GENESIS - The evolution of a cult band

16. March 2020


GENESIS - Die Evolution einer Kultband

Shortly after each other Steve Hackett (12.2.), Peter Gabriel (13.2.) and Tony Banks (27.3.) celebrate their 70th birthday in these days, followed by Mike Rutherford (2.10.) in October. Together with Phil Collins, just turned 69, they form the classic 70s line-up of Genesis. While Hackett and Collins only joined the group later, the other three met at an elite boarding school where music offered them a free space in the midst of conservative structures. eclipsed traces the early years of the band, from the first musical steps to the release of "Trespass", their first prog album. Peter Gabriel in the "historical interview" of 1971 and the former road manager Richard Macphail remember this exciting time, and we also talked to Steve Hackett about his birthday and his work with Genesis.

There is hardly a place that could be less well imagined as a breeding ground for a big rock band: The Charterhouse School, a private school in Godalming in the county of Surrey, is a traditional, elitist educational establishment with boarding school, which is characterised by conservative values and where only boys were admitted until the 1970s. Those who attend it usually come from a well-to-do family. The huge school building and its teachers exude a repressive atmosphere in 1963/1964, when Gabriel, Banks, Rutherford and Anthony Phillips meet here. Radios are forbidden in many houses, more important than music is sport and preparation for the A-Levels. Gabriel and Banks, like Phillips, are accommodated in the Girdlestoneites house. Mike Rutherford from the Lockites house, whom his tutor quickly gets on his nerves because he is considered a "revolutionary", makes friends with Phillips early on - the only one at the school with an electric guitar and an amplifier. With their band, which they call Anon, they play songs by the Rolling Stones. The part of the singer is taken over by Richard Macphail, who is later to become road manager of Genesis (see interview on page xx). At the same time Banks and Gabriel also make music together. The initial "competition" between the friends as to who gets to play the piano is decided by Banks - a good coincidence, because both quickly realize that Tony is the more talented pianist and Peter has the better voice.

Unlike the rougher Anon, Banks and Gabriel try their hand at their own songs and experiment a lot. In no way do they want to sound like the majority of the bands of that time. Gabriel's influences are Otis Redding and Nina Simone, Banks loves the Beach Boys. In the strict everyday school life the two bands are no rivals but fellow sufferers. When Phillips and Rutherford want to record a demo tape with Anon, they ask Banks if he plays organ for them. Banks agrees and asks Banks to bring Gabriel with him to record their piece "She Is Beautiful". During the recordings Gabriel spontaneously takes over all vocal parts. Rutherford will say later: "Fortunately Ant realized that Peter was the better singer of both. Had that not happened, we might have missed the defining moment." That moment that should lead to the foundation of Genesis! But not yet. First there is the band Anon, which also includes bassist Rivers Job and drummer Rob Tyrrell, and the formation of Banks, Gabriel and drummer Chris Stewart, which is called The Garden Wall for a school concert. When Jonathan King, producer at Decca Records, comes to a school meeting at Charterhouse School, they send him their demo tape. "Jonathan was the only person from the music business we knew," Phillips recalls in the band biography "Chapter & Verse". After weeks of waiting, King finally invites the boys to London. "I was absolutely entranced by Peter's voice," he says years later. He especially likes "She Is Beautiful", which of course flatters Banks and Gabriel.

King takes the newly formed band - Gabriel, Banks, Phillips, Rutherford and Stewart - under his wing, gives them some money for more demos and gets them their first record deal. "Recording a record seemed a spectacular and exciting thing to do," Gabriel recalls in a biography written by Daryl Easlea. It was King who gave the band the name Genesis after his first suggestion "Gabriel's Angels" did not appeal to her. "We thought we'd better go for it, after all, he's the one who paid for the studio," says Gabriel. But the new demo recordings don't exactly trigger euphoric reactions at King. Nevertheless, he does not lose his patience and advises the musicians to focus on short pieces. So Banks and Gabriel sing "The Silent Sun" at the top of their voices, with Gabriel quite unabashedly imitating Robin Gibb. The producer likes it, and Genesis are allowed to record their first two songs at Regent Sound Studios. "The Silent Sun" becomes the first single (B-side: "That's Me"), some months later the second follows with "A Winter's Tale" (B-side: "One-Eyed Hound"). Both are not successful.

Read more in the current issue ...