"The Diary of an A & R Man" - Pat Purcell shares some of his memories of working with Genesis with us here at TWR.
When I was growing up two things interested me: cars and music.
I wasn't interested in much else, these two things were constants. I swore to
myself early on that if I picked either as a future career I would pick a company
with a brand of artists that I liked. I wanted to be totally committed to whatever
I sold or promoted. When it came time for college I couldn't have been less
interested. I had just got a job in a record shop; I was going to the "college
of rock and roll knowledge!" Who needed college (big mistake as I would
find out thirty years later!).
I had met sales and promotion people from various labels so by the time I was 19 I had a pretty good handle on where I wanted to be in the music business and what it would take to get there. I didn't know it would take four and a half years to get there. There being Warner, Elektra, Atlantic or WEA as its called, but that is where I wanted to be. In the mid 1970's they had the greatest momentum of any record company and their artist roster was staggering. Everyone I liked from Rod Stewart to Yes to the J Geils band and even The Rolling Stones recorded for one WEA label or another. By 1973 WEA was by far the fastest growing record company in the world.
I started with WEA in September 1974. My first job was selling singles (WEA called me a "Singles Specialist") or 45's as they were called, to record stores. I would follow the local airplay and back it up with product at retail and our wholesale accounts. I did this for about three months and then got promoted to a regular sales rep. I sold all our product : LPs, cassettes and even 8 tracks. I did this for three years and had a great time but I really wanted to try out Promotion. "Promotion" is getting radio to play your label's music and you also get to work "one on one" with the artists when they come to town. That sounded like great fun to me. I was also a musician and so I would be hanging out with other musicians.
By 1977 I had decided that the label I wanted to be with was Atlantic Records. They had all my favourite bands including a band that I had grown to like named Genesis. I liked Genesis because they were so different so "artsy". They and Roxy Music were the bands I really listened to but none of my crowd was into them and so I tucked them away and listened to them on my own. I was primarily a rock fan back then and so my favourite band at the time was Atlantic's biggest act; The Rolling Stones.
I started doing promotion for Atlantic in August 1977. I didn't have a clue what I was supposed to do other than go out and get records played by radio and "baby sit" acts when they came to town. Almost as an omen of things to come the first full day on the job I arrived home to find a pile of boxes of promo records in my front yard (somebody forgot to mark the UPS delivery slip "Inside Delivery" and so they just dumped them in the yard). The two big releases I was to work with in the pile were a live Stones double disc set and a two disc live set from Genesis called Seconds Out. As I did back then, I immediately put the records on the turntable and "familiarised" myself with them. At the time I was honestly overwhelmed by the job so I spent my time thinking about airplay rather than if I liked these two pieces of product. My whole way of listening to music changed. It wasn't so much what I liked any more but what Atlantic was pushing. Get into it and get it played. For the next six months I would blindly work my way into the world of record promotion. It wasn't fun getting yelled at every Monday for the records I couldn't get played. I started to wonder if I had made a career mistake. Lots of good music to promote but radio didn't want to play it, so far promotion was a big let down.
On a cold Saturday morning in early February 1978 my doorbell
rang, it was the express mail with my package of priority records and new releases
for the week. I opened the package and one of the two albums had a strange cover
but I was very familiar with the band. It was the new album by Genesis called
And Then There Were Three. I put it right on. I can remember that Saturday morning
25 years ago like it was yesterday. I thought: how could three guys make so
much music? How do they do those rhythms? How do they write songs like this?
This is pure magic on vinyl! I thought this was very special album. There were
a couple of songs that jumped out at me: Burning Rope and Many Too Many just
blew me away. My measure of a good album was three or four good songs and the
album is good…this one was loaded, I thought with good songs. Strangely enough
my "expert" ears didn’t hear Follow You Follow Me as a single at first.
They made an album this good without Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett?! They
must be one hell of a band.
For the first time, in my brief promotion career I could be excited about something I was pushing! On our Monday conference call I raved about the album and was told the first single would be Follow You Follow Me. I went right out and got it played on WYRE,a station programmed by a friend; Steve Kingston. Very little happened in our market and by the time summer got here And Then There Were Three was at the back of the record stack. I had new projects to work and I had to move on. And Then There Were Three sold moderately in the Washington area but then again it has never been a good Genesis market. Little did I know that the upcoming summer would change my musical tastes forever and one band would be etched in my brain.
The summer of 1978 started with a bang. The Spinners an R & B act with crossover hits would be my first live act of the summer. In mid July I got a call from Perry Cooper who was one of the heads of A & R at Atlantic. Genesis was coming to the Merriweather Post Pavilion; a 10,000 seat shed with grass that could hold another 5-7,000 people. They were booked for two nights;25th and 26th July. Perry asked me to set some things up and get back to him.
I mentioned this to our sales staff and they came up with the idea of an instore at Peaches, a store an hour away from the venue but big enough to hold a crowd. We got some funds for advertising to plug the instore and went with it. The album was hardly selling. WIYY told me to bring them by, at the very least they could cut some station IDs. I was excited my first big band and my first chance to prove myself, and it didn’t hurt that I liked their music; liked it a lot.
Atlantic let me hire a limousine to take the band to the instore. I made sure I got to their hotel early to touch base and have some lunch. It would be a long afternoon and I knew I had to be back at Merriweather early that evening for the show. I went into the Columbia Inn Hotel restaurant and sat down to grab a bit to eat. Sitting across from me was a familiar face. I couldn't place it right away but I knew this guy! Eventually it hits me that the guy is Daryl Stuermer! I walk over and introduce myself. I ask him…"what are you doing here?" I knew he had left Jean Luc Ponty. Daryl was very excited and told me that he had just been hired as the guitarist/bassist for the Genesis tour! Wow! Daryl in Genesis! Who would have thought it? Good things do happen to nice people.
I went backstage at Merriweather to pick up the guys. My first contact was Dik Fraser who was their road manager, he introduced me to Dale Newman and then Tony, Mike and… where's Phil??? Phil was on the 'phone to his kids, wishing them goodnight; he had also just recovered from a case of the mumps as I remember. Phil finally came out, we shook hands and left for the instore . I sat in the front seat, the three of them in the back. They were very quiet except for some small talk. The first thing I noticed was how quiet these guys were. They were very polite. Nothing like ELP who I despised working with; talk about three prima donnas!
There isn't a lot to see from Merriweather to Rockville so I just filled them in on the area, what radio we had and also remember asking them which of them wrote Many Too Many? Phil said it was Tony. I looked at him and told him that was one of the prettiest songs I had ever heard, and it was also my favourite on the album. Tony thanked me and looked embarrassed, like he could hide under the seat; he was very, very quiet. Little did I know in ten years I would idolise Tony Banks.
The instore went extremely well. Where did all these people come from? It was bedlam. At least 1500 people were in the store and in the parking lot. As we pulled the limousine into Peaches garage, I thought to myself this is how it feels to be a rock star! Phil, Mike and Tony seemed unfased by it all. The band was wonderful, they signed everything they could. It was the most successful instore Peaches had ever had. Something was going on here and what I was seeing was the beginning stages of a major act. I had done other instores and I had never seen one draw for such a "new" act. I hoped our local radio stations were paying attention.
I got to the venue at about 7pm;the show started at 7.30 with an acoustic set by Dale Newman and another fellow. Dik Fraser met me at the stage door and grabbed me (in a nice way) "Thank you for the great instore this afternoon, the guys are ecstatic! Have a special seat for you; a special promo man seat!" He led me to the side of the stage behind the curtain next to Daryl and Mike. I was literally five feet from them! There was a ladder to sit on and all the beer I could drink! This was special… very special. Here I was sitting onstage for a concert. This was the tour with the lasers and the mirrors. I'll never forget that night as long as I live . It was the night that Genesis went from being a band that I liked to a band that I loved; my favourite band from that moment on. It was unbelievable to look out at the seats I had sat in many times and see them packed! Even the grass was full, there had to be 15,000 plus at that show. The energy from the stage to the crowd was incredible but what struck me was the energy coming back from the audience. I had never felt like that before! The hook line and sinker for me was Afterglow, that really had an effect on me. It did something to me inside that I can't explain. It was the point where I stopped liking Genesis and started loving them. To this day when I hear that song it gives me goosebumps.
The next morning I picked up Mike at 8.30 he was the only one up for doing radio at the time. I had hoped for the three of them or at least Phil but I guess I had to work with what I had. I had no idea how great a guy Mike really was until I got to spend a couple of hours with him. He is like you guy next door, like a good friend. That evening's performance was another sell-out. They were now my favourite band. I felt I had died and gone to heaven. Most of the bands I had worked with up to that point were rather difficult in some way or another. These guys and their management were so nice, so regular it was scary! We said our farewells, I thanked them and they me and it was goodbye for a couple of years. The next time I would see them would be the last I worked for them at Atlantic but it would also provide me with another very special memory. I'll never forget the 25th and 26th of July 1978 ;that is when I fell in love with this band and it has been a love affair of some 25 years now!
Thanks for sending this in to us, here at TWR, Pat. I can't wait to read the next instalment! - AH