A lot of people like this version of Genesis a lot better than what they became later. I see them as almost two separate bands, with Gabriel they were sort of a progressive art-rock band, without him they became a more melodic rock band. Both versions of the band are fine in their own right. Enjoy this one, the last from this issue of Sounds – an issue which were full of riches to explore. On to the next one….
Gabriel – Living out a surrealist fantasy
By Jerry Gilbert
Peter Gabriel personifies first the surrealist evil that lurks within “Clockwork Orange”, and then the sweet bizarre innocence of Lewis Carroll`s Alice.
The whole issue of camped up stage drama in A.D. 1973 is beginning to portend something patholigical, by and large. The credibility gap of the presentation and its inability to tax the real imagination – these are the problems too often encountered and too rarely overcome.
Maybe the Genesis approach has been different – perhaps they`ve gained from taking the slow winding road to the top of the hill without being sidetracked into any of the Messaenic hyperbole that so many of their contemporaries have chosen.
The band`s new stage act, I dare say, transcends just about everything that has come under the portrayal of surrealistic art in an eminently tangible rock form. The band live beyond the seven-year cycle that determines the course of rock music fads and their communicative level is on purely a fantasy level, using as its medium tragi-comedy, quasiallegory, and at its most extreme points life and death as humorous transient sequences rather than states of being.
Peter Gabriel`s visions of life and death are paradoxical; his theory is that music provides visual images – and if that music reaches the theatre then those images can be acted out. In short, you are taken on the unknown voyage of 2001 while Peter Gabriel personifies first the surrealist evil that lurks within “Clockwork Orange”, and then the sweet bizarre innocence of Lewis Carrol`s Alice.
Backstage Alice was taking off her final coat of make up, the metamorphosis revealing Peter Gabriel, suddenly the quiet, self-effacing public school boy who would at first seem the vicarious victim of such a vigorous expression as Genesis send forth except for the fact that he can handle it all superbly.
Offstage he dresses soberly and would be entirely unassuming but for the shaved forehead which would seem to indicate that he is affiliated to some weird religious order.
In the light of such a stage extravaganza did Peter feel that the “Foxtrot” album could stand up on its own merits, stripped of all the trimmings, without providing something of an anti-climax?
“Well we`ve never been entirely satisfied with the album and the music relies heavily on capturing the entire atmosphere on record – we didn`t capture the atmosphere we could have done but we can on stage with our visual presentation,” Gabriel explained.
Prior to the tour Genesis spent long hours in the Rainbow, meticulously taking their existing act and moving it slightly off-centre so that it distorts. The revamped act is little more than a series of clever nuances, save for the obvious introduction of headdresses, but the impact is immediate.
“I think we have enough visual links now that once people see the band the imagery will wash over into the record anyway,” Peter went on. “For instance, I think `Yellow Submarine` provided visual images for people listening to those songs afterwards – things like `Northern Song`.”
Does it matter that the audience are by and large unable to grasp the significance of Gabriel`s personal symbolism? He didn`t think so: “For instance, I like some of Eliot`s poetry and you can spend years looking up his symbolism and cross references if you want to and you might end up with quite a lot of assorted information, but I don`t think you get any more pleasure out of it than if you understand any of the references.”
Then the serious expression gave way to a grin: “But I do like to have the detail there so that if anyone did want to spend their life rooting around the lyrics, they could find it and it would be like a little paper chase for them, you know, very unnecessary but great fun.”
`Supper`s Ready` is the composition that moves through more physical and allegorical sequences than most – pieced together as a single concept it could parallel a Bosch creation but with the added dimension of time.
“We`ve never taken anything as bulky as “Supper`s Ready` on the road before and we find that when we take things out that we`ve done a lot of work on they are generally such that you can`t hold an audience during certain sections, but what`s pleased us is that audiences on this tour have been willing to listen to all of it.”
I asked Peter whether the band felt comfortable about undertaking such a tour so soon after the one with Lindisfarne, and whether they were affected psychologically by the prospect of returning to the same venues – this time as a headline act.
“It`s only really been strange playing here in Newcastle again, but on the whole we`ve been very, very pleased, because we didn`t know how many places we could fill. We seem to have accumulated much more power than we had a few months ago.”
He explained that the band was used to headlining as they have been broken in on the European circuit. In Italy they are acclaimed as vociferously as they`re ever likely to be in England.
“With our own backcloth now it`s different – there are no speakers visible, we wanted to make the whole thing more personal but strangely very few people have remarked on it although they are usually very aware of the presence of stacks.”
This has helped to levitate the entire credibility of such a creation – the band, shielded by their backprop emerge as though on a dias, and the elimination of such eyesores as speakers assists the audience greatly in accepting their position within Genesis` ephemeral world.
“But people have become much more involved in the fantasies,” insisted Gabriel as though deeming the whole thing worthwhile. “From people who have talked to us they are becoming totally surrounded by it although other people will be left stone cold.”
Then Peter proceeded to outline plans for a new all-embracing project, the concept of which has already been evolved, and when it finds the right environment it`s going to remove its audience totally from any natural habitat and place them in a strange cosmic situation. He was reluctant to divulge the essence of the concept as a venue has not been determined, but the effect it is certain to create is staggering.
“At the moment we are still limited with what we can put across, but with plan x, let`s call it, we will be able to get a lot more across, built out of certain energies, and provide them with the right emphasis.”
“The thing is,” Peter went on, “we`re still not happy with the lighting situation. We had the Who`s lighting guys giving us technical advice and it can be used well as we learn more ourselves about colour.”
So presumably the Genesis road crew would shortly be expanding? “Yes, I do think this will be happening unfortunately. I don`t like the idea of having a touring troupe, but the thing is once we agree on the conception of an idea, then we don`t want to have to worry about the technical difficulties – I think it`s inevitable that the more efficient you become the more organisation you require and therefore more money.”
But as far as Genesis are concerned their money is already spent. “We want to plough any money we make from gigs right back into the presentation of the show… and we want to do this ad infinitum. We want to do the very best we can on stage and make our money on the records.”
Inevitably this will lead to a dichotomy in the band`s material for they will surely visualise albums and stage productions as entirely different concepts in the future and channel their music accordingly.
“Yes, because we still primarily see ourselves as songwriters which may seem a bit strange – but it`s a writer`s approach to visuals rather than a performer`s.
“What`s important to us now is to do what we`re doing in this country in the States. Unfortunately at first that means taking what you can get including the top band pulling out your power point when they think you`re going down too well. We may decide to just take in towns where the album has done well and do them on our own.”
By May or June Genesis will be back in the recording studios; Gabriel already has some ideas worked out for it (yet to get the affirmation of the rest of the group). And judging from the frame of mind he`s in at present you`d better expect something stunning.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Darryl Way (Curved Air), Sounds staff analyse David Bowie, Nazareth, Steve Marriott, Average White Band, Elton John, Geordie, Status Quo, Slade, Stackridge, Thin Lizzy, Mike Heron, Jesse Winchester.
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