"Lamb Memories" (Part Two) - A recollection of a fan's impressions of Genesis' "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" tour. Article by Andy Wilkinson.
The following were written down in response to those who urged me to complete the story which I began in Part 1 [see TWR #43 - TB.] with recollections of the two "Lamb..." shows witnessed on April 14 and 15 at the Empire Pool Wembley. To set the whole thing in context, it concerns the experiences of two 19 year old hardcore fans so taken in by the performances at Wembley, they went in search to relive the whole experience again. Written almost twenty four years after the events took place, many of the situations and experiences remain fresh in the mind, although some other minor details have been blurred through the passage of time.
Both Malcolm and I had first seen the band during their formative and sometimes struggling days when they played regularly around the colleges and clubs of the home counties. Whenever we had the opportunity, we would go and see the band play live. There was no one quite like them at this time; they were something very special and in our eyes, unique. We moved on to those triumphant dates at the Rainbow Theatre during February and late October 1973 - probably the first time the band had received serious recognition from the music press, and of course, the advent of Gabriel taking us into the world of "Rock Theatre" in the form of the myriad costumes/masks and the introduction of audio-visuals by back projection.
January 1974 saw us attend five consecutive nights at Drury Lane Theatre for the "Selling England..." tour, and then it was along wait to finally witness the much talked about and controversial "Lamb..." shows, originally scheduled for November 1974, but postponed for almost six months for English audiences due to Hackett's wrist injury. "Lamb Memories Part One..." covers our first opportunity to witness "The Lamb..." stage shows played in London and the following days, plans were hatched to catch the band again during the UK tour. What later transpired is here written as faithfully as possible - neither of is kept diaries and events and recollections are recorded purely in response to those who urged "Tell it like it was!"
At this time, both Malcolm and I were in our first jobs after having left school. We had been firm friends at school due to our mutual interest in the same music: we had formed our own band, playing original material though not to any great technical skill or proficiency. I was bass, and Malcolm had discovered a taste for drums and percussion. Neither of us earned much money and what little we had went to basically feed and suppprt ourselves, and any left over was spent on band equipment or attending gigs in the London area. I had a tiny bedsit apartment in Uxbridge opposite Brunel University (good for the gigs played here), Malcolm was still at home with his parents. I didn't drive, let alone own a car, while Malcolm had a modest Hillman Imp which we pleaded him to get rid of in order to buy a van to transport the expanding group equipment.
Days after the "Lamb..." shows at Wembley we spoke at length of the stunning musical presentation and the thirst to get a little bit more of this technicolour drama. Although Wembley had the capacity to allow thousands to watch a gig, it was sacrificed for the price of generally pretty poor acoustics and limited views of the band if you were more than half way back. I don't exactly recall our seating arrangements for Wembley but remembered the vast number and furious pace of projections flashed on the three giant screens behind the band. This worked fine for one image projected across all screens but it was strain to determine what appeared as single slide on just one. Without doubt, the band were on fire musically at this, the closing stage of a tour which had stretched out over many months before back in North America. The "Lamb..." tour programme had the dates of the remaining English gigs which showed the tour closing the month of April with two shows at the Colston Hall Bristol, and finally the two remaining dates of the English tour concluding at the Hippodrome in Birmingham on May 1 and 2, 1975. Now, Bristol being no more than 100 miles west of London, if we wanted to catch a little more of the action, this was surely the place to go. First gig in Bristol was a little more than two weeks after the Wembley shows and we both had to act fast if we stood any chance of making it here. Fortunately we were both able to gain a weeks' leave from our respective employers and we decided to pool our financial resources in order to both get down to Bristol in time for the gig.
Although not penniless, a couple of 19 year olds hardly had a fortune at their disposal, and certainly no credit cards. To make things last and see just how far we could go it, we decided to hitchhike to Bristol, taking sleeping bags and if necessary we would "rough it" should it be required. The whole venture was looking more risky the closer it got; the Colston Hall Ticket Box Office claimed both shows for the two days were sold out and the chances of getting tickets at an affordable price from a tout, a big gamble.
April 29, armed with sleeping bags, basic provisions in a rucksack, not a great deal of cash in our pockets, we hit the M4 Motorway heading west not far from Heathrow Airport: destination, Colston Hall, Bristol for our third performance of "The Lamb..." on the UK tour. Pleasant spring weather for the time of year certainly made it an invigorating and wholly unpredictable couple of days that lay ahead of us. Luck was with us this morning, without too much waiting we secured a lift from a lorry driver who was going beyond Bristol but would drop us off somewhere in the outskirts. A little after midday, we arrived in Bristol having only spent a couple of bob on a local bus journey which took us right to the city centre. Next, find the Colston Hall. Bristol was a fine city, steeped in a once proud civic past and based largely on its trading links with the rest of the world in previous centuries. Like a lot of Britain in 1975, there was a slightly jaded look to the city that was a reflection on the general economic malaise that pervaded the country. Although not in any sense of a terminal decline, the city had seen better days. There was still plenty of signs of wealth and durability although some sections of the city obviously harboured poverty and growing social problems. I had read in the music press that Genesis with their "escapism" and surrealism so closely wound up in their music had always found the warmest and most animated audiences in those very places where economic hardship was worst. Cities like Glasgow and particularly in the Northeast like Newcastle were specifically mentioned.
Colston Hall was found standing a little way back from the main thoroughfare, but handily placed. I reckon it to be quite an old theatre that probably seated no more than 1800 or so. Enquiries at the Box Office about availability for the evening's performance brought great news, there were still a limited number of tickets available in the rear stalls and these may have been in fact returned tickets. Not only this, a similar number were also going for the show the following evening. Malcolm and I had no hesitation in handing over our limited savings and secured our seats for both tonight and tomorrow's shows. This was working out fine - no recourse to spending over the top through a tout and we had travelled to Bristol on a matter of shillings.
To kill the hours before the evening's much awaited gig, we ate cheaply at a Wimpy, then spent quite some time in an newsagent-cum-bookstore. Purchased a copy of the American rock magazine "Circus", purely because it had a striking picture of Gabriel on the front with a provocative headline: "Will America Swallow The Lamb?" I alluded to this magazine article in postings to one of the internet newsgroups during early 1998. Alas I no longer have the said magazine. Another interesting find in the shop was a paperback copy of a book titled "The Unexpurgated Routines Of Lenny Bruce". With only hours before the show, what better subject matter to keep me occupied, and through the remainder of the following day until the gig in the evening.
Piling into the Colston Hall the atmosphere was already rising in expectation. This was going to be a good one! Forget Wembley, we were going to experience "The Lamb..." in a cosy little theatre where almost every seat in the house offered a better prospect. The rear stalls were no bad position. I guess in here we were still nearer the band than 80% of the people at the Empire Pool. What increased the anticipation for both of us was the sheer intimacy of a performance in such a neat little theatre. And we would for the first time get a good look at exactly what was being flashed behind the band on these back projections. The gig did not disappoint - nor would you expect it to.
The Bristol crowd were a lot more raucous than Wembley and for a smaller setting, the gig was ideal. The usual chill ran up the spine for the opener and again that brilliant wide angle back projection of the dawn Manhattan skyline so neatly splashed across all three screens just above the band. Sound was loud (very loud) and also clean. What became evident after watching the Wembley shows, Gabriel's movements about the stage were pretty much choreographed, presumably for lighting and maximum stage effect. Gabriel was noticeably more mobile in his actions using the stage much more than the previous "Selling England..." shows. There was a deliberately more frenetic approach (probably in keeping with the character Rael) and Gabriel's stagecraft was mesmerising not to say totally committed for effect.. We were now getting a lot more wised-up on the differences between the live set and what was committed to vinyl. Much extended "Fly On A Windshield" and Collins would throw in surprise unexpected "extras" on drums and added percussion. He really did drive the whole thing along with real power and precision. I am beginning to recall Gabriel either playing the flute or singing lying flat on his back during the early section near to Banks. "In The Cage" was as good as ever but "Back In NYC" was glorious. Pyrotechnics with the throwing of the gas bottle, and Rutherford's bass pedals literally caving in the chest. "Hairless Heart" always a special highlight which will always leave a memory with the beating heart and scalpel projections. And we could clearly make out all the visuals.
"The Waiting Room", one of the two shows had given us an absolutely stunning extended playing of this number. It was so refreshing to us who had followed the band since the very early days, to hear them take such risks. There was obviously a degree of improvisation with this, more so as the piece developed beyond the initial 4-5 minutes. This again was another defining moment during the live performance of "The Lamb..." - What would we get? To be honest I don't recall just how good this version was, only it was similar in length to Wembley but so, so good to hear the band loosen up beyond the tightly rehearsed repertoire we had been brought up on. Only to say all members of the band did their very best to concoct all imaginary sounds available in a cacophony of noise to assault us. The breaking out of the final rhythm and resultant "jam" was a joy to behold. Great moments!
Again more extended soundscapes before Gabriel thrilled us all with "The Lamia" drama. To those never experiencing the spinning "Lamia" spectacle, this was truly awesome. Delicate sounds and the neon blue apparition took your breath away. We were into areas never before witnessed during a rock concert. "Silent Sorrow..." took us deeper into the séance with some particularly powerful atmospheric moments of sweeping Mellotron and guitar passages washing all over us in a hypnotic manner. At this time of the performance we were all deeply intoxicated in surreal sound and images bombarded us. Leading into "The Colony Of Slippermen" the drama was intensified with the next startling apparition. After the gasps of astonishment as Peter emerges from the plastic tube snaking on stage, the Slipperman delivers a comical and both frightening image. No more theatrics after this but a brutally played "Riding The Scree" and finally it.
Not quite over, the band returned to the stage after a thunderous ovation to bring us the more familiar "The Musical Box" and "Watcher Of The Skies". Then they were gone. This was the best performance yet of "The Lamb...". To have had the opportunity to witness the whole thing at close quarters in an intimate theatre was heaven. The journey to Bristol had been more than worthwhile and we were now getting to understand the whole essence of the performance. Too complex to get your head around at the cavernous Wembley setting; this was what it was all about and an opportunity to reflect and revel in two hours of uncompromising music and theatre. And what's more; we were going to live through the whole thing again the following evening.
After the second show, and an adventurous couple of evenings in Bristol we still had a fair amount of money left so what now? Genesis were going to play the last two dates of the UK tour tonight and tomorrow night at the Birmingham Hippodrome and that was at least 100 miles north of Bristol. "Fuck it!" Birmingham it was, we would risk it.
Eventually arriving in Birmingham, we found that just like Bristol it was good news on the ticket front with a few tickets available for the rear stalls standing for both nights. The May 1 Hippodrome show was electric. It seemed the longer the tour went on, the band got stronger and were now very comfortable with this new music. I have read previously that very few "Lamb..." shows went totally according to the plan and something would always go awry. To be honest, I don't recall breakdowns, hiccups or malfunctions - the only noticeable thing on occasions was that Gabriel would mess up his words and sing them in the wrong place. Hardly a calamity, and completely forgivable in the circumstances of playing live. The view from the rear of the stalls (standing) was perfectly adequate. We were central to the stage and decided to stand just to the rear and right of the lighting/sound desk. Again the terrific abilities of Collins shone through. He really was an especially fine player, full of invention and a colossus in the band. Another exceptional "Waiting Room" - this was really turning into a personal favourite moment of the tour. I admit to having a bootleg of this gig obtained many years later - one thing that stands out is Gabriel's references to Rael in the first person i.e. "I" did this. I don't recall if he used this terminology during the earlier shows, but it was very much apparent here, and the dialogue increasingly longer. The story of Rael must be much ingrained in the psyche after playing around ninety shows by this time. A cracking show and this time we were treated to "The Knife" as the second encore, replacing "Watcher..." Many folk went home happy.
Thanks to a couple of other fans who knew where the band were staying, we managed to meet up with the band at their hotel. A totally uncool thing to do, but we did it anyway! First up was Hackett, in upbeat mood who said he was enjoying the tour immensely and commented on the subject matter of the Lenny Bruce book before autographing it! Phil also came out and Malcolm, being a drummer made a beeline towards him. I didn't understand a word they were talking about as it concerned drumming techniques and the problems of left handers. Phil also signed the Lenny Bruce book. Next was Mike and he struck me as being so polite and attentive. Asked if he ever received his original Rickenbacker double neck, allegedly stolen in the States. The answer was "no" despite the offer of a reward for its return. Tony himself was affable enough and took time to sign the paperback. This book was now well worth buying. We never did see Gabriel and I wonder if he was even staying at the hotel with the rest of the band. What a day! We had briefly met the band and we had the show that evening still to see.
I guess, having spoken to the boys that afternoon only heightened it for the evening's performance. We were now so versed to the mechanics of the live performance even the thousands of slide back projections were becoming increasingly familiar and we knew what to expect at every turn. There was one spot in the show that I was never 100% sure was real. It was the closing of it, where for a brief moment there are two Gabriels on stage. One was a dummy, but it was always fleeting against dark background lighting and impossible to judge, which was the real Gabriel. I concentrated that much harder during this show and still couldn't with any certainty state which was real. Another good one, and again we were treated to "The Knife" as a final number.
So meagre was our existence over the last four or five days, we took a look at our financial situation. Incredibly we probably had enough to catch a train back to London instead of the uncertainty of hitching. This we did, and back in the comfort of our respective homes by lunch time. Completely knackered, but totally satisfied, we had set out and achieved what had been all but a dream and had carried it off with a stroke of good fortune which relied on chance. We were elated!
Moving ahead a number of months to August 1975, my girlfriend called with a copy of the Melody Maker and stabbed her finger at the headline. It starkly read: "Gabriel Quits". I was devastated and immediately called Malcolm. We were both dumbstruck and totally gutted. The Melody Maker even had the gall to print an obituary of the band on the inside cover. Malcolm was quick enough to remind me that we had therefore seen Gabriel perform his last four UK shows with the band. Scant consolation in the overall scheme of things.