"Seeing the wood from the trees" - A selection of reviews of Alan's book "Opening The Musical Box - A Genesis Chronicle"

Just in case anyone was going to accuse us of favourable bias with regard to Alan's book, here is a selection of reviews on that subject... you be the judges!

Review by Mike Ainscoe

Pulled together by Alan Hewitt, long time Genesis chronicler and main man behind "The Waiting Room" fanzine, "Opening The Musical Box..." offers an expansive glimpse into the world of what the author calls "all things Genesis". Encased in a cover showing the classic line up of the band (outside Hedley Grange circa 1974, Steve Hackett as Derek Smalls) and including several pages of unpublished black and white photographs; this tome covers a whole range of subjects dealing with a resume of Genesis' career up to the present, and uncertain future, to chapters which cover the adjacent and solo careers of members and former members of the band.

For collectors and "enthusiasts" there is also a look into the world of tv and video appearances and various collectibles including the murky underground world of unofficial live recordings. Added to all that is an attempt to gather together a discography and live chronology of concerts by Genesis and the related artists.

As a fan of the band for some twenty plus years myself, I enjoyed reading the book for what it is. It's a "dipper" a book which fans will go back to time after time. It gives a fan's perspective and is bound together by someone who clearly is knowledgeable and passionate about the music. Readers of "The Waiting Room" will no doubt be aware of the in depth interviews conducted by the author with the likes of Tony Banks and Steve Hackett. That's not to say it is gushing with praise as fan books can tend to become - the lack of material for "Genesis" and "Whodunnit" as worst piece of Genesis music anyone? (Perhaps closely followed by "Silver Rainbow"?). In addition to covering Genesis, Alan gives an insight into the solo activities of each of the members of the group which, particularly in the case of the low profile solo career of Tony Banks fills in a few gaps in the quiet Genesis years and also shows the wealth of music these guys have produced in one form or another.

It reminds me of the "Good Old Days" when in the space of twelve months, from September 1979, we had "A Curious Feeling"; "Spectral Mornings"; "Sides" (with free "Private Parts & Pieces" if you were lucky), "Smallcreep's Day", a Hackett tour; "Gabriel Three" and tour, "Duke" and the vast "Duke" tour of theatres, "Defector" and the "Defector" tour! Halcyon days indeed! Alan also sets himself up nicely with his gig guide and discography, surely a thankless (and ultimately ongoing) task as trainspotters and anorak wearers everywhere will be scouring the dates as I write trying to find a mistake (I have to admit that I spotted one, but that was because I was there). But, hey isn't that what the gig guide and discography should be - a starting point?

In fact that seems to be the point of the book - a starting point and accompaniment to "The Waiting Room", an overview, a chance to read, rediscover and follow up some of the trails of what is the complex web of people and music that makes up Genesis.

Anonymous review from the Amazon web site...

Prepared to buy the book by a favourable review I was surprised to find the book did not in any way live up to its original billing. Making the boast of being "by a fan for the fans" it contained far too many inaccuracies to be anything other than an amateurish attempt. Chart placings were incorrect and according to the writers, Peter Gabriel released "Moribund The Burgermeister" as a single and not "Solsbury Hill"! On the plus side the picture on the front jacket was excellent and the summary of each of the group's solo careers was generally speaking, quite interesting.

Having said that, is there really any need to list all the concerts everyone in Genesis was involved in? Other trainspotter excess included a list of fan websites; a chapter on collectible items for Genesis magpies; a list of all the music output by all past/present members of the group; a thorough (and pointless) appendix and information on fanclubs. My advice to you would be: "Don't open up the musical box!"

Review by Jeff Kaa, editor of "9/8 - The Genesis Listeners Magazine"

There hasn't been much for Genesis fans to cheer about in the last couple of years, but this long-awaited book from the editor of the UK fanzine "The Waiting Room" nicely fills the gap. "Opening The Musical Box" presents pages and pages of information which will give hours of browsing pleasure to serious fans. And it may amount to information overload for the more casual fan. What everyone, serious or not should realise is how much information has been collected on the band and its various members - wow!

Hewitt readily admits that if you are looking for a strict biography of Genesis, it is still hard to beat Armando Gallo's "I Know What I Like". The major drawback of Gallo's tome, which Hewitt also points up, is his refusal to update the text to include events after 1980. And though the biographical content of "Opening The Musical Box" does present many new quotes from Ant Phillips and Steve Hackett, it does rely to some extent, as all subsequent books must; on Gallo's book. The author says that his intention was to cast his net a bit wider than Gallo. He has certainly accomplished that. And it is in the inclusion of these peripheral chapters about the Genesis universe that Hewitt's book supersedes, but does not displace Gallo's. I for one always lamented the fact that no Genesis book included a thorough discography or gig guide. And despite a cursory nod, most refused to come to grips with the solo careers.

In consequence, Hewitt's articles about these careers , with discographies and gig guides for all participants will be welcomed with open arms by those enamoured of these branches of the Genesis tree. Obviously, a book such as this can never be the absolute last word on any of the given topics, and there can be few fans, if any, who are in a better position to detail the entanglements of Anthony Phillips' solo career. I will not pretend to be an expert on such things as Phil Collins or Steve Hackett solo gigs but a cursory glance shows that Hewitt has done his homework.

Chapters on group and solo TV appearances are also included as well as articles on more specialist areas such as tour programmes and vinyl/cd collectibles. It would be easy to lament the lack of illustrations, but I have no doubt that Alan's next book (Next book? It took me ten years to write this one, Jeff - A.H.) will be a lavishly illustrated coffee table book chock full of photos. The book does include an eight page photo section which has pictures taken between 1972 and 1998. By the way, the photographer of the group shot from early 1972 is listed as unknown. This is in fact an Armando Gallo photo. The original negatives from this photo shoot are in my collection.

For the true afficionados, Hewitt provides chapters on bootleg audio and video, and although he readily admits that he just brushes the surface of these areas, these chapters will give the more casual fan a taste of what is available. And they will remind all collectors just what a daunting task it is to collect a complete set of Genesis stuff.

The caveats I have are trifles; and will no doubt be corrected in the revised edition, and for such a detailed book it would be impossible not to have inconsistencies and omissions. One inconsistency is using the incorrect date of January 20, 1975 for the Los Angeles "Lamb..." concert in the biographical chapter, but giving the correct date (January 24) in the gig guide. The author has already gone on record saying that he is ready to accept contributions and corrections, and we will all reap the rewards of this updated information.

One night in Montreal, Alan told me that information about Genesis can be authoritative but not definitive; "Opening The Musical Box" is just such a book. So, it will sit on my bookshelf, as essential to an enjoyment and knowledge of Genesis music as Gallo's "I Know What I Like".

There you have it folks, a fair selection of opinion but of course, if you would like your say; good; bad or otherwise; then feel free to write into us here at TWR! - A.H.