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Genesis in the 1970ies Decades

Decades - Genesis in the 1970s

Bill Thomas' book about Genesis in the 70s

Behind this recent book about the history of Genesis during the 1970s is the English publisher Sonicbound Publishing, which has recently attracted attention for a large number of publications on a variety of pop and rock bands and solo artists, including a whole range of acts from the progressive/classic rock genre. Two publication series in particular stand out in the publishing program: one is called On Track and, as the subtitle says, includes analyses of Every Album, Every Track, i.e. very thorough reviews/analyses of every single song on every official release by the artist in question. Such a book was also published on Genesis in 2019, followed by corresponding volumes on Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett in 2021. A second book series is called Decades and describes the career of the respective act in a specific decade.

So now, in this series, a book has appeared about Genesis in their first important decade, when they worked their way up from arduous beginnings to become a veritable rock act. Author Bill Thomas is a British journalist who, according to the book, writes primarily about soccer and music and has already published a volume in the On Track series on Kate Bush. He draws on classics such as Armando Gallo's books, the autobiographies of Genesis members that have appeared recently, the interviews on the Genesis box sets, but also some conversations he conducted himself (with Anthony Phillips, Steve Hackett and drummer Jerry Marotta, who drummed on early Gabriel solo albums and tours).

Buchcover Bill ThomasThe chapter structure of the book is quite easy to follow: After a short introduction, in which the well-known history of Genesis is briefly covered, the actual presentation begins. For each year there is a chapter; however, a certain subdivision results from the fact that each album is discussed cursorily, with all the important key data about the production/song sequence/participating musicians, etc. With "every album" not only Genesis band albums are meant, but (from 1975 on) also all solo albums of Genesis members released in this phase - no matter if they still belonged to the band at that time or had already left. In a certain way one feels reminded of the concept of the CD compilation Genesis R-Kive, where Genesis songs were represented as well as selected solo tracks. Here, in a way, the whole thing is taken to its logical conclusion: all Genesis albums are discussed, as well as all solo productions, starting with Steve Hackett's debut Voyage Of The Acolyte, through the Brand X albums made with Phil Collins' participation, to Tony Banks' 1975 solo debut A Curious Feeling (which is also the last album discussed in the whole book, released in 1979). The albums of Anthony Phillips and the first Peter Gabriel releases are also considered.

Overall, Thomas aims to situate the band's development very much in the context of the time, incorporating cultural, social, and occasionally political factors of influence. As well as he can, he also tries to trace the structure of the different personalities and the conflicts that go along with them. One interesting aspect here, for example, is the age of Anthony Phillips, who was just 18 at the time of his departure from the band in 1970. Thomas emphasizes the difference in age and life experience compared to the other members, who had already turned 20 at that time. With regard to Steve Hackett's departure, Thomas emphasizes a circumstance that is not entirely new, but that stands out even more prominently in his case: Already in the instrumental part of The Cinema Show, later in the work on Dance On A Volcano (Hackett joined the Trick Of The Tail sessions somewhat late) and in two of three songs on the EP Spot The Pigeon, Banks, Collins and Rutherford had gained positive experience with the three of them not only writing a song, but also carrying essential elements of it in a live performance. But also the fact that Hackett produced a solo album in 1975, while Tony Banks found that after Peter Gabriel's departure everyone had to concentrate all their energy on Genesis in order to realign the band after this bitter blow, caused further irritation. And anyway, Hackett already entertained some doubts about himself, since he felt inferior to the other band members in terms of songwriting (with the exception of Collins, who wasn't really a songwriter yet). So Thomas looks here, as by the way also in the case of Peter Gabriel's exit, for the factors that have a longer-term effect.

The individual albums are characterized rather than meticulously dissected by the author - which is not the goal at all (that's what the On Track series is for). Nevertheless, Thomas highlights individual songs, or at least those aspects that he finds particularly meaningful. By including the more and more numerous solo projects (especially of the members who left the band) he also draws a picture of the whole Genesis family. Thus it becomes clearer once again how in Anthony Phillips' work, so to speak, a certain branch of Genesis music develops in its own direction, where in Hackett's output both his origin from the Genesis cosmos and his beginning further development become apparent, and how consciously Peter Gabriel operated the demarcation from his former band (and yet could not deny his Genesis share in his early solo work). Through this all-embracing view also on the beginning branching of the musical Genesis family tree, the book stands out most strongly from other publications, because here no hierarchy is set up (according to the motto: Here the actual history - Genesis - and there the subordinate solo activities), but everything that members created within and outside the band is treated equally. At least to me as a reviewer it has become much clearer how often Phil Collins was on the verge of quitting in the 1970s, which was possibly averted by his incessant session work and the intensive involvement with Brand X. The importance of this jazz-rock playground for Collins as an outlet through which he could blow off steam, and at the same time as an influence that he in turn brought to Genesis - all this is well explained here.

Thomas tells the story of Genesis in the 1970s in a pleasantly readable conversational tone, with humor and irony flashing up again and again, and he is a connoisseur of rock music as well as the general cultural history of the time. He holds back with apodictic judgments, but definitely gives his opinion about songs he thinks are not so successful. Interesting is his rather positive assessment of And Then There Were Three, an album that doesn't go down too well with many fans. In fact, he doesn't consider it to be such a strong break as it often is, pointing rather to the continuities to earlier Genesis music - but rather in the songwriting than in the variety of sound and the joy of experimentation..

The concept of the book series sets a somewhat artificial framework. The development of a band does not adhere to the temporal limitations imposed by the calendar. However, the whole thing has a certain charm, instead of, for example, following a frequently common division like 1967-1975 or -1977, because so the development of things over the strong cuts become clearer. And so it becomes also understandable why Genesis didn't feel the exodus of Hackett to be overly dramatic only two years after the departure of Gabriel and how they made a virtue out of necessity, using the knowledge from the last upheaval. To add a new member from the outside in 1977/78 would probably have been unthinkable after the experience made before by the renewal from within the band itself. The book remains in a similar limbo as Genesis itself in 1979. The first solo albums of Banks/Rutherford and Phil Collins' marriage/divorce crisis brought significant changes, and Genesis only developed into a worldwide mega-band in the following decade. It will be interesting to see if the publisher will follow this development in further parts that would be dedicated to the 1980s and 1990s.

Author: Jan Hecker-Stampehl

Sonicbound Publishing
Paperback, 186 Seiten
ISBN 978-1-78952-146-7
Veröffentlicht: 2021

This book is available at Burning Shed and amazonUK.