"It's Written In The Book" - TWR takes a look at some of the books written about the band and its members.
Sorry about the title folks, I couldn't resist! Seriously though, looking at this subject, it is amazing at how many books have been written on this subject. In this part of the feature I shall look exclusively at some of the English language books that have appeared over the years.
It seems strange to think now, with so many publications on the band available and in so many languages, that this was not always the case and that it was not until the late 1970's that the first major work on the band's story was published, but, as we all know, it was well worth the wait!
Armando Gallo's name is familiar to any Genesis fan. Longstanding champion of the band, and a respected rock journalist in his own right, it was he who took up the cudgels of documenting the band's story accompanied by his fantastic photography and his first essay, 1978's Genesis - The Evolution Of A Rock Band tells the story through interviews he conducted with the band members himself. This one set the bar incredibly high.
Armando followed it up with the even more impressive I Know What I Like in 1980 and this one remains the benchmark by which all others (including my own) must be measured. An assured and confident text in an informal style make this one an enjoyable read and, once again, it is accompanied by an even more impressive array of images making it a truly indispensable addition to any collection.
In between these two came another slightly different book on the band. Kim Poor had by this time become very well known as Steve Hackett's partner and cover artist - her artwork graces all of Steve's seminal albums. Kim had also put together many artistic interpretations of Genesis' lyrics and so in 1979 she published a book called, strangely enough, Genesis Lyrics, which featured her artistic interpretations of the band's lyrics. This appeared in both hardback and paperback editions and is very collectable these days.
There was to be a gap of a few years before anything else of note was published about the band but in 1984 the floodgates opened again with a veritable explosion of new titles an indication of the band's still increasing popularity.
The first of these that came to my attention was; Genesis - Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins And Beyond by photographer Phil Kamin, and journalist Peter Goddard. Essentially covering the period from the Milton Keynes reunion of 1982 to the most recent activities by the band and its burgeoning offshoots, it is a superbly illustrated effort with an informative text based predominantly around quotes from the band themselves. Well worth investigating if you can find a copy.
This was followed (or perhaps preceded) by; The Book Of Genesis written by long time journalist and champion of the band, Hugh Fielder and comprising extracts from the interviews he had conducted with the band over his many years of working for the music paper, Sounds. Another very useful reference work.
Armando Gallo also re-entered the fray this year with his third book on the band. Titled, From One Fan To Another, this time the emphasis was placed firmly exactly where it belongs; on his superb photographic work with a text that reads almost like a diary of key events and reminiscences. This volume compliments his first two very nicely.
At about the same time as the above, there also appeared the first attempt at documenting Phil Collins's growing solo career. Titled, The Phil Collins Story, it was written by journalist Johnny Waller and Is an entertaining and enthusiastically written effort.
The last volume that I am aware of from this period is the slim volume by another journalist, Janis Schacht. Titled simply Genesis, this one, like its predecessors drew upon Schacht's own work for the music press and is another useful reference work.
It wasn't long before Peter Gabriel's incredible career came under the spotlight and who better to document it than Armando Gallo? Taking the same approach as his previous book, 1986's Peter Gabriel is another photo book with quotes from Peter accompanying it in the same diary format as it's predecessor.
Peter's career finally got the book it deserved in 1988 with Spencer Bright's excellent Peter Gabriel An Authorised Biography. Not an easy job to undertake but Bright managed it admirably and the attention to detail and information it contains makes it one of the standard reference works on Peter and his career.
By the time that book was published, Pete's career was riding high on the back of the So album and in 1988 he was also in the spotlight as one of the instigators of the Human Rights Now caravanserai which travelled around the world during the summer of that year. That tour was documented in James Henke's excellent Human Rights Now - The Official Book Of The Concerts For Human Rights Foundation World Tour - wordy title eh? Worthy subject though and this remains a fascinating look at that tour.
Genesis fans were treated to a new biography of the band in 1991. Written by fans Dave Bowler and Bryan Dray, the result was Genesis - A Biography, a dry title for what was a dry volume with some questionable commentary. An informed read nonetheless, it remains another useful reference work.
1993 saw the publication of the kind of book I love - a true anorak's Bible, in the shape of Counting Out Time - The Worldwide Singles Discography - a worldwide singles discography. With a catalogue as big as Genesis' was by this time, this was indeed a brave effort and in the hands of Max Demont, the result was everything you could wish. Fully illustrated with the kind of detail collectors relish, this one remains a major source of reference on the band's recorded output and it is high time Max updated it.
1997 saw the first major biography of Phil Collins. Claiming to be the"Definitive" ( I hate that word!) biography, sadly this was to prove to be something of a misleading statement. Rock journalist, Ray Coleman's credentials were extensive and the end result should have been a much more satisfying book although in fairness, it was apparently published posthumously (after the auther passed. Phil is still with us!). However, its emphasis on Phil's marital problems dominated what would otherwise have been a very useful and informed read.
Long established rock journalist Chris Welch explored the life and work of Peter Gabriel in his slim 1998 volume - The Secret Life Of Peter Gabriel. An informed work, as you would expect from someone of Welch's calibre but sadly paling behind the previously mentioned effort by Spencer Bright it does give some useful insights into the man and his music.
Also that year Armando Gallo surrendered to demand for the reissue of his I Know What I Like book. Sadly he opted not to update the text apart from a handful of post 1980 images this edition sports a new cover and foreword by Paul Whitehead and if you don't own the original, this is worth getting.
The turn of the millennium saw yours truly getting in on the act of writing books about the band. After years of nagging from a small but dedicated band of fans, who maintained that "You should write a book about the band" I eventually gave in and wrote Opening The Musical Box - A Genesis Chronicle. My first attempt at what I still describe as an anorak's Bible,all the facts, figures etc all under one cover. The result was well received (mainly!) although of course, there were mistakes which some - including one band member- were quick to point out!
Over in Canada at roughly the same time, Robin Platts was putting together his own effort - Genesis Inside & Out . A small volume but with plenty of detail in it including comments from band members and associates and the result was an informative and entertaining read.
The inimitable Peter Vickers - a Genesis fan par excellence also decided to put his Genesis collection to good use with a weighty tome entitled Genesis Collectibles. Which does exactly what it says, documenting many of the rare and weird and wonderful items which Genesis collectors find so fascinating. Probably the definitive (that word again!) on the subject, it remains a joy to peruse from time to time.
American journalist and writer Dave Thompson contributed to the growing library with his Turn It On Again - Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins & Genesis volume. Another informed and entertaining book reand one which brings several previously undocumented aspects of the band's story to light making it another useful reference work.
Record Collector journalist Paul Russell explored the murky world of live recordings by the band, focussing exclusively on the Gabriel years. A useful reference for those of us interested in such things but spoiled by the somewhat unavoidable repetitiveness of the commentary - well, how many epithets can you use about The Lamb before becoming repetitive? Also the somewhat bragging "I've got this but you haven't" tone of the text is a bit disappointing from a professional. Nonetheless, an exhaustive and essential guide for the collectors among us.
Genesis - The Gabriel Era is an interesting and informed book comprising album and track reviews along with interviews and commentary culled from the many interviews which were given by the band to members of the press during the Gabriel era was put together by Bob Carruthers.
Speaking of exhaustive, Peter Vickers was soon back again with an updated version of his previous book. Genesis Collectibles Update continues where the last one left off with even more details about the kind of stuff which sends collectors into paroxysms of delight and envy.
Robin Platts too decided to update his previous book to coincide with the band's renewed activity in 2007. Genesis Behind The Lines 1967 - 2007 adds some more detail to the previous volume including some interesting chats with some of the band's associated with an informative and entertaining text.
Peter Vickers was back again with a limited edition documenting the ultimate rarities amongst the mountain of items that Genesis have produced over the years. Once again, this is a fascinating document for those with a bent for collecting and although some of his placings within Genesis The Top 200 Collectibles have been open to debate, this remains a fascinating volume. Sadly it was also to be Peter's last as he passed away several years ago and his knowledge and enthusiasm for his subject are greatly missed.
Having dipped my toe into the waters of writing a book back in 2000, I plunged back in with 2007's Genesis Revisited (thanks to Mr Hackett for the title!). This one was closer to what I had originally intended as an anorak's Bible of all things Genesis and, in the main, I think I achieved my goal and added another useful reference source for fans.
Whilst writing the above, I was also at work on what was to be the first authorised biography of Steve Hackett. As you can imagine, I was (and still am) incredibly proud of being allowed to tell Steve's story and I hope the resulting volume - Sketches Of Hackett, did its subject some justice. The book was updated in 2011 and no doubt, given Steve's continuing activity may need to be updated again at some point - not just yet though!
Mike Rutherford became the first member of the band to publish his own autobiography - The Living Years, which was published in 2014. Refreshingly honest, Mike tells some of his story in detail but skips or totally ignores others - probably for reasons of diplomacy, but the end result is a book rather like a one course meal, enjoyable but you are left wondering where the next course is.
Legendary photographer Robert Ellis finally added a volume on Genesis to his Rock Library with the first book to document the most contentious of albums: The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway . As an eye witness observer to the recording and performing of the album, Robert was certainly well placed to do so and through the lens of his camera he brings us a superb look at the entire event. Sadly, the text intended to accompany it didn't materialise but Robert's photographs tell the story themselves. Although initially a limited edition, Robert has recently given in to demand and reissued this one so, if you missed it the first time round, get a copy now while you can!
My next book had a gestation period almost as long as one of Peter Gabriel's albums! Originally inspired by Paul Russell's book on the early period of the band's live performances, I started work on it in 2005 but was interrupted by several other projects which you will find mentioned elsewhere. Rather than focus just on the band's live recordings since 1976, I thought it wise to try and document the solo careers as well. This of course, made for some tough decisions; cover EVERY gig? That would have been an enormous project resulting in a prohibitively expensive book! So, once again taking my current from a band member, I decided to make it a SELECTION OF SHOWS (thanks Mr Collins!) - a representative selection too, I hope? Not as easy as it sounds with so many to choose from but I think the end result gives a flavour of its subject. I might need to update this one too at some point!
It had been over twenty years since anyone had attempted to document the life and times of Peter Gabriel in any detail and rock journalist Daryl Easlea's book on the subject - Without Frontiers The Life And Music Of Peter Gabriel was an eagerly anticipated one. An informed and observant writer, Easlea manages to draw a fantastically detailed picture of a somewhat elusive subject. Replete with anecdotes from those who have worked with him, this one sheds light on many previously ignored or poorly documented aspects of Peter's life and career and will remain the standard reference work for some time I suspect.
Phil Collins finally decided to tell his own story and as usual did so in fine form with the humourously titled Not Dead Yet. After years of being the victim of tabloid scuttlebutt, Phil set the record straight in many things including his battles with ill health and alcoholism and the text is both entertaining and breathtakingly honest - in some places painfully so! Although some areas are skirted round or avoided, this book is an entirely satisfying read and any fan of Phil's or Genesis' career will find much within its pages to enjoy.
Richard MacPhail's position within Genesis lore is well known and it was long overdue that he would commit his memories to a book which he did with 2017's My Book Of Genesis. A fascinating man with a fascinating story to tell and much more to it than his time with the band. All told in an honest and highly entertaining text.
Over the last few years there has been a spate of books about The Lamb...album and tour beginning with Robert Ellis's volume previously mentioned. Erstwhile DJ and rock journalist Jon Kirkman decided to tell the story and did so in stunning detail in his book And The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Visually and textually, the end result is absolutely stunning with a treasure trove of photographs and memorabilia most of which have never been seen before. Kirkman also got some fascinating stories out of some of the people associated with the creation of the album as well as comments from most of the band members too. Destined to remain the definitive book on this particular album and tour, unless or until Mr Gabriel himself finally commits his thoughts to paper!
The last couple of years have also seen a variety of photo books about the band and its members. First of these was Genesis Counting Out Time - A Photographic Journey. A delightful book with an informed but all too brief text and containing many previously unseen images
I got in on the act with the next two. First up Peter Gabriel - A Life In Vision followed a few months later by Phil Collins - A Life In Vision, both manage to encapsulate their respective subjects' fascinating careers in many unpublished images and with a hopefully informative if brief text in both cases.
Robert Ellis too finally released two mammoth compendiums of his photos of the band titled "5" and "3" respectively and documenting the band's story from 1972 when Robert first began photographing them, up to and including his superb photography from the 1986/87 Invisible Touch tours. The results are nothing short of superb, a visual feast for the eyes and the kind of books which any fan will never tire of perusing.
And finally for this look at books about the band, we come to the most recent autobiography by a band member: A Genesis In My Bed, Steve Hackett's story. An insightful and honest text gives some genuine insights into Steve's life and career, the chapters on his childhood and teenage years are particularly interesting. Strangely enough, he glosses over most of his own incredibly successful solo career and the end result is a bit like Mike's book; you are left wanting more knowing there is much more to tell!
Rounding up with something a little bit different in the shape of three volumes by Brazilian guitarist/composer Paulo De Carvalho, under the generic title The Sound Of Steve Hackett. These volumes will be a musicians' delight as they contain in the first two the complete transcripts to.Steve's first two solo albums whilst the third has a selection of transcripts from Steve's later works. Each volume comes with commentary by Steve as well as plenty of other useful information of a technical nature and plenty of photographs of Steve's guitar and gear throughout the aspects of his career. Even a non musician like me found these interesting!
And that's it for now. Of course there will be omissions from this as there may well be books I am unaware of, c'est la vie! Next time round I will explore the equally extensive world of foreign language books on the band!