Sunday, March 23, 2008

Underappreciated ’80s: July 1986—The Month of Genesis

Earth-shattering revelations don’t hit us very often.

It seems to happen disproportionately to men in deserts, or so they claim, but it also happens sometimes to teenagers listening to the radio. Particularly to one teenager (me) listening to the radio in one month (July 1986) and realizing the musical dynasty spawned by one group:

Let me start with a bit of background. Although by 1986 Genesis was well on its way to commercial juggernaut status as it followed its pop muse, the band’s work was a pale echo of the vibrant music of the early 1970s lineup: Peter Gabriel on vocals (and often flute), Tony Banks on keyboards, Mike Rutherford on bass and guitars, Steve Hackett on lead guitar, and Phil Collins on drums.

If you’re a fan of classic rock music, you have no excuse not to know and love the stunning, complex music the band made in the 1970s, including:
  • Gabriel’s vocal gymnastics in “The Musical Box” (from 1971’s Nursery Cryme);
  • Hackett’s guitar solo of pure emotion in “Firth of Fifth” (from 1973’s Selling England by the Pound);
  • Banks’ amazing keyboard work on songs like the same album’s “The Cinema Show;” and
  • Collins’ dazzling drum fills—in 9/8 time—in the 23-minute epic “Supper’s Ready” (from 1972’s Foxtrot).
But this wasn’t all clear to me in the summer of 1986. Sure, I liked a few early ‘80s Genesis songs … and Phil Collins had made a big splash with “In the Air Tonight” and subsequent hits … and I’d even heard “Shock the Monkey” by Peter Gabriel. But I hadn’t realized all the artists and quality careers Genesis produced.

Then, during one week in late July 1986, an amazing thing happened.

Genesis, its members, and its former members were responsible for SEVEN songs in Billboard’s top 100 during the same week:
  • First, there was “Invisible Touch,” the number one smash that was still selling better than Izod shirts.
  • Second, Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” replaced “Invisible Touch” in the number one spot.
  • Third and Fourth, the Mike Rutherford-fronted Mike + the Mechanics had two singles on the charts, “All I Need Is a Miracle” and the lesser hit “Taken In.”
  • Fifth and Six were Phil Collins’ fading smash “Take Me Home” and the song he produced (and played drums on) for Howard Jones, “No One Is To Blame.”
  • Seventh, listeners were buying up the first single from the band GTR, the joint project of Steve Hackett and ex-Yes guitarist Steve Howe. GTR's biggest hit, which reached #14 in the US, was “When the Heart Rules the Mind.”
Wow. It astonished me that so much music on the charts could come from so many directions, yet still claim a common origin.

And it all started one amazing week in July 1986.


At March 23, 2008 10:05 PM, Blogger Jeff replied to my musings ...

I love the early progressive Genesis with Gabriel and Hackett. Anything after the departure of Hackett is pretty tough for me to handle.

At March 23, 2008 10:39 PM, Blogger Barbara - Layla replied to my musings ...

I think I will link to this - a very keen observation of you Mr. A.

In my mind there was only one true Genesis:

At March 24, 2008 1:02 AM, Anonymous kim replied to my musings ...

There was talk of a reunion tour this year with MAYBE both Phil and Peter but it was really really dicey. I saw Phil in the mid-1990s and I have to say, we had a hell of a good time! And now you've reminded me, I really need to buy some Genesis.

At March 24, 2008 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous replied to my musings ...

Genesis is almighty and all powerful. Bow down to their greatness.

At March 24, 2008 12:03 PM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

If only Hackett would join Phil, Mike, and Tony. But it's my understanding that Steve Hackett refuses to participate in any Genesis reunions unless Peter Gabriel is also part of the reunion.

As for Mike & the Mechanics, I've always enjoyed the song Silent Running. The Living Years and All I Need is a Miracle are also enjoyable but there's something much more subtle about Silent Running that I prefer.

At March 24, 2008 5:05 PM, Blogger LisaBinDaCity replied to my musings ...

The things I learn here are truly mind-blowing!

At March 24, 2008 6:16 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Jeff: I love Duke and enjoy bits and pieces from the other post-1977 albums, but if Peter took the heart of Genesis when he left, Steve took the band's soul.

Barbara: I must acknowledge that all bands evolve and change, so I hate to criticize. So i choose to say that I find '80s/'90s Genesis good by pop standards but bad by earlier Genesis standards.

Kim: Phil is a great performer, no doubt. I don't like the direction he's taken his career in, but I respect his abilities and his free choice to go that way. I don't, on the other hand, respect his recent comments putting down his old work with Genesis.

WIGSF: Amen.

Perplexio: I knew you'd weigh in on this one! Steve has a very rational and respectful view of it. he says that although it was fun and produced two great studio albums, his time with Tony/Mike/Phil after Peter left wasn't long enough--or important enough independently to most fans--to warrant a big-time reunion. He has a good eye for the truth, that fans either want a reunion of the core classic Genesis--all five--or seek a reunion of the '80s three, which they got.

And I'm with you on M+tM. "Silent Running" is eerie and mysterious--not qualities of most pop songs--while still being a catchy hit.

Lisa: I'm flattered, but curious. What caught you as particularly interesting?

At March 24, 2008 7:14 PM, Blogger zen wizard replied to my musings ...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At March 24, 2008 7:16 PM, Blogger zen wizard replied to my musings ...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At March 25, 2008 12:48 AM, Blogger Bruce replied to my musings ...

As much as I like Genesis, I have only one of their cds, "We Can't Dance", and there are three songs on there that are absolutely riveting; "No Son of Mine", "Dreaming While You Sleep", and "Driving the Last Spike". They were never hits, but they are three of my favorite songs of theirs.

At March 25, 2008 4:43 PM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

The funny thing about Genesis in the 80s is that now, after seeing American Psycho all I can think about when I hear Genesis from that era is Patrick Bateman's whole monologue on Genesis when he's with the 2 prostitutes.

Then again when I listen to Huey Lewis & the News now, I just picture Jared Leto being felled by an axe to the skull.

And don't even get me started on business cards!

At March 25, 2008 10:16 PM, Blogger Lee Ann replied to my musings ...

We would have most definitely been hanging out together as teenagers David!
Have a good week!
Lee Ann

At March 25, 2008 11:37 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Bruce: Those were the three best tracks on the album, although "Living Forever" and "Fading Lights" are also listenable. I think you've got the worst of all Genesis albums--if you're willing to give something good a try, but you want to avoid Peter Gabriel, try one of the two studio albums the band did after Peter left but before Steve left Trick of the Tail or Wind & Wuthering.

Perplexio: You know, I've never seen the movie. I read the book before the movie was in train, and I've been happy to let the imagery from the book carry me through.

Lee Ann: No doubt. And a good week to you, too.

At March 26, 2008 12:23 AM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

Genesis wow I forgot all about them, haven't heard about them in awhile or heard anything by them on the radio lately.

Sucky weekend in DC for both our teams

At March 26, 2008 10:39 AM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

I saw the movie before reading the book. Both the book and movie have their merits. The movie is well worth seeing for Christian Bale's performance of Patrick Bateman. I consider this and The Machinist to contain his best performances.

At March 26, 2008 10:33 PM, Blogger cube replied to my musings ...

Sorry but my thoughts about Genesis revolve around my dislike of Phil-Dirt Collins. It's not a pretty sight.

At March 27, 2008 1:37 PM, Blogger Tai replied to my musings ...

I like Genesis. No one will ever sway my opinion that Phil is kinda sexy. You know, for a middle aged, short balding man that likes to bang sticks on things.

At March 27, 2008 8:13 PM, Blogger zen wizard replied to my musings ...

I have had a parallel revelation about Buffalo Springfield.

On an opposite note, you can make a case that The Buckinghams spawned Peter Cetera--so I have had the revelation of, "How did such a good group spawn such sucky music?"

At March 27, 2008 10:30 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Phats: At least the Boilers put on a good game to watch. The flu-laden Dukies were just off in the second half, making it much less of a game than most people hoped for.

Perplexio: Maybe I'll finally check it out--thanks.

Cube: I dislike Phil, too, in that he let his 80s pop tendencies trump his amazing musicianship of the 70s. Not that I'd be able to resist the lure of big bucks and pop success ...

Tai: I'm OK with that, b/c my dad is a spitting image of a taller Phil. So you're saying I could do worse than look similar (but better, of course) when I'm 60ish?

ZW: I had never connected the Buckinghams and Peter etCetera before. Your creativity always amazes me.

At March 27, 2008 10:47 PM, Blogger dragonflyfilly replied to my musings ...

hmmmmm, there must have been a stunning female muse floating around....

[she said; tongue 'somewhat' in cheek] heh heh!

At March 28, 2008 3:56 PM, Blogger BeckEye replied to my musings ...

That's pretty cool!

Too bad Phil Collins isn't. :)

At March 29, 2008 3:21 AM, Blogger dragonflyfilly replied to my musings ...

i'm listening to Randy Bachman's "Vinyl Tap" - have you heard of it/do you listen? Anyway, he's talking about something called the Broadcaster or "Telecaster" Guitar. He plays some really old tracks, and included a lot of historical stuff; you might be interested. If you have not already, check it out on CBC Radio. Let me know what you think.

Cheers for now,

At March 30, 2008 11:24 PM, Blogger Mike replied to my musings ...

I saw Phil in 1990 at Saratoga, the same day I finished 11th in my district championship road race against some dude named George Hincapie. Actually, heard is more accurate, as I couldn't even sit up. But it was amazing. The following summer I saw Genesis. It was incredible. And don't forget a little later when Mike and the Mechanics had In the Living Years. One of the more underappreciated songs of the time.

At April 12, 2008 6:55 PM, Blogger Janet replied to my musings ...

There are two tours from the eighties I'm still sad I never got to see. One was Phil Collins and/or Genesis. The other was Huey Lewis. The third tour was NKOTB which I just might have a chance with. For nostalgic purposes strictly, of course.:)

At April 29, 2008 3:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous replied to my musings ...

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