Genesis: Together and Apart, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews
Genesis: Together and Apart, BBC Two
Genesis: Together and Apart, BBC Two
In which an epic musical career doesn't necessarily make an enthralling documentary
Despite a 47-year history which has taken them from pomp to pop and established them as a top-selling global institution, there's still a lingering sense that Genesis don't think they've been taken seriously enough. This was detectable in Phil Collins's comment included here that "we're just popular and there's nothing wrong with that... I won't take the credit and I won't take the blame."
This "it's not my fault, guv" approach seemed curiously defensive in the light of their colossal string of successful albums and hit singles. Genesis have been one of a bare handful of major bands who managed to keep becoming more successful with the passing decades, and they also made a remarkably good job of sustaining collective band activity alongside the members' various solo adventures (pictured below: Genesis in 1974).
For all that, though, I've always found their music difficult to love, and they suffered a major charisma-breakdown when Peter Gabriel quit the band in 1975, leaving the elaborate concept of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway as his swansong. Archive film of Gabriel in his freakish costumes - fox's head, crimson frock, grotesque blobby "Slipperman" etc – supplied some of the film's most most memorable moments, though they didn't make it easy to take seriously such Gabrielesque comments as "there is this sort of spiritual yearning going on through everything I do."
It was the unforeseen rise and rise of Phil Collins that saved the band, though perhaps Collins's chirpy roll-your-sleeves-up-and-get-on-with-it-ness has made it easy to overlook the extent of his contribution. There was a comedic contrast between him and the plummy, patrician demeanour of bassist Mike Rutherford (who would have made quite a plausible Archbishop of Canterbury) and the loftily acerbic keyboardist Tony Banks, both of whom (like Gabriel) were alumni of Charterhouse public school. Banks's comments about Collins's huge success as a solo artist were quite telling: "He was our friend and we wanted him to do well, but not that well!"
Yet to everybody's surprise, not least their own, the rearranged Genesis with Collins out front as lead vocalist promptly started banging out huge hit albums like ...And Then There Were Three..., Duke and Abacab, while exhibiting a new-found knack for chartbusting 45s like "Follow You Follow Me" and "Turn It On Again". Genesis haters thought it was safe to breathe a sigh of relief when Collins quit in 1996, but not only did an interim version of Genesis carry on without him, but little Phil was back on board for the 2007 comeback Turn It On Again tour. Yet another reunion can't be ruled out. (Pictured below: and then there were three)
All of the group's serpentine twists and turns were dutifully recorded in this 90-minute documentary, which had accomplished the feat of bringing together all the members of the Gabriel-era quintet, and also tracked down original guitarist Anthony Phillips, not seen onstage with them since 1970. It was typical of the unstoppably sunlit career of Genesis that where long-lost members of other big bands – Peter Green with Fleetwood Mac or Syd Barrett with Pink Floyd, say – had retired hurt with major psychological problems, Phillips was cheerful and well balanced. "If I hadn't left they might never have found Phil Collins," he chortled affably.
It's an awesome tale in its way, yet the endless list of hit records and enormous tours eventually became tedious, and somehow Genesis managed to remain untouched by all the history going on around them. They weren't at Woodstock or Altamont, nobody died or went on insane drug binges, their manager wasn't a scary international gangster, their story wasn't littered with impossibly glamorous women or Ferraris being driven into swimming pools... I mean, where's the fun in that?
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