“Forty Years before the mast and thirty years before the PC" - The life and times of a Genesis fan by Alan Hewitt. Photographs by Alan Hewitt, David Entwhistle, Alan Perry, Frank Rogers and Stuart Barnes. Memorabilia: TWR Archive.
Avast ye lubbers it be time that the story be told. Forty years man and boy has been my sorry tale. Genesis the one love affair in my life that blossomed and grew into something truly remarkable. And here I am, looking back on those years trying to really explain to myself exactly how such a strange affair came to pass. I heard the old man tell his tale…. Now where have I heard THAT before….???
I was a precocious teenager (some things haven’t changed there I hear you cry… you bastards!) but it is true, back in 1976 when I first encountered Genesis and its music properly, I was more insular than the Hebrides and that’s putting it mildly. I grew into rock music backwards to some extent. While my school compatriots were revelling in the glories of The Beatles, The Stones etc I was revelling in the glories of the symphony orchestra (well when you have Britain’s oldest and finest orchestra on your doorstep it would be rude not to now, wouldn’t it folks?). Anyway, secretly and unbeknownst to my erstwhile school buddies, I did begin to dip my toe into the murky waters of rock ‘n’ roll in about 1974... Just too late for the Gabriel era of the band but just in time for… well we shall come to that shortly folks.
|Sadly my memories are few and far between of the gigs which I undoubtedly attended in those magical mid ‘70’s years and I only learned to keep ticket stubs etc much later on so you will have to take my word for it on this one folks. Even with the gigs I did attend I still somehow managed to miss local ones by two of my favourite bands on the tours for their albums which were both released in 1976/77. Yes, to my shame I did not get to see either Jethro Tull (my all time favourite band) or Genesis when they hit the stage at the Liverpool Empire in 1977 and I still; flagellate myself about that (but only in private when no one is looking folks!).|
Without these albums...
The tale of how I first head Genesis’ music has been told before so I won’t bore you with it again here but 1977 was to be a magical musical year for me in so many other ways. Seeing Yes for the first time on the Going For The One tour, still one of the best gigs I have ever seen, seeing Peter’s first tentative steps out of the “machinery” at several gigs was something you won’t forget if you were lucky enough to be there. Bear in mind, these were the days when major bands were not above playing the university circuit now and again and between 1977 - 82 I managed to catch a hell of a lot of great acts at Liverpool Uni. In fact, it seemed as if there was a gig on virtually every night in those heady days if you wanted to catch a band. One that always will stand out was the late great Rory Gallagher’s gig at Liverpool Uni during his aptly titled “University Challenge Tour” in 1981. Having Rory buy you a pint before his gig is something that I will always cherish and I still have my signed ticket stub too!
|1978 was to be perhaps the most pivotal year in terms of everything that has come since however. The release of the band’s new album: And Then There Were Three, heralded the start of something a bit special. I still remember hot footing it to the local record store to buy it and finding tucked inside it an advert for their only UK gig that year - Knebworth Park. £5.50 for a ticket was a fortune back in 1978 but it had to be done and so I carefully cut out the application slip and sent it off with my PO and fingers firmly crossed. That gig was a revelation in more ways than one. Ask anyone who was there what Genesis were like on the day and they will tell you…spectacular is the only epithet I think does them justice.|
Further gigs by Peter also beckoned and there was also a new kid on the block in 1978. Steve Hackett had recently departed “nanny and her charges” as he refers to Genesis and was out on the road in support of his second solo album: Please Don’t Touch. A trip up the M62 to the salubrious environs of Ardwick and the Manchester Apollo was duly invested in. Oh, if only I had realised then what that gig was going to lead to…. So by the end of 1978, I can confidently say that I was a fully blooded member of the Genesis fraternity, albeit a very minor one.
1979 was festival year with trips to both Reading (Hackett/Gabriel), Glastonbury (Gabriel) and Knebworth (Led Zeppelin - twice!) and I can say that those were the days when festivals were to be endured rather than enjoyed and were not yet the corporate events they have since become.
As the seventies turned to the Eighties so my mind turned to passing A levels and getting into university… scholarship still outweighed rock and roll and so that is how I came to miss Genesis’ final return to my home town in May of 1980 as revision for exams beckoned... Don’t worry folks I still beat myself up about this one too. I managed to catch both Peter and Steve that year however so that was something to be pleased with…and by now I was starting to KEEP various bits and pieces too... The start of yet another ongoing hobby which has been a boon for TWR.
The early Eighties were an equally fruitful time for a young student with slightly more money in his pocket thanks to a student grant - remember them folks? And having missed out on the dubious pleasures of seeing Genesis get booed at Leiden in October 1981 in favour of seeing Mr Hackett get cheered in my home town I decided the following year to invest in one of these ‘ere overseas trips… Hamburg. Oh what a place for a first overseas trip… The “joys” of the Reeperbahn were duly explored “ahem” and some serious alcohol was consumed and above all a superb gig was enjoyed in great company. The story of that particular gig has also been told elsewhere in the pages of TWR although ironic to think that one of the other founding fathers of TWR - Ted Sayers was also on the same trip but our paths didn’t cross at the time.
1980 - 83 saw regular outings by Genesis, Peter and Steve and, from 1982 Phil as well and I have very fond memories of his first UK gig at the beloved Hammersmith Odeon - sorry folks it will ALWAYS be the “Hammy Odeon” especially his donning of a dressing gown for the only song to be written about a peeping Tom as far as I am aware… 1983 saw me traipsing to Belgium to see Mr Gabriel as tickets for his Liverpool gig did not come my way…Oh well, the Tourhout Festival had the added benefit that it combined a music and BEER festival so I was in my element. Not so a couple of days late when after a lengthy and inebriated trip back to Blighty I had to head up to Lancaster University for my graduation… If only Princess Alexandra had known what I had been doing a couple of days before… least said eh?
By this time, I had become a fully fledged Genesis anorak too, collecting, singles, albums, posters, tour programmes and discussing the minutiae of first pressings etc with the best of them. In fact, one of those anoraks was TWR founding father Ted Sayers whom I had finally met thanks to an advert I had placed in the back pages of the Genesis Information magazine. Ted visited me shortly afterwards and a firm friendship developed which has now lasted for over thirty years. It was the thrill of the chase and the promise of finding that elusive early single that drove me (and Ted) to frequent any and every record fair we could get to. Ironically many moons later at another record fair I was to purchase an “ahem” bootleg recording of the band’s 1998 gig in Dublin only to realise upon playing it that it was in fact MY recording! Oh the biter bit eh? Perhaps one of the most memorable of these encounters was at a car boot sale where lucky me found a copy of the band’s first single for… 50p! Yes, I purchased the single and ran like hell before the vendor could realise the error of their ways! By the time Genesis were ready to unleash the Invisible Touch album in the summer of 1986, I am proud to say that apart from a couple of very early (and very rare) singles I had just about everything the band had released collectively and individually by that point.
|1985 -87 was to be another one of those pivotal moments in one’s life. Phil had become a global megastar by this time and both Peter and Steve were enjoying unprecedented commercial success with the So and GTR albums respectively. Enter the mega beast (and famous Frisbee) that was Invisible Touch and the first of the “crazy tours” that were to become a part of subsequent activities. Trips backwards and forwards to several territories to see Genesis and Peter culminated with a week of gigs in the summer of 1987 … Roundhay Park 28th June (Genesis), Birmingham NEC 30th June - 1st July (Peter Gabriel), and Wembley Stadium 2nd -4th July (Genesis). And it was on the back of those gigs and a meeting between Ted, myself and fellow Genesis addict, Peter Morton a couple of weeks later that led to the birth of TWR itself. You know that story already folks don’t you?|
1987/88 saw TWR established and our first interviews organised, with Messrs Hackett and Phillips being our first victims. Thankfully they didn’t find the experience too painful and continue to support our efforts to this day.
So, the rest of the 1980’s followed an increasingly familiar pattern, whenever anything Genesis related hove into view we documented it in TWR whilst spending a fair amount of time on the highways and byways of the UK into the bargain.
|So the Eighties turned in to the Nineties with no sign of let up from the guys. 1990 saw my first trip abroad to see Phil for gigs in Brussels and Paris and at the latter I was to encounter another reprobate who shall feature largely later in this story. 1991 saw Genesis return for what proved to be Phil’s swansong album with the band. A memorable evening was had at the press preview of the album at Manto… in the heart of Manchester’s gay village … oh how the locals were put out as we hairy (yes, your truly still had a full head of hair back then!) unwashed Genesis fans invaded their favourite haunt for the night! Gigs soon followed with trips to Leeds and Knebworth yet again but unlike previous times, these were gigs bathed in glorious sunshine! The band even managed to catch us unawares later in the year with a string of huge gigs at Earls Court followed by the unthinkable… a return to THEATRES. At last I had the chance to see the band in the more intimate surroundings of a theatre… pity it was to be the Apollo in Manchester rather than the glorious Empire in Liverpool but nonetheless, a great night out. I found out later that I was an unsuspecting TV star that night as well as the local TV company had been filming an interview at the theatre and filmed some of the audience outside including me. If you see the footage and wonder why I am looking ever so slightly pissed off, the reason is simple, we had missed the arrival of the band at the theatre by a mere five minutes. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all I guess.|
1992/93 were to be Peter Gabriel orientated as he returned to the fray with the hugely successful US album and Secret World tour and once again, TWR caught several of these gigs. More significantly for later events, Steve Hackett also returned to the music scene with the Guitar Noir album and tour which was to be the first extensive TWR outing with Steve as in all eight shows were attended up and down the UK. Interviews were duly arranged as well and this was the re-establishment of TWR’s (and my) connection with Steve which has lasted to this day.
1992 also saw me proving that I really was insane by deciding that thanks to the regular amount of mail I was receiving about Anthony Phillips’ music to suggest (laughingly) that we create a magazine dedicated solely to him. And thus The Pavilion was born and was to run for a further ten years before like TWR, succumbing to the charms of the Internet where it has remained ever since in the capable hands of Jonathan Dann, himself a loyal TWR reader and contributor… see, it IS catching folks!
1994 was another milestone for both me and TWR. Our first interviews were organised with Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford. The former during the cricketing season which led to several interludes where the manager of the Farm, Dale Newman would pop his head round the door to inform Tony and us of the score in the test match! The latter taking place at Mike’s home some three days before Christmas and featuring the bizarre scenario of Mike serving myself and my two companions with mugs (not cups mind but MUGS) of tea, mince pies and Christmas cake and we have the photos to prove it! A good year all round.
The latter half of the 1990’s were perhaps the most momentous in my entire time as a Genesis fan. Phil had made his decision to quit the band in 1993 and I had found out quite by accident that this was the case in 1994 and had to sit on that information for almost two years…. Imagine it folks… The announcement in 1996 of his departure stunned the Genesis fan base quite understandably, and once again the eulogies were out and once again they were to be proven wrong. Mr Hackett too had decided to revisit his past with the Genesis Revisited album and subsequent live album/video Tokyo Tapes. The album certainly took me by surprise when I heard it during an interview at Steve’s studio several months before its release.
6th June 1997 ; Genesis announce their replacement for Phil, in the shape of Ray Wilson former front man for Stiltskin. This decision divides the Genesis fan base (me included) and many vote with their feet before a note has been heard. Me, after much soul searching, decides to hang fire and WAIT until I hear something. Thankfully those kind souls at Virgin Records send me the album sampler a couple of weeks before release date and from the moment I hear the title track to the new album: Calling All Stations, I am hooked. The resulting tour was without a doubt the most thoroughly enjoyable I ever did with the band. In all some twelve gigs including a marvellous invite to the dress rehearsal at Bray Film Studios, all of the gigs in the UK and Ireland and trips to Lyon for a gig on my birthday and a mad jaunt to Helsinki for the last gig of the tour. Great times and all done in the company of some of the best Genesis fans I have ever had the pleasure to meet.
By the late 1990’s another facet had been added to my Genesis obsessed life: the existence of tribute bands. I had first become aware of these when very good friends of mine started raving about one going out under the very dubious title of Geneside… Soon changed (thankfully) to ReGenesis. Not enamoured at first, tributes have very much become a staple of TWR life in the years since 1997 and indeed, that person whom I mentioned earlier who I met on the trip to see Phil in Paris in 1990 has fronted two of the UK’s most successful ones. There are good tributes, OK tributes and downright awful ones and I can say that I have seen some in each of those categories over the years…not naming names though folks!
In fact some of these people who accompanied me on the 1998 tour were responsible for what is without doubt one of the craziest trips I have ever made. Yes, who else but a madman would go to Canada to see a Genesis TRIBUTE band? Oh well, that would be me then, eh folks. That trip in the autumn of 1998 was to prove to be the key to something else that was to happen a couple of years later thanks to a chance meeting with Armando Gallo at the gig in Montreal.
The last year of the 20th century was a relatively quiet one in terms of gigging activity (Genesis related ones but not other bands) but there was still plenty to write about as we geared up for the new century and millennium. By now The Waiting Room had been abbreviated to TWR and had gone all hi tech with a web site which effectively spelt the end of the paper magazine although both ran in tandem until 2002 when our last paper edition appeared. Ironic to think that TWR actually went online before the band’s first official website by several months!
Perhaps one of the most bizarre happenings in my entire Genesis career took place in 2000 when a telephone call which I initially thought was a hoax led to me not only researching for but being interviewed as part of the Genesis Songbook project. Without doubt one of the most amazing things I have ever been called upon to do. Having the chance to go through the band’s film archives was a dream come true but actually being interviewed for it as well (ironically in the as yet uncompleted control room of Steve’s MAP studio) And I got paid for something I would gladly have done for free!
2000 also saw the publication of my first book. Fans had suggested that I write something about the band for some time but I thought I had enough on my plate with TWR. Armando Gallo’s comments to me back in 1998 about not updating his book on the band provided me with the necessary impetus to start bouncing some ideas together never in a million years thinking that anyone would take this crazy concept on but I was wrong and Opening The Musical Box - A Genesis Chronicle proved to be a highly popular item, so much so that during a return trip to Canada in the summer of 2000 for more gigs by that tribute band I mentioned - The Musical Box in case you were wondering, I even did a book signing session before every gig which was a thoroughly enjoyable experience if tiring on the wrist!
By the beginning of the 21st century Mr Hackett had returned to active album/tour duties and 2003 saw his first extensive UK tour for ten years and another development for yours truly. I had jokingly offered to help out with the merchandise at the forthcoming gigs with the immortal words…”if you want a hand on the merch I am available at very reasonable rates”. No reply but a few days later a small envelope from Steve’s record company arrived and inside it was a AAA laminate for the tour which even had my name on it… Oh the joy! Guess they did want me on the merch after all (mad fools). This was to be the pattern for the next three years with UK tours and also a truly marvellous jaunt to Germany in the summer of 2005 … I just wish I had photos from that trip as it was absolutely fantastic. Especially the last gig at the Loreley Festival where all I had to do was count the merch out to the festival organisers, count it back at the end of the day, accept the payment and sign for it. The rest of the day was spent in glorious sunshine sunning myself backstage or checking out whichever bands took my fancy, front and centre for Steve’s performance sat next to his son, Oliver which was a great pleasure.
Phil had taken his fans by surprise in 2004 by announcing his retirement from music with the humorously titled First Final Farewell Tour which ran into 2005. Once again I was lucky enough to have the chance to speak to Phil and the gigs were a great success.
2006 however, saw the announcement on 6th November of the reunion of Phil with Genesis for as he so humorously put it at the press conference: a “selection of shows” (thanks for the title Phil!) during the summer and autumn of 2007. To say fans were excited is an understatement. I had other things on my mind however, the updating and revision of Opening The Musical Box for what was to become in 2007 - Genesis Revisited a labour of love not without its trials and tribulations but worthwhile nonetheless.
Personal issues not least the illness of my father meant that some activities needed to be curtailed slightly whilst I took care of him but never enough to prevent one last overseas jaunt in the summer of 2007 with Mr Barnes and another good friend Anthony Hobkinson for shows in Germany and then the band’s final UK gigs. Being at home all of the time caring for my father, also gave me the time to consider another literary project. By now, my relationship with Steve had grown into one of friendship and so, after some small degree of prodding by some fans, I suggested the idea of writing his biography to him, expecting to be told not to be so bloody stupid. Instead, I got the green light so during the summer of 2006 while I was also at work on Genesis Revisited, I also started putting material down for Steve’s biography, tentatively titled Walking Away From Rainbows….
With Genesis Revisited being published in the spring of 2007 to favourable if more muted response than its predecessor, I carried on regardless with TWR duties, ably assisted by young Mr Barnes who had not decided to take the opt out clause and was still with us and that is something I am eternally grateful for - honest Stu!
Work on Steve’s biography ran into on enormous hurdle as in 2006 it became known to me that Steve and his then wife, Kim were separating. This, as you can imagine, put me in a delicate position trying to balance the need to be fair and balanced to both parties whilst telling the story in a manner which was acceptable to Steve. After much to-ing and fro-ing a suitable compromise was reached and in August 2009 Sketches of Hackett was born. Of all of the books I have written it is this one that I am most proud of. After all, it demonstrates the enormous trust that Steve had in me to tell his story. And besides which, it was enormous fun to do. Champagne and ham sandwiches over a chat with Steve’s mum, and several other equally entertaining interludes made sure of that!
|The last few years have seen various members of the band continue to record and tour and TWR has been there to document their activities with an increasing round of interviews and other projects. Strange to think that back in 2013 Stuart and I were discussing the possibility of winding down the magazine. There seems to be no chance of that in the immediate future as there remains plenty to write about and plenty of activity to take part in and the opportunity to write yet another bloody book on the band beckoned. I had had the idea of documenting the band’s live story since Phil took over and decided to expand that to include the solo tours as well. Phil had very kindly given me the title back in 2006 and so in 2015 A Selection Of Shows was published to great acclaim in most quarters.|
Anyone who has followed this band or any of its musicians over their now fifty year history will tell you, Genesis fans are the most dedicated and obsessed fans that rock music has ever seen. I can tell you that in addition to that they are also the most kind hearted, generous and supportive that you will ever meet. Just about all of the people whom I call friends have some connection to this band and indeed a couple of members of the band are friends of mine… now who would have thought that eh? I know I certainly wouldn’t! TWR changed my life. Quite literally and I still find everything that has gone on in the last thirty years to be bewildering and at times totally incredible - which of course, it is folks!
|So, there you have it folks in a nutshell (or nutcase depending on your point of view). I very much fell in to following this band by accident in the first place but as any good Genesis fan will tell you, this stuff is highly infectious…you have been warned!|