It's like taking acid for the first time only better, the girl inL.A. sighed. Her boyfriend disagreed. Bullshit, he snarled. Pretentiousrubbish. I saw God just now, their androgynous companion stuttered.
The girl continued It's his hair, it's so sexy, so artistic. I'venever seen a cut like that! What, the boy gawked, you go in for that hatchetjob? His hair looks like a scalp with crabs.
C-C-Cosmic,the companion volunteered. Yes, yes, yes, the girl repeatedexcitedly. It's definitely cosmic. And that stage show . . . she stoppedshort, overcome with emotion. Stage show my ass, said her disillusionedyoung man. Visuals, he scoffed, is that what you'd call a dayglo box, thatridiculous flower, those bumps and jerks? I saw God, the companion repeatedin drone-like fashion.
Genesis is an incongruous bunch in a world where Tubular Bells isthe muzak of the future. Some think it's avant garde nonsense; others sayit's the only excitement happening in rock. There's no 12 bar boogie forGenesis. The group spins musical movies while this weird dude dresses upin funny clothes. Onstage they resemble a Zap Comix page more than ELP.
If you've only seen the photos, the one with the funny hair doesn'tput flowers on his head and sing "Whole Lotta Love." Musically, they ripoff their predecessors far more than Yes or Alice Cooper ever did. Peoplemurmur about theater rock, fantasy world, bloody faggots, and brilliantÑallin the same breath.
Back in '69, during that post-flower electric hippie revolution,Genesis was your average bunch of struggling songwriters. Bubblegum guruJonathan King produced their first album, but it sounds more like a MoodyBlues/Procol Harum synthesis than it does the Ohio Express. The songs gotbetter, the musicianship tighter, but the audience remained small. In alast ditch attempt for recognition. Peter Gabriel started miming to themore story-like lyrics. The rest is show biz history: audiences decidedhe had STAR quality, and success in Europe rapidly followed.
Although he's only one-fifth of Genesis, Gabriel is the guy thatgets all the press. He likes Monty Python and art museums, and talks ina delivery not unlike Stan Laurel. A natural exhibitionist performer onstage,he's made edgy by a room full of people offstage. Right now we're sittingin a Holiday Inn room while Peter talks in mumblejumble fashion and fidgetsnervously:
"As far as other bands go, I think we're in a puddle all by ourselves.We're closer to cartoons than the conventional rock band. I'd like to getthat cartoon feel across more, but the visuals are just a means to an end.What we are is songwriters who play at being musicians and then play atbeing performers.
"Still, I don't enjoy performing. It's a bit like training an animal,except the animal is me. At best it's a world where my spine shows, atworst it's like maybe I should be doing something else. We're thought ofas a visual act, but to us it's the music."
The other guys in Genesis don't particularly relish being thoughtof as "those other guys." Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks are founding members,while drummer Phil "Boogie" Collins and guitarist Steve Hackett were dulyinitiated three years back.
|"Sure, all of Peter's press bothers us, because we'rean equally spread band. And it brings us down when people can't see beyondthat superficial thing of Peter wearing funny clothes and masks," lamentsCollins. "They seem to forget that we all write music and lyrics. Whatannoys us intensely is when people come backstage after a gig, ignore everyoneelse, go right up to Peter, ! and say, 'Amazing show, man, really dug it,your music is fantastic.' The visuals bounce off the music. Peter' wearsa stocking over his head in 'Battle of Epping Forest' because he's imitatinga rogue, not because he's got sexual' fantasies."|
Image can make or break a band, and with Genesis the image is sohazy, so off the wall, that it gets confusing. People come to shows expectingto see a half-assed circus act; they wait at the stage door to glimpserobed occultists. So obtuse is the Genesis image that audiences actuallyexpress disappointment when the stage show isn't more bizarre. Kids sitin wide-eyed anticipation waiting for Gabriel to walk over hot coals inbare feet. Backstage you see looks of disbelief when fans discover thatail five members don't have to be wheeled onstage in a drugged euphoria.
"There is something good about seeing rock people offstage," Gabrielsays. "They're so arrogant, brash and forceful with their knives glaringand their Che Guevera belts. I like that whole routine even though we'renothing like that. We're just regular guys." He smiles wryly. "I mean,the other night I was talking to someone that was convinced I was the angelof enunciation. I gently lowered myself in his esteem. There's nothinglike a good nose pick for removing immortality," he says in his best StanLaurel manner.
"One thing comes after another; it's very bizarre. I did this radiotalk show in England. When the host heard someone from Genesis was cominghe said: 'Oh no, man, I can't handle those freaked-out acid heads.' WhenI arrived perfectly sane and able to talk, they were knocked out," Phillaughs.
Offstage the band seems almost in" nocent, in the context of themacho/ decadent world of rock. The fantasy runs so deep that Genesis membersprefer living in their own little world. Living in a fantasy world keepsthings real.
"I really like to be protected," Mike says seriously. "It's a bitlike a scientist whose study is pure. Scientists work out problems; theydon't concern themselves with what happens to the idea after it's created.Sometimes I see music like that. What's done after the music is recordedis something I'd like to leave to people I trust."
|The most choreographed number Genesis does is "Supper's Ready,"a futuristic opus featuring the apocalypse in 9/8. This is the one you'veheard about, the Busby Berkeley musical of the Seventies, complete withdancing girls and costume changes. Gabriel delivers one of his bizarremonologue intros:|
"Old Michael walked past the pet shop which was never open into thepark which was never closed," Gabriel will somberly tell the crowd. "Thepark was full of very smooth, very clean grass. Michael took off all hisclothes and began rubbing his pink, flabby flesh into the wet, clean grass.Beneath the ground the dirty brown worms interpreted the pitter-patteras rainfall. In worm world it means two things: bathtime because wormslike to keep clean, and mating time because worms like to keep dirty. Withinseconds the entire park was covered with dirty, soggy, writhing brown worms.Old Michael was quite pleased humming a little tune. Jerusalem boogie tous perhaps, but to the worms it meant that supper was ready."
By 1984, no one will care much about the height of David JoHansen'shigh heels, yet chances are good that Genesis offsprings will be as commonas boogie bands. Their present flirtation with multi media lights/slides/visuals/music is only the beginning. If we get the space program together, don'tbe surprised to see Mike Oldfield and Genesis headlining at the Outer SpaceTropicabana.
"The time will come when something evolves that will replace thecinema," Gabriel claims. "People used to come out of their homes and intothe cinema when there was little television. But now television has castratedthe cinema. Yet with a rock music basis, lots of things could be created.The Red Buddha Theatre was only the beginning. In this building that willreplace the cinema I hope there's more audience participation. It's tooeasy to be passive."
I almost cried during that scene when the old man died, another girlwas telling another boyfriend. I've never seen anything so fake and contrived,cried the boy. It's out of this world, their zombie-eyed friend muttered.
Naw said the cynical kid, the band are great musicians, but thatsinger is a twit. A twit, said the girl, hitting him where it hurt, I bethe's better than you! Everything is not what it seems, said the zombie.