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Genesis formed in 1966 at Charterhouse prep school, England; original members included Tony Banks (born March 27, 1950, in England), keyboards; Michael Rutherford (born October 2, 1950, in England), guitar, bass, and vocals; Peter Gabriel (born May 13, 1950 in England), vocals (quit band, 1974); and Anthony Philips, guitar, (quit, 1970). Later additions include Phil Collins, (born January 31, 1951, in London, England), drums, vocals (joined band, 1970); and Steve Hackett (born February 12, 1950, in England), guitar (joined band, 1970; quit, 1977). Addresses: Record Company --Atlantic Record Co., 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, N.Y. 10019.
Genesis is one of only a handful of rock music groups that has endured more than two decades in the ebb and flow of the show business spotlight, and this is more a tribute to the group's versatility and flexibility than any phenomenal and enduring popularity. Genesis has never been in the same league as such all-time great English supergroups as the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, or Led Zeppelin. They have never reached the absolute zenith of the pop world at any one moment, as each of the above groups have done--and yet they have been more consistent, quietly making music year in and year out without a lot of fanfare or dramatic personality clashes.
Which is not to say that Genesis has not undergone some major changes since its inception in the late 1960s. Indeed, the history of the band could be easily divided into two distinct phases. The first, stretching roughly from 1966 to 1975, could be called the "Art-Rock Years," or, more simply, the "Peter Gabriel Years" after the singer who was the group's driving creative force and chief vocalist before leaving for an outstanding solo career. The second, current phase could well be called the "Phil Collins Years," for the man who stepped out from behind the drum-set in the mid-1970s to replace Gabriel on lead vocals. Collins's era saw the group move toward a simpler, more soulful sound that proved eminently more popular with record-buyers. Like Gabriel, Collins also decided to launch a career on his own, but he has since remained committed to keeping Genesis alive and has switched back and forth several times between his enormously successful solo projects and the less popular, though to him equally satisfying, Genesis collaborations. "Frankly, the term 'art-rock' has been a pain in the ass," Collins told Rolling Stone in 1982, as if to sound the territory the "Collins Era" would roam.
Though Collins is now the most famous member of Genesis, ironically he was not even an original member of the group, which came together as a "songwriters' collective" called Garden Wall in the exclusive London prep school Charterhouse in 1966. The group, consisting of Gabriel, bassist Mike Rutherford, keyboardist Tony Banks, and guitarist Tony Philips, came under the tutelage of producer Jonathan King, who suggested the new name Genesis. After their first LP, From Genesis to Revelation, caused little fanfare, the members of the band retreated to an English country cottage to rehearse.
They emerged with the music for the Trespass album and a highly theatric road show which they immediately took to the far corners of Britain. During this time Philips and drummer John Mayhew quit the band and Collins and guitarist Steve Hackett joined to form the core of the first Genesis era. The band followed with the LPs Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot, which featured more of the layered, extended suites that were signature early-70s progressive rock. By this time, Gabriel's propensity for donning wild costumes and acting out the storylines of the music had begun to draw media attention and a growing cult following both in England and the United States. The crowning achievement of this period was 1974's double album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, which was accompanied by an elaborate world tour featuring Gabriel as Rael, a sojourner in a surreal Manhattan landscape.
Later that same year Gabriel inexplicably left Genesis, citing conflicts within the group over how much time he was expected to devote to the band, as opposed to how much time his wife and newborn child needed him at home. Gabriel recalled in Rolling Stone that before the birth of his daughter,"My wife remembers it that ... I was away with the band all the time. The band remembers it that I was away with my wife all the time." Tony Banks added that "it was difficult for us to accommodate that, because at that stage in the group's career, we still wanted to do as much touring as we could."
After a long search to find a suitable replacement for Gabriel, Collins sort of took over the microphone by default, and the second Genesis era had begun. The musical output of Genesis in the following years stayed basically the same on such works as Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering. Meanwhile, the group remained committed to the road, playing extended world tours that culminated in the double live LP Seconds Out, recorded in Paris. Though they had dropped the costumery and theatrics, Genesis in concert still relied on plenty of the long, complex tunes from their early years, but the departure of Hackett signalled a change in musical direction for the group. The aptly titled ... And Then There Were Three was released in 1977 after Hackett left the band to pursue a solo career, and Genesis soon began producing shorter, more accessible rock songs that caught the attentions of radio programming, particularly in the United States. "Follow You, Follow Me" from ... And Then There Were Three hit the top ten in Great Britain, and "Misunderstanding" from Duke and "Abacab" from Abacab both made the charts in the U.S.
It was 1981's Abacab that signalled the full arrival of the Collins era. The album featured extensive contributions from the horn section of the American group Earth, Wind & Fire, which had appeared on Collins's highly successful solo debut Face Value and lent the Genesis sound a fresher, more direct "pop" quality. Collins's second solo effort, Hello, I Must Be Going (1983), was a Top Twenty album that helped to bring even more attention to Genesis, which released Three Sides Live in 1982. Seemingly caught in the middle of his band loyalties and an expanding solo career, Collins simply capitalized on both. By 1987 Genesis had produced the Collins-esque Invisible Touch LP, which produced five top ten singles and was followed by a $60 million world tour.
In the meantime Collins released his third solo record, No Jacket Required, and Mike Rutherford had surprising success with the critically and financially successful album Mike and the Mechanics (1985). Almost out of nowhere, Genesis had become hot property--hot enough to become one of the first groups to fully capitalize on the lucrative, if not controversial, 1980s trend that saw several artists lend their names to ambitious product marketing campaigns. Suddenly Collins and Genesis were seen performing on television ads for Michelob beer, which had lent its name to the huge 1987 tour. Asked if he saw anything wrong with becoming a product spokesman, Collins told Rolling Stone: "Everyone has a beer--it's no big deal. We're not saying to go out and get legless every night. We're just saying a beer's a beer's a beer."
Despite the divergent solo interests of Collins, Rutherford, and even Tony Banks, who has developed a career in film soundtrack composition, Genesis has repeatedly stated its intention to stay together, a fact that should come as good news to its longtime following. "Genesis is more than a rock institution," writes Mike Clifford in The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock. "Like an old family friend, they are always dependable, always faithful, and hopefully always there. With room for solo projects, that should be the case for some time to come."
by David Collins
Band formed, 1966; recorded first LP, From Genesis to Revelation , 1968; signed with Charisma label, 1970; vocalist Peter Gabriel quit band, 1974; drummer Phil Collins became lead vocalist, 1976, with drummers Chester Thompson and Bill Bruford added for tours; guitarist Steve Hacket departs, 1977; all three remaining band members release solo LPs--Banks (1979), Rutherford (1980), and Collins (1981)--while continuing to produce records as Genesis; band releases highly successful LP Invisible Touch , 1986, followed by $60 million world tour under sponsorship of Michelob beer, 1987.
- Selective Works
- Trespass ABC/Charisma, 1970; retitled In the Beginning London/Decca, 1974.
- Nursery Cryme Charisma, 1971.
- Foxtrot Charisma, 1972.
- Genesis Live Charisma, 1973.
- Selling England By the Pound Charisma, 1973.
- The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway ATCO/Charisma, 1974.
- A Trick of the Tail ATCO/Charisma, 1976.
- Wind and Wuthering ATCO/Charisma, 1976.
- Seconds Out ATCO/Charisma, 1977.
- ... And Then There Were Three ATCO/Charisma, 1978.
- Duke ATCO/Charisma, 1980.
- Abacab ATCO/Charisma, 1981.
- Three Sides Live ATCO/Charisma, 1982.
- Invisible Touch Atlantic, 1986.
- And The Word Was... London, 1987.
- Clifford, Mike, The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, Harmony Books, 1986.
- Hardy, Phil, and Dave Laing, Encyclopedia of Rock, Schirmer, 1988.
- Pareles, Jon, and Patricia Romanowski, The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, Rolling Stone Press, 1983.
- Rolling Stone, March 18, 1982; February 3, 1983; April 9, 1987; July 16, 1987.
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