describes his ongoing relationship with Peter, Mike, Tony, Phil and Steve, a friendship that has endured for over 50 years. Featuring contributions from all the members of Genesis and co-written with former Melody Maker journalist Chris Charlesworth, My Book Of Genesis is both revealing and forthright, an insider’s account that fans will treasure.
An interesting account of the rise of a rock group in the days when bands had to work for their success. Some lovely stories and anecdotes of the author’s time with Genesis, from their beginnings at Charterhouse through to them cementing their prog-rock status in 1973 with “Selling England by the Pound”. Macphail was the unsung hero and his enthusiasm and encouragement helped to see the band through some early setbacks. He was the band’s champion, driver, technician, sound engineer, road manager and cook through their formative years and all the band contribute to his story, confirming their gratitude toward a free spirit who they saw as a sixth member.
GENESIS – THE ULTIMATE MUSIC GUIDE (2017, Uncut, 122pp) ∗∗∗∗
Blurb: The Ultimate Music Guide: Genesis, then, seeks to explain the whole shapeshifting brilliance of the band. We’ve delved deep into the archives of NME and Melody Maker, finding interviews with the members that have languished unseen for decades. You’ll see characters emerging and plans being formulated, key figures stepping in and out of the spotlight. A career path being mapped out that does not always appear obvious, but which incrementally builds Genesis into one of the biggest bands of their era. Alongside all these revelatory interviews, we’ve written in-depth new reviews of every single Genesis album, from their 1969 debut right up until 1997’s Calling All Stations, stopping off at all auspicious points in between. We’ve also investigated the significant solo careers: not just of Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, but of Steve Hackett, Anthony Phillips, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, too. It’s a tricky tale, but an endlessly rewarding one.
Uncut‘s series of The UltimateMusic Guide finally gets around to Genesis. The magazine stretches to 122 pages covering all aspect of the band. Each album is reviewed by a different writer, which ensures they get a dedicated hearing, but also means there are some inconsistencies in terms of judgement and comment. Having said that, there is an admirable balance across the whole of the band’s output as the writers resist falling into the trap of siding with the 5-man line-up or the trio. What this means, however, is that some tracks within the albums are not rated according to their status within the fan base. Classic Genesis songs like Firth of Fifth, I Know What I Like, Los Endos, Afterglow, Duke’s Travels/Duke’s End, Home by the Sea, Domino and Fading Lights all receive just 3-stars, which is hard to accept. However, everyone will have their own favourites and there are some compelling arguments here for the stance taken. The interviews pulled from the archives of NME and Melody Maker are weighted toward the early years. Both papers took with the punk crowd in the late 70s and were savage in their treatment of Genesis thereafter – the later review extracts demonstrate this. The band members’ solo careers are also covered, with particularly interesting perspectives on the output of both Peter Gabriel and Phil Colins. Despite its flaws, this is a good read and an interesting take on a band that, despite its popularity with the music buying public, continues to divide opinion amongst critics.
TONY BANKS – A CHORD TOO FAR (2015, Esoteric, 4CDs) ∗∗∗∗
- Rebirth – From Soundtracks
- At The Edge Of Night – From The Fugitive
- Walls Of Sound – From Strictly Inc.
- Lion Of Symmetry – From Soundtracks
- The More I Hide It – From Bankstatement
- Shortcut To Somewhere – From Soundtracks
- The Waters Of Lethe – From A Curious Feeling
- I Wanna Change The Score – From Still
- Water Out Of Wine – From Still
- Something To Live For – From Strictly Inc.
- By You – From The Fugitive
- Never Let Me Know – From Strictly Inc.
- Thirty Three’s – From The Fugitive
- Charity Balls – From Strictly Inc.
- An Island In The Darkness – From Strictly Inc.
- The Border – From Bankstatement
- Lucky Me – From A Curious Feeling
- Another Murder Of A Day – From Still
- Moving Under – From The Fugitive
- Still It Takes Me By Surprise – From Still
- Red Day On Blue Street – From Still
- After The Lie – From A Curious Feeling
- Redwing – From Soundtracks
- Queen Of Darkness – From Bankstatement
- A Piece Of You – From Strictly Inc.
- Big Man – From Bankstatement
- Angel Face – From Still
- This Is Love – From The Fugitive
- I’ll Be Waiting – From Bankstatement
- Back To Back – From Still
- For A While – From A Curious Feeling
- Throwback – From Bankstatement
- You Call This Victory – From Soundtracks
- And The Wheels Keep Turning – From The Fugitive
- You – From A Curious Feeling
- The Final Curtain – From Still
- Blade – From Six Pieces For Orchestra
- Black Down – From Seven
- Siren – From Six Pieces For Orchestra
- Earthlight – From Seven
- From The Undertow – From A Curious Feeling
- Spring Tide – Demo
- Neap Tide – Demo
- City Of Gold – Demo
- The Chase – From The Wicked Lady
- Kit – From The Wicked Lady
- Poppet – Previously Unreleased
- The Wicked Lady – From The Wicked Lady
Tony Banks is the most influential contributor to the Genesis sound and yet his solo career has been the least successful of all the band’s core members. Listening to this excellent collection it is evident that his solo output is of a high quality and should appeal to Genesis’ fan base. But where Banks has suffered in comparison to his band mates is in the personality department. He has never been at home in the limelight and his reluctance to front his own songs – with the exception of The Fugitive, he has relied on others to interpret his songs – has led to them having a lack of identity. Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel had the advantage of being singers in the first place, whilst Mike Rutherford employed two of the best in Paul Carrack and Paul Young for his Mike + The Mechanics project. Secondly Banks has never been one to compromise or overly simplify and whilst many of the songs here eschew his prog rock roots, they also are more complex in structure and harmony and therefore more challenging to the listener.The first thing you notice about this collection is the excellent remixes of tracks from the earlier albums – notably the period of A Curious Feeling through to Bankstatement. The initial CD releases had lacked a certain dynamic quality, which has been fixed here bringing new life to those tracks (A Curious Feeling having already been spruced up a couple of years ago). Banks has also sequenced the 4 CVDs and not simply followed a timeline. This gives a good balance to the collection and allows for some new creativity with the morph of the gentle instrumental “Redwing” into the rocking “At the Edge of Night” working particularly well at the outset.
Banks has employed some significant talent over the years and they are evident over the first 3 CDs. Singer Kim Beacon and Genesis touring drummer Chester Thompson worked on his debut A Curious Feeling, which remains the album from his solo career that Banks feels closest to with six of the tracks featured here. It was the album that was closest to his work with Genesis and it remains a very satisfying experience. Banks sang himself on 1983’s The Fugitive and did a decent job. The songs were simpler and more pop orientated, but still has the essence of Banks’ ear for harmony and chord structure. Five tracks are represented here. The Wicked Lady (1983) and Soundtracks (1985) featured instrumental and vocal work he had contributed to films in the early to mid 1980s. The synth pop of “Lion of Symmetry” is a classic example of how Banks can build a song with Toyah Wilcox supplying distinct vocals and lyrics.
The catchy “Shortcut to Somewhere” was one of three collaborations with former Marillion vocalist Fish. The other two coming from 1991’s Still – the brooding “Angel Face” and the meandering but dramatic “Another Murder of a Day” actually work much better. That album also saw him link up with 1980s pop star Nik Kershaw as well as Andy Taylor and Jayney Klimek, having worked with the latter on Bankstatement two years earlier. Alistair Gordon was the other vocalist on that album.
Banks’ tasteful compositions and arrangements are evidenced on tracks such as the breathy “I’ll Be Waiting” and the reflective “The Final Curtain”. His taste for the epic is demonstrated with the 17-minute “An Island in the Darkness” from 1995’s Strictly Inc on which Banks collaborated with vocalist Jack Hues of the Hues Corporation fame. The lack of success of that album in particular led to Banks moving into the classical world where he could be more true to his flare for melody, harmony and complex musical structures. Seven (2004) and then Six (2012) followed to warm reception and this work forms the majority of CD4, on which there are also his demos of some of the pieces that would appear on these albums.
All in all this is an excellent collection, but one primarily targeted at Genesis’ and Banks’ fan base. To those curious to find out more It serves as a splendid sampler to one of rock’s most creative writers and inspirational keyboard players. The set comes with a beautifully presented and illustrated 60-page book written by Banks himself. There is the promise of a re-release of Banks’ full catalogue in 5.1 Surround to follow. It is a catalogue worthy of re-appraisal.
GENESIS – R-KIVE (2014, Virgin, 3CDs) ∗∗∗∗∗
Songs: Disc 1: The Knife; The Musical Box; Supper’s Ready; The Cinema Show; I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe); The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway; Back In N.Y.C.; The Carpet Crawlers; Ace of Wands (Steve Hackett); Disc 2: Ripples; Afterglow; Solsbury Hill (Peter Gabriel); Follow You Follow Me; For A While (Tony Banks); Every Day (Steve Hackett); Biko (Peter Gabriel); Turn It On Again; In The Air Tonight (Phil Collins); Abacab; Mama; That’s All; Easy Lover (Phil Collins); Silent Running (Mike + The Mechanics); Disc 3: Invisible Touch; Land Of Confusion; Tonight Tonight Tonight; The Living Years (Mike + The Mechanics); Red Day on Blue Street (Tony Banks); I Can’t Dance; No Son of Mine; Hold On My Heart; Over My Shoulder (Mike + The Mechanics); Calling All Stations; Signal to Noise (Peter Gabriel); Wake Up Call (Phil Collins); Nomads (Steve Hackett); Siren (Tony Banks)
Whilst there is a certain logic in a compilation of the music of Genesis alongside solo songs from the 1971-5 line-up (of which each member chooses three each – not always the obvious ones). The end result is unlikely to satisfy hardcore fans of the band or any of the artists individually. For that you would need to look to each member’s solo compilation packages and Genesis’ Platinum Collection.
But this package is not aimed at the band’s collective or individual core fan base. It is designed to re-introduce and familiarise the music buying public with the extraordinary breadth of talent that came from this group of five writers and musicians. Arguably the only such instance outside The Beatles themselves.
The package is also an obvious tie-in to the BBC documentary Together and Apart (due for broadcast on 4 October 2014) and the Blu-Ray/DVD release to follow, The Sum of The Parts. As such it is an adequate reminder of the varied music produced by the members individually as well as the transition of the band from experimental prog-rock to a more mainstream approach. There are Genesis fans who like one and dislike the other and those who like it all. I fall into the latter camp having come on board with Duke in 1980, then having rapidly collected the back catalogue – in reverse order. Each new album from Abacab (1981) onward would also bring something new to the band’s history. That album in particular seems to be the dividing point for the fans who like prog Genesis only and those who like mainstream Genesis only.
What the solo material shows is how diverse these musician are individually. Gabriel explores world music and rhythms; Collins perfects a version of white soul; Rutherford produces finely crafted and tuneful songs; Hackett stays closest to his prog roots but explores different guitar styles such as flamenco; Banks loves challenging harmonies and an orchestral approach.
The music they produced together as Genesis has elements of all these things, but the hybrid makes for an even more exciting listen. The band evolved through musical epics such as Supper’s Ready via the surreal imagery of I Know What I Like and Carpet Crawlers with Gabriel fronting the band to the beautiful melodies of Ripples and Afterglow more suited to Collins’ vocal style. After Hackett’s departure, some of the adventure, but none of the craft disappeared. Mama is a bitingly hot tale of obsession that demonstrated the band could still produce challenging music alongside the hits.
As a collector of the band’s music I have purchased this and it will sit with the rest of their output. As a fan, it is unlikely it will be the prime source of my future listening – I will return to individual albums to enjoy all phases of the band’s career. But for casual listeners this will open up the band’s broader catalogue and serve as a strong representation of the talent within the Genesis family.