“It was thirty six years ago…. “ - Yet another nostalgic traipse down Memory Lane by Alan Hewitt. Photographs by Mike Ellison, Alan Perry. Memorabilia: TWR Archive.
Yes, dear readers let me take you back in the TWR virtual time machine, if you will, to the year when it all started for your editor - 1977 and what a year that was if you were a Genesis fan!
Indeed, New Year’s Day 1977 saw Genesis launch themselves off on what would be their most extensive tour since The Lamb… two years before in support of their newly released Wind & Wuthering album. Over the course of the next six months, the band would take their own unique brand of music to most corners of the world including their first visit to South America.
Wind & Wuthering as an album harked back perhaps more to the days of Foxtrot in terms of the sheer scale and drama of the music and although there wasn’t anything quite on the scale of Supper’s Ready on it, One For The Vine did an admirable job in the epic stakes. Anyone thinking that Genesis didn’t “do humour” had to revise that opinion, as the wonderfully Tom & Jerry-esque All In A Mouse’s Night must have brought a smile to many a face. Storytelling of several different kinds was evident on this album including a rarity for Genesis at the time; a social comment song in the shape of the marvellous Inside & Out astonishingly relegated to the subsequent “Spot The Pigeon” EP which the band released in the summer where it was bizarrely coupled with Pigeons and Match Of The Day neither of which are among Genesis’ finest moments although the promotional video for the latter still rates among one of the band’s funniest!
As if that wasn’t enough, two former band members also chose 1977 to emerge back into the public spotlight. First of these was the band’s former front man - Peter Gabriel who released his first solo album in February 1977 and also toured extensively throughout the rest of the year in Europe, the USA and also here in the UK. First indications of his new approach and sound were to be heard in the first single: Solsbury Hill, an irritatingly catchy little ditty impossible to dance to thanks to its awkward time signature! Single success was followed by the equally deserved success of the album itself which contained the first of an increasingly eclectic selection of songs ranging from the wryly observant look at life that was Modern Love, to the frankly bizarre Barber Shop harmonies of Excuse Me, and the demented paranoia of Moribund The Burgermeister.
It was these shows during the spring of 1977 and subsequently in the autumn of that year that effectively introduced me to the world of Genesis’ music in the live context. From the outset, Peter was evidently determined to make a statement that he had completely separated himself from his previous incarnation with Genesis, appearing on stage dressed in a track suit. What hadn’t changed though was the sheer presence that he projected throughout these performances as the surviving footage and audio recordings from this period show. Unlike Genesis though, Peter had not only acknowledged the New Wave movement then current in the UK but actively embraced it in his shows including an off-colour parody of I Heard It Through The Grapevine and All Day And All Of The Night at many shows which left many fans scratching their heads. On a good night such things worked well, on others they were less well received. With only one album to draw on, Peter was of necessity forced to acknowledge his previous band and his shows invariably closed with a leather clad “Rael” emerging on stage to rampage through The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.
Genesis themselves took the opposite tack and their set for the majority of the 1977 shows drew on the strengths of their new album and several classics from the back catalogue including no less than Supper’s Ready again which formed a suitably impressive centrepiece for the band. With new drummer, Chester Thompson replacing Bill Bruford, Genesis built upon the success which their previous year’s album and tour had generated and their popularity increased exponentially, so much so that upon their return to the UK in June, they had to perform gigs at the cavernous Earls Court Arena merely to satisfy demand to see them. The critics however, merely confirmed my suspicions that they really don’t know what they are talking about with veteran music commentator Chris Welch’s reports being particularly vitriolic - what can you expect from the man who slated Jethro Tull’s Passion Play album though?
However, fans who were just about recovering from the shock of Peter’s departure were in for another one when in October 1977 Steve Hackett announced his departure from the band shortly before the release of the band’s ironically titled Seconds Out live album. As Steve has explained on numerous occasions previously, this was not a decision which he took lightly and just like Peter he must have been unsure of whether he could effectively take up a solo career although his success with 1975’s Voyage Of The Acolyte album must have given him hope that this would be the case, and indeed, subsequent history has proven his decision to be a wise one.
The other member of Genesis making his return to the musical world was Steve’s predecessor and founder member of Genesis; Anthony Phillips who had been quietly planning his return for several years whilst also gaining a licentiate degree in music and earning a crust giving people music lessons - difficult to believe, but true, I assure you! He had been briefly reunited with Mike while the latter had a lull in recording/touring duties with Genesis in the middle of 1974 and the pair began work on what was originally planned as a collaborative effort. This was soon thrown into jeopardy as Mike had to return to Genesis for the angst and the agony of what became The Lamb… and the subsequent albums which increasingly occupied his time leaving Anthony to continue work on what was now effectively his solo project.
The result, the glorious The Geese & The Ghost album was released in March 1977 and as anyone who has heard it will tell you, the end result is a remarkable album which makes me for one wonder what Genesis might have created had Ant remained with them. Featuring a marvellous cast of musicians including both Mike and Phil as well as an appearance from Steve’s younger brother, John, the album was critically well -received although never in any danger of making an impression on the charts - it wasn’t that kind of music anyway!
And so, by the time we reached the end of 1977 the situation for Genesis fans looked incredibly bright. Genesis had continued their upward momentum, gaining masses of new fans and staging increasingly impressive live shows. Peter Gabriel too, had proven that there was life after Genesis and was now firmly set on the path of artistic exploration and adventure that has characterised just about everything he has done since.
Anthony Phillips too finally emerged blinking into the public spotlight with an album that proved once and for all that he too was possessed of a wonderful pool of creative ability, one which like the other members of Genesis has continued to this very day. And finally: Steve Hackett. Already established as a solo success, Steve was now about to start stretching his wings and embark upon the musical odysseys with which he too has kept his fans enthralled ever since.
1977- ahh yes, it was a mighty fine year!