"Waiting For The Big One" - Interview with Armando Gallo at Le Croissant Du Port Restaurant, Montreal, Canada, 14th November 1998. Interview conducted by Alan Hewitt and Thomas Holter.
TWR: The first question for you, Armando is - how did you get to meet Genesis?
AG: When I first met Genesis? It was actually meeting them for an interview you know, I met them but when I got to know them quite well was when I did an interview for an article about them during their first Italian tour. I had met them a year before but they were so... what's the word? So difficult to approach, because you would go backstage after a concert and there would be fighting, they would always be pissed off; plus they weren't very approachable, because they were public school boys and they were a bit intimidating somehow, you know? They weren't smiling or coming to you but the concerts were great and so I went to see them and the music was that good that you didn't want to talk to the guys because you wanted to keep the music as it was.
Finally I went to meet them at their rehearsal room, they were rehearsing in Plumstead, near Greenwich at an old run-down club called The Inferno, the former Inferno you know there's a picture in my book of them rehearsing and there was just a light bulb in the centre of the room and that was it. And that interview at lunch with them and Phil wasn't there and in fact, when he came back, he was quite upset that he wasn't there for the interview and in fact on the pictures you can tell that he was kind of pissed off and reading Melody Maker.
And so I met them and I found them very serious about their music, how they got together and what they wanted to do. They were a very serious bunch of people and they were very young, and very shy but very committed to whatever they wanted to do. This was in February 1972 - the first time I saw them was in 1971; January 24th at the Lyceum which was my birthday. I went to see Van Der Graaf Generator there with a bunch of friends of mine because they were my favourite band, and opening for them was Genesis and Tony Stratton-Smith was on the back row, at the bar with his usual drink (laughter) and he said: 'Have a pint, Armando' so I had the pint and then he said; 'You should check this band out, they're very good...' and so I went forward and by the time they came out and did "The Knife", there must have been about fifty people in front that went crazy and all the others just didn't care. So, that was really the first fire of a cult band, you know, and those fifty people became a hundred, two hundred, three hundred and so on...
Armando and Thomas
TWR: Obviously over the years, you have followed the band right the way through, do you have any particular shows that stand out? Good shows; bad shows?
AG: Well, the first... maybe the first show in Oxford during the "Selling England By The Pound" tour which was before the Rainbow gig and was a big rehearsal for the Rainbow. The Rainbow show was kind of the show that got them through with the English press, and everybody was standing; they got a standing ovation, so the English press couldn't ignore that, and Chris Welch gave them a good review in Melody Maker, and Chris Welch became converted at that time, but after that he always did a bad job! (laughter). But he was very big at the time, and so was Melody Maker and so there was Sounds. I remember Ray Telford in Sounds. Sounds was behind Genesis and then Tony Tyler of the New Musical Express came to Italy with the band when they played their very first Italian tour, and so he gave them a great review but the article was so very strange because maybe because they were big in Italy they would never be big in England which was so ridiculous, you know, and the Lincoln Festival was very good as well because it was a four day festival. It was raining and it was cold and they came out and thought that they had done a terrible show but that was when I got converted to Genesis, at that show, because the atmosphere was so against them; it was two o'clock in the afternoon - it was cold and everybody was still covered in straw because it was raining so much, they gave out hundreds of bales of straw and people were sleeping under this straw and Genesis came on and people were waking up to that, and I wrote in the first book that that was where I stood in the mud with my wellies entrenched in the mud and there were twelve Italian journalists there and I was taking care of them, and we were all just raving about it.
TWR: You decided to chronicle the band; what was the inspiration to write the book?
Armando and Alan
AG: The inspiration came when I moved to England in April 1975 and the week... I was leaving on a Monday and maybe the Wednesday or Thursday of the week before, there was a presentation of the gold albums for "Selling England By The Pound" and they were finishing their tour of "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" and Phil came up to me and said: 'You're leaving for Los Angeles and so I better tell you before someone else tells you; I'm leaving the band..' And I said; 'Really?' and he was getting together this band which was Brand X and so, I left and went to California and there I met people who knew me from the Foxtrot cover; I had a tiny little picture where my name is Amanda Gallo, they spelled it wrong! (Laughter) and so people knew me from that and I realised that Genesis was really a cult band in California and some people told me; 'Why don't you write a book on Genesis?' And then comes August and I find the news that Peter has left the band; 'what do you mean. Peter has left the band? Phil was supposed to be leaving?' I kept it secret all those months and now Peter had left the band. And so at that time I had a column for an Italian magazine and I had mounds and mounds of letters from people in Italy asking me what I thought about it, or giving me their views on why Peter Gabriel left the band, and at that point I decided to write a book but I was writing a book like an answer to all this mail from Italy, and I never thought about writing it in English.
TWR: Did you find it difficult to start writing or did it come to you easily?
AG: It came to me easily because I had all these letters from Genesis fans who gave me all these questions that they wanted to know and so I came to realise that it was... And it became really strong. Plus I moved to California and California has such an incredibly positive energy and when you tell someone you are going to do something, you know in California everything is possible there are those famous positive vibes and when you told people they said: 'Oh, great man, fantastic' and you want to go ahead with the project and so that Christmas I went to England and got together with the band and I started and then as I was picking up interviews and stuff; I went on the tour - I did the Rainbow shows and then I went to England with them and picked up a lot of... going back to the hotel after the shows and did a lot of interviews late at night which are often the best of times; you know, and this English publisher contacted Peter Thompson who was the band's UK press officer because they wanted to do a book on Genesis, because they were becoming big and so he said; 'Armando Gallo is doing a book...' and I went to meet these publishers and I had all the transcripts of the interviews and I had a big bunch of stuff and the publishers thought; 'Looks like we've got a book ' and so I got a deal and I called Tony Smith, the band's manager, to do the deal for me, and I was there man, and I had to do an English book and I never studied English - I went to England and picked it up, and having to do an English book for an English publisher, that's how it came about.
TWR: How long did it take you to write?
AG: I started at Christmas - I was in England until the end of January 1977. Then I kind of stopped, and I picked it up again in April when they came to America, and then I picked it up again in June and they called me and said: 'You should come to Paris because we're going to do a live album, and maybe you should do some photography for that?' And that's when I left England in July after meeting all the families; I met Peter Gabriel's mum in July; I went to Charterhouse in July and I went back home and I wrote the book in July and August. I had to deliver the manuscript at the end of September.
|I took a break for ten days in August because PFM were touring in America, and Elvis Presley died I think and PFM were touring and so I took a break which was great and I went back and read the book and there was so much stuff left out and I wasn't very sure and I gave the manuscript to a friend of mine and he came back a week later and said; 'This book is gonna sell a LOT, don't change anything' and I sent the manuscript to England and this was in October, and the book came out in June and I was thinking why do they take so much time? I was very angry when I saw the proofs, because I had nothing to do with the feet on the cover and they changed all the positions of the pictures and I was so angry that I had to do another book, "I Know What I Like", and that's how "I Know What I Like" came out, and so in August 1979, I went back to England and Peter Gabriel was doing the Reading Festival with Phil on drums and Steve Hackett was playing the Reading Festival and I've got a Super 8mm film of that! (laughter) and then I went on holiday in Italy and came back at the beginning of October and the band was starting rehearsal for "Duke" and so on the first day of rehearsal for "Duke", I went back to America, put the book together and went to Italy to have it printed and on my birthday of 1980 which was nine years to the day since I first saw the band; I went back to England and to the studio, where they were wrapping up and it was so amazing because I left them on the first day of rehearsal in October and went to see them again on 24th January and that was the last day of recording; they were editing the songs. So they edited all the songs and Tony and Mike went home and they said; 'Don't anybody call me for two or three weeks!' and I was left with Phil and David Hentschel and Phil rolled me up a nice little doobie (laughter), sat me in the producer's chair and I heard "Duke" for the first time that day and it was the best endorsement because the book proofs were in three different types of paper with three different covers and they picked what they wanted and that was it.||
The re-issued 'I Know what I Like'
TWR: And of course, the big question now is - why re-issue that book and not update it, because many people were hoping that you would update it?
AG: What, now? Because I lost interest with Genesis from Abacab onwards in a way, to be honest. I think there is every fruit for every season you know, and... one thing I didn't tell you about the book, is that I did the book because Peter left the band, and I thought this was very important for me, if you would understand. I thought that it was very important for me to tell the story of that band and I felt that if I didn't do it, nobody else would because I saw everything happening you know, and not many people believed in the band but I believed from the very first time I saw them and I had all the pictures and I could reach all the people to help me tell the story. So, it was a book; the Genesis story was the story of Peter Gabriel, ok. Then when I did "I Know What I Like", the band reconfirmed themselves with the surprise of Phil Collins an din the Eighties, Phil became so strong as a solo artist, and the others were beginning to do solo projects, and so if I had done a book about the Eighties it would have been a book about an established band going through the motions of playing the arenas and the stadiums, and that stuff. When I think that a biographical book is important when it tells the story of how a normal chap becomes a star and so the trip we go on from a kid that loves music to play music; to get a band together and struggle and reach the point where Phil's album goes to number one... I think that is an important story.
After that, once they reach success and everybody knows it from the news and so it would be a different type of book and perhaps there will be a different type of book, and I was fascinated by the story of how a bunch of kids determined to become one of the biggest bands in the world. If you write a book about Genesis coming out of Charterhouse; getting their first record deal through until they become established; that's a STRONG story! If you do one about the band of the Eighties and Phil's solo albums going through the roof - it's a different kind of book and that's not congenial to my style of writing. I like to discover things and write about what makes people tick; you know; what gives them the determination to go from being a normal guy to a superstar, you know and so the reason for the re-issuing of the book is because of the Internet and the Internet made me aware of people all over the world who were trying to get hold of the book and then when Genesis and Virgin Records approached me to get the pictures for the CD Box Set; going back though my old files and looking at the old pictures I thought; 'Well, why don't we revive the book too?' because I had so many requests and so instead of doing ten or twenty thousand copies of a cheap version; I did three thousand copies so that people got a good version with a binding and layout.
Tony banks told me; 'Look, you're like a detective...' you know, but when I looked at the transcripts I realised that this story was being told by the people who saw it happening and I realised that I had no problems as a writer; writing English - all I had to do was pick the story from everybody and just join the pieces and so I had everything shot already and all I had to do was some editing although it was very difficult to decide at one point which version was the real one because for one anecdote I sometimes had five different versions, and so when I was putting the book together, everyday I would go down to Manhattan Beach; it was summer; July and I would sit on the beach down on Seventh Street and I had a line of the horizon; the line of the sand and the waves coming in and it was this big screen and I used to pin everything up there and I would have this book which I still have with all my notes about structure of the book; mainly like a screenplay, where I had the main characters; the guys in the band and the co-stars; the managers; Richard MacPhail; Anthony Phillips and the agents and so I had all these people converge into the story and I had to decide which stories to tell and out of the sand came this little devil saying; 'ha, ha, who do you think you are, trying to write history?' and I realised that whatever I wrote down would be the history of Genesis written in a book, so there were a lot of internal fights but you know, that's the challenge of writing a book. Then I gave a transcript to each member of the band and they didn't correct anything although one thing that Richard MacPhail told me off about was about the band Anon, which I put in the book as "The Anon" (laughter) and he said; 'There was never a "The" it was just "Anon".