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 at midnight, but the organizers had decided to finish early because the police had been moved in to weed out drug offenders.

Not surprisingly, the audience were angry and frustrated when Genesis-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 the stage. they were hit by a barrage of beer cans. bottles. stones and anything else throwable until they were forced to withdraw. Even the press enclosure had to be evacuated. Genesis had finally arrived.

Pop music was hardly considered a suitable career for the young gentlemen being raised in the rarefied atmosphere of Charterhouse Public School, protectively cushioned in the heart of the stockbroker belt at Godalming in Surrey. Most boys there ended up either as army officers, pursuing a diplomatic career at the Foreign Office, or as languid young academics at Oxford or Cambridge. However, Charterhouse contained its fair share of embryonic musicians who formed many groups, each vying, in true competitive public school tradition, for the position of top pop band in the 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 definitely deserved 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 that if they were going to get their message across, they would have to play the music as well. A tape of their material was made at school and off they went to see Jonathan King, himself an ex-Charterhouse student but by now. king of bubblegum music and running UK records.

King-Size Backing

King was sufficiently excited by this tape to realize that they had potential, and, as well as changing their name to Genesis and substituting a new drummer, gave them the opportunity to release a stream of 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, everything appearing on the Decca label.

From the start. Genesis's approach to the music business was more than merely unorthodox, in conventional rock star terms appearing slightly inane. As Mike Rutherford later explained: "We didn't know how to set up the equipment for a gig and we used to travel around with a picnic basket containing hard-boiled eggs, pots of tea and scones, that we setup in the dressing rooms. The other bands were frankly amazed. But we were very fond of tea."

Drummer Chris Stewart left Genesis late in 1967 and was replaced by John Silver who worked with them for just over a year before leaving to 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 worked on and developed the various concepts surrounding their music.


During this period they evolved from basic rock to a theatrical narrative style. A cult following was slowly growing from their gigs around small clubs and halls, even though they were still far removed from the mainstream of the music business.

In 1969 they were 'discovered' by Tony Stratton-Smith who signed them to his Charisma label. Their second album, 'Trespass', was released in September, 1970, and it was obvious that by now Genesis had decided upon a very definite direction.

'Trespass' contained what later became regarded as a Genesis classic. 'The Knife', a brilliant definition of contained militaristic aggression and futurist violence.

Around this time. Genesis made their London debut at Ronnie Scott's Upstairs- a discotheque forming part of the prestigious Ronnie Scott's Club in London's Soho and the beginning of Genesis' acceptance in the rock world.

Pressures were now beginning in earnest. One of the band, original lead guitarist Anthony Phillips, was forced to leave, finding it difficult to cope with the threat and strains of planned future success. He subsequently received a musical degree from university and went on to become a teacher. John Mayhew also decided to leave, and Genesis were left with two holes which needed plugging.

Personnel changes within bands usually undermine collective morale but Peter Gabriel, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks managed to keep going until the arrival of Phil Collins, late of a group called Flaming Youth. He had studied acting at stage school. played in Oliver as the Artful Dodger for 10 months, had made a stream of television and radio appearances, but basically thought of himself as a drummer and had been playing since the age of five. Phil Collins's arrival loosened the band up and gave them a new confidence.

Mike Rutherford admitted later: ''There has always been a lot of friction in the band but it's not too bad really. When Phil joined and saw us all quarrelling, I think he thought we were splitting up! We argue a lot less now and there is more give and take." A hopeful sign. Genesis worked for three months as a four-piece unit before answering an advertisement in Melody Maker. Steve Hackett's ad had read: "Guitarist writer seeks receptive minds determined to strive beyond existing stagnant musical forms." After a telephone call from Peter Gabriel, the five of them did two weeks' rehearsal and then the new-form Genesis was back on the road, playing fairly regular gigs at clubs on the outskirts of London.

Money Matters

Their following began to increase enormously, augmented by numerous 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's College, Oxford) and Audience, who scored a hit single with 'Friends' in1972.

Shortly after these personnel changes, 'Nursery Chrymes' was released. It was now September 1971 and this, their third album, reflected the changes, both musically and mentally, that the individual members of the group were going through. However, at this stage they were losing money fast. They owed Charisma thousands of pounds, although Tony Stratton-Smith had a lot of faith in Genesis and knew that sooner or later his investment would pay off.

With the release of the 'Foxtrot' album in October, 1972, the turning point came; Peter Gabriel began to receive personal acclaim from critics and audience alike for his remarkable performances on stage.

Gabriel had developed into a first-class front man over the years. Originally he had mimed in an improvized fashion to the more whimsical Lyrics, but the visuals had become more clearly defined as more concrete story lines began to emerge. He developed an extraordinary ability to pull the audience into the Genesis world while the band pounded out the musical dramatics.

These new dimensions to their style at first caused friction within the band. Peter Gabriel's new spotlight dynamism had taken some of the others by surprise, specifically Tony Banks who admitted that he didn't always entirely enjoy the visual aspects of their music and had been irritated by the fox's head used on stage during the performances of 'Foxtrot'. Gradually, however, the rest of the band accepted that Peter was a natural front man on stage, and as such a vital ingredient for success.

Musically, 'Foxtrot' was a big breakthrough and the pop press latched on to the new phenomenon. Reviews included such comments as "it must surely become one of the major works of the year...." and ':one of the 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 forward in the group's career. One number. 'Supper's Ready', incorporated seven separate movements- each quite divorced from its adjacent piece. Song titles like 'Apocalypse In 9/8 (Co Starring The Delicious Talents Of Gabble Ratchet)'indicated Gabriel's thought patterns at the time.

The band had definitely reached new heights, and by the autumn of 1972 they were guesting on a British tour with Lindisfarne. It was perhaps unfortunate for Lindisfarne that Genesis were around in their company-most of the reviews of the time suggest that they inadvertently upstaged Lindisfarne at every gig. Their cult following, which had now swelled to immense proportions, consisting mainly of intellectual, middle-class kids, welcomed them warmly at every gig and Genesis were reaching the point where they would be able to realize most of their ambitions in music and creative presentation via inspired visual dramatics.

In December, 1972, they paid their first visit to the States with String Driven Thing where they debuted at the Philharmonic Hall, New York. Genesis felt in retrospect that the gig was terrible -they had problems with the equipment and there were all kinds of sound problems. However they 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 this time definitive London appearance at the Rainbow Theatre. The three concerts they played were a sellout and they responded by giving some of the best performances of their career. An interim album, 'Genesis Live'. was released in the July and finally 'Selling England By The Pound' appeared in October1973. Genesis had changed their style yet again. With this album everything had finally come together, ail the ideas, playing and concepts were finally put across. The album was hailed in the pop press as ''a real dazzler "and Genesis' ever-growing following ensured that record sales amply reflected the critics' comments.

Sacrificial Lamb

Genesis's fifth album, 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway'. Took most of summer 1974 to complete. Of this album Peter Gabriel said: "This album has spirit. It's a much wider album than past efforts. In the past our records haven't come off as strong as I would have liked; it's been down to live performances. But this is the best the band has to offer. "In spite of all this, Genesis were still labelled 'pretentious' by those who were not convinced of the group's part in the development of concepts in rock music since 1970.

Genesis had managed to throw off the shackles of their genteel English public school education. The criticisms which weighed them down heavily for so long had long been proved false. According to Peter Gabriel: ''There are people who believe that the costumes, props and slides we use are crutches to hold up the crippled music. They think we had to resort to things like that. They don't realise we actually prefer it. Visuals are 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 features are there in the first place. "

Despite his defence of the group, in August. 1975, Gabriel left Genesis. He reasoned: "The vehicle we had built as a co-op to serve our songwriting became our master and cooped us up inside the success we had wanted."

He was uncertain about (or would not admit) his future. But commented: "I feel I should look at/learn about/develop myself, my creative bits and pieces and pick up on a lot of work going on outside music."

The band continued working without him but were left with the arduous task of finding a replacement for a person whose charisma had undoubtedly been their focal point.

Potential Gabriel successors were interviewed - including a transvestite called the Red Hooker- in an attempt to find the ''gutsy" voice that had so distinctively characterized the Genesis sound delivery and success.