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10 proofs Genesis didn’t die in 1977

February 26, 2014

Find yourself in a (chat) room full of Genesis fans and it won’t be long before the usual questions arise. Top of the list: “Are you a Gabriel fan or a Collins fan?” To some people Genesis ceased to exist when Gabriel left to grow vegetables in 1975, taking his Slipperman costume with him. Some will be more charitable and allow that the first two albums with the drummer singing are worth a listen, but that when Steve Hackett walked out in 1977, the lights went out.

First I’ll state my credentials. I discovered Genesis in 1980, and the first two albums I was conscious of were ‘Duke’ and ‘And Then There Were Three’ (the latter seemed to be regularly being played in my local HMV). A well-meaning school friend decided that “the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” should be my next step – and I passed it back to him with a bemused shake of the head after listening. Little could I have imagined that the 1974 double LP would become my favourite album of all time.

In my student years I listened to and acquired more of the back catalogue and became fascinated with ‘Supper’s Ready’ – 23 minutes of music that just drew me in. Again, a song that remains the greatest musical composition my ears have ever heard.

I saw Genesis live for the first time in ’82. As if to emphasise that this was a band of two halves, they played ‘Supper’s Ready’ and ‘Whodunnit’. I saw them again on the Mama Tour and for a multitude of reasons that was it for me. A switch of venue scuppered my plans for Twickenham 2007.

So where does this boy stand.? If I’m pushed, I’ll take the middle view and state that I find my greatest pleasure in the Hackett era. He remains my favourite guitarist. While other members of the band seem to distance themselves from their earlier musical efforts, Hackett has of course embraced them fully on his latest tours. You can read my gushing review of his Cardiff show in May 2013 elsewhere on these pages. After 31 years, ‘Supper’s Ready’ again!

But ultimately I am an all eras Genesis fan, even if I find most satisfaction in the Gabriel/Hackett incarnations. When people try to cut Genesis off at ’75, or ’77 or ’80, I get agitated. Genesis soldiered on. Sure they changed. Yes they had great commercial success, but I still find much to enjoy in the later chapters of Genesis.

So 10 proofs that Genesis did not die in 1977 (in no particular order):

  1. Mama (Genesis – 1983) – OK so Genesis had some chart success but they also unleashed on the unsuspecting record buying public some pretty challenging music. Mama was sonically captivating, representing   a sleazy red-lit world. But as I listen it contains a quite magnificent vocal performance from Phil Collins. This ain’t your 2-minute bubble gum pop single. This is huge music.
  2. Abacab (Abacab – 1981) – You can give the people simple music. You can give them lyrics that are simple to understand and relate to – that they can sing along to, looking dreamily into their lover’s eyes. Or you can write a song with a title that represents the sections of an early version of the song, but doesn’t even reflect the final version. You can sing about waking up “covered in cellophane”. Crumbs this was so abstract, even Phil Collins refused to sing it in 2007. Add to it the lengthy instrumental section and you’ve got yourself a belter. Admired too it seems by Mr Hackett.
  3. Turn it on again (Duke – 1980). I have to include this because it is my way onto the band. This is the one that turned me on to Genesis. Chugging riff and a centre piece to a great album. Not sure it ever sounded so good in its live versions, especially with sing along medley added. In the original version there’s a power that cuts through.
  4. Home by the sea/Second home by the sea (Genesis – 1983). So the people come to their gigs to hear the hits. But Genesis still give them some larger pieces to chew on. They’re going to make the pop fans hang in there. This is one of a couple of 10 minute pieces that remained integral parts of their live sets. It shows that the G boys can still tell a story. And they can still assault your ears with the extended instrumental section. The musical sounds have changed. They are not stuck in the 1970’s. Ignore the silly audience participation and enjoy.
  5. No son of mine (We can’t dance – 1991). Again for the chart friendly listeners, give them a six minute slow burner single. By the time most songs have finished this one has reached the end of the first chorus. It builds slowly. It’s atmospheric and emotional. Another one to hang into for the duration, to take in the drama, the hurt, the anger.
  6. Domino (Invisible Touch – 1986). Whilst diehards moaned about the ridiculously poppy title track and sloppy beyond forgiveness ‘Hold on my heart’, they could have missed that other big wedge of music destined to rock stadiums throughout the world. Are you really supposed to write songs about ‘sheets of double glazing’? Who knows? But the song rocks particularly during the ‘Last Domino’ section. The Doctor Who style visual effects of the 2007 tour added to the drama.
  7. Fading lights (We can’t dance – 1991). The swansong. The last song on a Phil Collins fronted Genesis album. Nostalgic, emotional, farewell lyrics. And another extended instrumental section dominated by Tony Banks’ keyboards. This and other long songs found themselves onto a live album of their own. Silly idea –  surely not trying to pander to the pop fans?
  8. There must be some other way (Calling all stations – 1997). And then there’s the shortest era of all. The Ray Wilson era. One album. Could there be life in the old dog, after Phil Collins? History will say no. One album and a tour cut short. But even here there could have been a chance. Not everything works on the album, but maybe it could have worked with greater patience and perseverance. New boy Wilson lets rip with a big rock vocal, Tony noodles away on a ‘Home by the sea’ like solo.  Powerful, emotional stuff.
  9. Duke’s travels/Duke’s end (Duke – 1980). A big finish album instrumental in the mode of, and rivalling, ‘Los Endos’. Repeating themes from earlier songs. When ‘Guide Vocal’ is reprised it hits the heights. Musically it is so strong, that parts featured in the 2007 live shows although sadly the ‘Guide vocal’ vocal was substituted by Daryl Stuermer’s guitar and cut short to segue into ‘Afterglow’)
  10. And they still played the old stuff live. Some might argue not enough of it but ‘I know what I like’, ‘Ripples’, ‘In the cage’, and ‘Carpet crawl’ were used in the 2007 reunion shows. The ‘Cinema show’ instrumental section was spectacular. Bits of ‘Musical Box’, “Firth of fifth’ ‘Dance on a volcano were featured in Collins era shows. They could still play.

So there’s 10 for you. I think if you keep digging you’ll find more. I would dare to suggest even that some of the pop stuff is worth a listen. But yes there are songs that annoy me. Nobody’s perfect (oh sorry – that’s Mike and the Mechanics).

That’s my ramble done. And hey I didn’t even use the words prog or epic!


From → Rock Music

  1. Nice post mate, good argument, I still find myself firmly in the pre ’77 camp though.

    • Thanks for the comment. I have already said where my allegiance lies but I think people too quickly write off their latter work as being of no value. Thanks again for dropping by!

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