At midnight on August 31, 1973, Britain's annual Reading Festival,was drawing to a close. Genesis were billed to appear as the last act atmidnight, but the organizers had decided to finish early because the policehad been moved in to weed out drug offenders.
Not surprisingly, the audience were angry and frustrated whenGenesis-who had played a brilliant set - were only allowed to do one encore.'The Knife'. When the roadies moved in to clear the equipment from thestage. they were hit by a barrage of beer cans. bottles. stones and anythingelse throwable until they were forced to withdraw. Even the press enclosurehad to be evacuated. Genesis had finally arrived.
Pop music was hardly considered a suitable career for the younggentlemen being raised in the rarefied atmosphere of Charterhouse PublicSchool, protectively cushioned in the heart of the stockbroker belt atGodalming in Surrey. Most boys there ended up either as army officers,pursuing a diplomatic career at the Foreign Office, or as languid youngacademics at Oxford or Cambridge. However, Charterhouse contained its fairshare of embryonic musicians who formed many groups, each vying, in truecompetitive public school tradition, for the position of top pop band inthe school.
In 1966, it was widely agreed that Anon, made up of Peter Gabriel(lead vocalist and flautist), Anthony Phillips (lead guitar), Tony Banks(piano), Mike Rutherford (bass guitar) and Rob Tyrrell (drums), very definitelydeserved this status. Obviously a superb musical combination had been achieved.Anon had, in fact, seen themselves as songwriters rather than musicians,didn't particularly want to be famous -hence the name - but realized thatif they were going to get their message across, they would have to playthe music as well. A tape of their material was made at school and offthey went to see Jonathan King, himself an ex-Charterhouse student butby now. king of bubblegum music and running UK records.
King was sufficiently excited by this tape to realize thatthey had potential, and, as well as changing their name to Genesis andsubstituting a new drummer, gave them the opportunity to release a streamof singles of which 'I Know What I Like' was a minor hit. Their first album,'From Genesis To Revelation', was also made under his aegis, everythingappearing on the Decca label.
From the start. Genesis's approach to the music business wasmore than merely unorthodox, in conventional rock star terms appearingslightly inane. As Mike Rutherford later explained: "We didn't know howto set up the equipment for a gig and we used to travel around with a picnicbasket containing hard-boiled eggs, pots of tea and scones, that we setup in the dressing rooms. The other bands were frankly amazed. But we werevery fond of tea."
Drummer Chris Stewart left Genesis late in 1967 and was replacedby John Silver who worked with them for just over a year before leavingto study in an American university. He was replaced by
John Mayhew, who features on their 'Trespass' album. With this newline-up the group left London to live in a country cottage where they workedon and developed the various concepts surrounding their music.
During this period they evolved from basic rock to a theatricalnarrative style. A cult following was slowly growing from their gigs aroundsmall clubs and halls, even though they were still far removed from themainstream of the music business.
In 1969 they were 'discovered' by Tony Stratton-Smith who signedthem to his Charisma label. Their second album, 'Trespass', was releasedin September, 1970, and it was obvious that by now Genesis had decidedupon a very definite direction.
'Trespass' contained what later became regarded as a Genesisclassic. 'The Knife', a brilliant definition of contained militaristicaggression and futurist violence.
Around this time. Genesis made their London debut at RonnieScott's Upstairs- a discotheque forming part of the prestigious RonnieScott's Club in London's Soho and the beginning of Genesis' acceptancein the rock world.
Pressures were now beginning in earnest. One of the band, originallead guitarist Anthony Phillips, was forced to leave, finding it difficultto cope with the threat and strains of planned future success. He subsequentlyreceived a musical degree from university and went on to become a teacher.John Mayhew also decided to leave, and Genesis were left with two holeswhich needed plugging.
Personnel changes within bands usually undermine collectivemorale but Peter Gabriel, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks managed to keepgoing until the arrival of Phil Collins, late of a group called FlamingYouth. He had studied acting at stage school. played in Oliver as the ArtfulDodger for 10 months, had made a stream of television and radio appearances,but basically thought of himself as a drummer and had been playing sincethe age of five. Phil Collins's arrival loosened the band up and gave thema new confidence.
Mike Rutherford admitted later: ''There has always been a lotof friction in the band but it's not too bad really. When Phil joined andsaw us all quarrelling, I think he thought we were splitting up! We arguea lot less now and there is more give and take." A hopeful sign. Genesis worked for three monthsas a four-piece unit before answering an advertisement in Melody Maker.Steve Hackett's ad had read: "Guitarist writer seeks receptive minds determinedto strive beyond existing stagnant musical forms." After a telephone callfrom Peter Gabriel, the five of them did two weeks' rehearsal and thenthe new-form Genesis was back on the road, playing fairly regular gigsat clubs on the outskirts of London.
Their following began to increase enormously, augmented bynumerous tours. They were now being packaged with two other bands as support,Spreadeagle (a rock band made up of four young hopefuls from St. Catherine'sCollege, Oxford) and Audience, who scored a hit single with 'Friends' in1972.
Shortly after these personnel changes, 'Nursery Chrymes' wasreleased. It was now September 1971 and this, their third album, reflectedthe changes, both musically and mentally, that the individual members ofthe group were going through. However, at this stage they were losing moneyfast. They owed Charisma thousands of pounds, although Tony Stratton-Smithhad a lot of faith in Genesis and knew that sooner or later his investmentwould pay off.
With the release of the 'Foxtrot' album in October, 1972, theturning point came; Peter Gabriel began to receive personal acclaim fromcritics and audience alike for his remarkable performances on stage.
Gabriel had developed into a first-class frontman over theyears. Originally he had mimed in an improvized fashion to the more whimsicalLyrics, but the visuals had become more clearly defined as more concretestory lines began to emerge. He developed an extraordinary ability to pullthe audience into the Genesis world while the band pounded out the musicaldramatics.
These new dimensions to their style at first caused frictionwithin the band. Peter Gabriel's new spotlight dynamism had taken someof the others by surprise, specifically Tony Banks who admitted that hedidn't always entirely enjoy the visual aspects of their music and hadbeen irritated by the fox's head used on stage during the performancesof 'Foxtrot'. Gradually, however, the rest of the band accepted that Peterwas a natural frontman on stage, and as such a vital ingredient for success.
Musically, 'Foxtrot' was a big breakthrough and the pop presslatched on to the new phenomenon. Reviews included such comments as "itmust surely become one of the major works of the year...." and ':one ofthe most stunningly mellow British albums of the early '70s . . .'' On'Foxtrot', the Lyrics were flavoured with a new-style social comment.
'Foxtrot' was regarded by most critics as a giant step forwardin the group's career. One number. 'Supper's Ready', incorporated sevenseparate movements- each quite divorced from its adjacent piece. Song titleslike 'Apocalypse In 9/8 (CoStarring The Delicious Talents Of Gabble Ratchet)'indicated Gabriel's thought patterns at the time.
The band had definitely reached new heights, and by the autumnof 1972 they were guesting on a British tour with Lindisfarne. It was perhapsunfortunate for Lindisfarne that Genesis were around in their company-most of the reviews of the time suggest that they inadvertently upstaged Lindisfarneat every gig. Their cult following, which had now swelled to immense proportions,consisting mainly of intellectual, middle-class kids, welcomed them warmlyat every gig and Genesis were reaching the point where they would be ableto realize niost of their ambitions in music and creative presentationvia inspired visual dramatics.
In December, 1972, they paid their first visit to the Stateswith String Driven Thing where they debuted at the Philharmonic Hall, NewYork. Genesis felt in retrospect that the gig was terrible -they had problemswith the equipment and there were all kinds of sound problems. Howeverthey went down well enough to be called ''a US monster in the making" by one critic.
In the spring of 1973, Genesis made their second - and thistime definitive London appearance at the Rainbow Theatre. The three concertsthey played were a sellout and they responded by giving some of the bestperformances of their career. An interim album, 'Genesis Live'. was releasedin the July and finally 'Selling England By The Pound' appeared in October1973. Genesis had changed their style yet again. With this album everythinghad finally come together, ail the ideas, playing and concepts were finallyput across. The album was hailed in the pop press as ''a real dazzler"and Genesis' ever-growing following ensured that record sales amply reflectedthe critics' comments.
Genesis's fifth album, 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway'. tookmost of summer 1974 to complete. Of this album Peter Gabriel said: "Thisalbum has spirit. It's a much wider album than past efforts. In the pastour records haven't come off as strong as I would have liked; it's beendown to live performances. But this is the best the band has to offer."In spite of all this, Genesis were still labelled 'pretentious' by thosewho were not convinced of the group's part in the development of conceptsin rock music since 1970.
Genesis had managed to throw off the shackles of their genteelEnglish public school education. The criticisms which weighed them downheavily for so long had long been proved false. According to Peter Gabriel:''There are people who believe that the costumes, props and slides we useare crutches to hold up the crippled music. They think we had to resortto things like that. They don't realise we actually prefer it. Visualsare rubbish unless they are integrated with the continuity of the music.You can't put layers of make-up on a beautiful face unless the featuresare there in the first place. "
Despite his defence of the group, in August. 1975, Gabrielleft Genesis. He reasoned: "The vehicle we had built as a co-op to serveour songwriting became our master and cooped us up inside the success wehad wanted."
He was uncertain about (or would not admit) his future. butcommented: "I feel I should look at/learn about/develop myself, my creativebits and pieces and pick up on a lot of work going on outside music."
The band continued working without him but were left with thearduous task of finding a replacement for a person whose charisma had undoubtedlybeen their focal point.
Potential Gabriel successors were interviewed - including atransvestite called the Red Hooker- in an attempt to find the ''gutsy"voice that had so distinctively characterized the Genesis sound deliveryand success.