The Evolution of a Rock Biography Revisited. By Alan Hewitt.
A recent trawl through the TWR archive of paper editions brought me to the feature on this subject written many moons ago (in #7 of TWR actually) by Ted Sayers and I thought it was high time it was updated so I hope you will excuse yet another trip down Memory Lane by yours truly.
The number of books about the band and its various solo protagonists has grown significantly since our earlier feature including several tomes by your very own editor but before we get to those, let us take a look at those, let’s take a look at some of the others beginning with “Genesis” by Janis Schacht which appeared in 1985. An informative book with plenty of decent photographs and the first proper attempt to give coverage (albeit very brief) to all of the solo members’ careers which makes it a worthy addition in its own right.
Genesis - Janis Schacht. Proteus Books ISBN 0 86276 257 X. 1985
The next offering of real interest appeared in 1993. Swiss fan, Max Demont had spent many years and probably more money than most of us would care to think about amassing one of the most impressive collections of Genesis records anywhere and he put that collection to good use with Counting Out Time The Worldwide Singles Discography Volume 1. This amazing book focuses on the 7” vinyl single output by the band AND the solo members from those very first elusive (and expensive) singles right up until what were the current releases at time of publication. Sadly, despite the title, no subsequent volume has been printed but this book remains one of the most fascinating and useful efforts around.
Max Demont - Genesis Counting Out Time The Worldwide Singles Discography Volume 1. (Privately published no catalogue number). 1993
This was followed soon afterwards by the first of what is now a long line of excellent books by Italian journalist and life-long Genesis fan, Mario Giametti. Taking its cue no doubt from Max’s book, Genesis Discografia 1968 -1993 does exactly what the title says and outlines the recorded output by all the members of Genesis from the band’s inception. More or less a book of lists, this is nevertheless a useful reference tool.
Mario Giammetti - Genesis Discografia 1968 -1993. Edizioni Blues Brothers (Italy). No catalogue number. 1994
Veteran rock journalist Chris Welch got in on the act next with his slender little tome: The Complete Guide To The Music Of Genesis which, sadly did not even come close to living up to its title. As you would expect from a man with Welch’s expertise, there are some useful insights but also some glaring errors which rather detract from the usefulness of this one.
Chris Welch - The Complete Guide To The Music Of Genesis. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-5428-3. 1995
Mario Giammetti re-entered the fray in 1999 with his first book focusing on the career of an individual member of the band and Peter Gabriel Il Transformista manages to bring together many of the threads in this most enigmatic of artists’ work including gig guides, discography and tour dates making this one a useful reference even to those of us who can’t read Italian!
Mario Giammetti - Peter Gabriel Il Transformista. Arcana Editrice (Italy). ISBN 88-7966-189-2. 1995
The following year saw bootleg collectors get a work aimed squarely at their hobby/ passtime/religion. Genesis File was published by Yashima Tsukamoto in Japan and covers just about every bootleg ever made by the band by the likes of Highland and several other such “companies”. Accompanying text is in Japanese but disc details are in English and each recording is accompanied by a picture of the artwork making this one very useful to collectors.
Yashima Tsukamoto - Genesis File (Japan) Private edition no catalogue number
There is then a considerable gap before the next books of any note on the band appear and the next examples date from 2000 beginning with the works of Mario Giammetti, an Italian journalist and founding father of Italian Genesis magazine, Dusk. Mario had previously written several smaller scale works on the band and on Peter Gabriel which have already been reviewed in earlier editions of TWR and above, but in 2000 he produced “The River of Constant Change” and with it, set the bar incredibly high for any other writer on the subject of Genesis’ career. A superbly well-illustrated book and one which I am sure would have been enjoyed even more had it gained a subsequent English translation, but nevertheless, an essential addition to any collection of book on the band.
Mario Giammetti: Il Fiume del Costante Cambiamento. Editori Riuniti (Italy) ISBN 88-359-5507-6
Also in 2000, Canadian author, Robin Platts released a slender but highly informative book on the band under the title Inside & Out. Once again, lavishly illustrated, and accompanied by an informed and informative text, there is much to recommend this one to any fan interested in delving a little deeper into the band’s story. This one was subsequently updated in 2007 under the title - Genesis Behind The Lines 1967 -2007 although the update added little of real substance over its predecessor.
Robin Platts - Inside & Out. Collector’s Guide Publishing
Inc (Canada) ISBN 1-896522-71-8
Robin Platts - Behind The Lines 1967 - 2007. Collector’s Guide Publishing Inc (Canada) ISBN 9781894959674
Also. As I am sure most of our readers know, 2000 also saw the first literary effort by yours truly in the shape of Opening The Musical Box - A Genesis Chronicle and I won’t dwell too much on it here except to say that this was probably the first in-depth attempt to draw the various elements of the band’s story together in far greater depth than had been attempted previously. In fact, the resulting work was almost immediately in need of updating and revision which I duly did with 2007’s Genesis Revisited and a further update is still in the planning stages as this feature is being written. Effectively reference books rather than biographies, both of these should keep any fan occupied.
Alan Hewitt - Opening The Musical Box - A Genesis Chronicle. Firefly
Publishing ISBN 0 946719 306
Alan Hewitt - Opening The Musical Box - Cronistoria Dei Genesis (Italy) Edizioni Segno ISBN 88-7282-571-7 (Italian language edition)
Alan Hewitt - Genesis Revisited (Hardback) Willow Farm Press ISBN 978-0-9554866-1-6
Alan Hewitt - Genesis Revisited (Paperback) Willow Farm Press ISBN 978-0- 9554866-0-9
2004 was also a good year for Genesis-related projects beginning with long-time Record Collector contributor Paul Russell’s weighty tome on the various live recordings and performances of the Gabriel-era Genesis. Play Me My Song - A Live Guide 1969 to 1975 does exactly what it says on the cover; an exhaustive examination of the band’s live output and one aimed squarely at the more dedicated members of the Genesis fan base and an essential read for collectors of such material.
Paul Russell - Play Me My Song - A Live Guide 1969 to 1975. Firefly Publishing ISBN 0 9646719 58 6
American author Dave Thompson brought us the next offering on the subject of the band’s career in the shape of Turn It On Again - Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins & Genesis which also appeared in 2004. The emphasis in this one veers more towards Gabriel but nonetheless, there is much to recommend this one especially some of the more detailed information about the formation and eventual demise of Charisma Records.
Dave Thompson - Turn It On Again - Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins & Genesis (USA) ISBN 0-87930-810-9
Another useful book also appeared in 2004 in the shape of another volume in the “Rock Retrospectives” series. Genesis - The Gabriel Era focussed on critique and had some interesting insights into the music by such alumni as Hugh Fielder and Chris Welch. Lavishly illustrated with photos and memorabilia this is another worthwhile addition to your bookshelves.
Bob Caruthers - Genesis - The Gabriel Era. Angry Penguin Publishing Ltd ISBN 13: 978-1-906283-35-3
As mentioned previously yours truly updated his initial offering in the band and it appeared in 2007 along with several other worthy offerings of which the most important without doubt, is the band’s own official biography - Chapter & Verse. Effectively the band’s own version of The Beatles’ Anthology book, this weighty tome gave little away in terms of genuinely new insights into the band’s story and each member stuck admirably to the hymn sheet that they have been singing off for so many years. Where this one really scores though is in the sheer amount of illustrations drawn from just about every archive you can think of. There hasn’t been a book this well illustrated on the band since the previous offerings by Armando Gallo - not surprising really as he is a major contributor to this one as well!
Genesis - Chapter & Verse. Widenfeld & Nicolson ISBN 978-0-297-84434-1
2007 also saw the publication of two further foreign language editions focussing on different aspects of the band’s career.
The first of these was a slender volume by die-hard Genesis fan Claudio Fracasso, which focuses entirely on the Foxtrot album from its inception to the final release and all the attendant details therein. Once again, this is a volume which would benefit from a translation into English but even so it is evident that Claudio has more than done his homework and he has been helped in his task by one of the most dedicated Genesis fans that I know: Mino Profumo. What Mino doesn’t know about vintage Genesis isn’t worth knowing folks and the combination works incredibly well throughout this delightful book.
Claudio Fracasso - Foxtrot. Edizioni Segno (Italy) ISBN 978-88-613-8062-2
The most recent volume to find its way to the TWR archive is a weighty tome by Polish author, Lukasz Hernik. Genesis Wkrainie Muzycznych Olbrzmow also appeared in 2007. Sadly I cannot read Polish and so I cannot comment too much on the text but it is evident that Lukasz has gone into great depth for this project and once again it is well illustrated throughout.
Since 2007, there have been several other volumes on the band published in several territories including another effort by Mario Giammetti but unfortunately these are not in my possession and so I cannot comment on them but if anyone does have them and would like to write a review - go for it!
Books on the solo members of the band had been few and far between and of the band members it is Peter Gabriel who has had the most words written about him.
Following on from Spencer Bright’s 1988 Authorised Biography(and subsequent update), the next offering on Peter’s career came from veteran journalist Chris Welch with his 1998 volume - The Secret Life Of Peter Gabriel. As you would expect from someone with Welch’s journalistic pedigree, this is an informative effort slim on illustrations but with plenty of critical observation and insights.
Chris Welch - The Secret Life of Peter Gabriel. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-6812-8
Phil’s amazing career was finally put under the spotlight by rock journalist Ray Coleman. Sadly, Ray died before the project could be finished and it shows in the resulting text which does not live up to the title of a “definitive” biography, placing an inordinate emphasis on Phil’s marriage problems at the expense of more information about his actual career. Nevertheless, this would be the best book on Phil’s career if it weren’t for a subsequent item….
Ray Coleman - Phil Collins The Definitive Biography. Simon & Schuster ISBN 0-684-81784-5
For the collectors among us, there were also several treats in store from one of the world’s biggest Genesis collectors; Peter Vickers who is sadly no longer with us. However, his legacy as a completely insane Genesis collector remains unsurpassed through his Genesis Collectibles and Genesis The Top 200 Worldwide Rarities publications which Peter lovingly put together himself and published as well in limited numbers making them a true collectable in their own right! The sheer scale of these publications really does beggar belief and I for one am constantly referring to them and learning something new about the band and missing the regular servings of humble pie I used to receive from young Mr Vickers as well!
Peter Vickers - Genesis Collectibles (Private edition no catalogue
Peter Vickers - Genesis Collectibles (Private edition limited to 25 numbered copies no catalogue number)
Peter Vickers - Genesis The Top 200 Worldwide Rarities (Private edition limited to 200 copies no catalogue number)
Beginning in 2004, Mario Giammetti has also brought us a marvellous series of individual biographies of the various members of Genesis beginning with - Phil Collins The Singing Drummer. As is always the case with Mario’s work, this one has a wealth of detail and illustrations making it worthwhile just for the pictures for us sad cases that can’t read Italian!
Mario Giammetti - Phil Collins The Singing Drummer. Edizioni Segno (Italy) ISBN 88-7282-836-8
This was followed in 2005 by the next volume in the series - Steve Hackett The Defector. Another impeccably turned out volume which once again delves deeply into Steve’s career and is equally well illustrated as its predecessor making it another delight for fans.
Mario Giammetti - Steve Hackett The Defector. Edizioni Segno (Italy) ISBN 88-72882-903-8
Mario didn’t even pause to draw breath before the next volume in this marvellous series was with us, this time finally detailing the career of the man whom most Genesis fans regard as the heart of the band: Tony Banks. Man Of Spells continues the run of excellently produced and illustrated books and I for one would love to have these available in English as I am sure they would prove just as fascinating reading as they are in terms of illustrations.
Mario Giammetti - Tony Banks - Man Of Spells. Edizioni Segno (Italy) ISBN 978-88-6138-006-6
And again, 2008 saw the publication of the next volume in this fantastic series. Anthony Phillips - The Exile covers the original guitarist’s career in impeccable detail and one would expect no less from Mario. Again, lavishly illustrated and including many photographs that I had never seen this one too would be a welcome addition in English.
Mario Giammetti - Anthony Phillips - The Exile. Edizioni Segno (Italy) ISBN 978-88-6138-125-4
I didn’t even hold it against Mario that he stole my thunder by writing his book about Steve whilst I was still in the throes of putting together Steve’s authorised biography and 2009 saw its publication as Sketches of Hackett. Taking the template which I had used for my previous books, this one managed to draw just about every facet of Steve’s career into one volume including several areas which Mario’s volume didn’t touch upon making them ideal companions on any bookshelf. With Steve’s career going into overdrive, Sketches… was updated for a paperback edition in 2011 although with the prospect of an autobiography from Steve at some point, I doubt if Sketches… will be reprinted again so if you haven’t got your mitts on a copy….!
Alan Hewitt - Sketches Of Hackett - The Authorised Steve Hackett Biography. Wymer Publishing (Hardback) ISBN 978-0-9557542-3-4
Another book about Steve also appeared in 2009. Polish author, Maurycy Nowakowski published Steve Hackett - Szkice, Burze, Orchidee. A slender volume with no illustrations apart from the discography at the end, this one I assume would cover similar territory to both mine and Mario’s work.
Maurycy Nowakowski - Steve Hackett Szkice, Burze, Orchidee. Art Rock PL (Poland) ISBN 978-83-61637-04-2
And we conclude with the irrepressible Mario yet again! 2011 saw the publication of his next biographical work: Mike Rutherford Silent Runner. What can I say about this that I haven’t said about the previous volumes? Once again, Mario has done his homework and this I am sure is a fascinating read and another marvellously illustrated one.
Mario Giammetti - Mike Rutherford - Silent Runner. Edizioni Segno (Italy) ISBN 978-88-6138-412-5
As I said at the beginning of this feature, this is far from being an exhaustive
list of publications on the band and its members and so if any of you know of
any volumes that I haven’t mentioned here, please let me know! My thanks
and congratulations to all the authors mentioned here for their incredible work.