What began at the beginning, has five members, a fox's head and iseight Years old?
If You guessed Genesis that's good, but not great, becauseright now you are only one of a growing number of fans who think of Genesisas more than just another group.
Mind you it's taken time, because the group has changed itspersonnel, its managers, and its record companies at venous stages in itscareer and though the musical development has in a sense been constantin that the group's beliefs and instrumental formula have remained, there'salways been that slight doubt that they would continue.
Indeed, in the early stages of their career Genesis were inserious danger of breaking up. At that time (1966) their lea guitaristwas Anthony Phillips and their drummer John Mayhew.
You can still hear the results of those early days on theirfirst album ''From Genesis to Revelation'' for Decca, which followed theirdiscovery by the infamous (or was he outrageous then?) Jonathan King
The album exhibits a side of the band which might have ledthem along the path of another Kingly group, the Hedgehoppers, i.e. dignifiedobscurity and it's a good pointer to where the group was at, just out ofCharterhouse public school and coyly baring their soul to a commercialworld. Their attitude was lighthearted enough not to be too important,general enough to be forgotten and romantic enough to show their insecurity,while at the same time one felt they were holding to some moral creed.
It shows in the Lyrics:
Am I very wrong
To hide behind the glare of an openminded stare
Am I very wrong
To wander in the fear of a neverending lie
Am I very wrong
To try to close my ears to the sound they play so loud Am I verywrong The happiness machine is trying hard to sing my song
Note the lack of a question mark hinting perhaps that the 'question'is more of a statement
Basically the album is downbeat, with plenty of use of echo,for which incidentally Gabriel employs a smooth, rich voice instead ofthat rather hoarse desperation he was to become so fond of later
On the production side King counterbalanced their approachwith a jaunty, mocking brass section at strategic points as if heraldingthe lads (he was at the same school and discovered them on a return visitthere) to the world of selling and change It's a typically cynical approachfor the time. The band's response can be found in ''In Hiding'':
Pick me up, put me down
push me in, turn me round
switch me on, let me go
I have a mind of my own
Looked at in total the album reminds me of a day in the country,sunny, with cotton-wool clouds chasing across a pale blue sky with a coolenough breeze blowing to make you want to walk and talk with some energyYes, it's as nicely corny as that
Unhappily. nobody in the group was reported much pleased withthose tracks by last year, perhaps because of commercial considerations,perhaps because the present always is more important and it's easy to decrythe past
Anyway they changed their personnel and their record company.the former several times, the latter to Charisma. where they still are.after being rediscovered by John Anthony when he found them down at theMarquee one night He contacted Tony Stratton-Smith. The result was a beautifullyconstructed album ''Trespass'', which is one of the best examples of moodcombinations I have heard within the classical rock formula. The contrastlies not only in the music but in the Lyrics which have been chosen fortheir sonic as well as their literary values
Two good examples appear from ''Stagnation''and ''White Mountain''
In ''Stagnation''. the first verse leads in with the lively''here today . . (following with a slow introduction to the second verse,''wait there . . '', the whole song being pitted with long vowel sounds.'' . . is still time for washing in the pool, wash away the past/moon mylong lost friend is smiling from above. smiling at my tears ''
Compare this with ''White Mountain's'' words on the other sidewith its widely differing chipped vowels which work the mouth and the mindtowards the image.
thin hung the web like a trap in a cage
the fox lay asleep in his lair
fangs frantic paws told the tale of his sin
far off the case shrieked revenge
As an acoustic producer, John Anthony is second to none Theseparation and definition which he achieved on Lindisfarne's first Charismaoffering exceeded anything that Bob Johnston produced for them and. asI say, ''Trespass ' is a great album
But Genesis wanted to move on, making more impact and felt that Anthony
would not be suitable.
''If you've got a very thick sound and the drummer's looseand very deep and not loud enough, then it's just going to sound well,it's not going to grab anybody at all,'' was drummer Phil Collins' opinion
So they moved on, but not without taking with them some continuity,for you can find on the second side of ''Trespass'' something of a prototypefor ''Nursery Cryme'', another strange mixture of the tranquil and thedeadly. Only this time their subjects are a little more impressionist,perhaps unconsciously following a Beatle influence, certainly Monty Python(which Charisma also produce), yet with more retrogressive an attitude.Two tracks are peculiarly relevant, ''Harold The Barrel'' (as in ''LilyThe Pink'') and ''For Absent Friends'', well-observed and bearing the rueful,condescending approach to the church to which ''Eleanor Rigby'' also alludes.
"Nursery Cryme'' relied on Tony Banks' mellotron and the heavysingle chord in unison with vocals, though you can begin to hear Phil Collinsput out a more solid rhythm, and the whole album 'marks a more intenseapproach to their music quite a distance from their first objective, whichwas to write for Dusty Springfield. Yet with the exception of ''The MusicalBox and For Absent Friends'', somehow undifferentiated One is always leftwith the feeling that each track is trying a new crescendo via cacophony.
In any event it has become representative of Genesis' music.mainly because ''Foxtrot'' arrived shortly afterwards and was in the samemusical vein Unfortunately ''Foxtrot'' was subject to time hassles andthere is little evidence of thought in the musicianship Phil Collins constantlyemploys a heavy, limiting beat which threatens the rest of the group ratherthan punctuates or prompts it. Steve Hackett's guitar is listless and PeterGabriel sounds schizophrenic, as if trying to impose hastiness on the vocalswhether apt or not
Altogether not a happy album, but it was a time when Genesisfelt compelled to push product out for economic reasons
Nevertheless, Lyrically it is more directly allusive to humoura la Python though they take their anti-establishmentarianism much moreseriously one feels. There is the futuristic announcement from GeneticControl: 'It is my sad duty to inform you of a 4ft restriction on humanoidheight.'In ''Get. Em, Out By Friday'' they tell the story of a big bad landlord,while in ''Supper's Ready'' Gabriel employs, banal Lyrics using an associationisttechnique to impel interest.
There's Winston Churchill dressed in drag
he used to be a British flag plastic bag What a drag
the frog was a prince. the prince was a brick. the brick was anegg and the egg was a bird hadn't you heard
Yes we're as happy as fish, as gorgeous as geese
and wonderfully clean in the morning
Or there's ''All Change
Feel your body melt Mum to mud mad to dad Dad diddley office, Daddiddley office
You're full of ball
Dad to dam to dum to mum
Mum diddley washing. mum diddley washing
You're all full of ball
Let me hear your lies we're living this up to the eyes
Oooe Ooee Ooee Ooee
Momma I want you now''
Get it? I'm not sure I do. But my suggestion is that it issimply watching the establishment, growing up with it and then seeing howit can be manipulated. either by other people or by maturity, using weaponsof your own principle to strengthen your own lifestyle Anyway think ofyour own interpretation, then put on an old Cream LP have a stiff drinkand forget it.
Visually Genesis are front runners in today's harumscarum ofmock sex and mock violence Gabriel's bald patch and his outlandish headdressare only part and parcel of their determination to alert the audience byevery means possible to their reality.
The result is evil drama, infiltrated by that insistent runninginstrumental effect from Tony Banks and Steve Hackett as they sit studiouslyover their instruments, and Peter Gabriel's slightly jeering delivery Itcan make you feel naked sitting powerlessly in the auditorium.
For Gabriel both incites and stills the audience In Ayelsburyonce he encouraged the audience to boo ''It gave them something to do whichwas not just a considered, automatic and politely preconceived response,''he said ''It backfired slightly when we got a 'section of boo boys followingus about. full of good intentions but somewhat disconcerting!''
In America where they did their first gig around Christmas1972 (at a cost of $16,000), as part of a charity booking with String DrivenThing, life has not been so easy They were described then as 'hazy butlovable: comic jive' and it was true that the Americans enjoyed the show-then.
But when the group went back a second time they found theyran into complications, particularly with Lou Reed, their headliner, whoproved difficult.
In Toronto Phil Coillins explained that the PA was late becauseit was Lou's and it is the practice that top of the bill acts have theirown system,''The guy that was running it didn't know what was happening,an English guy who used to do the lights for Crimson, Bruce his name is.
''Anyway Lou Reed soundchecked for two hours and we were settingup with the people coming in you know:
''We came onstage for the performance, very dramatically. Wehad ultraviolet light which makes everything very peculiar and Pete wearspaint which brings out the ultra-violet light round his eyes
''And, er, we were greeted with things like 'you'd better bebloody good man' and 'piss off' They thought we had taken the time youknow
''So that was a bit of a fright, so all through the quiet sectionswe were a bit vulnerable to abuse, but then 'Supper's Ready' started andthey were very good and got into it ''
He admitted that the tour changed them. 'America does a lotto change you actually For a band that started to become relative' establishedhere, you go to the States and it's about ten times as big and you realizethat no-one knows who the hell you are So that has quite a devastatingeffect on one
''First of all it makes you grow up a lot -just the way thingsare done You have to realize that you have to be a lot more professional:
''I think it has loosened the rest of the band up I mean I'vealways liked the idea of going onstage with no fixed idea at all and justgo onstage and play out of the top of your head.
''I wouldn't say anyone has gone as far overboard with me asthat but everyone's getting more into the idea of maybe changing thingsand loosening up onstage ''
Since that American tour, Genesis have had two more albumsreleased, ''Genesis Live!'' and ''Selling England By The Pound'', havefinished another ,American tour in a bid to break the U S market, and switchedtheir personal management from Charisma boss Tony Stratton-Smith. who hasgot further into horseracing and his already time consuming record andbook publishing interests to Tony Smith. the father of the father-and-sonpromotion team
Their development during 1973 is unremarkable except for theirpopularity which reflects in album sales (''Selling England By The Pound''-100,000)and concert attendance. The group itself is merely consolidating its Englishmarket
And though ''Selling England By The Pound'' may be sellingcopies it gave the group the least work. Peter Gabriel is said to havewritten the lyrics in two evenings and if you listen closely you'll findthat much of the chord and note sequences are unvaried, particularly onthe second side.
Basically, the album is more conventional in its approach lyrically:,Gabriel using direct analogies (''Dancing with the Moonlight Knight'' &''Firth Of Fifth'' particularly. but also ''Aisle Of Plenty'') to reiteratehis doomy messages about the way our culture operates against nature (ailvery ecological). It also contains their very first 'straight' love song''More Fool Me'' sung by Phil Collins, which talks of doubt and optimismin the face of hurt and rejection by the loved one.
That certain lack of imagination about the album, difficultto pin down. is apparent on ''Battle Of Epping Forest''. a straightforwardnarrative with little change in rhythm or mood throughout and only a neat''Lord Of The Flies'' type ending to give the song a fillip.
I recommend ''Selling England By The Pound " only as long asyou go to see them, so that the performance of it is given the added dimensionof a: live: stage act. and if you do. save your money, on the ''GenesisLive!'' release because though the mix is adequate there, it does not overcomethe sound recording problems of the big halls in which it was recorded(Manchester Free Trade and Leicester de Montfort) sufficiently to giveyou atmosphere or listening quality. Add to that the fact that all thetracks are on previous albums and you have an unnecessary purchase,
Despite the drawbacks though, Genesis are going to continueto be successful because they have given a lot of thought to the form oftheir birth. and their music is nurtured by that early upbringing
The length of tin1e they will be successful depends very muchon which they decide to concentrate on, the music or the presentation.Hopefully it will be the music
Lyrics reproduced by kind permission of Quartet Music Ltd. &Carlin Music Corp., 17 Savile row, London W1.