“The Fugitive From Fame” - Tony Banks’ career is put under the spotlight by Alan Hewitt.
Without doubt the most influential member of the Genesis line up, Tony Banks has become the unknown member of the band. While the others have pursued solo careers which have gained public attention, Tony has quietly gone his own way creating music of just as much worth but without much of the hype that attends the modern rock star.
As we all know, Tony has been with Genesis since its inception in the late 1960’s and has been its most prolific songwriter and composer. The keyboard sounds and textures which ate the Genesis trademark are mainly his work.
Yet, for all the success that he has achieved with Genesis, major solo success seems to have so far eluded Mr Banks. In fact, Tony ironically summed up his own plight in an interview recorded for the Visible Touch documentary where he was explaining that the track The Brazilian was closer to the material he writes for solo albums “which nobody buys” (his own words). This is a pity because those who have neglected his work are missing out on some very adventurous music in a wider range of styles than anyone would expect from the keyboard wizard of Genesis.
Tony’s first solo album came about with the lengthy break in Genesis’ recording schedule after the 1978 world tour. Phil Collins’ family problems gave both Tony and Mike the opportunity to record some of the material they had amassed over the past years. In Tony’s case, this resulted in the album A Curious Feeling which was released in 1979. In composition terms this LP was very like Genesis except for its darker textures and overall thematic approach. It is in fact, a concept album centred around a man who finds himself losing his memory. As may be guessed, the concept failed to win many new fans although much of the music is of a very high calibre. Some of the music from this album had been used in the film The Shout - itself a very strange film which has been shown on UK TV but which due to the manner in which the music was used, really did Tony no favours! Singles were put out from the album but both of them failed to chart and these are now valuable additions to any Genesis collection.
Tony’s next release should have been the one to bring him a wider audience - The Fugitive, released in 1983, was a very pop-orientated album with several tracks on it worth of single success. However, this was not to be the case once again.
Tony was quick to point out that the album did serve a purpose: “I’d like to establish myself to some extent independent of the group for obvious reasons. I wanted to sing myself there fore I kept the melodies simple etc, fairly simple because I knew I couldn’t cope with too much, not first time round anyhow. A Curious Feeling was such a commercial failure that I wanted to try something different, something I liked but that had more chance of selling. I make no bones about it - although it ended up doing no better but that’s neither here nor there…”
The single releases for this album fared as badly as those from their predecessor although This Is Love was given substantial airplay on several UK independent radio stations. At least the experiment showed those of us who bought the LP that Tony Banks could speak and wasn’t mute like Genesis fans had begun to suspect!
The same year also saw the release of the film soundtrack LP for the Michael Winner re-make of the 1940’s classic; The Wicked Lady, a not uncontroversial film which had some trouble with the British Board of Film Censors. Having seen the film, both on cinema and more recently on TV, I don’t know what all the fuss was about. The music was well produced and was, for once, used to good effect in the film.
A single was released which featured Tony’s variations on some of the themes on one side and the London Symphony Orchestra’s film score variations on the other. It has to be one of the more unusual single releases by a member of Genesis and is quite rare.
Tony decided to leave further solo work to one side after this album and he pursued his commitments with Genesis for the next two and a half years but in 1986 his chance to try his hand at further film work came about when he was contacted initially to write the score for the film 2010. Having written about half a dozen pieces for this, Tony was a little taken aback when the director rejected what he had written. Luckily he was able to salvage some of this material and used it on his new soundtrack which was for Lorca And The Outlaws. This had given Tony the chance to work with several musicians who were well outside the sphere associated with Genesis…
“The most interesting part about it was I did two songs for two entirely different sections of the film - one with Jim Diamond and the other with Toyah. I enjoyed that a lot, particularly the one with Toyah. It was quite an ambitious song, totally unlike anything she has done before, it really used her voice well…”
Another film score was offered to Tony and the resulting music from this film; Quicksilver, and the music from Lorca… was combined to form Tony’s fourth solo album; Soundtracks. Ironically, one of the pieces on the album featured a vocalist whose band have been called Genesis clones. Tony used Fish, the singer with Marillion to record a song which could have been a hit. It was called Short Cut To Somewhere and was quite a catchy number. The video for the song was quite amusing, featuring as it did the two protagonists riding round a field on bicycles!
Tony does not appear to be concerned by the lack of commercial success his solo efforts continue to appear to have and hopefully another album will be released layer this year now that Genesis have finished recording for the time being and I for one look forward to his next album whatever it may be.
For those of you interested in the material Tony has released on record, here is a list of his recordings to date
|A Side||B Side||Catalogue Number||Release Date|
|For A While||From The Undertow||CB344||1979|
|For A While (Remix)||A Curious Feeling||CB365||1979|
|This Is Love||Charm||BANKS1||1983|
|This Is Love (Extended)||Charm (Extended)||BANKS 12 (12”)||1983|
|And The Wheels Keep Turning||Man Of Spells||BANKS 2||1983|
|The Wicked Lady (Banks)||The Wicked Lady||(LSO) A 9825||1983|
|Shortcut To Somewhere||Smilin Jack Casey||CB426||1986|
|Shortcut To Somewhere Smilin Jack Casey||K2||CB42612 (12”)||1986|
|You Call This Victory||Redwing/Lion Of Symmetry||CBEP415||1986|
|A Curious Feeling||CAS1148||1979|
|The Wicked Lady||78 0073 -1||1983|