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Entry updated 16 September 2021. Tagged: Music.

UK pop-rock group, founded originally by singer Peter Gabriel, keyboard player Tony Banks, guitarist Anthony Phillips (1951-    ) and bassist Mike Rutherford. Drummer Phil Collins (1951-    ) joined the band for their third album and later became its front-man. Their first LP, From Genesis to Revelation (1969) is negligible, despite some sf touches. More significant was the band's first major-label release, Trespass (1970), a prog-rock album of six lengthy tracks, each musically complex and lyrically pretentious, and several of them sf: "White Mountain" adapts Jack London's White Fang (1906), "Visions of Angels" channels William Blake's visionary episodes, and "Stagnation" is about the last survivor of nuclear war, a billionaire hiding in an Underground bunker. Foxtrot (1972), an album of even greater genre interest, was the first of the band's masterpieces. The opening track "Watcher of the Skies" is an inspired version of Arthur C Clarke's Childhood's End (April 1950 Famous Fantastic Mysteries as "Guardian Angel"; much exp 1953; rev 1990); "Get 'Em Out by Friday" is a witty piece in which contemporary landlord evictions segue into a future Dystopia of Overpopulation; and the last track, the 23-minute-long "Supper's Ready", is a gloriously rich and suggestive dramatization of the end of the world. The double-album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) was even more ambitious; a concept-linked suite of songs about the schizophrenic adventures of a Puerto Rican hero in a phantasmagoric New York. The music of Genesis during this phase, which many fans consider their classic period, is intricate, with many exquisite and beautiful touches, whilst also being structurally fabricational in a coherently satisfying manner.

Despite critical and commercial success, Gabriel left the band after The Lamb Lies Down tour, and drummer Phil Collins became the lead singer. This was a break that was to divide the band's career into two: on the one hand the Gabriel phase, marked by more obviously prog-rock projects with a more deliberately whimsical lyrical focus; and on the other the Collins phase marked by a move towards shorter, mainstream pop songs. The change did not happen instantly: A Trick of the Tail (1976), a loosely conceived concept-album about a mad individual who considers himself a devil, and Wind and Wuthering (1977), very loosely based on Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, both resemble the earlier Genesis. Further band-member departures left only Banks, Collins and Rutherford, a fact noted in the title of their next album ... And Then There Were Three ... (1978). The songs here are mostly short examples of conventional chart-oriented pop, although "Scenes from a Night's Dream" (an adaptation of Winsor McCay's "Little Nemo" stories) is interesting. Many of the songs on the band's eleventh release Abacab (1981) are bland, but "Keep It Dark" is a striking narrative of an ordinary man who has visions of a future utopia. Subsequent albums enjoyed considerable commercial success, although they are increasingly middle-of-the-road. All the members of the band have released solo material, and Banks and Rutherford have produced sf. [AR]

works (selected)

  • From Genesis to Revelation (UK: Decca; US: London Records, 1969)
  • Trespass (UK: Virgin/Charisma; US: Atco, 1970)
  • Foxtrot (UK: Virgin/Charisma; US: Atco, 1972)
  • The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (UK: Virgin/Charisma; US: Atco, 1974)
  • A Trick of the Tail (UK: Virgin/Charisma; US: Atco, 1976)
  • Wind and Wuthering (UK: Virgin/Charisma; US: Atco, 1977)
  • ... And Then There Were Three ... (UK: Virgin/Charisma; US: Atlantic, 1978)
  • Duke (UK: Virgin/Charisma; US: Atlantic, 1980)
  • Abacab (UK: Virgin/Charisma; US: Atlantic, 1981)
  • Invisible Touch (UK/US Atlantic, 1986)
  • Calling All Stations (UK: Virgin; US: Atlantic, 1997)


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