They seem to work In a tight sphere of their own creation, and theirmusic has taken a path that has few parallels In the recent developmentof what, for convenience, pundits like to call progressive rock. Today,Genesis are on the verge of a new chapter to their career, as they haveelected to continue recording and performing despite the departure of theirlead singer. And at the beginning of 1976 the signs were that Genesis wouldcontinue to be a powerful and creative force.
But now seems a good time to cast an appreciative eye over a careerthat combined a struggle at first for survival, then recognition and acclaim,with the desire to present their original music to the best possible advantage.
The battle for Genesis required the faith of many people. Apart fromthe determination of the musicians they were greatly aided and encouragedby men like Tony Stratton-Smith their manager, who has guided the careersof such great British bands as the Nice and Lindisfarne.
But one of the first to recognise the potential of Genesiswas that remarkable one man record Industry, Jonathan Klng. Genesis beganas far back as 1966 when school friends with ambitions as songwriters putdown their Ideas on a demo tape. They were Tony Banks (keyboards), PeterGabriel (vocals, flute and percussion), Michael Rutherford (guitars, vocalsand bass pedals), and Anthony Philips (guitar). The tape was Ignored bya music Industry that was only just recovering from the "psychedelic" eraand seemed to develop a built-in resistance to anything that might threatento be new, or worse still, clever.
Jonathan, famed for his hit "Everyone's Gone To The Moon," and IncreasinglyInvolved in seeking and producing new talent, was sufficiently excitedby thetape to produce their first album for Decca, entitled "From GenesisTo Revelation" which was released In March 1969.
The author of this piece remembers hearing this album the first timearound, whilst reviewing for the Melody Maker, and although belay slightlyinterested, felt it had absolutely no future. The author felt much thesame way about "Jesus Christ Superstar," when Andrew Lloyd Webber and TimRice humbly brought round their first "white label" copy of their albumfor inspection.
It Is therefore a good opportunity to hear that pioneering albumagain, in the light of hindsight and after much muddy water has passedunder the bridge.
The music herein contains all of the "From Genesis To Revelation"tracks, plus two single releases Including the B sides. These were "TheSilent Sun" coupled with "That's Me", which was released In February '68,and "A Winter's Tale" coupled with "One Eyed Hound", out in May 1968.
What can we learn from this archive material M Well the first impressionIs that Genesis were already firmly set upon a course battling againstthe main current of contemporary pop and rock. Songs they were writing,but they were not exactly in the mould of the Love Affair, which were allthe rage in '68, and certainly they sounded nothing like the "heavy" bandsof the day.
Listen to "In The Wilderness" and if you blot out the superfluousstrings, you can hear that strange mixture of menace and grim humour inPeter's vocals that were to become the mark of Genesis. You can hear theirdesire to rock on "One Eyed Hound," which almost has a touch of the LouReed's, while the lead guitar break doffs a bow towards Hendrix.
The sound established on "The Conqueror" with Its spaced out piano,tambourine off-beat and busy, jangling guitars behind the long, nasal vocalphrases, (apart from sounding oddly like Lee Jackson with the Nice), hasthe flavour of Lou Reed meeting Phil Spector. But remember this is 1968through '69, when British groups weren't supposed to be experimenting withsuch daring concepts. And dig the vocal harmonies on "In Hiding," and Peter'ssensitive lead lines. Note the cunning and intelligent use of differentsound textures throughout this remarkable album, the dash of Mellotronhere, strings, and brass, bits of acoustic guitar, and general attentionto tonal patterns. From the beginning, Genesis were determined not to belust another guitar and drums hot rhythm combo.
Of course In later albums as the band got Into their stride, therewere Improvements in production and performance. Genesis never needed touse those well meaning string players again. Tony Banks, the classicallytrained pianist, could provide all the textures they required with hisgrowing banks of keyboards (If you'll pardon the pun).
Drummers came and went, Chris Stewart, John Sliver and John MayhewBy 1970 they had acquired the brilliant percussionist Phil Collins fromFlaming Youth, and Steve Hackett was their new lead guitar player. From'70 onwards Genesis took of' with audiences In clubs and concert hallsacross the country, and began the struggle for American acceptance withtheir first visit there at Christmas 1972, when they made their New Yorkdebut before wondering, but eventually entranced U.S. fans.
As Genesis developed their sound and writing, they produced suchclassics of structured rock as "Watcher Of The Skies," "Get 'Em Out ByFriday," "The Return Of The Giant Hogweed," "Musical Box" and "The Knife".The elements of fantasy In the Iyrics composed by the group were heightenedby their increasingly sophisticated stage act, which evolved around PeterGabriel's stunning presence as he enacted their musical stories In a varietyof increasingly bizarre costumes. Few Genesis fans will forget the sightof Peter In his black cat suit, with batwings looming ominously over hisshoulders, his eyes blazing with unnatural fire, as he fixed the stallswith an hypnotic "axe.
The importance of this album Is that It helps place In perspectivethe development of one of our most consistently creative groups, who Inthe process of growing to full maturity earned the love and respect ofaudiences around the world. These early experiments show that the determinationto explore fresh paths, and remain true to one's ideals, can be rewarded,however hard the struggle.
CHRIS WELCH 1976.