– another CD re-release of Genesis’ first album, ‘From Genesis To Revelation’
Decca – London – 820 496-2
Written by John Tracy
Today Genesis are one of the biggest disc and box office drawers in the world. Despite a multitude of personnel changes, good times and bad times, they have assumed the mantle of superstars – members of that elite who truly justify the grandiose tag. One typical example of their latter day universal popularity being the remarkable million plus applications received for tickets to view one early Eighties tour itinerary; unfortunately, the applicants were chasing just 68,000 seats. But it wasn’t always that way. Here we afford the opportunity to treasure forever a slice of musical history: the very first recordings produced by a Genesis line-up in the late Sixties…
It was the traditional Charterhouse Public School which brought together our protagonists. Originally a Carthusian monastery in London’s Clerkenwell district, it was heavily bombed in 1940 and partially restored eleven years later. After 1611 it enjoyed the bizarre double existence of being used as a hospital for elderly men and acting as a school for fourty boys simultaneously. From this irregular beginning, it developed into one of England’s premier educational establishments, moving to Godalming, Surrey, in 1872.
The five original members of Genesis all attended the institute, namely Michael Rutherford (born 2/10/1950; Bass, Gtr., Vocals); Anthony Phillips (Gtr., Vocals); Peter Gabriel (13/2/1950; Vocals, Flute); Tony Banks (27/3/1950; Keyboards, Vocals) and Chris Stewart (Drums). They rose from the ashes of two eariler school outfits: The Anon (Rutherford/Phillips), which also featured bassist Rivers Job (Rutherford handled Rhythm Gtr.), drummer Rob Tyrell and vocalist Richard MacPhail, who re-entered the picture in September ’69 when he assumed the position of road manager for the band, and The Garden Wall, which accommodated the other three in a very loose set-up. Their only notable appearance being an end of term concert in which the trio were expanded by Job and Phillips.
With the farewell school concert of December 1966 sounding the death-knell for The Anon, Genesis could have be said to have officially existed from January the following year, but Mike and Anthony originally set out to develop their songwriting, with a view to recording their efforts and hopefully obtaining a thumbs-up from a record company. Concurrently, Messrs. Gabriel and Banks were attempting a similar course of action.
The first demonstration tape of the two duo’s scribbled efforts was commenced one Thursday, using a crude and tiny home-made studio belonging to a mutual friend. Initially, Rutherford and Phillips had requested Banks’ keyboards talents for the session; in 1978 Tony explained to biographer Armando Gallo and researcher Pete Frame: “Basically, it was Mike and Ant recording their songs, and I was asked along to play keyboards. Peter arrived on the second day and we persuaded Ant, who had been doing the vocals, that Peter had a better voice – so after that, he did the singing.” Six tracks, five Rutherford/Phillips outings: ‘Try A Little Sadness’, ‘That’s Me’, ‘Listen On 5’, ‘Don’t Wash Your Back’ and an instrumental, ‘Patricia’. Additionally, the Gabriel/Banks partnership included their first ever collaboration ‘She’s Beautiful’, later modified to become ‘The Serpent’.
The completed numbers were then duly despatched in two directions: one copy was forwarded to influential BBC disc jockey David Jacobs, whilst a second was passed, with foresight and deliberation, to another former Charterhouse resident, now become a successful pop singer/writer/entrepreneur, Jonathan King. A Decca recording artist first noticed through his self-penned 1965 hit ‘Everyone’s Gone To The Moon’, and already fast becoming a one-man record industry, he also had the confidence of Decca’s founder and chairman, Sir Edward Lewis.
Mr. Jacobs responded with a reply to the effect that the tape was interesting, but the balance was very poor. Mr. King also criticised both this aspect and the arrangements, but was sufficiently impressed to foot the bill for the boys to spend an hour at Denmark Street’s Regent Sound Studios to obtain a better recording; this time a quartet of titles brought forth ‘She’s Beautiful’, ‘Try A Little Sadness’, ‘Where The Sour Turns To Sweet’ and ‘The Image Blown Out’. After considering the result he offered them a five year contract as their guide and mentor, but parental intervention meant this ended as a one year pacting with a further twelve months option.
Thereafter, it took him three months to generate sufficient enthusiasm with a music publisher to promote their career further, but this achieved, another recording date was arranged to preserve a further eight titles for posterity. King was not over-enamoured with the commercial possibilities of any of the numbers from this latest outpouring, and so Peter and Tony, realising their future was at stake, set out to deliberately compose a Bee Gees pastiche after hearing of Jonathan’s enthusiasm for the group. The result was ‘The Silent Sun’ two months later. It was enthusiastically received by King who rushed them back to Regent Sound’s Studio A that December. After two days the record was completed, ‘That’s Me’ being selected as the ‘B’ side, and their overseer signed the group to Decca on a tape licence deal. The label issued Genesis’ first 45 as F12735 on 22nd February 1968 bearing Jonathan’s production credit; Arthur Greenslade handling the string arrangements.
Media attention was relatively minor, although Britain’s ‘Melody Maker’ singles reviewer of the period, Chris Welch, wrote favourably of it, and former offshore radio d.j. Kenny Everett, by then with BBC’s Radio One, became the first ever broadcaster ever to air a Genesis disc.
The group’s name was also the brainchild of Jonathan King. He recalled later “I named them Genesis because I thought it was a good name … it suggested the beginning of a new sound and a new feeling.”
The ‘new sound’ was offered to the British public again on May 10th with the release of ‘A Winter’s Tale’ / ‘One-Eyed Hound’ (F12775). It did little to raise the level of public awareness towards them. Subsequently, Chris Stewart deserted the drum kit to be replaced by John Silver. Upset also occurred with the discovery of an unsuccessful American group likewise working out as Genesis. Decca requested a band name change, but King declined, instead deciding to omit their nomenclature from the sleeve of his proposed debut LP by them. The twelve inch thirteen track package was to be named ‘From Genesis To Revelation’ decreed King, and would be built around the concept of human evolution described in song form. This, it should be remembered, was before ‘concept’ albums, so popular in the Seventies, had been generally envisaged.
The four members of the original personnel were still deeply involved in the acquisition of conventional academic qualifications, thus the album project could not be undertaken until the school holidays of 1968, when Jonathan booked the fivesome into Denmark Street once again, this time for ten days. The fruits of their labours reached record dealers during March 1969, as SKL 4990, followed by a single culled from the set on 27th June, ‘Where The Sour Turns To Sweet’ / ‘In Hiding’ (F12949). Once again, it failed to dent the listings, although sufficient interest abroad had been aroused to yield 45’s in America (‘The Silent Sun’; Parrot label PAR 3018) and Italy (‘In The Beginning’; Decca F22909).
Reviews of the album at the time were generally luke warm, even Chris Welch felt it had little future, although underground publication ‘International Times’ gave it a very favourable reading. The band were disappointed at its failure, and their relationship with King cooled as new compositions became ever more remote from his mainstream ideals, coupled with their educational preoccupations and the fact they could not collect the support of live audiences, having yet to make a public debut. Indeed, in the early months of ’69 they hardly saw each other, Anthony and Peter remaining at Charterhouse prior to their ‘A’ level examinations; Mike similarly occupied at Farnborough Technical College, and Tony domiciled at Essex University reading Physics.
Their contract with Jonathan and Decca now being fulfilled after the June 45 issue, neither latter party wished to renew obligations, and thus by appending the re-mixed mono only recorded ‘A’ and ‘B’ sides of their first two seven inch vinyls to the ‘back and front’ of the original stereo album, we are able to present their entire Decca output on compact disc, while retaining the LP’s running order in unblemished form.
It makes interesting listening in retrospect to examine where it all began, and with the benefit of hindsight it becomes easier to understand that the Genesis discs did not fit comfortably into any of the categories accepted as ‘popular’ for the 1969 market. Certainly, it is no out-and-out bubblegum pop, nor is it related to the alternative heavy rock genre a la Cream or Hendrix so predominant in that era, but then in a few areas of life are innovators readily accepted, music is certainly no exception and, as King promised, Genesis were innovators.
This may be clearly recognised as the end of their first chapter. Now without either record company or management, they decided on the bold step of turning fully professional in July, and by cajoling loans from a variety of individuals, purchased the necessary equipment to appear on stage. The summer recess was spent frantically practising whenever various parents were away from home, and in August a four track demo of ‘Dusk’, ‘White Mountain’, ‘Going Out To Get You’ and ‘Placidy’ was cut and hawked around totally disinterested record companies. Far from causing their demise, it made the four founder members even more determined to continue, although John Silver left the drum stool vacant once more by completing his education, ultimately moving into television.
The following month brought its own landmarks: Richard MacPhail re-entered the story by accepting the appointment of road manager and general factotum; John Mayhew passed an audition for percussion duties through the established musicians shop window, the ‘Melody Maker’ small ads. columns, and they played their first gig, receiving £25, for entertaining the guests of one Mrs. Balmes at a private function. As October arrived so did their occupation of a Dorking cottage, and living together they composed numbers which would soon grace a new album. A few more dates filled their sketchy itinerary, until in February 1970 a night at London’s Queen Mary College saw an appreciative audience reward their tenacity.
That all-important break came in March when the group Rare Bird, then currently on our singles chart with the emotive ‘Sympathy’, witnessed Genesis act at Ronnie Scott’s club in the capital and recommended them to the owner of their fledgling label, Charisma Records. Tony Stratton-Smith duly despatched John Anthony, his Artistes and Repertoire man, to catch our heroes. He did, and advised the boss to go himself and take his pen. Stratton-Smith obliged, and secured their signatures inside fourteen days, despite competition, for both recording and management purposes. It was the beginning of a bountiful liaison.
Those recently scribed opus’s attained a shape during June when canned to become ‘Trespass’ (CAS 1020), issued four months later, but the new-found apparent stability was rocked immediately by the departure of both Mayhew and Phillips in July, in the latter case through a mixture of fatigue and musical disillusionment. He went off to study classical guitar.
A rapid replacement for skin king was forthcoming in the shape of Phil Collins (31/1/1951), a one-time actor who’d supplemented the personnel of several nondescript aggregations, before obtaining the Genesis drum stool ahead of fourteen other hopefuls. One of the most inspired signings ever made, as it turned out…
Finding a string picker to replace Phillips, however, was to take a little longer. The new album met with immediate critical bouquets at home, gaining Melody Maker’s ‘Album Of The Month’ award amongst others, and the band promptly began touring to spread the gospel. Various guitarists were used as a stop-gap, until Gabriel answered an interestingly worded ad in … where else … ‘Melody Maker’, and came face-to-face with Steve Hackett (12/2/1950). Invited to attend the group’s Christmas concert at the capital’s Lyceum Ballroom, Hackett came, saw, and decided to join. Despite his relative inexperience of recording – just one album – he was welcomed with open arms and stayed for over six years.
The success story gradually gained momentum. The next LP, ‘Nursery Cryme’ (CAS 1052), followed in November 1971. Now benefitting from a regular personnel the band toured constantly, indeed they had only really found time to pen ‘Nursery …’ during Peter’s enforced lay-off with a broken ankle the previous June.
The word was spreading beyond the confines of Britain’s shores. Gracing their first foreign stage at Brussels in January ’72, both Seventies albums shot into European charts, and by December America saw them for the first time, now with ‘Foxtrot’ (CAS 1058; October) also to their credit, first of their efforts to crack the U.K. album barometer.
Upon return home, a gig at London’s Rainbow Theatre on February 9th 1973 saw Peter Gabriel unveil for the first time his remarkable batwings and flower costume, heralding the era of Genesis concerts which were a glorious mixture of music and theatre. That headlining tour completed, it was back across the Atlantic in March for a full Stateside tour.
Wisely, to encourage a greater appreciation of the group, in July a new mid-price release hit the market, ‘Genesis Live’ (CLASS 1), followed two months on by ‘Selling England By The Pound’ (CAS 1074), quickly certified gold and breaking the band’s duck with singles success by spawning ‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’, (CB 224; No. 21, 7 weeks), released in February ’74 and entering the listings on April 6th.
Decca opportunistically re-packaged ‘From Genesis To Revelation’ as ‘In The Beginning’ (September), retaining the original catalogue number, to remind potential customers of the ‘forgotten’ LP, shortly before the controversial new Charisma double ‘concept’ album ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’ (CGS 101; November). With a story penned by Peter and music by the other members, it related the adventures of one Rael, acted by Gabriel, in contemporary New York. Simultaneously with the release they began a world tour, performing the whole album’s contents 102 times.
Suddenly, early in the tour, the lead singer decided to call it a day, although he completed outstanding commitments and thus remained until May 1975, after which he took a two year sabbatical before releasing a solo self-named album in February 1977 (CDS 4006), and scoring a 45 hit in April with ‘Solsbury Hill’ (CB 301; 13, 9 weeks) to launch a lucrative alternative career.
Meanwhile, observers expressed fears for Genesis’ future with the departure of their front man, and the group auditioned over 400 possible replacements before discovering they already had an ideal vocalist in drummer Collins. With ‘A Trick Of The Tail’ (CDS 4001; February 1976) they produced a superb showcase for Phil, and took the first tentative steps towards an even larger audience. ‘Wind And Wuthering’ (CDS 4005; January 1977) and the double live album in October, ‘Seconds Out’ (GE 2001), continued the run of chart victories, garnished by two further hit seven inchers, before Steve Hackett’s decision to go solo compacted the band further that year.
The remainder: Banks, Rutherford and Collins, offered the tongue-in-cheek titled ‘…And Then There Were Three…’ (CDS 4010) in April ’78, and augmented by various musicians, including drummers Bill Bruford and Chester Thompson and guitarist Daryl Stuermer, have broadened their appeal ever wider with a string of hit singles and albums undiminished as I write, as well as solo projects by all three members which have additionally triumphed, particularly in the case of likeable Phil Collins, one of the brightest talents in the showbiz firmament, whose popularity has reached astounding proportions.
But here is a chance to find out where it all started, or to put it another way, simply, Genesis …
© John Tracy
Typed up by Thomas Holter, from the above mentioned CD booklet — some late evenings mid September 1996.