They say March either comes in like a lion or a lamb. From the looks of this early March day here in Massachusetts, we’ve got the look and feel of lamb big time. Not too many records revolve around lambs, but I found this chestnut from Peter Gabriel era Genesis to discuss today. I don’t know how many of you are old enough to understand how great early Genesis really was, but I have to give some education here a shot. For those of you who feel like Genesis began with advent of their last decent record, 1981′s Abacab, we have a lot to talk about this afternoon.
I have very little interest in Pop Genesis. I have even less interest in Phil Collins’ solo career. I tried hard to follow Phil through his first two solo records, 1981′s Face Value and 1982′s Hello, I Must Be Going, but after that I bailed in a big way. Each of these records had something of redeeming quality in my opinion. I thought Phil and his Genesis lite solo Face Value record was listenable until radio began abusing “I Missed Again” and “In The Air Tonight.” I still like his version of The Beatle’s classic “Tomorrow Never Knows,” but by and large Face Value is forgettable fluff. No offense Phil. I’ll have more to say positive about the 1976-1980 Phil Collins led Genesis period in a minute. Hello, I Must Be Going had at least one track I loved in “Like China,” but that was cancelled out by the Supreme’s cover “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Look, I’m a huge Diana Ross & The Supreme’s fan myself, I heard “Love Child” in the dentist’s chair not three days ago and was loving it, but there is something about covering the Supreme’s that seems to fail most of the time. The J. Geils Band covered a few of them with less than type results in my opinion. I will say that both Rod Stewart and Vanilla Fudge did fantastic versions of “You Keep Me Hanging On” though. It’s such a great song it’s hard to screw it up, but I’m sure some folks have.
I have to say that I even liked Phil’s 1984 duet with Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey called “Easy Lover,” as poppy as it was. But when No Jacket Required surfaced in 1985 I totally lost it. Phil Collins went on to become one of the most successful solo artists of the 80′s, but I wasn’t among the faithful. I was working at WBCN at the height of his popularity and they just crushed that record. I couldn’t stand it. I’m aware he was probably able to retire based on that one record, but songs like “One More Night” and “Take Me Home” went right through me. I remember that track “Against All Odds” from the soundtrack of the movie was the last straw. I guess the women loved that sort of thing, but not me. I had to divorce Phil. The thing is, I had a lot of respect for the way he pulled up Genesis from the crushing loss of then lead singer Peter Gabriel (who went on to have a pretty fair solo career in his own right he said with a trace of sarcasm…Gabriel is and was tremendous). Few folks really know or remember how great the first five post Gabriel Genesis records really were. A Trick of The Tail, Wind & Wuthering, …And Then There Were Three, Duke and Abacab are all fantastic records. Really. They all had just enough of the original sound to be more than credible. My hat is still off to Collins for picking up lead singer duties and releasing such quality in the wake of the loss of Gabriel.
When you talk about Progressive Rock most folks think King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Pink Floyd for the most part. Chances are, most folks that have a copy of, say, 1986′s Invisible Touch do not have a copy of 1971′s Nursery Cryme or 1972′s Foxtrot. That is a crime in my book, but Progressive Rock isn’t for everyone I guess. Even the most diehard Prog Rock fans probably wondered where Genesis was headed with 1969′s From Genesis To Revelation and 1970′s Trespass. These two records definitely forshadowed vintage Genesis, but it wasn’t until Phil Collins came aboard just before Nursery Cryme that Genesis began to really take shape. It might have been a natural progression, to coin a phrase, and Collins just happened to be Philly on the spot, but whatever the case, Genesis definitely had an identity by 1971. I’m no expert on Progressive Rock, but I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe).
Long time Genesis fans will probably tell you their sweet spot was from 1971 to 1975. 1973′s Selling England By The Pound is probably the high point of that era, but 1974′s The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is in the discussion. I can remember not really discovering Genesis until many years later. I had heard great songs like “Your Own Special Way” and “Follow You, Follow Me” over the latter part of the 70′s, but I really didn’t own a Genesis record until I got to Emerson College. First, I taped 1980′s Duke off of the radio, but it was two of my close friends who pointed me back in time to earlier Genesis. My friend Richard, whom I roomed with for a couple of years, was a fellow NJ boy who just loved Genesis. He turned me onto the previous eight or nine records because he just would not stop playing them. My friend Jefferson, a native of a suburb of Philadelphia, shared Richard’s zeal for Genesis though I’m not quite sure they were ever really friends at Emerson. Jefferson sort of took over tutoring me on the greatness of Genesis after Richard left town after graduating in 1982. He went on to be a big time Emmy Award winner at ESPN. Jefferson and I became friends in 1979 while sharing a class, but we bonded more over our mutual love of Jethro Tull than Genesis at first. Soon after though, I had it drilled into me that Selling England By The Pound was more than a decent record.
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is a sprawling double record that might well have benefited from some editing. I don’t say this to disparage, but sometimes double LPs can go on a bit long. If they had been released as a single record they can garner accolades that double albums have trouble getting sometimes. If nobody had the patience to sit through a double album back then, today it’s foolhardy to have a CD with more than nine songs on it seems. I saw a feature on Coldplay on 60 Minutes and if I remember correctly Chris Martin’s rule for Coldplay records is no more than nine songs. That kind of stuck with me. If your CD has 14 tracks you can bet folks are almost always least familiar with the last few tracks. Back in the day you played a 20 minute album side and if you had time you flipped the record. You could also go onto to another record entirely. Today you either play single mp3 tracks or lose interest in a CD after half an hour or whatever. The music business faces so many hurdles these days I can’t even cover them in one post.
OK, I’ve reached the 1200 word count in my post. Time to wrap it up. I have no off switch so I try to keep the posts within reason because I know many of them are never read anyway. If you made it this far, thank you. Peter Gabriel led Genesis unraveled for a number of reasons, but suffice to say the usual creative control and perceived lead singer more important than the band issues in addition to personal problems (including divorce) plagued the band around this time. The parting was amicable for the most part. It did seem that the theatrics and costumes started to detract from the music as time went on, but then again those very theatrics and costumes are part of what made Genesis so intriguing. And it should be said, reluctantly, that Genesis, post 1980 and still led by Phil Collins even with all the personnel changes over the years, was the most financially successful version of Genesis. Invisible Touch might have been their highest charting record, but no way was it their best. I’m leaving you with three of my favorites from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Happy March.
Buy or download The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway from Amazon here.