Excerpts from Genesis: A Biography, 1992
Mick Barnard was a guitarist from an Aylesbury band, Farm, who was recommended to Genesis by David Stopps from the Friar’s Club. Keen to broaden their sound again, they took his advice and drafted Barnard into the group. Over the two months to Christmas , he started to fit in and the music began to open up once more, so much so that they included two new songs in their set, ‘The Musical Box’ and ‘Twilight Alehouse’. However, improving though he was, it was clear that Barnard did not have the same level of experience and musical expertise as his new colleagues, and expertise that had grown out of their intensive working schedule over the previous year. Though Barnard was an able musician and might have fitted into the Genesis of twelve months earlier, they had now reached a higher rung on the ladder and so the rest of the group felt he was very much a temporary member…
Things were made easier…by the broadcast, in March 1970, of a session that Genesis had recorded for BBC radio on 22 February, which featured ‘Shepherd’, ‘Pacidy’, ‘Let Us Now (Make Love)’, ‘Stagnation’ and ‘Looking For Someone’. The first three were gentle pieces, dominated by the twelve-string sound and the use of two voices in unison (on this occasion Gabriel and Phillips…). The other two songs were considerably different from the final recorded versions on Trespass and give a fascinating illustration of the steps taken between the first two albums.
In spite of the indifference from the record company – the only real boost from them being the organization of another package tour for October – Genesis continued to slog their way around the country, playing such delightful venues as Windrush Twilight Club in Gloucester of the Hobbit’s Garden – a real sign of the times! … They continued to play astonishing concerts and pick up new fans along the way, but there was the feeling of preaching to the converted at gigs, without any sign of acheiving a significant breakthrough to a wider audience. The future of the group was never in any question, but things had undoubtedly gone flat and there was a growing impatience within the ranks which sometimes blew up. Tony remembers an incident at one gig which had been ‘terrible. Mike was so pissed off he didn’t want to do an encore but I said we had to do one, just to be professional! He threw a chair at me, but we went on. All the way back to the stage, he kept trying to kick me over!
At the time, one of Phil’s favourite groups was Yes who regulary appeared at the Marquee. During one of the shows, he was told that their drummer, Bill Bruford, was leaving the band to go to university. After the show he went backstage to talk to their singer, Jon Anderson, who invited him to arrange an audition. At the same show he ran into Tony Stratton-Smith, an old friend, and, remembering the advert he’d just seen in Melody Maker for a Charisma group, he asked who the band were, thinking Strat would give him the job. On hearing it was Genesis, Phil was impressed, since he’d seen their names appearing with monotonous regularity in the press gig guides. Strat informed him that if he wanted the job he’d have to auditiion as the band were very fussy. Deciding to give it a go, Phil did not call Jon Anderson – ‘I’ve always wondered about that because I knew the song backwards. I’m sure I would have got the job and ended up in Yes’.
The ‘Selling England’ tour of the UK was filmed for possible cinema release, Stratton-Smith feeling strongly that the band should be captured on film during what was a very exciting period…the band felt that the film was not of a high enough standard and so refused to sanction its release. It’s a great shame that the film isn’t commercially available…
Just the simple act of shaving his head had sent the press into a fever, Peter later giving Zig Zag a list of the possible reasons why he had done it, which included, ‘It’s a cheap gimmick’, ‘The lice cross from the left side to the right every evening at exactly 7 p.m. and I can swat them more easily’, ‘I’ve got a subconscious desire to join the Hare Krishna movement’ or ‘It’s the result of a very nasty shaving accident!’
(on the Milton Keynes reunion)
After a couple of days’ rehearsal at Hammersmith Odeon, Phil forecast, ‘It’ll be chaos – Pete could only just remember the words when he was in the band!’. As Gabriel was left at home to pore over the lyrics, Genesis let off steam by returning to their roots and playing an unannounced gig at London’s Marquee where the were billed as the Garden Wall.
During the writing of ‘Tonight Tonight Tonight’, Phil came out with the ‘monkey’ phrase from the song – its working title was ‘Monkey/Zulu’ – which quickly became an integral part of the piece, leaving him to write the lyrics around it. He had already used the ‘monkey on your back’ line in ‘Man On The Corner’, so Phil developed the idea, giving a thread of continuity for the band’s train-spotters, the song detailing the dangers of substance dependancy.
A similarly off-the-cuff lyric gave the album its title too. While working on another piece, ‘The Last Domino’, Mike hit on a guitar riff and Phil began to sing ‘She seems to have an invisible touch’. Realizing they’d got a great hook, they turned the riff into a song….
…very few other people pick up on the similarities, largely as a result of the group being pigeonholed, but those influences are definitely there. For example, check the guitar riff accompanying the verses on ‘Land Of Confusion’ which owes a debt to Pete Townshend, subtly acknowledged in the lyric ‘my generation will put it right’, and more obviously in the Spitting Image video used to promote the single which includes an ‘appearance’ by the Who’s leader.
From the book “From One Fan to Another” by Armando Gallo, 1979
Collective endeavor is put on ice for a year while the three principal members of Genesis take a long holiday and concentrate on producing long delayed gold records. No concerts are performed and no Genesis albums released.
Phil Collins maintains the highest profile, working with Brand X, a group inclined more towards jazz than rock, and doing a number of sessions. In October Tony Banks first solo LP “A Curious Feeling” is released.
Tony Banks: ” I don’t bite the head off chickens or frighten horses but I’ve survived in this business for years and I look and feel a lot better than most megastars. I’ve expressed myself the way I want to. The joy of it is that I don’t have to play up to anything I don’t want to. I can walk down a street and hardly anybody recognises me. Those that do are usually more introverted than me, so they never come up.
MIKE TALKS ABOUT ‘ACTING VERY STRANGE’…
Genesis Magazine No. 27, April 1983
‘Acting Very Strange’ surprised many people on several counts, not the least being its solid rock content, but also by the fact that for the first time, Mike sang for himself on the whole album.
“The first album was an achievement in itself by virtue that I did it. That album was bound to be like Genesis. But this album is a different thing entirely.”
And it is. Was that deliberate?
“Yes. The reason that people were surprised was because you get an image and it sticks – for years. In fact if you look at Genesis material you’ll notice that I include a fair proportion of heavier rock material, which is what I like. I spent more and more time in the last two years playing assorted guitars on Genesis stuff, and decided to include some heavier numbers on the album. For my next effort I wouldn’t mind going heavier still.”
Are you already working on the next solo album?
“At the moment I’m working both on the next Genesis album and setting up material for the next solo effort.”
Are the two separate?
“No, the writing doesn’t fall into categories. I just write, and anything that comes up may find it’s way into Genesis or a solo album, or it may be ideal for another artist. In fact a lot of material for the band comes out of writing together. We try to keep fresh by doing stuff outside Genesis, and then we return to writing together, in a jam for instance, everything takes off – we write quickly.”
In which the solo efforts must be like a welcome break in the routine?
“I’ve always written a fair amount, and some of the stuff isn’t suitable for Genesis. That’s possibly evident in ‘And Then There Were Three’ where there seemed to be little coherence. We lost something then but I think we’ve got back now and it’s better than ever. It’s important to avoid going stale. You must keep doing new things.”
Does that mean a possible live solo tour?
“It could be. For the moment this year looks fairly full with the Genesis album, work on the next solo album and then perhaps a Genesis tour later in the year, but a solo tour is one of those things that you have to do – it’s a crazy move but you just have to be brave and get out there if you decide to go ahead. I’d definitely like to get the next solo album out of the way first.”
And a solo tour would mean live singing and playing. How do you get on as a vocalist?
“The singing is O.K. I remember saying to myself when I started, if I can just do a reasonable job of the singing that will be quite enough achievement for one album. I’m the first to admit that I haven’t got the best voice in the world, but I think that many modern singers, especially the totally untrained ones, sing really well. That have something different to offer in the way of vocals – I think character is almost as important as the actual quality of the vocals.”
Was it hard work to get the vocals right?
“Sure. I had to learn all about singing in about seven weeks as opposed to the years it normally takes to get things right. It gets easier as it goes along, because for your first singing album you don’t know what your voice is like, but as you go on you can write specifically for yourself – it takes a lot less time getting it right.”
Meaning time is in short supply?
“Certainly! People always imagine us sitting at home tinkering about, but in fact it’s hard work. I’ve just had six or seven weeks off before Christmas, but that’s the first time off for one and a half years. With solo and band commitments you just don’t have the time you need.”
Do you think you’ve succeeded in getting away form Genesis in the album?
“In a sense yes; the music is quite different, but the attitude is the same in all the music I write and play. It’s music for enjoyment. One of the current trends is the popularity of some politically motivated music which is fine od politics, but just doesn’t come up to scratch on the music. If you write a song about employment – you’re there, you’re one of the people. I write a song that takes your mind off things. If it’s not too pompous a thing to say, I think that’s why Genesis is still alive – we’re still concerned with giving music that’s value for money. One of the things that always surprises me is that Genesis in particular always sell well in the big towns, especially in our early, real escapism/fantasy days. Out in the sticks where life is more leisurely, everyone’s into hot sweaty rock – they want to be in the cities where the action is.”
So Genesis will always be in demand?
“I wouldn’t go that far. We carry on year by year – the question mark always goes up each year after the album; providing it still excites me I like to continue. Some bands go on year after year and one warms to their unchanging quality – Status Quo are like that – they’ve almost become an institution. People don’t realise that you get to a stage where it’s hard to keep going. That’s why solo albums are so important. They have a terrible stigma attached to them – for a long time they were done from frustration. We do them before the frustration sets in so that we can return to Genesis with a fresh mind.”
Are there going to be any more reunions?
“The trouble with it is that it’s got to be spontaneous, like the Milton Keynes concert was. After that they wanted us to do four nights at the Lyceum, but we said no because we’d lose the sparkle, get back into the routine of going over what was good, how things could improve – I wouldn’t want to get into all that.”
Will ‘Hideaway” be the last single off this album?
“Yes, it always was an obvious single to put out, right from the word go. Actually I’m quite like a lot of other people – the minute I’ve finished the work on one album I’m heading towards the next, so I’m busy on new stuff – which will be different.”
MIKE RUTHERFORD – ACTING VERY STRANGE – Atlantic 8015-1 Trouser Press, NYC, Feb 83
Sorry, no cheap shots about members of supergroups this time. Rutherford’s second solo beats Genesis LPs hands down, with more life and less polish. He obviously looks to Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins for vocal guidance – check the inflections – but his ragged edges add a nifty tang. Nothing radical, just a pleasant surprise.
From: Genesis Magazine No. 35, Spring 1985
PHIL COLLINS – THE DRUMMER
It’s odd to think that the majority of his fans today don’t even realise that Phil is a drummer; even those that should know better refer to him as ‘ex-Genesis drummer’.
“In fact it started getting to me a little bit to a point where I thought I should jog people’s memories a little, which is one of the reasons why I went on the Robert Plant tour. I also did it for my own benefit because I only get the chance with Genesis to play about a third of the set; the rest of the time I’m singing. Whilst I enjoyed that 30 per cent it didn’t really seem to be enough.”
To tie in with the tour Phil did the relevant interviews to stress that he was, and is, a drummer. However, even though keen to be known as one, the days of practising paradiddles are way behind him.
[Sorry, a picture has been cut out of the magazine where the next two paragraphs lie, so I have guessed the relevant missing words!]
“I don’t practise at all – I know a lot of drummers who don’t. To me playing is practise, I don’t sit at home and practise. If I’m not actually doing something specific I just [mess around]. I haven’t even got [a drum kit at] home. If I’m doing anything [I’ll just record it on] a little eight-track – ?? of drum machines that [do what I want] them to do. If I want [different] things on I’ll use a Simmons [which I’ve] sometimes got at home.’
Phil’s variety [of instruments] include a Linn, “all the Roland [equipment?] and a DMX.”
“They’ve got all their own character really, and some are easier to programme than others. I like them because it saves me getting a drum sound at home. It’s really to get the feeling down on tape of the demo/master, because all my demos become my masters.”
“What I do is split the drum machine into two halves. There’s the Roland stuff which basically don’t sound like drums; they sound like percussion or strange drum sounds. The 909 has got quite a few sounds that maybe Prince may use – they don’t really sound like drums but they’re interesting noises. Then you’ve got the DMXs and the Linns which are basically real drum sounds. By the time I put that through my AMS with the non-Linear setting – the non-linear setting was apparently designed a little after my ‘Intruder’ sound with Gabriel – they sound like me anyway.
‘Daryl Stuermer tends to spend hours chaining up Linn programmes for different sections, but being a drummer I never worry about that because I know I’m going to replace them anyway, so I just get a pattern which basically gets the thing going anyway.”
What about real drums?
“Oh yes, I remember them. No, listen, I’m a real drum man – I was very late coming into electronics and I’m not an electronics boffin anyway. Give me a manual and I give it to a technical bloke in the road crew and say ‘You read it and tell me in layman’s terms how to use it.’ But I’ve always felt that a drum should look like a drum, should sound like a drum and feel like a drum – that’s why I was late getting into Simmons. I only got into them because Robert Plant wanted me to play them, and at the same time we were doing the last Genesis album and using them on that, so I became a big fan. But it’s real drums that I play the best.”
Over the years Phil’s accumulated quite a selection of drums, though his favourite make today is the make he started with – Gretsch.
“They’re beautifully made – they have a class about them. They’re not individually hand-crafted like they used to be, but they’re all really good drums. Having said that, in the studio I usually use my old black Premier kit, which is one of the first concert tom kits they made. I’ve had that since ’76 and that’s the ‘In The Air’ sound, that’s the Gabriel sound – everything I’ve ever done except the last Genesis album, which was done on a Pearl.”
As Phil doesn’t sell old kits as he gets new ones, he’s got eight or nine kits, as well as a cymbal collection of 160 different makes, sizes and shapes. Now when called to do a session, he’s got the right kit for the job.
“Like when John Martyn called me for a session I knew what kit I wanted – my double-headed Premier. To me a double headed shell has got a leathery sound which suits his mellow sound – that ringing quality that you can’t get off a concert tom. More tone comes from a double headed tom because there’s more air moving around.”
Although quite specific about the type of drum for the job, the tuning of the drums is a much more haphazard affair.
“I just tune the drum to how it sounds good to me. These guys that just tap two inches inside the rim, I don’t bother. I just him them until they sound good. I bought a Radio King snare drum and it sounded fantastic. Then I did a session with Lee Ritenour with this drum and it sounded so good. Then the skin got pretty loose so I had to change it, and it’s not sounded as good since, because I can’t tune it the same.”
So not exactly recommendation for getting that Phil Collins sound, but obviously so many other factors to make up a complete sound. Perhaps his most noted sound is the drum fill that burst into life in the middle of ‘In The Air Tonight’.
“For that we were down in the stone room in studio two, which a few bands like XTC had used, but never to excess. It was a live drum sound which of course runs against the grain of all acoustic engineers. They hate things like that and immediately put on tons of padding. The first time we came up with it was when I was working on Gabriel’s third album, and I was playing around in the live room while Hugh the engineer was mucking around with some noise gates and compressors, and this drum sound started developing and I was hearing it through the headphones and I started playing (mouths In The Air Tonight pattern) because that was the tempo being set by the gates cutting off. Pete was in the control room and said that was great, just do that for 10 minutes. So I put the drum machine on so I wouldn’t wander around – my timing isn’t that great – and I started playing the pattern. I knew it was good and I said to Pete afterwards ‘If you don’t want it, I do'”.
So in answer to the criticism that Phil nicked the sound off Gabriel, Phil is keen to point out that it was him that go the sound in the first place. When he made his first solo album he took the same kit into the same studio and set it up as before. With the drum pattern sorted out for the title track, then came that drum roll.
“Although that fill has apparently become a trade mark of mine, it could have been anything. I didn’t sit down and think ‘What would be the best drum fill to do?’ I just decided where I wanted the drums to come in, and sat down and did just that. There’s probably another take somewhere with me doing something totally different.”
PHIL COLLINS – THE SONGWRITER
Although the drum fill and sound played a large part in the success of the song, it was the drum machine pattern featured on the first half that Phil wrote the song around. At the time he was divorced and depressed, and drowning his sorrow in his newly-acquired Brenell one inch eight track system. “I’d just got a Prophet 5, a grand piano, a drum machine and Fender Rhodes. I’d programmed a patter on this square box Roland drum machine which had a very distinctive sound, and the feel I got from that pattern was to play those kind of chords. After that I wanted to put a vocal idea on first so it wouldn’t crowd anything else; I opened my mouth and started singing the words – all those words came out spontaneously.”
“Originally the song just went on like that, and when I came back to it a couple of weeks later I thought I’d put a bit of drums on, and originally they came in very ordinary all the way through, and that was it. When I came in here to record it it just escalated to when the drums come in as they did with a bang. It was purely accidental really – that ‘Face Value’ album was all accidental stuff.”
The eight track system plays a large part in the finished product, as Phil takes them into the studio to layer on top of what’s already down, keeping original drum machine and keyboard parts – but he may go 24-track. “I never want to get it so that it’s out of control I never want to have a control room and a studio; I want it all in one room so I can do it on my own. The idea of having someone breathing down my neck – I might just as well be here doing it.”
‘Feel’ plays an important part in the writing process and writing to order is not something he can do. When asked last year to write all the music for ‘Against All Odds’ he said no, but mentioned he had a song that might be suitable. The song he had in mind was an out-take from the ‘Face Value’ sessions, still only on demo and called ‘How Can You Sit There?’ He was ?? part of the film, changed the words to suit it, then asked Arif Mardin to produce it.
“I said to Arif I know you’d be able to handle it, I asked him to arrange the strings – because he’s a brilliant arranger – you produce it. Then one day between Genesis gigs I flew to New York, met up with him, did the orchestra to a click track with a piano player and went off to write the words. Two weeks later he flew to L.A. and I did the drums, the vocals and then asked him to mix it. He sent a copy of the mixes and he’d be on the phone while I’d be listening to it, and I’d be saying ‘a little less echo on the drums, a bit more on the voice’, and the whole thing was done like that. He produced it and we just kept liasing. Considering it was my first number one record in America it was made in a very roundabout haphazard fashion.”
PHIL COLLINS – THE KEYBOARD PLAYER
“I have a certain amount of technique, but certainly not a keyboard player’s technique. I had an aunt that was a piano teacher, and she was capable of teaching me far more than I wanted to be taught, but I didn’t really gain that much knowledge. My scales are really painfully slow. It’s a keyboard player’s nightmare… Peter Robinson, David Frank, and of these guys I go on tour with, I show them and say ‘This is the chords, like that’ and they say ‘no, it’s like that, proper’, which is a nightmare for them because they have to learn things the wrong way around.”
Keyboard equipment recently purchased includes a complete Oberheim system and a couple of DX7’s. The Oberheim will be handed over to David Frank, of New York duo The System, for the tour, while Phil sticks mainly to the DXs.
I use presets most of the time and the DX7s have got great presets. I find that because of my lack of technical expertise on the keyboard I go with the sound, so I made sure that when this album came up I would have some different tools to work with. The tools will make me play different things and therefore write different songs.”
PHIL COLLINS – THE PRODUCER
“It was all trial and error really. The first thing I produced was my own album, ‘Face Value’. After that John Martyn asked me to produce his album ‘Glorious Fool’, and that was the first time I’d ever been asked to produce anybody. I was a bit scared, but we did it and it turned out pretty well. And then…”
Frida from Abba, which Phil regards to be the first bit of ‘real’ production he did. “For the first time people were looking over my shoulder for budgets; I had to book the musicians – it was much more of a serious project. John and I were mates, Frida I didn’t really know and Stig Andersson wields a pretty hefty stick. Although there’s a lot of money in that organisation it was still a budget-concious album.”
When Phil is faced with a production job he doesn’t think in terms of what sound the artist should have, but more about the best people to work with to do the job.
“Once I’ve got the people I go for the sound that each particular song should sound like. There’s many songs on the Frida album sound very different. I’m not a serious producer in as much as the George Martins of this world.”
[Indecipherable paragraph because of picture being cut out – skipped]
PHIL COLLINS – THE SINGER
If you told someone they sang like a drummer chances are they’d take it as an insult, but Phil Collins uses the phrase to describe his own vocal style.
“In the early days with Genesis when I started singing, I was a very rhythmic, percussive singer… and I still am, though I’m getting better as a singer all the time. I was thrown in at the deep end a bit because I’ve played drums from 25 years – even though I’m only 33 now – and I only started singing in 1975. I sort of grew up to be a professional drummer and suddenly I’m a singer.”
“But there’s things with my voice that I’m still overdoing, but I am getting better. I don’t ever practice though…”
In fact Phil doesn’t practise anything, he just does it; practise enough with his heavy work schedule. Obviously he spent a great deal of time when he started getting things right, but now – regards playing and recording as enough practise.
Has the Phil Collins project become more important than the Genesis one? “It’s more important because it’s me, but I never differentiate between what’s more important; it’s all important to me. I enjoy playing with the band and we all enjoy writing with each other, and we do it all infrequently enough for it to be fun. We do an album every couple of years, that’s what it boils down to. By the time I’ve done what I want to do and they’ve done what they want to do and when we talk about when we’re going to do it, it always ends up being a couple of years. There’s no legal binding thing between us except that we actually enjoy doing it.”
“Basically I just want to be able to do everything I do now… only better.”
PHIL ON ‘SUSSUDIO’
“Sussudio” was a song that was born out of my desire to try to write a dance song because it was something that most people didn’t think that I was capable of, I think; and also, I didn’t know if I was capable of it. So, it was an interesting experiment for me to try and sit down at home and put the ol’ drum machines on and put the synthesizers on and basically see if I could write something that would make people move. The word Sussudio, in fact, is a word that I invented while I was doing the guide vocal for the song in a desperate bid to try and get lyrical ideas and all that stuff together; and I couldn’t find a better word for it; and so it stuck; and eventually I had to try to find a meaning for it!”
PHIL COLLINS AND HIS HOT TUB CLUB
The basic set:
– I Don’t Care Anymore – Only You Know And I Know – I Cannot Believe It’s True – This Must Be Love – Against All Odds – Inside Out – Who Said I would – If Leaving Me I Easy – Sussudio – Behind The Lines – Don’t Lose My Number – The West Side – One More Night – In The Air Tonight – Like China – You Can’t Hurry Love – It Don’t Matter To Me – Hand In Hand Encore: – Take Me Home – Get On Board – It’s Alright
PHIL COLLINS AND HIS HOT TUB CLUB at the ROYAL ALBERT HALL
Thursday, 21st February 1985. by Jolyon Symonds
Catching a glimpse of Leland Sklar along the dressing room corridor it struck me that he was not the only change which Phil had rung. ‘No Jacket Required’ is certainly Phil’s best album: the compositions posess a tighter edge which differs from his previous two albums. Phil has reached his peak as a songwriter.
Enough of that. A packed Albert Hall witnessed a suberb set drawing from all three albums and even though the Hall did not handle the powerful amplification as well as other venues, it served as a welcome alternative. The show started with a rousing ‘I Don’t Care Anymore’ and moved into the wonderful ‘Only You Know And I Know’ with the Phenoix Horns providing their marvellous brass, combined with the odd backing vocal and humourous percussion. The new man, veteran Lee Sklar on bass, has a strong presence and contributes greatly to the show not just in his playing. Peter Robinson provided an unobtrusively fine performance, positioned, as was Tony Banks on the Genesis tour, in the middle of the two drum kits. I don’t think I need expand on the brilliance of Chester Thompson and Daryl Stuermer, whose skills as a soloist are brought to the fore on the new album.
The set was well balanced, the heavier numbers such as ‘In The Air Tonight’, ‘West Side’, ‘Inside Out’ and ‘Like China’ interspersed with the softer ‘If Leaving Me Is Easy’, ‘This Must Be Love’ and ‘One More Night’. Those of us who had been the night before rushed to the front just before ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ in order to avoid the crush. ‘hand In Hand; involved the audience who echoed Phil’s vocal melodies before he returned to his kit to complement Chester’s basic rhythm. This number finished the set but after testing out shorts for more the Hot Tub Club reappeared for their encore. A stirring ‘Take Me Home’ perhaps missed the presence of Peter Gabriel on backing vocals but I am sure Phil did not want to share the limelight (remember Selhurst Park!). This was followed by the Gospel standard ‘Get On Board’ and the catchy ‘It’s Alright’ but unfortunately there was no ‘You Know What I Mean’ as on the previous night.
The lighting was tasteful throughout, chiefly helped by the scaled down vari-light system of 30 lights.
Well, critics have moaned about the lack of spontaneity in his performance but as far as I’m concerned there is nothing contrived about Phil Collins. Even the Royal Albert Hall seemed to sing his praises long after the concert was over.
FROM ONE FAN TO ANOTHER
February 12 1950 – Steven Richard Hackett born at London’s University College Hospital.
“People used to buy me mouth organs when I was small and by the time I was four I could play about three tunes properly. As a child I would stand in the playground at school and play the harmonica. The kids would form an audience around me, and subconsciously I learned that I could charm people through music.”
February 22 1968 – First Genesis single released on Decca Records: The Silent Sun/That’s Me. Chris Welch of Melody Maker gives it an excellent review.
Richard MacPhail: “Kenny Everett was the first person to play Genesis on the radio. He played The Silent Sun and at the time he was working for the BBC.”
May 10 1968 – Second Genesis single A Winter Tale/One-Eyed Hound released by Decca.
Summer 1968 – Further recording sessions take place at Regent Sound during the summer holidays.
King: “They had sent me more tapes and the more I listened the better I thought they were, so finally I decided I would make a whole album with them, which was unheard of in those days, because that was very much the era when you made a single and that was the end of it.”
These tracks would eventually be released on the first Genesis album From Genesis to Revelation the following year.
At the end of the summer term Tony Banks entered Sussex University to read physics, maths and philosophy; Peter Gabriel and Anthony Phillips elected to carry on studying for more “A” levels; and Mike Rutherford entered Farnborough Technical College.
No further progress was achieved during the remainder of the year although the various members of the group stayed in touch with each other.
March 1969 – From Genesis To Revelation released by Decca. By this time the group’s relationship with Jonathan King was virtually at an end and the album was released into a void.
Summer 1969 – Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips leave Charterhouse and decide to become professional musicians.
Phillips: “We really arrived at the reality of hte fact that we were really going to have to go out and play. It was the big crunch… ‘Do we go professional or don’t we?’.”
Rutherford: “This was a difficult time because Tony and Peter were not really sure what they wanted to do. Peter had an offer to go to the London School Of Film Technique, and Tony seemed to be set at University, just playing with us during the holidays. And I had no doubts that this was what we were going to do and even if they weren’t coming with us this was what we were going to do. Ant was probably even keener than me… ironic that he was the first one to leave.”
At the end of the summer Gabriel and Banks decided to stay with the band.
August 1969 – Further recording sessions at Regent Sound Studios.
Banks: “We took this tape round to a lot of people and the reaction we got from it was pretty bad. Everyone said it was terrible.”
November 1969 – April 1970 – The five piece Genesis write and rehearse new material at a cottage owned by Richard MacPhail’s parents at Dorking in Surrey. By this time they had recruited a new drummer in John Mayhew who arrived from an ad in Melody Maker.
MacPhail: “The cottage was very remote, because the countryside and forest all around are protected by the National Trust. So just purely by fortuitous chance there was this cottage… ideal, just empty. Rent free.”
Rutherford: “That was definately the beginning of a period because we started living together. The cottage period was incredibly formative. This is a time when we wrote totally as a band, and it was a period when we nearly killed each other too. We were very young and very immature with each other.
” While Genesis were at the cottage a handful of college appearances were set up through their friend and acting manager Marcus Bicknell. They performed at Brunel University, Twickenham Technical College, Eel Pie Island, the Kingston Hotel and at a few youth clubs. Gradually the number of live appearances was increased and Genesis found themselves appearing on the same bill as ‘name’ bands.
Steve Hackett — “From Genesis to Revelations about Tuning” – ProView Magazine, Summer `93
“It was murder in the old days,” says Steve Hackett. “You had to tune to the organ, and that was serious stuff. I remember Genesis having to abandon Reading Festival one year because the power wasn’t stable enough for us to get in tune.”
Indeed tuning and tunings have remained key issues for guitarist Steve Hackett over the years, from playing alongside monsters like the Mellotron (“impossible), to continued experimentations with different scales and tunings. And, of course, there’s his lifelong love of the highly demanding nylon string guitar.
“The nylon is notoriously inaccurate if you solo it when you’re recording,” Hackett points out. “I have to correct the tuning, by ear, to thirds. I’ll still use a tuner of course, but I’ll use the readout to sharpen the lower strings slightly, playing something like an F# or a D.”
Using an acoustic on stage is problematic, especially with the added difficulties of temperature fluctuations.
“You’ve got to avoid the idiots who think they’re doing you a favor by dragging some great fan on stage and saying, `This’ll cool you down a bit.’
“Guitars are warm blooded creatures anyway,” Steve continues. “They respond better to extreme heat rather than cold. I find the best thing is to tune guitars on stage, and leave them there. Don’t take them back to the dressing room.”
Tuners really come into their own when you experiment with different setups and tunings, something Steve has always been keen to do. For example, there’s the special tuning he uses which produces a wonderfully thin, banjo-like speeded-up effect (light gauge strings tuned up an octave, or for the bottom E, two octaves). Or tuning to a chord which he did most notably on “Narnia” off his Please Don’t Touch album (“I used three guitars all tuned to an E chord: two acoustics panned in hard stereo and an electric plus wind chimes in the center”).
Modes and scales are yet more items on the agenda, but ones in which lack of perfect tuning can be more cruelly exposed. Check out his use of whole tone scales on the closing run of “Camino Royale,” or his classic minor pentatonic melody line on “Take These Pearls,” the opening track off Hackett’s ’93 LP, Guitar Noir.
“Tuning has always been important, of course,” explains Steve. “Even when the technology didn’t allow us to get it right. Nowadays, though, with the digital accuracy of keyboards ad CD- quality reproduction, you can get away with anything. In the studio, you sometimes find yourself checking every note to see if its in tune, and every beat to see if its in time. It can make the recording process much slower.
“I’ve recorded with some people,” Steve says obliquely, “who have a tuner with a built-in mic permanently set up in the studio so you can see what’s happening on every note at all times – guitars, vocals, the lot. I think that’s a bit over the top though, don’t you?”