The Sum of the Parts - The new Genesis DVD release reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
Well, who would have thought that an innocuous documentary about the band would stir up such a hornets’ nest of controversy! Together And Apart, broadcast by the BBC back in October 2014 created a veritable firestorm of protest from fans and certain members of the band itself with Steve Hackett publicly disowning the project. With this release ironically titled, The Sum of The Parts, do the sums actually add up? We shall see….
This project promised so much and yet has managed to deliver so little whilst not only alienating at least several members of the band - yes, Messrs Stephen Richard Hackett and Raymond Wilson WERE actually members of Genesis you know?! And a large proportion of the fan base into the bargain. I honestly thought that the DVD might go some small way to redress the balance somewhat by at least featuring the missing elements of the band’s story ie: Calling All Stations, Steve and Ray’s solo careers etc…
Do we get anything like this in the much vaunted “bonus” footage? Nope. Instead we get extracts from the interviews conducted with Phil, Mike, Tony and Peter and while these are of some interest in themselves they are completely spoilt by a lack of continuity - Phil appears in two different places and evidently on two different days, for example (given away by his different clothes) and Peter’s interview is ruined not only by him disappearing off screen to collect a cup of ginger tea but also by the interviewer’s appalling interview technique where his mumbling is barely audible (in fact the interviewer, if the producer was doing his/her job properly would not be heard at all!) while Tony is so badly lit and framed with his back against a window in daylight that he looks like a ghost! And the cameraman appears to have camera shake. Either that or a trainee was in charge of the camera!
Whilst on the subject of continuity, which idiot (and I use that word advisedly) decided to frame one of the few references to Steve’s time in the band during the documentary itself: the use of Your Own Special Way with footage from the Three Sides Live film? Careless at best, criminal and insulting at worst and once again something which shows a complete lack of care about and ignorance of the subject on the part of the producer/editor and their researchers. And anyone who thought that it would be a good idea to follow Tony’s comment about Steve’s “stiff” playing with a clip of Daryl Stuermer playing one of Steve’s finest solos must be completely devoid of any sense of tact in my opinion for not only does it make Tony look incredibly bitter but it also places Daryl in an awkward spot too through no fault of his own.
To say that the extras are amateurish is an understatement. They ruin completely what had in the main been an OK documentary in terms of telling the UNINITIATED the story of the band’s development and growth which seems to have been the principal idea behind this project. However, as something that was sold to us - the FANS as a look at the band that spawned so many amazing SOLO careers it fails at every point and it is the lack of emphasis on those SOLO careers and those of Ant, Steve and Ray (almost 70 solo albums between them and counting) in particular whose existence as solo artists and indeed as members of Genesis itself in the latter two’s case, appears to have been completely denied to the detriment not only of this as an accurate portrayal (or should that be betrayal?) of the story, and the relevant band members themselves, which is the most annoying aspect in this sorry affair.
As a fan of Genesis and ALL of its component parts for almost forty years now, I have seldom if ever felt so disappointed and let down by something bearing the band’s name. The people in charge of this monstrosity should hang their heads in shame at the travesty of a story they have created and the band (and by that I mean Mike and Tony) and the people around them should have put a stop to this in the pre-production stages instead of wringing their hands in abject apology now when it is too late and the band’s story has been irreversibly tarnished.
This leaves me ( and no doubt many other members of the fan base too) asking several questions which someone needs to stick their head above the parapet and answer truthfully so that such a thing can NEVER happen again….
First of all: If, as several members of the band have stated, there was a first edit of this documentary which was deemed to be so bad that it was canned, never to see the light of day why did the alarm bells not go off then and either the band or their representatives step in and take charge?
Second: Who is actually responsible for the research (and there seems to have been precious little by way of that as far as I can see), direction and production that this project eventually took and whose decision was it to re-write the band’s story so drastically and to completely distort it and more importantly, WHY did they decide to do this? What did they gain from so doing?
Third: If the band themselves actually SAW the documentary before it premiered on 2nd October, which I am reliably informed that they DID, then why oh why did they not call a halt and insist on a re-write? After all this is supposed to be THEIR story is it not? The BBC could have been told not to screen the project AND Eagle Rock told not to release the DVD unless and until the above problems were rectified. After all, the DVD does bear the word “official” on its cover, so despite Tony’s comments to the contrary elsewhere in this edition, it has been given the band’s sanction has it not? Either that or I no longer know what the word “official” actually means! I know that the BBC and/or Eagle Rock were the paymasters for the project but the band are the SUBJECTS of it and their decisions should have considerable weight, should they not?
The fact that Steve’s disavowal of this project has been seen by many as a case of sour grapes really misses the point. Both Together And Apart, Sum Of The Parts AND R-Kive had the emphasis in terms of publicity placed squarely on the band members’ SOLO careers and these are barely touched in both the TV broadcast and DVD/Blu Ray and in some cases ignored TOTALLY without good reason. No one comes out of this looking particularly good, do they? In fact, for the conspiracy theorists among the fan base, there must be the suspicion that this was indeed done deliberately to court exactly the controversy it has created. Some fans have asked me why I wasn’t involved with this project and the simple answer to that is I wasn’t asked although I did volunteer my services but to be honest, I am not deluded enough to think my involvement or lack of it, would have made any difference to the end result.
Surely the best way to have handled this project would have been to place the emphasis SQUARELY on the solo careers and have the unifying “thread” of Genesis underpinning it which would have left everyone happy, or at least contented. It is difficult to try and cram so much into so little space, believe me, I KNOW having had to try and do the same with my books on the band, and the fans appreciate that but to have been sold a pup when we were expecting a racehorse simply isn’t on I’m afraid.
As what will most likely be the last serious attempt to document the fascinating story of this amazing group of musicians at least until we get a posthumous retrospective when one member passes away - God forbid! this hash-up of a job makes me wonder if the band actually CARE about their fans any more, or indeed if they ever did - or do their new masters Universal merely see this as their chance to milk the fans of one last drop of money for a dwindling return? Either way, I never thought I would find myself expressing thoughts such as this within the pages of TWR I can tell you and to do so now brings me no joy whatsoever.