The origins of Genesis date back to the late 1960s. It all began when two groups of school boys from England’s prestigious Charterhouse school joined forces to form one of the most successful acts in music history.
This unlikely bunch would go on to sell in excess of one hundred million albums world-wide, sell out football stadiums across the globe, become one of the top grossing concert acts of the 1980s and 1990s, and launch the massively successful solo careers of several of its members.
It all began in 1967 when Charterhouse students Michael Rutherford and Anthony Phillips formed a band, known as The Anon, who performed mostly cover tunes by popular British acts like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles at small parties in their spare time.
It wasn’t long before Phillips, a guitarist, and Rutherford, a bass player, formed a songwriters collective with two other Charterhouse school-mates, drummer/singer Peter Gabriel and keyboardist Tony Banks. Banks and Gabriel had just done a one-off gig as The Garden Wall and, while they were not a full-fledged band, the two shared Phillips and Rutherford’s passion for music. Later, drummer Chris Stewart was added, and the initial line-up for the group was complete.
Perhaps surprisingly, the yet unnamed band did not have aspirations of touring the world and selling millions of records. The group’s initial intention was to write music for other artists.
By late 1967, Chris Stewart had left the band due to his parents’ unwillingness to allow him to drop out of Charterhouse like the rest of the band had done to pursue their musical careers. Stewart was quickly replaced by percussionist John Silver. It was during that year that Gabriel and Banks managed to attract the attention of Jonathan King, a young Charterhouse alumni, who had enjoyed some musical success of his own with the 1965 pop song “Everyone’s Gone To The Moon” which peaked at #4 on the U.K. charts.
King took the fledgling group under his wing and, in the summer of 1967, offered the boys a publishing deal. By 1968, King helped secure a recording contract with Decca Records under the name From Genesis To Revelation, a moniker assigned by the former one-hit wonder himself.
King served as producer for the group’s first album, From Genesis To Revelation, released in March 1969. Much to DECCA Records and the band’s disappointment, like the two singles that proceeded the project’s release, the self-titled debut failed to make a commercial impact. Just months later, in the summer of 1969, Silver quit the band to pursue other endeavors. Once again, the drummer’s seat was left vacant. This time, the band filled the spot with John Mayhew.
King, who was disappointed in the lack luster response of the band’s debut album, drifted from the group. At this point, From Genesis To Revelation had no contract with King as their producer or with Decca Records, so they continued playing small gigs and writing material for a potential follow-up album.
While on tour, the band found that they needed to get away from some of the softer acoustic qualities of their earlier material to capture their audiences. As Phillips recalled in a 2001 World of Genesis.com interview, “There wasn’t the amplification there is now for acoustic instruments, therefore, things had to be more electric. You couldn’t dominate an audience in a way that you would need to.” As a result, the group’s sound became louder and more aggressive. This musical adaptation would start lead the band to an edgier style of performing and songwriting.
After approximately a year of local touring, the group signed with Tony Stratton-Smith and his label, Charisma Records, in April 1970. By that time, the group had shortened their name to simply Genesis.
In the summer of 1970, shortly after the recording Genesis’ second album, Trespass, John Mayhew and Anthony Phillips quit the band. Once again, the band sought to fill their ever-vacant drummer’s chair and add a new guitarist. A flurry of auditions uncovered child actor and drummer Phil Collins, who joined the group in August 1970. By the autumn of 1970, the Trespass album was released and, by the year’s end, Genesis met their new guitarist, Steve Hackett.
This newly revamped line-up would remain intact for five years. During this period, Genesis released four studio albums (Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway), one live album, and toured almost non-stop.
It was also during this period that the band began experimenting in art rock. The group gained a major cult following in Europe and parts of North America with their powerful progressive music and elaborate stage shows. Lead singer Peter Gabriel’s stage presence and flair of ornate costumes, along with the band’s dedication to musical perfection in the live setting, quickly gained Genesis some much needed attention and acclaim, but the band continued to fail, commercially speaking. Despite this, the band’s momentum continued to rise.
In November 1974, Genesis released what would be their final album with this line-up, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. The conceptual double album remains one of the group’s most critically heralded projects to date. The Lamb eventually earned gold certification in the U.S. for sales in excess of 500,000 copies and peaked at #41 on the U.S. albums chart.
In May 1975, at the end of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway tour, the band received their most devastating loss yet. Vocalist Peter Gabriel had decided the leave the band for personal reasons.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Genesis chose to carry on. The band returned without a lead singer to the studio to begin work on a new album. After auditioning a number of potential singers, Genesis bandmate Phil Collins decided to take the job while maintaining his role as drummer.
Collins had sung lead on a few tracks previously and supported Gabriel on backing vocals since joining the group, so he seemed like an obvious choice to some. Others thought Collins would lack the ability to successfully carry off signature Gabriel sung tunes like “The Musical Box” which were staples of Genesis live shows at the time.
At this point, Genesis was still not without conflict. As democratic as Genesis was in selecting each other’s songs for album inclusion, Steve Hackett started to feel that some of his compositions were being unfairly overlooked. Hackett had used the gap of time the band needed to locate a new lead singer to record his first solo album, Voyage of The Acolyte. But the artistic freedom of one solo album did not permanently relieve his dissatisfaction with Genesis. In fact, the creative control Hackett experienced during the making of that solo album only intensified his desire as a songwriter and musician.
Genesis’ next album, 1976’s A Trick of The Tail, restored their underground following’s faith in the group, but started to take the band in another direction musically. While the art rock style of Gabriel-era Genesis disappeared, Collins proved to be a suitable replacement as lead singer and a consummate showman. On the 1976 Genesis tour, the need for Collins to get in-front of the audience as lead vocalist, forced the band to add a second drummer. Genesis enlisted progressive-rock drummer Bill Bruford, best known for his work with bands like Yes and King Crimson.
While Bruford provided adequate support while Collins took center stage, he was not satisfied simply supporting the band on the road and left at the conclusion of the tour. For the next album, 1977’s Wind and Wuthering, Genesis once again found themselves seeking a touring drummer. This time, the band hired Chester Thompson, best known for his work with Frank Zappa and The Mothers and the jazz super group Weather Report.
After completing the 1977 world tour, Genesis was mixing their second live album, Seconds Out, when Steve Hackett announced his departure from the band. Rather than replace Hackett, bassist Michael Rutherford decided to take on the task of guitars and bass, making Genesis a trio. Unbeknownst to the band at the time, this new line-up would remain intact for more than 15 years.
The three remaining members, Collins, Banks, and Rutherford, returned to the studio to record their eleventh (and aptly named) album, 1978’s …And Then There Were Three… Although beyond their comprehension at the time, this album served as the catalyst for Genesis’ explosion into the mainstream.
The album effectively bridged the transition from progressive rock to radio-orientated pop, earning the band’s first RIAA-certified gold record for 500,000 plus copies sold in the States and yielded their first big U.S. hit, “Follow You Follow Me,” which reached #23 on the singles chart. Years later, …And Then There Were Three… would go on to earn platinum certification for more than one million copies sold and peak at #14 on the albums chart in the United States.
With the departure of Steve Hackett, another guitarist was needed for touring purposes. For this reason, the band chose Daryl Stuermer who was best known for his work with jazz greats like George Duke and Jean-Luc Ponty.
As Genesis began to evolve musically, some fans felt that the group’s departure from the progressive sound of the early to mid 1970s was a form of selling out, commercially speaking. Despite this, the band continued to follow their artistic vision and eventually gained public acclaim (although, critical acclaim typically alluded the band throughout most of their career).
Following the 1978 world tour, the band took time off to work on a variety of outside projects and to deal with personal matters. By the time Genesis regrouped to release Duke in April 1980, the trio found that they had produced their most successful album to date. Duke featured two popular hit singles “Misunderstanding” and “Turn It On Again.” It was during this period that Genesis swept Melody Maker Magazine’s poll in Europe, ranking #1 in a total of six categories.
Genesis’ first U.S. top ten and RIAA-certified platinum selling album, Abacab, was released in September 1981 and peaked at #9 on the U.S. albums chart. By this point, each album seemed to follow the pattern of more commercial success than its predecessors. Abacab featured three U.S. hit singles, “No Reply At All”, “Man On The Corner” and “Abacab.” Following Abacab, which had by this point sold more than two million copies in the U.S. (earning double-platinum status), the band released their third live album, 1982’s Three Sides Live, which peaked at #10 on the U.S. albums chart.
In North America, Three Sides Live was a double LP set with three sides of material recorded live in concert and one side of non-LP studio recordings, including the U.S. hit “Paperlate.” The version currently available is identical to the European issue, which is completely live (The majority of the non-LP studio recording from the original U.S. version of Three Sides Live would later resurface in 2000 on the second Archive box set). Three Sides Live went on to sell more than 500,000 copies in the U.S. earning yet another RIAA gold album certification for Genesis.
That year also saw the brief return of Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett for a one-off reunion concert in England. The now legendary concert was not officially recorded, but the now infamous and widely circulated audience recorded bootleg of the show is probably one of the most sought after unsanctioned recordings ever made from a Genesis concert.
1983’s self-titled album, which went quadruple platinum in the U.S., gave the band their first top ten American single, “That’s All.” The album also spawned several other hit singles, reaffirming Genesis’ superstar status. At the end of the 1984 world tour, the band went on hiatus, and all members pursued solo projects.
When Collins, Banks, and Rutherford reunited in 1986 to release their sixteenth album, Invisible Touch, most members had prominent careers as solo artists in their own right.
Later that year, Billboard Magazine honored the band and its members for having the most singles by one group (and as solo artists originating from one group) on the publication’s Hot 100 Chart (Steve Hackett with GTR, Peter Gabriel, Michael Rutherford with Mike & The Mechanics, Phil Collins, and Genesis all had singles near the top of the chart). In addition, the Invisible Touch album went to number three on the Billboard album chart, and went on to sell more than six million copies in the United States alone. This unprecedented achievement made U.S. pop history, with Genesis becoming the first group (and foreign act) to earn five top five singles from an album.
The 1986/87 world tour in support of the Invisible Touch album was massive. The ten month tour took the band to 111 shows, 59 cities, 16 countries, and a total of more than three million fans.
After completing the tour, the band went their separate ways to recuperate and, once again, work on outside projects. Genesis was paid further tribute that year when Rolling Stone magazine named the group “Band of The Year” in their annual reader’s poll.
It would be another four years before the band would release their next studio album, 1991’s We Can’t Dance. The album was another record breaker for the group featuring five hit singles and eventually earning multi-platinum status, selling in excess of four million copies in the U.S. alone.
Like their previous tour, the 1992 concert tour generated the highest average gross per venue of any act that year. At this point in the band’s career, Genesis was a musical juggernaut and arguably had become one of the most successful acts in existence, if not music history.
At the conclusion of the tour, the band released their fourth live album, The Way We Walk. The collection features two volumes sold individually. The first part, The Shorts, which went gold in the U.S. selling more than 500,000 copies, focused on the group’s more pop-orientated songs. Believe it or not, The Shorts also marked the first time the band ever put their faces on the front of one of their albums. The second volume, The Longs, sold only 260,351 copies in the U.S., and included some of the band’s more epic material (and a drum duet between Phil Collins and Chester Thompson).
In 1993, Genesis reunited to perform at a charity concert co-organized by Michael Rutherford in England. For this charity event, Genesis performed along side of the equally legendary rock group, Pink Floyd. Unbeknownst to the band or the audience, it would be the last time Phil Collins would be performing live with Genesis in front of a public audience.
Shortly after the charity concert in 1993, Phil Collins informed Tony Banks and Michael Rutherford that his personal life, solo career, and other outside projects had become to difficult to manage around the band’s schedule and tendered his resignation as drummer and front-man. This news would remain a well-guarded secret only shared with the closest members of the Genesis camp. Tony Banks informed Phil Collins that the band would carry on without him. Collins departure was announced to the public on March 29, 1996.
Rumors began to spread wildly about Phil Collins When he heard of Phil’s departure, Chester Thompson contacted Michael Rutherford about permanently taking over the drummer’s chair. However, the band opted not to add any additional permanent members of the group, splitting drumming chores between two session players, Nick D’Virgilo and Nir Zidkyahu.
Rumors began to spread wildly about Phil Collins resignation and who would replace him.
Fans and magazine writers speculated everyone from Paul Carrack to Fish (formerly from the progressive Genesis influenced band, Marillion) to the return of Peter Gabriel… Obviously, none of which were true.
On June 6, 1997, Banks and Rutherford officially announced that Collins would be replaced by ex-Stiltskin vocalist Ray Wilson. Wilson had already earned modest success in his own right with the Stiltskin single “Inside” which had climbed the charts across Europe.
In September 1997, Genesis released what would be their final studio album, Calling All Stations. Rutherford touted that the new album would be “darker” than that of more recent projects, leaving fans to believe that the project would be reminiscent of Genesis’ sound in the 1970s.
As it turned out, the release was not an extremely dark album, but slightly less commercial than what fans had come to expect in recent years. Calling All Stations met with a cold response, selling only 109,583 copies in the United States. The weak U.S. album sales later resulted in the scaling back and eventual canceling of the band’s North American tour.
Genesis chose to carry on with a European tour using backing guitarist and bass player Anthony Drennon along with Calling All Stations session drummer Nir Z to support the new line-up in late 1997 and early 1998, but the response from fans was significantly less than that of their previous several tours. Shortly after the conclusion of the tour, Banks and Rutherford notified Wilson that the decision had been made not to record another studio album. Again, this decision would remain secret for some time.
On May 11, 1998, former Genesis members Steve Hackett, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Anthony Phillips, and John Silver reunited with Tony Banks and Michael Rutherford for a press conference at Heathrow Airport in England to promote the Genesis’ first box set, Archive 1967-1975. The box set was released in June of that year, and included rare and previously unreleased recordings. The collection sold a mere 35,237 copies in the United States.
For the box set, Banks and Rutherford enlisted former members Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett to re-record a new version of the song “Carpet Crawlers” from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. While the track did not make the first Archive box set, it did surface in October 1999 on the band’s first sanctioned compilation, Turn It On Again: The Hits. Turn It On Again reached the top five on the UK album chart but failed to crack the U.S. top 40 chart. The collection did, however, sell more than 500,000 copies in the U.S. earning yet another gold album for Genesis.
In 2000, Genesis released Archive #2 1976-1992. Like the first Archive collection, this box set included rare and unreleased material. Also like the first Archive box set, its reception was brisk with only 21,031 copies sold in the United States.
On September 21st of that year, Genesis members Collins, Banks and Rutherford reunited with Daryl Stuermer at the Dorchester Hotel in London, England for a private acoustic performance in honor of their long-time manager, Tony Smith, who was receiving the prestigious Peter Grant Award for his accomplishments in the music industry (Peter Gabriel was also in attendance, but did not perform)
In September 2005, Genesis released their posthumous 3-CD anthology, The Platinum Collection, in North America. This new multi-disc 40-song collection spanned the band’s studio efforts from 1970’s Trespass through 1997’s Calling All Stations. The release met with a weak response in America selling only 65,328 copies, primarily due to the fact that the European version was released almost a full year earlier in November 2004, and many copies had been imported for U.S. sales.
In late November 2005, former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett confirmed that the band was to have a private meeting to discuss the possibility of a Genesis
reunion with the early 1970s line-up of Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins and Hackett. The comments quickly circulated through out the media with everyone from Rolling Stone Magazine to CNN reporting the news. The news was quickly squashed by Peter Gabriel in December of that year, and Genesis’ management released an official statement that there were no plans for a Genesis reunion in 2006 – however, there was no denial that talks had or were still taking place. Many fans have speculated that 2007, the band’s 40th anniversary, seemed like an obvious time for a potential reunion.
On November 7, 2006 in London and on March 7, 2007 in New York City, Genesis held press conferences announce an official 2007 reunion tour with members Tony Banks, Phil Collins, and Mike Rutherford accompanied by long-time touring members Chester Thompson and Daryl Stuermer, bringing back the vastly popular late ’70s to early ’90s line up of Genesis. The tour included 48 shows (23 European shows and 25 North American shows), climaxed with a free concert at the Circus Maximus in Rome, Italy, in front of an estimated crowd of 500,000 people. The Genesis tour earned $129 million worldwide, making it the second highest grossing tour of 2007.
In conjunction with the tour, in April 2007, the band released a 10 CD + DVD box set called 1976-1982, featuring newly remixed and remastered stereo and surround sound versions of the studio albums from that era along with rare video, period music videos, and new interviews with the band on each album. In September 2007, Genesis released Turn It On Again: The Hits – Tour Edition, an expanded double disc ‘limited edition’ version of the album, which surfaced at the start of the North American tour (it was released in Europe in June at the
start of the European leg of the tour).
The second box, 1983-1998, included comparable material from the studio albums from this period. The 10-disc CD + DVD set and was released in November 2007. That month also saw the release of Genesis’ sixth live album, Live Over Europe. The double live disc set featured recordings from various nights of the European leg of the tour. Live Over Europe peaked at #44 in Europe, but did not fare as well in the North American charts. This release was accompanied by When In Rome, a video release recorded at the Circus Maximus concert in Italy. The video was
Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford at the Genesis news conference to announce details of the bands forthcoming ‘Turn It On Again’ reunion tour. The conference was held at The Mayfair Hotel London, England – 07.11.06 Credit: Daniel Deme / WENN
recorded in high definition and was released in 2008 on DVD (despite being filmed in high definition, the video has yet to receive a high definition release).
November 2008 saw the release of the 13-disc CD + DVD set, 1970-1975, spanning “the Peter Gabriel era” of Genesis. In 2010, for his work on the project, long-time Genesis Engineer/Producer Nick Davis received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Surround Sound. The string of archive releases continued in September 2009 with the 11-disc CD + DVD set, Live 1973-2007, and November 2009’s 5-DVD set, The Movie Box, featuring the band’s commercially released concert videos along with an updated version of VH-1’s Behind The Music documentary on the band going up through the 2007 Genesis world tour.
In March 2010, Genesis was inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Trey Anastasio, the lead singer from the band Phish, inducted the band saying: “Every musical rule and boundary was questioned and broken. It’s impossible to overstate what impact this band and musical philosophy had on me as a young musician. I’m forever in their debt.” On hand that night were members Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford, and long-time touring members Daryl Stuermer and Chester Thompson. Mysteriously absent that night was Peter Gabriel who allegedly missed the event due to preparation for the European leg of his 2010 tour. While Genesis did not perform that night, it was the last time the group appeared on stage together as Genesis. In September 2012, Genesis was honored again with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the first Progressive Music Awards in England. Members Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford were on hand to accept the honor.
To date, Genesis has sold more than 150 million albums worldwide. Phil Collins retired from music in 2010, making the odds of any type of a reunion even more unlikely in the future. While Genesis remains inactive as a band, they continue to keep their legacy alive through the release of reissued and archive type product, and through the creation of new exclusive official Genesis merchandise.