Tag Archives: trespass

Selling England Again

This fall The Musical Box is taking their production of the Genesis tour for 1973’s Selling England By The Pound (hereafter SEBTP) to Europe once again. Also a series of these shows are booked in Canada next April 2016, including one night for them to stage the Foxtrot show. I’ve seen The Musical Box many times over the last 5 years, including Foxtrot, SEBTP, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.

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The performances are striking in their accuracy, transporting this viewer and those in the audience to a time long ago, when to many listeners, Genesis owned the English progressive rock mantle.  The experience of seeing this band is something better than tribute.  They actually recreate these shows down to the set design, including slides, costumes, and props, and very faithfully perform the live music itself, with the same interpretation the band employed during the shows from the era.

The SEBTP album and tour represent the most uniquely British, pastoral output of the band.  Between the “a cappella” opening of “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight” to the majestic “Firth of Fifth” and melodic refrains of “The Cinema Show” this is where the band really hit their stride.  The Musical Box capture the live experience deftly, and hearing the work in it’s live format, complete with visuals, and Peter’s stories, explain what all the fuss was way back in those days.  It was even grand to see them wind their way through “The Battle of Epping Forest” usually dismissed by the actual members of Genesis as a bit of a mess.

I talked to one of the founders of The Musical Box and their Artistic Director, Serge Morrissette about these shows and their plans for next year and beyond:

DH: Is there anything we should know about the most current version of these shows? Are there new technologies to aid in the production, or other factors?

For this tour, there is no technical advance that comes into play – we still use old equipment – it’s like a moving museum on stage. The only thing that might change is to stage the “black” show. We’ve been doing the “white” show with the white sets behind the musicians and have done the “black” show less often. Back during the original SEBTP tour when Genesis returned to North America for a second leg of the tour the set list was the same, but they changed the sets and the background was totally black. Visually it makes a difference. The black show has some different slides, but it’s not as nice visually overall because the black curtain does not react to the lights. The white fabric reacts to the lights more effectively. I’m sure it was done on purpose in the beginning, because when they put the sets and arranged the lights over it, they realized it was nice. One example where the black show is better is during “Watcher Of The Skies” which is more dark – it’s a dark song and fits perfectly, while in the white show its like you are in the cloud! If we haven’t been to a venue in the past they usually take the white show because it’s the most spectacular visually. But if we are returning and want to make the presentation different, the black show is available, so we offer it to the promoters there.

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In addition to these dates, there are going to be a lot of U.S. shows in February and March. It’s going to be a pretty extensive list of venues, which is surprising. From the beginning we always plan a year in advance. After the last tour of SEBTP/Foxtrot we were wondering if there would be demand for the show again. When the demand is shrinking we select a different tour to present. We thought we would change the shows for 2016 but this U.S. tour will be the biggest we’ve ever done. I don’t understand this phenomenon exactly because it’s the same two concerts again, but for some reason promoters want to buy it so that’s fine with us.

[Ed: in our view these shows are so fantastic and theatrical, many fans will return to see the same concert recreated again and again – just as one might a play or film. Doug saw The Lamb show three times!]

DH: Fans are aware there were occasions where Peter Gabriel was raised from the stage at the end of “Supper’s Ready.” Has Denis done that and how many times did Gabriel actually do it? [Denis Gagne is the lead singer, playing the part of Peter Gabriel]

We have done the flying effect a few times. Genesis did the effect twice, once in London and once in New York City. The thing is, to do that they wanted to do more than one night in the same place because of the installation – it was not a one-night proposition. They had to install the gear, and make sure it was working, and adjust the sets so that the wire can’t be seen. When they did London it was 5 nights – for them at the time the most important series of concerts they had done. They wanted to add something spectacular so they arranged the sets so there was nothing in the middle but a black curtain. You could not see the wire. They continued in New York City, which was also a main venue and something big for the states. It’s about the same for us – we need a stage that can support that effect, so we have done it only as a special event at a larger venue for multiple nights.

DH: I was struck by how effective the simple staging for Foxtrot was – with just a few bits of stagecraft compared to SEBTP.

It’s true. At the beginning Mike Rutherford once told me you put a white curtain on stage with some black lights, and it hides the back line equipment and creates a unique atmosphere… and it’s cheap! It’s surprisingly simple and creates a unique atmosphere.

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DH: You’ve most frequently staged the Foxtrot and Selling England By The Pound tours. Would you go back to Nursery Crime?

The thing about Nursery Crime is back then the show was only 45 minutes long because Genesis was typically the opening act, or featured with other bands. We would have to do a short show, or combine say Trespass and Nursery Crime so you would have songs repeated. It’s not a matter of interest but more the constraint we have on doing a complete show.

DH: Any plans to present The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway again? Did your license to do these shows expire?

We don’t have plans to do it again. We have done it a few times. On the first attempt it took two years to get the rights. It had never been done before. There are some “grand” rights – it’s a type of legal contract – developed to protect musicals, operas, things like Phantom of the Opera, Cats, etc. When you have a concept like Pink Floyd’s The Wall, or Genesis’ The Lamb, it’s a story with music, and characters, and things like that. The Lamb is protected by these grand rights. You need a license for the music, which is easy, but also for the story, which is extremely difficult. You have to make agreements with multiple parties as to the value of the music, and story. After that agreement, you have the lawyers draw up a contract, etc. Subsequent tours took about a year to arrange this paperwork, mainly to adjust the terms. It has never been a matter of not allowing us to do it, just about the terms of the contract, which covers two years at a time. We might do it again but we have no plans just now.

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DH: What was your involvement in using the repaired slide show for the Genesis Lamb DVD? [Ed: The Musical Box invested significant effort to re-sequence the slides for The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tours, and Serge actually did the work to prepare these for the official Genesis Box Set which contains a DVD of The Lamb in 5.1 surround sound, with the slide show visuals during playback. It’s fantastic and worth the price of the whole set.]

I spent an afternoon with Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks at the farm looking at the slide show. It was in 2008 and at that time we were doing the slide show exactly as David Lawrence [original projectionist for the Lamb tour in 1975] had shown us based on his memory and also as we could see in bits of amateur film. Part way into it Tony said “let’s stop. You are replicating what we did, but it’s not what we want. We want the dissolves to come at the right time with the image” and I knew exactly what he meant. Sometimes the guys did not get the slide show right. So Tony said some sequences were wrong and I agreed to change it. I made the adjustments, and sent those back, and they agreed or gave me changes. So that was really fun – to listen to the Lamb with Mike and Tony – Mike said it had been 15 years since he heard the album. Tony had been doing the remixes, so he was more recently familiar. It was an incredible experience.

Genesis_SOutDH: The Musical Box has gone forward in time to do the Trick of the Tail tour. Have you discussed doing the Wind & Wuthering concert from 1977?

The main problem with Wind & Wuthering is being able to keep to our main objective, which is the exact recreation of the show. Trick of the Tail was pretty easy because it was basically the Lamb show with a few adjustments in terms of size, while Wind was really an arena size show – designed for a much bigger stage. It’s the main limitation; a stage like that would not fit in smaller venues, 1,000 seat theaters, and I’m not sure there would be demand to fill arenas, even though it would be fun to do it. They stopped doing slides and film for Wind because at the time they would have needed more powerful projectors for the larger screens. That’s a problem, as you need more depth, you could burn film, and things like that. That’s when they started to add more laser effects along with other changes.

DH: It was also the last time they had any staging right? There were the flowers that popped up on each side of the stage.

Exactly, after that they did the mirrors for the …And Then There Were Three tour, and after that the custom lighting and that’s another level of effort. Once I was talking to Tony Smith about the evolution of the stage at the time. He said that the reason why they had the moving lights developed is because when they did the show with the mirrors, they needed a lot of spotlight operators – it was a manual lighting effect. At that time they had to use the local union guys in each city. So at the last minute in the afternoon they had to train eight guys on spots to be able to do the show and it was a nightmare for them. So they wondered if there was a way to avoid that – something like a robot to operate the lights. They developed the moving lights after that, which was a major evolution in lighting.

We have the same problem with our tours – about half the venues don’t have a crew, so we can use ours who are trained. The other half we have to use their people – so for example we have one guy at the follow spot, and we teach the operator in the afternoon if that’s required. So for each role we have a double, and the result is not always good when it’s not our crew, though it doesn’t go wrong that often.

DH: What is The Musical Box planning next, after April? How long can you keep this up?

You know, we started back in 1993 just for fun – it was a weekend. Now it’s been 22 years, and we have never thought more than a year in advance, not because of our interest but because we have to gauge the general interest of the audience. We are going to do it as long as we can. We are lucky to have the involvement and support of Genesis. The main advantage of a production like ours is we can change musicians as we recreate the original productions. We never wanted to focus as much on the people as on the productions. Denis is very good, very disciplined and dedicated – it would be difficult to fill that key role if he stopped performing. He keeps in very good shape, and in control of his vocals, so as long as he can do that we don’t have to worry. We don’t have any plans to stop. As long as there are people who want to see it, we will continue.

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DH: Make plans to catch The Musical Box this fall, or early next year. You will be happy to like what you know!

 

Genesis – Sum of the Parts (Minus Two)

hackett_2The teaser for the new documentary “Genesis – Together and Apart” (in the states called “Sum of the Parts”) begins with a quote from Phil Collins: “We’re out entertaining people and if they’re entertained we’ve done our job properly” – later adding “We just got more and more popular – I won’t take the credit and I won’t take the blame.” This perfectly sums up the dichotomy that is Genesis – the older work in the 1970’s from Trespass (1970) to The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) with Peter Gabriel up front, along with the three subsequent albums created after Phil Collins took over vocals, found the band playing an eclectic blend of classical, rock, and English folk – a complex, determined form of “progressive rock.” The latter half of the band’s career in the 1980’s and after brought them massive success as a skillful pop rock band.  The two incarnations have been at odds in the media for decades.

During the early years the group was subject to criticism from mainstream press as being too obtuse, too arty to be real “rock-n-roll.” But then the latter, more popular incarnation that embraced pop over prog was accused of having sold out – of cashing in. When you listen to the band members interviewed in the documentary, you still pick up on the impact of this contest between complex artistic music and the more simple pop form. In reality given a bit of distance and historical perspective, both phases of the bands career have incredible merit, and the debate is needless.

hackett_1Unfortunately, in editing the new documentary some the early Genesis story was cut a bit short, both in terms of coverage of their ‘70’s work and also more seriously with the exclusion of the long solo careers of founding guitarist Anthony Phillips and his replacement Steve Hackett. In addition, editorial as to the time when Steve joined and then later left Genesis, and two of the Genesis albums containing much of his best work with the band receive short shift. Steve complained of this in print, stating: “It’s certainly a biased account of Genesis history, and totally ignores my solo work.” The truth of this is immediately evident to any knowledgeable viewer.

Here’s my attempt to fill the missing segments related to Steve Hackett, and do so in the style of the film. Will save Anthony Phillips, who is also left out of the R-Kive box set, for a later date.  Here, I will cast my thoughts in roles of voiceover, pop music critic, Radio DJ, comedian, gardener and music journalist to provide the missing material, in documentary style (no relationship to actual or real persons is intended or implied):

Steve Hackett Joins the Band:

Editorial: The segment covering the difficult transition after Anthony Phillips left the group includes the impact of that change, along with Phil’s recruitment and history, but leaves Steve’s a bit light. To make this more inclusive we should insert the following in the timeline, circa 1971:

Voiceover: After Anthony Phillips departed Genesis, the search was on for a new guitar player. Steve Hackett had placed an ad in Melody Maker seeking a band “determined to strive beyond existing stagnant forms.” Indeed, Steve brought a definitive edge to the Genesis sound – he could in one turn play quiet 12 string guitars in harmony with Mike Rutherford, then cut to his electric guitar for searing riffs and power-chords. Never monopolizing the limelight, he seemed comfortable taking shorter leads and coloring the bands overall sound with intricate, detailed playing.

hackett_3Music Journalist: Steve’s tapping technique, an influence on so many guitar players including Eddie Van Halen deserves due credit as a key part of the early Genesis sound, as heard on tracks like “Return of the Giant Hogweed” or the tapping and sweep picking heard on “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight.” Steve hit fewer notes but invested them with feeling, precision and import.

Gardener: The plaintive sustained tones making up the melody in the center of “Firth of Fifth” is one of the most beautiful and compelling musical passages in their early work. The middle solo, even when played by touring guitarist Daryl Struermer, remained a highlight of their shows for years.

Editorial: After Steve’s intro, and some quality coverage of Nursery Crime (1971) and Foxtrot (1972) the masterpiece Selling England By the Pound (1973) is then given limited time in the documentary. The aforementioned tracks that feature Steve are stunning, while Tony’s playing on “Cinema Show” – Phil driving the long instrumental with his trademark skipping beat – is magical, becoming a major crowd pleaser in live shows with dual drummers after Gabriel’s departure. We would insert the following into the timeline, circa 1973:

Radio DJ: To be honest, Selling England By The Pound marks the point at which the band really sound fantastic in the studio and represents the best summary of that era’s very English, pastoral, classically tinged progressive rock.

Pop Music Critic: I don’t know what “progressive rock means” – unifauns? Twenty three minute, six second songs… really?

Editorial: While The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) receives just airtime, itself marking the time Peter Gabriel left the group, this would also have been the right moment to introduce the solo career of Steve Hackett:

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Voyage of the Acolyte
Released: October 1975
Chart Position: #26 in the UK (silver); #191 in the US

Voiceover: Steve recorded his first solo album just weeks after the last date on the Lamb Lies Down tour and at the same time the remaining members of Genesis were working on their first post-Gabriel recording. The album sounds quite a bit like Genesis, even sporting some material that the band had auditioned but rejected.

Music Journalist: The standout tracks are the rocking opener “Ace of Wands” and the closer – the beautiful, haunting “Shadow of the Hierophant” which ends in a doom-laden coda that would have perfectly fit Genesis. Though Mike and Phil both play on the record, Mike states in his autobiography that he felt a bit badly about the timing, since the real focus of the four remaining band members was to get the next Genesis album right.

Gardener: As it turned out, the next album A Trick of the Tail (1976) ended up doing quite well, and Steve seems as confident and vested in that work as anything.  Steve’s album also did a decent business… but it was also the first step towards leaving the band.

Editorial: The documentary skips this important moment on the band’s history (together or apart), and instead moves on to a decent segment on Trick of the Tail. However, the next, equally important release Wind & Wuthering (1976) is nearly left out:

Music Journalist: The Wind & Wuthering album and it’s companion EP Spot The Pigeon are outstanding, showcasing every member of the four piece band, and containing some of Steve’s best work – the opening siren call of “Eleventh Earl of Mar” with it’s quiet centerpiece – the gorgeous classical guitar featured on “Blood on the Rooftops” and the three part album closer that follows – still featured in Hackett’s concerts today.

Pop Music Critic: Steve left the band at the end of mixing for Seconds Out – the double-live album culled from their 1976-77 concerts, as it was clear his role was waning and they were moving in a more pop friendly direction.

Comedian: I’m into Genesis and I’m not going to apologize! Not too sure about “Squonk” though!

Editorial: In the film, Steve is shown (finally) in group interview explaining that he felt unable to get enough of his material included on the band’s records – ‘nuff said. I’ve always picked up that the rest of the band felt his method of departure was more awkward and acrimonious than has been shared – the “saw him on the street” story Phil tells just seems a bit light.

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Please Don’t Touch
Released: May 1978
Chart Position: #38 in the UK; #103 in the US

Voiceover: Steve’s first record after leaving Genesis is a bit of an experiment, with Hackett trying out several different styles including rock, prog, and jazz. Guest vocalist Steve Walsh (Kansas) lends his powerful pipes to two tracks, while Richie Havens and Randy Crawford lend softer, lovely tones to three others.

Gardener: The title track is a standout, apparently offered by Steve for inclusion on the Wind & Wuthering album, but rejected – it’s a tour de force highlighting his assertive playing, and ability to switch rapidly between keys and meters.

Music Journalist: The delicate instrumental played with just Steve on acoustic guitar and his brother John Hackett on flute, named for his then wife Kim Poor, is exquisite, and points the way to a later acoustic work Bay of Kings.

Radio DJ: Ultimately this second album is an amalgam of styles, unique in Hackett’s repertoire – the artist in search of a new sound.

Editorial: The first Genesis release without Steve, came the same year, appropriately titled And Then There Were Three (1978.) This was also an album where the remaining band members search for a new sound, trying to land somewhere between opener “Down and Out” and closing hit “Follow You, Follow Me.”

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Spectral Mornings
Released: May 1979
Chart Position: #22 in the UK; #138 in the US

Voiceover: Steve’s next album came as he built up a band to tour his solo work. His new group, including Peter Hicks (vocals), Nick Magnus (keys), Dik Cadbury (bass), John Shearer (drums) and brother John (flute/keys) joined to record this album, and undertook a tour to perform it and material from his first two solo efforts.

Music Journalist: This album and its follow up Defector is where Steve finds his footing as a solo artist. Vocal tracks including “Every Day” and “The Virgin and the Gypsy,” lend respectable lyrics to both progressive and popular structures. Instrumentals like “Clocks” and “Spectral Mornings” are fine displays of both his pastoral and ominous tendencies as composer.

Gardener: This is the album where Hackett truly finds his own voice – the band sound tight as a unit, Hicks delivers smooth vocals backed by Hackett and Cadbury, and the album is a cohesive collection of songs that have an identity apart from Genesis.

Editorial: A clear, high quality DVD of one of these early shows was released last year.

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Defector
Released: June 1980
Chart Position: #9 in the UK; #144 in the US

Voiceover: Defector found Steve continuing in the style of Spectral Mornings – the two can be taken as a pair representing his quintessential work.

Music Journalist: Standout track “Jacuzzi” is bright and airy, showcasing Steve’s versatility and John’s fantastic, intricate flute. The mid section veers into more minor tones and highlights Steve’s tapping technique. The whole band plays splendidly on this handsome instrumental.

Pop Music Critic: I really loved the song “The Show” when my parents used to play it for me.

Voiceover: Steve’s work continued with his last two releases for Charisma – Cured (1981) and Highly Strung (1983). He continues his solo career today, alternating between classical, jazz and progressive rock releases. Fans of early Genesis warmed to Steve’s solo work, which continued in more of a progressive rock tradition, albeit a bit updated, fresher sounding in the keys section, and even including a bit of pop structure for good measure.

Hackett Today

hackett_4_bandHackett is also the one ex-Genesis solo artist who consistently continues to perform work he originally recorded with Genesis. He’s released two albums titled “Genesis Revisited” and is currently on a two-year tour for the second, exclusively playing songs from their 1971-1976 output. Given the sold out show at London’s Royal Albert Hall in October 2013, it’s clear there is still strong interest in the classic era Genesis work.

While we can hope for a expanded documentary that truly shows all band members “together and apart”, here’s hoping this helps to round out the story. Another great way to hear the band members tell the tale of Genesis is to invest in the box sets, which include the remastered albums, and almost all available footage and videos of the group over the years. Each disc contains a documentary of the album, using direct quotes from each member of this seminal band, whether pop or prog.