“Access All Archives” - The BBC January 1972 Session revisited by Alan Hewitt.

These sessions have been widely available as bootlegs for many years now in varying quality and not always complete. The sessions themselves have been covered in considerable depth in previous issues of TWR by Jonathan Dann and so the recording details etc are already known. Surprisingly however, recently, the BBC themselves took the step of re-broadcasting the one session which had never been available previously in decent quality. This ironically enough was one of their best and it had been missing a track. The re-broadcast on 19th March this year, however put all of that right with a pristine broadcast of the entire session which was a true delight to hear.

The BBC has done much over the last few years to both retrieve and restore its vast archive of both audio and visual material and thankfully, the BBC sessions that the band performed between 1970 and 1972 are in prime condition. This session which was originally part of the famous John Peel “Sounds Of The Seventies” series, had only been broadcast once since it was recorded and even then with two tracks from the session itself omitted. The version which was part of the promotional “BBC Session Recordings” set made at the time of the band’s first Genesis Archive box set was taken from a very poor bootleg recording. Enquiries into why this was so, revealed the fact that at that time, the master tape for the session itself could not be found! Thankfully, that situation has now been rectified and the session stands as another marvellous testament to the formative period of the band’s story. Opening on this re-broadcast with The Return Of The Giant Hogweed, this is definitive proof (if proof were needed) that Genesis were one of the most innovative bands of this period. The tale of a demented garden plant taking its revenge on the human race is played out here in an almost operatic form. Both Tony and Steve rage through the instrumental parts colouring each other’s parts and bouncing sound ideas off each other. It is also wonderful to hear the harmonies created by both Phil and Peter in parts while in others, Mike and Phil battle away with each other in the rhythm department.

This is followed by the cod Gilbert & Sullivan mini operetta that is Harold The Barrel. Certainly another demonstration of the tongue-in-cheek humour that permeated Genesis. This is then followed by the track that was missing from the original broadcast; Fountain Of Salmacis, and what a stunning version it is! Without doubt, this version is infinitely superior to the album version. Once again, both Tony and Steve are at the forefront. Steve’s guitar playing is incredible while Tony’s keyboards are sharper and more dramatic than the album version. Phil’s percussion is both tasteful and where necessary, powerful enough to carry the song without overpowering it. Peter’s vocals are almost choir-like and Mike’s bass playing is once again the glue that holds everything together - no wonder audiences at the time were blown away by this track!

The next track is a rarity; Harlequin, which even by the time this session was recorded was already on its way out of the band’s live set. Interesting to hear that this track was broadcast TWO MONTHS AFTER the rest of the session for some reason! Once again, the version here is superior to that on the album. Nowhere is this demonstrated more than on the vocal harmonies where Pete and Phil are accompanied by Tony to create a wonderful sound. Steve and Mike accompany them on acoustic guitars giving a reflective and pastoral interlude while Phil’s percussion is once again tasteful and understated. An unexpected treat rounds off the session with “Take Two” of Harold The Barrel which had never been broadcast before. Slightly different to its predecessor, it is here that Mr Hackett is really evident, his guitar fights an ongoing duel with Tony’s keyboards throughout the song while Peter delivers an even more impassioned vocal augmented by harmonies from Phil once more rounding off an already fantastic session in fine style.

The end result of this unexpected munificence from the BEEB, is that fans now have ALL of their broadcast sessions available in perfect quality. It also means that with the exception of Dusk from their first session for Night Ride in 1970, every track that the band performed for the BBC is readily available, apart from the infamous “Jackson Tape” which it is believed will feature on the forthcoming 5.1 album releases from the Gabriel/Hackett era. Hearing this material again, only serves to illustrate the dramatic rate of progress which the band made in the two years that are covered by this material. By the time of their final session for the BBC on 25th September 1972, Genesis had moved from minor cult band to a major attraction on the UK rock scene and were well set on the path toward superstardom.

Genesis “Sounds Of The Seventies” BBC Transcription Service Kensington House, Shepherds Bush London 9th January 1972. Track Listing: The Return Of The Giant Hogweed/Harold The Barrel/Fountain Of Salmacis/Harlequin/Harold The Barrel (Take Two). Re-broadcast on BBC Radio Six on 19th March 2008.

NOTE: For further information on the band’s BBC recordings, check out the features by Jonathan Dann that are to be found in #26, #27 and #29 of TWR and which will be online in the near future.