Thirty years are a mighty long time. Few other bands have reached that mark and remained as successful as Genesis. When you ask people what they consider the time Genesis were at their peak, you are bound to be receive a broad range of answers because every era of Genesis has its special appeal. That’s not least because of the versatility and they way they again and again left their mark on the way the international world of music developed. Many faces are linked to this band: No less than ten musicians consider(ed) themselves part of the line-up and seven more assisted them at one point or other. For example, eight people alone took their seats at the drumkit for Genesis releases so far, and there are hardly any bands that produced as many and so successful solo and side projects as Genesis: Peter Gabriel, Mike & The Mechanics, GTR, BrandX and let’s not forget Phil Collins. It’s somewhat hard to remember that things started out so simple,
It all began at Charterhouse, a Christian conservative school in Godalming. The band without a name that came out of the fusion of school bands Anon and The Garden Wall first tried their hand at songs by the Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and Otis Redding before the musicians discovered their talent as songwriters. Charterhouse alumnus Jonathan King, who was a successful artist and producer at the time, took the young band under his wings. He produced a couple of singles and their debut record From Genesis To Revelation which showed them to be quite under his influence. Because of the title, the record was misunderstood by many as a religious effort. Record stores therefore put it into their religious section when it came out in March 1969, and it proved a solid flop.
After this failure, King and Genesis went their different ways. The band got to work on their obvious lack of professionalism. In the eighteen months before their next release, Trespass, they rehearsed, wrote songs, recorded demo and played gigs with ever-increasing frequency.
The boss of Charisma Records, Tony Stratton-Smith, who noticed the band because they played so many concerts, became a reliable partner to back them and to spread the word. They recorded a well-chosen set of their material with John Mayhew on the drums and released the album in September 1970. Though the album was another commercial failure, Trespass still proved the musical cornerstone for years to come. Since he felt not up to the stress of a musical career, guitarist and songwriter Anthony Phillips left the band, and its not too innovative drummer Mayhew had to go. He was replaced by the former drummer of Flaming Youth, a man by the name of Phil Collins. They began to promote the upcoming album as a four-piece. For a while, Mick Barnard stepped in on the guitar, but it soon showed that he was not up to the much-improved quality of the music. After a long search for the right musician, Steve Hackett, the ex-guitarist of Quiet World, proved just the man for the job so that the band could begin to work on their next album.
Nursery Cryme was released in autumn 1971. Despite the change in the line-up, it closely resembled its predecessor. Charisma did not put much effort into promoting the album. It was therefore most surprising that the record turned out to be a success in Italy and Belgium. This led to Genesis’ first performances outside the UK. The boost of confidence prompted the band to begin writing new material even during the tour. Peter Gabriel’s increasingly bizarre experiments with hair-do(n’t)s, make-up, masks and costumes did much toward Genesis receiving more attention by the press.
Their 1972 album Foxtrot is considered a milestone by many. It offered numerous later classics such as Supper’s Ready so that made it a good basis to try and make it in the States – an attempt which worked very well after the first couple of shows in the U.S. In order to bridge the gap to their next studio album, the band released a live album in early 1973. It was simply called Live, covered material from Trespass onwards and drew attention to their previous albums. This, in turn, gave Genesis time to work on new songs.
By that time they had made a name of themselves even in home country. Genesis’ next album, Selling England By The Pound (1973) even had a real single hit to offer, I Know What I Like. There were also important classics like Firth Of Fifth on the album. The release was followed by extensive tours through Europe, the United States and Canada.
Work on their next album proved difficult. Front man Peter Gabriel was toying with the idea of other projects after more than five years with Genesis. He also was the first one to have a family. Still, the band managed to top their previous success when, in 1974, the concept double album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway was released. Ninety minutes of music allowed the musicians ample space for experiments not only during the recordings but also in the way the material was presented live. Except for the encores, they played only the new material, surrounded by a sensational multimedia show that was absolutely unheard-of at the time. The 1975 tour was marked and closes by the departure of Peter Gabriel who did not feel comfortable anymore in the automatics of success.
When another member of the band, Steve Hackett, released a solo album (Voyage Of The Acolyte), most people concluded that Genesis were at an end. Despite the impression that the remaining four-piece were unable to find a replacement for Peter Gabriel, the enormous success of their 1976 record A Trick Of The Tail proved that the band had taken the crisis and the pressure it had caused very well. For the first time – and at first only as a make-shift solution – Phil Collins had taken up the additional position of singer. The lightness songs and classics like Los Endos lent the album made the Genesis fan base grow. In order to enable Phil to fill the role of the new front man, Genesis hired Bill Bruford as a new drummer who had already enjoyed fame both with Yes and King Crimson.
At the end of that same year the next album Wind & Wuthering was released. Though it offered not too many new things musically, it still kept up the high standards. A tendency began to show that the band did not produce their new material by jamming as a group, but making use of songs that individual members of the band brought in. Their 1977 world tour was not only their biggest tour so far, but it also marked the end of another chapter in the history of Genesis. It was material taken mainly from this tour (for which Chester Thompson, former drummer with Weather Report and Frank Zappa, took his place on the drum stool) that was released on a double live album (Seconds Out, 1977). Soon after, guitarist Steve Hackett left the band. By that time, he had already released his first solo record and was not prepared to compromise his musical ideas with other members of the band.
The remaining trio of Banks, Collins and Rutherford had weathered worse crises than this one. They battled through and began recording their next studio release that was aptly called ,And Then There Were Three, Bass player Rutherford, who up to then had only occasionally played the rhythm guitar, now also took up the role of lead guitarist. Almost all the songs on the album were written by an individual band member. What’s even more remarkable, the songs were much shorter and much more compact than anything Genesis had hitherto released, their debut album excepted. This shift towards accessibility gave the band their first world-wide hit in 1978, Follow You Follow Me. Apparently the band had coped well with Hackett’s departure. The ensuing tour took the band even into Asia. Live, guitarist Daryl Stuermer (formerly with the Jean-Luc Ponty band) augmented the band. The larger the shows became and the longer the tours went on, the more grew Phil’s private problems. He had to decide between Genesis and his family. After ten stressful years the band took some time off.
Banks and Rutherford used their free time in 1979 for first attempts at solo albums. Collins recorded some more music with the fusion combo Brand X, with whom he had been working on and off since the mid-70s. When Collins and his wife finally divorced, Genesis got together again.
The outcome of all this was released on the album Duke in 1980. The things the band had experienced in the meantime had a strong influence on the sound of the band. The songs were fresher and had a simpler structure than those of the previous album. Plus the band went back to writing songs together. Despite successful singles the tour was intentionally kept short. Genesis only played North America and assorted smaller venues in the UK.
Before Genesis’ next record, Phil Collins released his solo album Face Value and the single In The Air Tonight. The success of both made him a world-wide star.
The recording sessions for Genesis next release, Abacab, were the first to take place at The Farm, Surrey, a complex of studios set up especially for Genesis activities so that the band was not under any pressure of time anymore. The outcome was an album that had developed almost exclusively from jams. Star producer Hugh Padgham gave it a modern sound that was all new for the band that had turned into megastars not least because of Collins’ solo successes. They went on tour in the tried and trusted live outfit. Since their (tour) repertoire had undergone drastic changes the band decided to released their third live album in 1982. Three Sides Live was a double album that in addition to the live material consisted also of a couple of outtakes from previous recording sessions. Further concerts promoted the album. Rutherford’s birthday (October 02, 1982) marked the date when the only live reunion of the classic outfit with Gabriel and Hackett took place. It was a one-off show to save Gabriel’s WOMAD project from bankruptcy. After that, the three musicians spent the remainder of 1982 with new solo projects.
But it was in the very next year that their next record became available. It was simply called Genesis to stress the fact that only group efforts made it onto the album. The corresponding single, Mama, became an anthem for both the band and the fans. It represented modern Genesis as a trio. Once more the played shows all over the world which were hailed as the biggest and most sophisticated ever. That was 1984.
The interval between Genesis releases grew longer when Collins’ solo career took up more and more time. In the meantime, Mike found unexpected success with his new formation Mike + The Mechanics.
It was only in 1986 that the muse glanced at the band again and sparked another joint effort. The outcome was called Invisible Touch. This album was rather close to pop music and therefore it spawned lots of hit singles that reached the top of the charts. A gigantic tour from late 1986 to summer 1987 delighted fans all around the globe. After the strains of this continuing wave of success the Banks / Collins / Rutherford collective took their time before they began to work on the next album. This in turn fanned rumours that the band would dissolve. However, even though the three spent ever more time on their solo projects, they still kept an eye on Genesis.
Four years later, in 1991, both the band and the world were ready for another Genesis opus. The musicians had found a renewed interest in more sophisticated arrangements, and so many fans that had been disappointed with the previous album rejoined the flock. Almost automatically, We Can’t Dance and its single releases stormed up the charts. It seemed as if Genesis could do whatever they wanted. Only the largest venues and stadiums could cope with the demand for tickets. The numerous congregation of world-wide hits was released just before Christmas on a live compilation The Way We Walk – The Shorts. Early in 1993, a corresponding compilation consisting of longer modern Genesis pieces was released under the title of The Way We Walk – The Longs. It was obvious that after this incredible stretch of success fans would have to do without new Genesis material for a couple of years.
And then the bomb burst: “Collins leaves Genesis!” Well, it was not too surprising for many people because there simply wasn’t any time left between all the highly successful solo activities the singer of Genesis was involved in. Those, however, who considered this the death of the Genesis project, were wrong. Despite their solo careers, Messieurs Banks and Rutherford still felt the joy of making music together. They also realized that a crisis always is the opportunity for a new beginning.
They had to find a new singer. Their choice, the young and little-known former singer with Stiltskin by the name of Ray Wilson turned out to be just what they needed. He could interpret the new and darker material that Banks and Rutherford has almost completed in the meantime perfectly. A fresh breeze blew through the house of Genesis. Of course, nobody expected the 1997 album Calling All Stations to be an overwhelming success like the previous release with superstar Phil Collins. The band was nevertheless surprised at how bad the album did in the States, and consequently the whole American tour was cancelled. In Europe, the new Genesis line-up was accepted by a majority of the fans. The tour through medium-size venues with less technical gadgets than before befitted the current status of the band. They also had new musicians on stage who would replace Chester Thompson and Daryl Stuermer. Nir Z. (another very new face) played the drums – he had shared this job with Nick D’Virgilio on the album – while the other new boy Anthony Drennan played the guitar and the bass guitar.
By summer 1998, everybody could go back to their own projects but before they did the ghosts from the past were conjured. Since the mid 1990s, they had been thinking about the Genesis Archive project, a 4CD box which included numerous previously unreleased studio and live rarities from the Gabriel era. Now they finally had the time to finally complete and release it. All the musicians involved had the opportunity to re-record parts they were not happy with. For most of them, this was a kind of reunion of the old line-up. In fact, the band had planned to record a new version of the classic The Carpet Crawlers from the Lamb album. This new version, however, was not completed for the deadline. It has since been released on another Genesis album. Shortly before the turn of the millennium the compilation Turn It On Again – The Hits combined the band biggest (commercial) hits from their career and the aforementioned new recording by the old outfit.
The summer of 2000 brought a couple of news items both good and bad. On the one hand, rumours thickened that there would not be another Genesis album with Ray Wilson and that the band was “resting”. On the other hand, the second Archive Box set was released. Contrary to preceding announcements it was shorter. Three CDs covered the complete Collins era, which left the set anything but complete. In autumn, a curious little reunion took place. Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford were complemented by Daryl Stuermer for a semi-acoustical set to honor their manager Tony Smith. Peter Gabriel sat in the audience, but he joined his colleagues onstage for a photoshooting. Rumours about a reunion began to spread again.
In the years since these rumours ceased to fly around. Steve Hackett and Phil Collins in particular expressed their willingness to participate in such a project. Only Peter Gabriel declared that he would not do it “as long as I don’t run out of money and ideas”. Gabriel, Hackett and Collins embarked on major world tours, and the definitive cover band The Musical Box toured the globe with their shows. In 2001, Genesis began to re-release their video material on DVD. The beginning was made with The Way We Walk, a double DVD set from the 1992 shows at Earls Court. After that came the new encounter with the Invisible Touch tour video, the DVD of which was called Live At Wembley Stadium. In between these releases fans were kept happy with The Genesis Songbook, a documentary about the band. The latest offering was a double release of the Platinum Collection (3CD) and The Video Show DVD, which comprised all music videos from Ripples to The Carpet Crawlers 1999. The Platinum Collection is the first true presentation of their complete oeuvre on three CDs with new and improved mixes of the original songs.
In 2005 and particularly in 2006 rumours thickened that there would be a reunion. Even Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett mentioned this topic several times, sometimes in a neutral way, sometimes saying that they were not up for it, sometimes saying they were.
In November 2006 Genesis let the cat out of the bag: Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford held a press conference in London and revealed that they would be touring Europe and North America in 2007. The “selection of shows” (Collins) called Turn It On Again – The Tour, they said, was mainly something they did to have some fun. While they would not be working with Peter Gabriel on the tour they did not rule out in principle that they might work with him again.
In 2007 the band finally delighted their fans by going on tour again. After the dress rehearsal in Brussels, Belgium, on 04/06/2007 the tour premiered at Helsinki on 11/06. They played 22 stadium gigs all over Europe before the band visited the largest arenas and stadiums in North America in September and October. The tour ended in Los Angeles on October 13; since then there have been rumours about an extension of the tour into other areas of the world. March and September 2007 respectively saw the releases of the long-expected SACD/DVD sets 1976-1982 and 1983-1998 – all Genesis studio albums and almost all non-album tracks from these periods were released as new mixes in stereo and 5.1 surround sound. In autumn they also brought out Live Over Europe, their first live album to include all songs from their tour.
The fans kept waiting excitedly for the tour DVD – and they were not disappointed. When In Rome 2007 is a 3 DVD set with a long tour documentary called Come Rain Or Shine. Another first was an almost Europe-wide cinema event that accompanied the release: The documentary was shown in a number of cinemas all over Europe before a live interview session with Genesis was broadcast live into these cinemas. In autumn the last studio boxset 1970-1975 came out with the new mixes of the Gabriel-era albums, and it reached a sensational #22 in the German album charts. There were persistent rumours about an upcoming Lamb tour or a continuation of the Turn It On Again tour. These were crushed when Gabriel announced a Latin American tour for 2009 and also announced that he would not play another tour in 2009. Later a number of different projects were unveiled such as the 1973-2007 Live boxset (no SACDs, but CD/DVD discs and not video material) and the 1981-2007 Movie Box. Bad news shocked fans everywhere in late summer: Phil Collins cannot play the drums anymore in the foreseeable future because of a neck surgery.
It seems, though, as if the band and their myth was more attractive than ever, and it seems the way to a “definitive reunion” is perhaps not paved yet, but certainly prepared.