Pawed by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew
Genesis were formed in early 1967 out of a couple of bands
that met at Public School, Charterhouse. (In England, the posh expensive Schools
are called Public Schools, which has always puzzled this dog. They certainly
were not public as they all cost a fortune to attend). They recorded their first
album “Genesis To Revelation” and released it in 1969. That was before the
band had even played before a live audience. That by itself is an amazingly long
incubation period. They also had already a change of drummers by that time,
Chris Stewart left and John Silver (great name for a drummer) came in. This
album hardly caused a ripple in record stores around the country, and is
unrecognizable as anything Genesis were to do after this point.
A re-think was in order. It was decided that drummer Silver
was unsuitable. Out with him and in came John Mayhew. They all de-camped to a
conveniently empty cottage just outside Dorking to work on their sound and a
possible stage show. Eventually Tony Stratton Smith signed them to his new
Charisma label, which on the strength of watching one dodgy rehearsal, and one
badly recorded demo tape, must be one of the most inspired signings in the
history of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The album “Trespass” was recorded and the band
began to gig. However, before the album was released disaster struck.
Anthony Phillips, original lead guitarist with the band and
instrumental in defining the guitar sound that stayed with the band through all
of their career, decided that the Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle within a band was
not for him. At the same time the three remaining original members decided that
John Mayhew was not the man to be sitting on the drum stool (scratch deep enough
all bands have had their Spinal Tap moments). Replacing Anthony Phillips was not
going to be easy, but finally Steve Hackett was found. He was a very earnest and
intense young man, whose character was in keeping with his guitar playing.
The drum stool was the next problem. After fourteen drummers
had a go, a certain young chap by the name of Phil Collins answered a Melody
Maker small ad and was drafted into the Genesis ranks straight away. As a child
actor Phil Collins had been in several T.V. and stage shows including the part
of the artful Dodger in the Londoner West End production of “Oliver”. After
“Oliver” he drummed in several bands, the last of which had been a group
called “Flaming Youth”. They were just rapping up in the aftermath of some
ill advised and unsuccessful publicity, so Phil Collins was glad to get the gig
with Genesis. But I am sure the other four did not realize what a useful little
chap their new drummer was going to be in years to come.
So by early 1971 the re-shaped Genesis was finally gathering
some real momentum with growing approval from the press and a steadily
increasing hard core fan base. Each album they released outstripped the last
(“Nursery Cryme” in 1971 and British breakthrough album “Foxtrot”, which
followed in 1972). By now they were out on the road almost consistently wowing
their fans with their unique blend of rock music, dexterous skills, and
groundbreaking stage show. A quite remarkable sight on stage they were, too.
Steve Hackett would play his blistering solos from a seat on the left hand of
the stage, while multi-instrumentalist Mike Rutherfood would wander the stage
with his twin necked guitar enabling him to play the bass and twelve string
guitar at the same time.
Tony Banks would be on the right hand side of the stage,
almost invisible from the audience as he was completely surrounded by his multi
collection of keyboards. But the wonderful wall of sound that became the
trademark of Genesis left you in no mind that he was there.
Then of course, out the front, was charismatic lead singer
Peter Gabriel, who would often go through eight costume changes per concert in
an effort to better put across the story of each song. Not for Genesis to play
short sharp little songs; most clocked in at over eight minutes. The only single
that Genesis had released at this point was “The Knife”. To accommodate it
into the single formula it had literally been cut in two with side ‘A’ being
“The Knife - part one” and Side ‘B’ being ‘’The Knife - part two”.
That didn’t exactly endear them to radio play. So Gabriel’s role was crucial
in “Genesis” to keep the audience’s attention. His flute playing also gave
the band an extra dimension.
While the band was on the tour promoting “Foxtrot”,
several of the concerts were recorded to give the fans something while they came
off the road to record their next album. (“Selling England By The Pound”
1973 became their worldwide breakthrough album for them.)
Five songs were selected for “Genesis Live”, which
rocketed into the charts in Britain reaching #9. What you got were five epics
all clocking in at over eight minutes, in all forty five minutes. A lot for the
days of vinyl. And although not a whole concert, the running order of the songs
worked very well.
First we have two songs off the “Foxtrot” album, but no
problem there as the band had quickly adapted the songs for the road, beefing
them up quite considerably. In the case of opener ‘Watcher of the Skies’
Tony Banks had added an awe inspiring opening played on the Mellotrone and the
Moog Syntersizer. By the time Phil Collins comes thundering in showing the chops
on the drums that would soon have him rated as one of the best drummers in rock
music (this was way before anybody had thought about putting him out front to
sing), you are already caught up in the web Genesis set out to catch you. Tony
Bank’s keyboards rather dominate the opener, using the guitars to keep up a
strong but slightly slower beat than on the studio album.
Then Peter Gabriel takes over on ‘Get’em Out By
Friday’, a tirade against despicable landlords. Gabriel plays all the roles in
different voices. With the amount of energy this must have taken up, it is no
real surprise that two years later he stunned the rock world by leaving Genesis
when they were on the crest of the wave. ‘The Return Of The Giant Hogweed’
was always a favorite of Genesis fans and was probably as close to actual Rock
‘n’ Roll that Genesis would ever get to; something to actually bang your
head to - heavy metal style. ‘The Return of the Giant Hogweed’ was one of
two from “Nursery Crymes”, the other one being ‘The Musical Box’. This
is the centerpiece of this album and shows all the light and dark that the band
put into their music. The mid section features a guitar solo from Steve Hackett
that would lay the template for all progressive rock guitarists to follow. The
final climax to this epic as the band hammer their way home with Gabriel wailing
over the top of them all, has often been imitated but never bettered.
After ‘The Musical Box’ has left you exhausted, the band
carries on with a track from ‘Trespass’, ‘The Knife’. You can tell by
the audience reaction to Gabriel’s announcement of what the band intended to
play next that this was another crowd favorite. Expectations were running high.
But the band gave an interpretation that exceeded the studio version in
astonishing fashion. This must be partly due to the relative new inclusions of
Phil Collins and Steve Hackett into the band. Phil Collin’s drums gave the
song a much crisper definition, while Hackett’s guitar work reached new
heights. A dramatic conclusion to a fine album.
Watcher of the Skies, Get’em out by Friday, The Return of
the Giant Hogweed, Musical Box, The Knife
Peter Gabriel - Vocals, Flute, Tony Banks - Keyboards, Phil Collins - Drums,
Steve Hackett - Lead guitar, Michael Rutherford - Bass and Twelve sting Guitar
To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]