The Story of.... Trespass by Alan Hewitt.
Continuing our look at the albums by the band, we reach back into the dim, dark recesses of time when even your editor had hair of his own, to look at the band's first album for Charisma Records: Trespass.
From the quite shaky beginnings of From Genesis To Revelation and the naivete that went with it, the band began to grow up very quickly. Even at this early stage their determination to explore different musical ideas was quite evident although not always appreciated by those around them. Decca Records had soon lost interest after their grand experiment of allowing the band loose in a studio to cut an ENTIRE album instead of the usual single, had not paid off. Jonathan King too, had soon lost interest after his initial enthusiasm and by the beginning of 1970 the band found themselves without a record deal and no pack of A & R men chasing after their signatures.
Despite all of this, the band had begun to gig in earnest with their debut gig being at Brunel University in Acton on 1st November 1969. Their early set lists contained not only material from the debut album but also several tracks which, when re-worked would later emerge on their subsequent album, the subject of this edition's story. These early gigs are incredibly hard to document, there being no recordings extant from this early part of their story although set lists would have comprised tracks such as Stagnation, already a live favourite; along with Visions Of Angels and The Knife all of which were to feature on the new album.
Attendance at a gig in which the band performed an extended version of the latter track was sufficient for record engineer John Anthony to recommend the band to his then boss; Tony Stratton-Smith of the recently formed Charisma Records label. Strat duly attended a subsequent gig and was suitably impressed enough to offer the band a contract on the label. Time was going to prove exactly how fortuitous this pairing was to be. Charisma were no ordinary record company and in Stratton-Smith, Genesis had no ordinary record label executive. Stratton-Smith was a man who if he cared about a subject; did so with a conviction and passion that went far beyond the norm. It was he who was prepared to give the band the room to experiment further with their musical ideas which even at this early stage were evolving beyond the normal singles fodder into an altogether more complex musical entity.
The band were also extremely fortunate to have two extremely strong song writing partnerships in the form of Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel and Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips. Both pairs were to be responsible for creating tracks which Genesis fans have come to revere although it was no easy job trying to accommodate such massive talents within one band and competition to have your voice heard above the rest was to be a feature of the band at this time.
Opting for the time-honoured "get away to the country" approach, they were lucky to have access to a cottage on the edge of a National Trust park courtesy of their friend and fellow Carthusian; Richard Macphail. The isolation might have been all well and good for avoiding distractions, but it brought other pressures which were just as disruptive. Eager and earnest young men as they were, Genesis didn't know when to take a break; and living and rehearsing together began to take its toll as Anthony Phillips recalls…
"I look back on it now and think that we made an awful lot of mistakes in terms of how it was handled; which meant that personality difficulties were going to be inevitable in the sense that we never stopped working. We never left the place. You have to get away from it and from the people in order to keep the freshness and to stop things going sour…"
There are many stories surrounding this period of the band's story some of which must surely be apocryphal but two in particular serve to illustrate the almost surreal atmosphere which surrounded the band at this time, they are recalled by Anthony Phillips and John Mayhew respectively…
(Ant) "…There was that terrible gig at this awful nightclub called Blaises which had a tiny stage. In those days Mike used to play the cello and he bowed up woman's skirt!"
(John) "… I remember one gig where there was someone in the audience heckling and it got to Tony, he was the first and he stood up from the organ and said; 'Sir, we are no ORDINARY rock band!"
Tony was certainly right on that score!
John had joined after stints in various bands around the London area and he found the way the band worked to be totally different to anything he had experienced before. Another person who verifies that the band were an entirely different proposition to anything currently on the music scene was Paul Whitehead who was to become the artist responsible for the artwork for the band's first three Charisma albums…
"The first time I met them I went to the Charisma offices and they were very naïve and basically I had an interview with them and I had no idea what they did. You've got to understand the English class structure; English Public School boys are twits (laughs). It was weird. I remember them going on the road with a picnic hamper because they didn't trust the food in the transport cafes…"
The band had already written and recorded many songs before they eventually signed for Charisma but the hard realities of performing on the road soon gave the band the shock that not everyone was willing to listen to their more pastoral epics. The audiences that the band were playing to at this time were mainly university crowds who were out for a few beers and a dance on a Friday night, and Genesis were not your typical dance hall fare!
The band had several songs which they really enjoyed playing, tracks such as Pacidy and Let Us Now Make Love, which were far from the average pop songs of the time. These songs, and many more increasingly surreal ones were soon whittled down by the need to get an audience's attention and keep it as Anthony Phillips recalls…
"We had a good second set at one time. I remember playing at Brunel University with Fairport Convention and effectively blowing them off stage with a second set which consisted of Visions Of Angels; Twilight Alehouse; Pacidy; probably Stagnation and finally The Knife. It was a good set. Pacidy was dropped in the end because it was too slow and ponderous. The pressure came to accelerate everything because the people we were playing to weren't a proper concert audience and you had to get a move on…"
Several of these tracks had been written at the time of the band's first album but were re-worked considerably, none more so than Visions Of Angels, which had in fact been included on the original recording of that album.
With the band now under the aegis of Charisma, they continued gigging throughout the early part of 1970 gaining both an audience and the necessary stage craft which was to stand them in good stead later. They even managed to secure a couple of sessions for the BBC including one for the prestigious Night Ride series. This legendary session showcased the band at this crucial stage of their development, and as broadcast displayed the best elements of their current live set. Three of the tracks on this session were to end up on the Trespass album itself, the other three including both Pacidy and Let Us Now Make Love were to remain in obscurity until a chance broadcast by Alan Freeman almost twenty years later brought them back to life and subsequently a place on the bands first archive boxed set. The other session was condemned to equal obscurity until a copy master of it was offered for auction recently at which point the band's management company acquired the tape for their own archives. Ironically enough, until a conversation with the Editor of this very web site had taken place, the tracks on this session had not even been registered for copyright purposes believe it or not! This session which is currently known as the "Jackson Tape" (*) after Mick Jackson the painter who was the subject of the documentary for which the band had been commissioned to write the music, is another vital document in this period. Divided between four "movements" three of the tracks were subsequently re-worked; with one containing part of looking For Someone which was to appear on the Trespass album itself. Two of the others contained elements of later Genesis classics including Anyway, and The Musical Box while the fourth track, titled "Peace" has never been issued in any recorded form, although according to Tony Banks, who is now the custodian of this particular tape, they may consider its release at some point; perhaps in conjunction with the other BBC sessions from 1970 to 1972 that are available?
(*) For more information on this elusive session, see the feature on it in the January 2001 edition of Record Collector Magazine.
A performance at the "Atomic Sunrise Festival" supporting David Bowie and Hawkwind at London's Roundhouse venue on 11th March 1970 was filmed both privately and professionally allegedly. Intriguingly enough, the Hawkwind footage DOES still exist and is in Dave Brock's archive. Several band members also recall that the gig was sound recorded on 8 track equipment but frustratingly, this tantalising piece of the jigsaw is, like so much of the band's archive from this period; missing, although in this case, that may not be a bad thing. No band member has anything particularly good to say about this performance at which the band were very much the opening act for two other artists whose audiences were completely different to Genesis'. Nonetheless, given the band's extremely critical view of their own work; it would be nice for fans to have the opportunity of making up their own minds but until someone finds the footage/ soundtrack and makes it available, that is unlikely. A two minute segment of Stagnation which is from a live performance from this period and which may or may not be from the above gig, was found in Anthony Phillips' tape archive but the tape itself was not labelled properly! Oh, and before anyone asks - I do NOT, repeat: NOT have this footage in my possession either!
At the time of these sessions, however, the tracks which featured on Night Ride were very much considered to be the best live numbers along with a Blues-based Going Out To Get You which in its extended form was also a serious contender for the album along with The Knife. The former survived in the live set even making unexpected appearances as late as 1972 but its recorded version (also originally considered for the From Genesis To Revelation album) was not destined to see the light of day until the first boxed set.
The band eventually went into the studio in June 1970 to begin the process of recording the tracks which it had become obvious were the ones which worked best with their audience. The recording sessions were not without incident however, as Anthony Phillips recalls…
"I remember having an argument with the engineer about the twelve string sound. I remember him telling me; 'that doesn't sound like a twelve string'. I had been playing this thing on the road for nine months and I had developed my own sound which wasn't everybody's idea of a twelve string sound. I didn’t go for the percussion, all plectrum kind of stuff. I was trying to aim toward the more orchestral thing…"
The stresses and strains of the cloistered, positively claustrophobic life which the band led and which were exacerbated by the demands of on the road touring took their toll on the band and in particular Anthony Phillips who became increasingly disenchanted with the music and his part in it. John Mayhew was also aware that things were not working as they should. Although a technically adept drummer; John found it difficult to compete with the almost telepathic way in which the rest of the band worked on their music and had to be tutored in exactly what was required by the other band members. John can hardly be blamed for this, after all, these guys had known each other since school and John found himself following rather than leading and he was to needlessly blame himself for Anthony's obvious dissatisfaction with things and felt that he was holding the band back.
Typically, neither incumbent ever spoke to the other about this situation and things came to a head when during the summer of 1970 Anthony announced his decision to leave the band. John had already been given an inkling by Peter that perhaps it was time for him to check out but the decision by Anthony took everyone by surprise and as the rest of the band have acknowledged since, that was the closest that they ever came to splitting up.
Both Anthony and John were gone by the time that Charisma eventually released the album in October of 1970 by which time John's place had been taken by a promising young drummer by the name of Philip Collins who joined the band on 4th August 1970 but who didn't officially begin gigging with them until the beginning of October whilst he fulfilled contractual obligations with his previous band; Flaming Youth. Anthony's replacement was more problematic. Mick Barnard, of Aylesbury band, Farm undertook guitar duties through the autumn and winter months of 1970 during which time the band continued to gig increasingly throughout the UK, including the earliest TV appearance by the band for BBC TV's "Disco Two" programme which was broadcast in November 1970 during one of the band's more hectic touring periods, and for which the line up including Barnard mimed to The Knife soundtrack. Sadly, this performance has not survived the ravages of the BBC and no copy of it appears to be available. A permanent replacement for Ant was not to be found until early in 1971 in the shape of one Stephen Hackett but that is another story, folks!
Trespass did reasonable business, eventually selling about 6000 copies. Ironically enough, Charisma took the bizarre step of releasing The Knife as a 7" single with the track spread over both sides of the vinyl almost a year after the album had been released. Featuring a picture sleeve which included both Steve and Phil as now well established members of the line up, the single did nothing for the band in terms of chart success. The faith that Charisma and in particular, Stratton-Smith had had in the band was to be repaid eventually but it was to be a very slow process. The band paid their dues with their increasing schedule of gigs at which eventually, they began to gain an audience prepared to, in Mike's words… "sit down and listen" to their music. By March 1971 the band were even undertaking gigs overseas where the continental audiences took the band more readily to their hearts in Belgium they even got the album into the top ten of their chart! Sadly, apart from the BBC sessions mentioned earlier, there is no proper audio record available of the band at this formative stage in their career and sadly no record of how they sounded in concert at this time. Ironically, their first overseas gig which took place in Belgium on 7th March 1971 with both Phil and Steve now in the band, has survived in the form of a mediocre audience recording which does give some small idea of what the band sounded like at that time but no similar recording for the period prior to Ant and John's departures is known to be extant
Fortunately, we have the far from mute testimony of the Trespass album itself and we shall now have a look at that album, track by track…
Trespass is a deeply frustrating album. It is obvious from the outset that this is the work of a band of musicians of above average capability but the album itself is mired in appallingly muddy production.
It is a testament to the band's determination to succeed, that the tracks which were to make the grade on the final album were those which had been through the fire of road-testing. It must have hurt to leave favourites such as Pacidy and Let Us Now Make Love behind but the need to capitalise on what their audience wanted to hear drove the decisions which were to shape the finished album.
Even so, opening with Looking For Someone is far from predictable. Gabriel's impassioned and smokey vocals are tinged with the influences of those heroes he had watched at The Ram Jam Club and ironically now, the references to being "lost in a subway/I guess I'm losing time" might be termed as prophetic references to the later "Story of Rael". Tony's organ tastefully augments Peter while Mike and Ant let rip with some great riffs and John Mayhew accompanies the ensemble with some understated but effective percussion.
White Mountain has always been my favourite track of this album. Opening with some unsual keyboard sounds and that most progressive of instruments: a dulcimer, it is obvious from the start that this is no ordinary tale. The trio of Peter, Tony and John conjure up images of One Eye's quest through the forest before Mike and Ant's impeccable twelve string work give us a short respite before the chase continues with a brilliant performance by the entire group and Peter's vocals are delivered with raw passion. The death knell is sounded by John and Tony as the processional feel to the track reaches its climax and the two protagonists of the story fight it out to its inevitable conclusion and the track reaches a tranquil conclusion replete with twelve string and flute and Tony's classic organ chords.
Visions Of Angels has always been an intriguing song. Ostensibly a love song written mainly by Ant about his then infatuation with Peter's girlfriend and later wife: Gill. Definitely one of those "Pastoral" epics which the band peopled so much of their earlier efforts with and one in which the combined talents of Ant, Mike and Tony really come together impeccably and Peter's vocal is replete with youthful longing - a typical Genesis love song really!
Stagnation has long been the track which all the members of the band agree on as being the first time that the band gelled as a whole and even after all this time it is hard to disagree with that assessment. Every instrument has its own voice on this one and instead of clamouring to be heard over everything else, they unite in one harmonious whole which hits at greater things that the band were to achieve later in their career.
Dusk is another classic slice of early Genesis. Peter's vocal ranges from calm and longing to manic and impassioned. Tony's backing vocals here are also delightful to hear proving that his voice was always far better than he himself thought. Ant and Mike accompany the other protagonists impeccably. There is no other band that combines the twelve string sound the way that Genesis at this period do and it is wonderful.
Genesis' sole concession to Rock and Roll comes with the album's finale. It is difficult to believe that The Knife came from the same pens as the previous tracks. Its disparate nature is like a bucket of cold water or a slap in the face after the somewhat sedate nature of the preceding tracks. Nonetheless, it works and proves that even at s this stage, the band had already learned the lessons which all those months of incessant gigging had taught them - The Knife still grabs the listener by the balls even after all these years.
There you have it. Trespass, the album that brought Genesis to the attention of a wider public. Even here though, it is fascinating to think of the tracks which might have been included on this album: Going Out To get You was in the running as the finale right up to the recording sessions. Twilight Alehouse, considered as a potential single! Not to mention the plethora of tracks that fell by the wayside as the band honed their performances to cater for the demands of their burgeoning audience. Much as the likes of Pacidy and Let Us Now Make Love have passed into the realms of Genesis legend, there is no doubt that the band made the right selection at the time and Trespass still serves as a fine testament to all involved.
This section only refers to commercially available recordings and not to promotional items. For details of these check out Peter Vickers' massive tome: "Genesis Collectibles".
Trespass Charisma Records CAS 1020 ?.10.70
Trespass Charisma/Virgin Records CASCD 1020 1989
Trespass Charisma/Virgin Records CASCD 1020 1990 *
Trespass Virgin Records CASCDX 1020 1994 +
Trespass Toshiba/EMI Records VJCP 68091 1999 ^
The Knife (pt1)/The Knife (pt2) Charisma Records CB 152 1971 (PS)
BBC Recordings Virgin Records 4.4.00
(Two CD promotional set compiled by Virgin Records which comprises all of the band's sessions for the BBC between 1970 and 1972 apart from the "Jackson Tape". This set has yet to be released commercially).
= Picture Disc Edition part of the first set of Genesis boxed picture discs
+ = Definitive Remaster CD Version.
^ = Japanese "Miniature Classics" series CD with replica artwork sleeve.
(PS) = Picture sleeved 7" vinyl single.
"Night Ride" Session. Recorded at BBC Radio 4 Studios Maida Vale Delaware Road London 22nd February 1970.
Tracks: Shepherd/Pacidy/Let Us Now Make Love/Stagnation/Looking For Someone/Dusk.
The "Jackson" Session. Recorded at BBC studios January 1970.
Tracks: Provocation (inc: Looking For Someone), Frustration (inc: Anyway); Manipulation (inc: Musical Box); Resignation/Peace.
""Disco Two" BBC Shepherds Bush TV Studios broadcast 14th November 1970. Track: The Knife.