Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Genesis: The classic lineup settles in

1971: Collins, Rutherford, Tony Banks, Gabriel, Hackett

Genesis nearly disbanded in summer 1970. They had just finished recording their second album, Trespass, and were about to hit the road for another tour of their native England when guitarist Anthony Phillips quit. (Genesis: In the beginning)

The three other founders discussed calling it a day. But in the end, they decided to regroup and give this band thing another shot before going their own adult ways. They fired their third drummer, John Mayhew, and the group of 20-year-olds gathered at Peter Gabriel's parents' house to audition candidates. Gabriel says they knew 19-year-old Phil Collins was their guy the second he sat down at the drumkit. Collins came with the added benefits of being a burgeoning songwriter with a smooth singing voice that perfectly complemented Gabriel's raw delivery.

Genesis hit the road as a quartet but soon decided they needed to add a lead guitarist to pull off some of the more complex material. The band hired Mick Bernard, who quickly showed that he wasn't up to the task. Gabriel saw an ad in Melody Maker placed by 20-year-old Steve Hackett. Michael Rutherford did a quick audition with Hackett, liked what he heard, and the band cut Bernard loose after only a month.

Trespass, released the previous November, had gone nowhere. But Charisma Records owner Tony Stratton-Smith loved a new song they were working out, "The Musical Box." He pulled the band off the road, settled them into his home to focus on writing more songs and put them into a studio in summer 1971 to record their next album.

Nursery Cryme, released in November 1971, a year after Trespass, was not a hit. But it drew some pockets of enthusiasm in Europe, and Genesis went on another long tour to promote the album. They got their biggest exposure to date when they were invited to do a 30-minute set on Belgian TV in early 1972.

"The Musical Box," the opening track on Nursery Cryme, was the first great Genesis song. It was a constant presence on the band's setlists well into the post-Gabriel years. It was the encore for The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour and was the last song Gabriel performed onstage with the band. I love this song, though the Nursery Cryme track is not my favorite version -- the performance on Genesis Live (1973) is considerably stronger.

The rest of Nursery Cryme is a bit spotty. It's a big move up from Trespass and is the album that introduced the classic Genesis lineup and sound to the world. But I still hear too much filler material and think of the album mostly as a knock on the door.

Foxtrot, the next album, is where Genesis stormed the castle. This one is perfect front to back, without a wasted moment. It's the first time Genesis delivered back-to-back albums with the same lineup, and the strength of confidence shows. The guys had been writing and playing together on stage and in studio for more than a year, and by the time Foxtrot was recorded in August and September 1972, they were firing on all cylinders.

The 23-minute tour de force "Supper's Ready" is without question the centerpiece of Foxtrot. If you want to know what '70s Genesis was really all about -- if you want to know what '70s prog was really all about -- this is where you should go to learn. It's a stone-cold masterpiece. I knew the first time I heard this in 1975 that this piece defined this band. I'm not the only one who believes that. I interviewed Rutherford by phone in 1978, just as Genesis was shifting gears and moving onto the pop charts. He told me then that the band considered "Supper's Ready" the defining work of their career.

Foxtrot finds Genesis at probably its artistic peak as a band. At the same time, the cover drawing planted an idea in Gabriel's head that would help put Genesis on a path to commercial success. His bold move to appear onstage as that central character on the Foxtrot cover shocked his bandmates as well as the Irish audience. It created quite a buzz in the music press. It made Gabriel one of the most-talked-about frontmen in the world. It created a global appetite for Genesis' stage show.

And it was the first of a series of events that would eventually drive a wedge between Gabriel and a couple of his bandmates.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Spammers will not be tolerated. You casino scammers will be reported immediately and your comments deleted.