Book & Magazine Reviews In The World of Genesis
Sketches of Steve Hackett
edited by
Alan Hewitt
© 2009 Wymer Publishing
(List Price: Limited Edition Hardback edition with DVD £24.95; 2nd printing: TBD)
 

Much like the long wait for an official Genesis biography that we finally got in 2007 with Chapter & Verse (see review below), Steve Hackett, whose career spans four decades between his work with Quiet World, Genesis, and as a solo artist, was also someone whose documented history was long overdue for official biography. To this reviewer's knowledge, this is only the second Steve Hackett book ever written and the first in the English language (the first was Mario Giametti's 2005 Italian only biography, The Defector).  Of course, part of the reason that you've probably not seen a bunch of biographies on Steve Hackett already is because the intricate details of his career are not as well documented and as publicly known as that of Genesis. This, of course, means that whoever would take on the daunting task of writing a thorough history on Hackett would really need to do their research. Who could possibly take on the awesome responsibility to do a job worthy of telling the history correctly and accurately, have enough knowledge of Steve's career to do it justice, and chronicle the history in a way that will keep the story interesting and appealing to Hackett fans of all eras? Well, if it wasn't going to be Steve himself, there's probably only one English speaking writer I know that could pull this off effectively: Alan Hewitt. Alan is probably best known to Genesis fans for his work on Genesis-related fanzine and website The Waiting Room and also for his well-respected, unsanctioned Genesis biographies Opening The Musical Box and Genesis Revisited (the latter of which is an updated version of the former). After 22 years of dedication to The Waiting Room and more than 30 years as a Hackett fan, Alan certainly has the history and, frankly, has probably interviewed Steve more than anyone else on the planet that I can think of. Could there be a more adept person for the job? Probably not!
 

The first 174-pages are the heart of the biography, featuring several pages of full color and black and white rare photographs. Again, like Chapter & Verse, Sketches of Steve Hackett is not a "tell all" by any means. This book is not tabloid fodder. There is no bad mouthing trash talk about former colleagues, no crazed stoned backstage antics, and no controversial details about run ins with groupies. If you're looking for that type of thing, this is not your book. What you will find in the book's 300 or so pages is an insightful, extremely honest, and candidly revealing story as told by Steve Hackett, his family, the musicians who helped create the music and, yes, even a few stories from the fans themselves. This book is about the man and the music, as it should be! Probably the greatest compliment I can give to this book is that the personality of people like Steve Hackett, his mother, and many others really shines through the pages as I read it. Sketches of Steve Hackett flows so smoothly that you'll probably read the book within one or two sittings. It's even more well written and organized than Alan's last book, Genesis Revisited, which I enjoyed very much (and is probably the best unofficial Genesis book in existence). To be constructively critical of this book is extremely difficult, because it's so well done. Overlooking minor typos, my only real criticism is that the beginning of the history seems to go into far more detail than the past decade or so. It didn't hurt the telling of the story one bit mind you, but as a fan, I would love to have that level of detail throughout.

The biography is actually broken up into several different sections offering not one, not two, but nine appendices! The first appendix following the biography is entitled "Encounters with Hackett" which highlights four fan's recollections of meeting Steve Hackett, one of which (to my surprise) was my personal contribution of meeting Steve around his U.S. promotional tour for To Watch The Storms in Pennsylvania (U.S.A.). The second appendix is entitled "Album by Album" and offers, as the title suggests, an overview of each album Steve has released as a solo artist, with the '80s 'super group' GTR, and with his two pre-Genesis projects: Canterbury Glass' Sacred Scenes and Characters (1968) and Quiet World's The Road (1970). Appendix three is entitled "Collecting Hackett" which talks very briefly about collectibles in the world of Steve Hackett. This is a very brief section and, honestly, probably the only section in the entire biography that I felt could have been flushed out much better than what was offered in the final product. Appendix four is the discography section, which offers an excellent (although not totally complete) listing of singles, LPs, cassettes, CDs, and EPs for his entire career including Genesis projects, guest appearances on other musician's projects, and so on. Appendix five is the filmography, which is extremely extensive. The filmography includes not only official video releases, but television performances, bootlegs, and promotional videos! Appendix six is a fairly comprehensive list of bootleg recordings sorted by year and tour (including the Genesis years). Appendix seven and eight are Gig Guides for Genesis and Steve's solo career respectively. Last, but not least, is an excellent chronology of Steve's life, which is superbly done (and much more complete than the Hackett chronology in Chapter & Verse). 


In conclusion, Alan Hewitt's Sketches of Steve Hackett is an essential read for any Steve Hackett fan. It not only offers a wonderful telling of the history and the music, but also offers enough thoughtful analysis and detailed information to make this an invaluable resource for anyone moved by Steve's work. I'm sure I will make reference to it again and again over the years to follow. If further unsanctioned Steve Hackett biographies are written in years to come, they will certainly use Alan's book as the foundation upon which they design their own work. That being said, Alan has "placed the bar" quite high with Sketches, so good luck to them on that! There were many pieces of information revealed in this book that I never knew before and, prior to reading this biography, I considered myself fairly knowledgeable about Steve Hackett's career.

I should also note that this review is based upon the first edition of this release. The first edition is an autographed hardback copy with a DVD (PAL/Region 0) featuring an exclusive video interview with Steve Hackett and a photo gallery featuring a number of previously unpublished photographs (including one of mine from the Bryn Mawr show mentioned above!).  Please note that PAL formatted DVDs may not play on North American or Asian DVD players, but should play on all computer DVD-ROM drives as they are not video format encoded.

For more information or to order the first (limited) edition of this book click here.

 

Chapter & Verse
edited by Philip Dodd

© 2007 Weidenfeld & Nicolson
(List Price: $29.95)
 

In a musical legacy that now spans four decades, an official telling of this band's history was long overdue. Sure, there have been plenty of unofficial biographies ranging from the very well done (such as Alan Hewitt's Genesis Revisited), to the very good but disappointingly concise with missing key details (such as Robin Platts' Behind The Lines 1967-2007), to the just plain inaccurate and chock full of errors (you know who you are!). All of those books aside, Chapter & Verse represents the first time the band's "voice" is officially heard - not through the eyes of a biographer with a few random quotes and a bit of research behind them, but through the detailed recollections of the band members themselves (past and present) along with many of the people who were instrumental in the band's success. Among the contributions included in Chapter & Verse are personal sections by (in no particular order): Tony Smith (the band's long time manager and partner), Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, Anthony Phillips, John Mayhew, Chris Stewart, Jonathan King (the band's original producer and credited as having 'discovered' the band), John Silver, Gail Colson (the former Assistant to Tony Stratton-Smith and Label Manager for Charisma Records), Richard McPhail (the band's former manager and long-time friend), Bill Bruford, Chester Thompson, Daryl Stuermer, Ray Wilson, the late Ahmet Ertegun (co-founder of Atlantic Records), Nick Davis (one of Genesis' Producers), Hugh Padgham (one of Genesis' Producers), Ed Goodgold (who organized Genesis' first U.S. tour), Nancy Lewis (respected journalist, former Buddah Records employee, and later Charisma's U.S. Label Manager) and Rusty Brutsché (from ShowCo, who helped to pioneer the Varilite used frequently in Genesis' former live shows and, today, by many artists).


In almost a sort of disclaimer fashion, Chapter & Verse opens with a statement that the book is not a "tell-all" with the sorted details of one band's history of sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. That's a very true statement. This book is not a "tell-all." That is, unless you are looking for one band's history of 12-strings, egg sandwiches with a spot of tea, and rock n' roll! You're certainly not getting the band's so called "dirty laundry" here, I can promise you that! If you are looking for that, you might want to consider another book... or perhaps another band for that matter (perhaps Mötley Crüe?). That being said, the book does fill in a few small details and explains how known historical events in the group's mythos link together that have never been revealed in other biographies. Those never before revealed tidbits and links are presented largely in the form of subtle details and anecdotes by the people listed above. Together, their individual perspectives and stories piece together the complete story of Genesis - at least as complete as it has ever been told before. Interestingly, most of the "tell-all" details that are included here (which are not racy or controversial by any means) are provided by the band members about themselves in true English self-deprecating fashion! Of course, there are a few "read between the lines" comments made by the various storytellers that were equally insightful if not reaffirming of things once rumored and speculated by in other unsanctioned biographies. So, while you are not getting any real "dirty laundry," you are getting a very honest and critical viewpoint.
 

Instead of Chapter & Verse, perhaps they should have called this biography "Perspectives," because that is what makes this book of shared individual stories so unique and interesting. Some people may certainly argue that known, factual missing details not addressed within it's pages (information that some would probably describe as more "tabloid" style details) detract from the book's integrity a bit, resulting in something less than a definitive or slightly sanitized history of the band. Still, the book makes no claims to be such a definitive tome of Genesis - its just the telling of the story in their own words... as they chose to tell it. That aside, the fresh presentation of often documented, recycled facts and information of the band's career has breathed new life into the story... at least for this reader. The assortment of rare photographs and never before published interviews clearly makes this version of the tale fascinating to read and peruse through again and again (which is no small task with all of the Genesis biographies I have read over the past twenty five years!).  

I cannot, of course, discount the editing of Philip Dodd in the final product's well-constructed pages and overall organization. He linked together the interviews and content extremely well. Of course, before we compliment Mr. Dodd too much; however, there are a few dodgy editing/proof reading issues with Chapter & Verse. Quite a few horribly glaring typos (my favorite example is Chester Thompson being born in 1968, which would have meant that he was a child prodigy of nine when he joined Genesis on tour in 1977. A mistake I'm sure Chester would be fine with, of course, because it would make him only 39 years old when the book was published in 2007!) and some obviously reversed photograph negatives resulting in some backwards pictures (unless the Genesis guitarists are ambidextrous - which would be news to me).  After reading all of these biographies, I am coming to realize that no book will ever be completely free of minor mistakes like typos (God knows, I have plenty on my website that I find from time to time!), but some of the errors here are really blatant and inexcusable in an official book. Despite a little bit of sloppy editing, Chapter & Verse is a Grade A telling of the Genesis story. The "Tail of the Trick" chronology at the close of the book is also very nice touch, but it is much more detailed about Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks' careers than it is for the rest of the musicians in the world of Genesis. Also missing is a Genesis Gig Guide, which would have been a nice supplement. (Webmaster's Note: You can; however, get a detailed Gig Guide at the back of Alan Hewitt's 2007 Genesis Revisited book (and its prior out-of-print incarnation under the title Opening the Musical Box).   

Critically speaking, given the lengthy scope of interviews conducted for this book, it is somewhat surprising that Nick D'Virgilio and Nir Z (the two dummers who appear on Genesis' final studio album, Calling All Stations), Anthony Drennan (the touring guitarist for the Calling All Stations tour), John Burns (who worked in the studio with Genesis on key early albums like Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Live, Selling By The Pound, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway),
Mick Barnard (who very briefly played guitar with Genesis between Anthony Phillips and Steve Hackett), and David Hentchel (who Produced the mega-popular albums Trick of the Tail, Wind and Wuthering, Seconds Out, And Then There Were Three, and Duke) were not interviewed for this book. All of whom are alive and well at the time the book was released and were certainly able to contribute to complete the story (of course, Tony Stratton-Smith would have also been an important inclusion had he still been alive to do it).

Although there are a few details better covered in other unofficial biographies like Alan Hewitt's book or Dave Thompson's Turn It On Again (the latter of which benefits greatly by a lengthy interview with the late Tony Stratton-Smith) Chapter & Verse is as close to a definitive history as any book that has ever been released on Genesis. It provides a well-balanced, frank vantage point from the people who lived and breathed the music. I highly recommend it to any Genesis fan.

To get more information or to purchase this book click here.


Rock Retrospectives: Genesis The Peter Gabriel Era
written by Bob Carruthers
© 2007 Angry Penguin Publishing
(List Price: $24.95)
 

From the first glance, Bob Carruthers' Peter Gabriel Era Genesis book looks extremely professional. The tabloid sized book features nice, glossy stock paper with an array of pictures, ticket stubs, and various other ephemera, some of which you haven't seen in too many other books, including a few really superb period band pictures. It also boasts a nice reproduction of artist Paul Whitehead's 2004 Three Scenes From Kent painting, which is a sort of fused combination of his original album art from past Genesis albums Trespass, Nursery Cryme, and Foxtrot in stunning full color. All that being said, the actual content of the book itself is not quite what I had hoped for.

The Peter Gabriel Era is written on about the third grade reading level. Granted, for a biography book on a rock band, I suppose that is acceptable. The 136-pages that comprise this book's massive 12 point type size would probably be about 40 pages in normal type. You certainly will breeze through the reading of this book in under and hour, and if you've ever read any other biography on the band, you'll not find any new information among this book's pages.

Curruther's meshes together past quotes from band members and affiliated people to assemble a history on the band, largely in their own words. The quotes used by Curruthers are taken from interviews previously published in Melody Maker, Rolling Stone, New Musical Express, and other publications and focuses exclusively on the years Peter Gabriel was in Genesis as the title would suggest. The book also features insight from freelance writers from magazines such as those mentioned including Hugh Fielder, Chris Welch (Melody Maker), Ron Ross (Rolling Stone), and Barbara Charone (New Musical Express) among others.  The Peter Gabriel Era also provides a song by song analysis of each track (largely provided by Hugh Fielder), album by album. Strangely, the exception is From Genesis To Revelation, which is discussed briefly, but lacks the same attention to detail that the other albums "the Gabriel Era" records received. There is no song by song analysis for their debut in 'the Gabriel Era,' which almost feels like an oversight by the author or the book's editor.

Despite involving very little of Curruther's own writing, there are a few mistakes in the book. Among them are comments that Genesis actively terminated their relationship with Jonathan King, the band's original producer. In a 2001 interview Anthony Phillips did with World of Genesis.com (which is still available on this site in the interviews section), Phillips disputes this saying that King lost interest in the band and the two parties amicably parted ways since their contract had expired. According to Phillips, there was no relationship to terminate by that point. They were free to go, contractually speaking, as was King. There are also a few inconsistencies with the history in the Gabriel Era as well. At one point in the text, the book talks about how the band went from drummer Chris Stewart to drummer John Mayhew. Normally, you might call this an unfortunate oversight, but Curruther's gets the chronology correct in two other places in the book, miraculously remembering John Silver, who played drums between Stewart and Mayhew on most of From Genesis to Revelation. Again, this just feels like sloppy editing. One of two other comments also seem questionable, which takes an already "quick read" and really diminishes the quality of the overall package. The Gabriel Era is a nice looking item and might be a nice book for a young Genesis fan to read as an introduction to the early works of Genesis, but die-hards will find little satisfaction in this release spare a few cool photographs.


To get more information or to purchase this book click here.


Genesis Revisited: The Genesis Story
written by Alan Hewitt
© 2006 Alden Group, Ltd. / Willow Farm Press
(List Price:
17.00, paperback edition)
 

When The Waiting Room fan site's creator, Alan Hewitt, first released his acclaimed unsanctioned Genesis biography Opening The Musical Box in 1999, it was largely heralded by Genesis fans as being one of the better Genesis biographies ever written. Indeed, it was, but there was some room for improvement... Some facts were surprisingly omitted, some mistakes existed within its pages, and in the near decade since Opening The Musical Box first surfaced, several new facts and revelations became unearthed about the band's history through new interviews with the band members themselves, other biographies that uncovered information never before discussed, and through other miraculous 'finds' such as the incredible discovery of the once lost and forgotten "Genesis Plays Jackson" tapes. In 1999, around the time of the release of Hewitt's book, Genesis had released the first of two planned Archive box sets and a seemingly posthumous single disc greatest hits album. For all intents and purposes, Genesis' long and successful career seemed to be winding down with nothing but historical type releases to follow in future years. Of course, history would later show us to be wrong in this assumption. 
 
That brings us to 2006. Seven years after Opening The Musical Box is released, Genesis reunite to announce their 2007 European Turn It On Again Tour (with North American dates announced later). This made for a perfect opportunity for Hewitt to regenerate his classic tome as Genesis Revisited (available in limited edition oversized hardback and standard paperback editions). Of course, my natural assumption was that Alan Hewitt would simply add a chapter or two at the end of the old book. After all, the original book was long out of print by this point. Thankfully, he took the time to do much more than that! With the help of fellow Genesis enthusiasts Mark Kenyon and Anthony Hobkinson, this new revision of the band's musical legacy corrects many of the mistakes of the original edition, features new content, and frankly much better organization making it a smoother read. Genesis Revisited also includes several color and black and white pages of rare pictures, vintage clippings, backstage passes and much more. Plus, if that wasn't enough, Alan Hewitt provides an update to his indispensable gig guide   chronicling all of the tour dates by Genesis and its related members and a fairly comprehensive discography complete with a bootleg guide; a list of video and TV appearances; a guide to Genesis biographies, fanzines, fan clubs, and unofficial Genesis sites (including WorldofGenesis.com among others); an easy to follow chronology on the band; and short biographies on many of the band's most notable players, including: Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford, Anthony Phillips and, yes, even Ray Wilson!

Alan Hewitt modestly points out that this new edition "is not a work of biography. If you like, what you have here is more of a 'one thousand things you didn't know about Genesis and didn't know where to look' kind of book." Of course, the English do tend to be a bit self-deprecating at times, and despite Alan's disclaimer, I do consider it a biography - albeit a 67-page coffee table sized one. Of course, this gem is far more than just another of the countless Genesis biographies out there. Genesis Revisited may not be the longest written biography on Genesis, but it represents a treasure trove of information no fan should be without. Although I can't say I learned a thousand things about Genesis here, the text is insightful and the many appendices are well worth the price of admission alone!

Of course, there is room for additional improvements in Genesis Revisited. There are a few very strange oversights here, like the complete omission of Nick D'Virgilio, who played drums on a few tracks on the 1997 Genesis studio album, Calling All Stations. This was quite shocking since Hewitt and company did go back and include mention of Mick Bernard in the history, the musician who briefly served as a guitarist in the band between the departure of Anthony Phillips and the arrival of Steve Hackett. Although its a very minor footnote in the Genesis mythos, there is also no mention of Ronnie Caryle's brief interim stint for a couple of shows while the search for a permanent guitarist continued (the seat later filled by Steve Hackett). The early and strong influence of Tony Stratton-Smith is also not fully explored here (although he is mentioned a few times in the book). There are also some discography omissions and errors, like the inclusion of Sweetbottom's 1978 album under the Daryl Stuermer discography (Stuermer was in Sweetbottom but left before the band's self-titled album was recorded). Admittedly, I once had the false impression that one Genesis book could be all things to all people - literally perfect. Of course, to date, I have never found such a book. Some dozen Genesis biographies later, I have come to appreciate that each biography (with a couple of exceptions) has brought something different and unique to their own telling of the history. Of course, some have been pure crap, too (biographers out there - you know who you are!). I feel a bit 'nit-picky' here to be honest, because Hewitt did throw out the disclaimer that he wasn't writing the definitive history on the band with this book. That being said, Genesis Revisited does provide a far more honest and uncensored job of conveying some of the politics going on within the band - particularly the mid-to-late '70s era - using past quotes by members of the band sourced from NME, Sounds, Circus Magazine and countless other periodicals. It sheds new light on a period that is presented in a far more censored and sanitized way in the official Genesis biography, Chapter and Verse. There is even mention of Chester Thompson's initial tepid response from the media that is completely glossed over elsewhere. 

As a whole, Genesis Revisited is an absolute must own for any Genesis fan. Its clearly a labor of love for Hewitt and the overall quality of the book demonstrates this ten-fold. Its a fantastic resource for Genesis collectors, historians, and casual fans alike. Alan Hewitt's telling of the history doesn't shy away from the ugly truth when necessary to accurately tell the story but always maintains a credible and thoughtful distance from the colored tabloid-like journalistic fodder you sometimes see elsewhere. I sit Genesis Revisited proudly on my bookshelf as a Genesis fan, and I think you should, too.       

To get more information or to purchase this book click here.


Turn It On Again: Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, and Genesis
written by Dave Thompson
© 2005 Backbeat Books
(List Price: $19.95)
 

Over the years, there have been literally piles of biographies written on the history of Genesis and its many members spanning the band's 40+ year tenure as one of rock's premier acts. As mentioned elsewhere on this page, many of them simply regurgitate the same facts, the same details, and draw the exact same conclusions and comparisons - making them generally very difficult to read - especially if you have a half a dozen of them (or more) already in your personal collection. Its this very fact that makes buying a new Genesis biography and getting through its many pages almost like a chore at times.

When I first got Dave Thompson's book, Turn It On Again, I was immediately impressed with how well Thompson meshed the history of the group's early, and arguably their most formative, years with Charisma Records, the band's label through the 1970s and early 1980s, and the many acts that comprised "the Charisma family" of musical acts of the period. This added insight, provided largely from a previously unused interview shortly before his passing in the mid-80s with late Charisma Records founder Tony Stratton-Smith, gives the reader a rarely recorded perspective that is unprecedented in any other Genesis book I have read. This fresh viewpoint really adds a great deal of depth to the band's story and a clearer understanding of the environment in which Genesis flourished under Stratton-Smith's supportive wing as an early band manager and record company guru.

In addition, Turn It On Again is well-written, flows smoothly through Genesis' career, and was an easy read from the earliest moments through most of 2004 where the book leaves the on-going story of the band. The biography touches on the various solo careers (including Banks, Hackett, Phillips, and Rutherford, despite not being mentioned in the book's title), but really doesn't great into too much detail aside from how their outside careers fit within the confines of the band's work and the hiatuses in between them when these solo projects were completed. You also get a basic discography on Genesis and its members at the close of the book, which is a nice touch although fairly common these days with the most recent slew of Genesis biographies.

All of this aside, Turn It On Again is not without its mistakes. There are quite a few minor errors that don't interfere with the story itself, but happen frequently and become annoying. For example, Tony Banks' Strictly Inc. project featured Jack Hughes from the pop band Wang Chung, which is spelled in the book as "Huang Chung" other examples include Phil Collins' Flaming Youth band mate Brian Chatton referred to more than once as "Brian Chatto" and similar repeat mistakes occur with Jayney Klimek from Tony Banks' Still and Bankstatement projects who repeatedly appears as "Janet Kilmeck." Again, I consider these extremely minor, but because minor names in the biography are often misspelled or, in some cases, so misspelled the become wrong, it becomes increasingly disappointing as you progress through the otherwise extremely well-done book. Also, things like an inaccurate photo caption or two (which in fairness may have been a publishing mistake), comments that Phil Collins' song "Colours" was on 1985's No Jacket Required (when it was actually on 1989's But Seriously) and other items of a similar nature that should have been vetted in the proof reading process, but sadly weren't. There are about a dozen other examples, but you get the idea. Some may also find the author's occasional but seemingly blatantly critical opinions about Phil Collins as being a little over-bearing at times as well, and chipped away at the book's overall credibility just a bit.

There are also a few mistakes that I would consider a bit more major, like the comment that Chester Thompson declined joining Genesis for their 1997/98 tour in support Calling All Stations. Chester has actually communicated in interviews (including here on World of Genesis.com) that he personally asked to be included in the making of Calling All Stations and the subsequent tour to support it, but was not selected by Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, opting instead to work with Nick D'Virgilio and Nir Z on the album, and the latter of the two on the actual tour.  There is also mention that Daryl couldn't do the Calling All Stations album, because he was touring with the Phil Collins Big Band at the time the Calling All Stations album was being done. This is also wrong. Daryl was touring with Phil for his Dance Into The Light album - not the Big Band project when Calling All Stations was being recorded and talks were on-going about an up-coming Genesis tour. Also related to the Big Band project, it implies that Phil got Tony Bennett to sing vocals for his Big Band tour, when in fact, most dates did not include Tony Bennett on vocals (unfortunately - as I saw one of the many dates Bennett did not do). Other mistakes include a comment that Steve Hackett completed his ill-fated album with legendary Queen axeman Brian May, when in fact that album was scrapped before completion when Steve was unable to secure major record label interest in the project (which was more essential back in the mid-80s when the album was being worked on than it is today).  There's also a complete omission of Bill Bruford's conflicts within Genesis on the 1976 tour and other well documented issues like Peter Gabriel's repeated delays in bringing the lyrics to the band in the making of 1974's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.

Nit-picking aside, which in many cases is really what it is in this particular instance, despite needing some slight fine tuning and subtle modification, Turn It On Again is one of the better biographies out there on Genesis. Besides, I will be the first to admit that typos to some extent will always exist (I'm sure my site has many!). I would still highly recommend Dave Thompson's biography on Genesis to people interested in reading about the history of the band. Its one of the more clearly written histories, its relatively concise, and its presentation has some unique qualities that differentiate it from the rest of the pack.

To get more information or to purchase this book click here.

GENESIS: Il Fiume del Costante Cambiamento 
written by Mario Giammetti, Alessandro Berni, and Mino Profumo
 © 2004 Editori Riuniti
(List Price: € 24.00)
 

In the Genesis fan community, few hold the reputation of Mario Giammetti. The long-time writer of the Genesis fanzine/website Dusk has culled years of knowledge on the band into one comprehensive 480-page tomb on the group from their origins in the late 1960s through the band's 1997/1998 European tour. The detail provided by each album and tour provide a lengthy chronology on the history of Genesis, which, combined with numerous rare pictures, a discography, and other resources makes this book a true find. The paperback also includes a special preface by Anthony Phillips and a special message from Phil Collins!

The first part of the book features Mario's analysis and excerpts of exclusive interviews he has conducted with the band members over the years. The second half of the text
is a thick appendix dedicated to Genesis' extensive history on tour. This section of the book has been prepared by Mino Profumo (from 1968 to 1977) and Alessandro Berni (from 1978 to 1998).

Sadly, the text is only available in Italian at the moment, and there are no plans for an English edition (which is somewhat problematic if you happen to not be fluent in Italian!). If you are fluent in Italian, I strongly recommend getting your hands on a copy of this book. Even if you're not, I think many people will find the discograhy, pictures, and other gems to be a nice addition to their Genesis collections!


To get more information or to purchase this book click
here.

 

Genesis - Play Me My Song: A Live Guide 1969-1975  
written by Paul Russell
© 2004 SAF Publishing
(List Price: $20.00)

In my early days of Genesis fandom in the mid-1980s, I was on a personal mission to hunt down the various bootleg recordings of the band. I was particularly interested in those recordings from the 1970s since that era of the group's history pre-dated not only my love of the band's music but, in some cases, my actual existence on this planet! At the time, bootlegs could mainly be found on vinyl LP under various nefarious and some times comical band names like "The Beginnings" so that the record companies and/or the band's management would have difficulty halting the production or sale of these unsanctioned gems. Of course, cheap cassette copies of these LPs also circulated at collector's shows, flea markets, and the odd shifty 'mom and pop' record store offering under the counter sales - of course, these were often even poorer quality because they were only as good as the bloke copying them to low grade Scotch cassette tape (complete with the bad quality homemade photocopied cover). Then, we came to the mid '80s and the advent of the compact disc. It wasn't long before the new digital medium became the next vehicle of choice for bootlegs and the dominant source for black market music distribution. As a young fan in this era, I simply could not get enough! Of course, back then there was no Internet and extensive bootleg resources like they are today (for better or worse). Today, of course, I know from the glory of the Internet that there are many other collector's interested in this material... I was not alone.
 
The task author and fellow Genesis bootleg collector Paul Russell chose to tackle was a live gig guide for Genesis from their first live performances in 1969 through Peter Gabriel's departure following the completion of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway Tour in 1975. The end result is this book, a 221-page opus to the band's early live history. Russell documents the many known facts around these live shows in 'The Peter Gabriel era' of Genesis chronologically, including whatever details are known about the performances, including: set lists, whether a bootleg recording from the show is in existence, and significant historical details from each show (where applicable). Often these important moments are supported with recollections from fans who were in attendance on the night in question or, in some cases, some reminiscing is from the band members themselves! Russell's inclusion of set lists from each show is wonderful to have, although sometimes speculative. There are also a few dates and locations that I question, although generally its very comprehensive. The book sort of takes author Alan Hewitt's incredible Gig Guide to the next level here with the set lists, interesting anecdotes and, periodically Russell's own perspective. Perhaps taking another cue from Mr. Hewitt's Opening The Musical Box (1999), Paul also adds some great appendices to Play Me My Song. These additions include a list of his favorite bootleg recordings and his logic as to why (many of which I agree with), a list of bootlegs where the date of the performance and/or the location is subject to debate and what he believes the actual recording to be from, Russell's own compiled list of all Genesis live shows from the 1969-1975 period, and his own sort of 'fan boy fiction' wish list for an archive type release citing which shows he would take the best recordings from song by song (which, again, I agreed with in many cases - although as the writer openly and jokingly admits is not likely to ever happen).

As a former avid collector of bootlegs on Genesis, while I can't say I learned a tremendous amount from this book that I didn't already know, Russell's details put it all in perspective beautifully. This thoughtful approach to the live history in these five plus formative years of the group took Play My Song from just being a recycled list of shows with period facts to being a truly unique live history of the band with a presentation of the story that I've not seen elsewhere and, to my knowledge, was never documented in this diary-like fashion (despite the dozen or so Genesis biographies that sit dusty on my bookshelf). It certainly made me wax nostalgic about my old bootleg recordings and even inspired me to pull a few of my favorites out to re-explore them again. So, I think the author probably achieved his mission. If you are a Genesis bootleg enthusiast this is a decent resource (or a great place to start!). If you're not a bootleg collector, you will probably still enjoy this truly unique telling of the band's early history harkening back to the small make-shift stages of colleges, technical schools, and crowded club shows to the large packed concert halls of the early to mid '70s from the perspective of the guy two rows back on the left recording it with his tape recorder. Over the past couple of years, I've been disappointed that Russell didn't follow this book up with a second edition spanning the rest of Genesis' lengthy career. I enjoyed the trip back in time, even if I had to get off at 1975!


To get more information or to purchase Genesis - Play Me My Song: A Live Guide 1969-1970 click here.
 

 

Phil Collins: The Singing Drummer 
written by Mario Giammetti and Enrico Geretto
 © 2004 Edizioni Segno
(List Price: € 20.00)

As mentioned previously, in the Genesis fan community, few hold the reputation of Mario Giammetti. The Singing Drummer biography on Phil Collins is the next in his series of Genesis related books (all in Italian). This time out, Mario's sights aimed at Phil's career, with a 339-page overview of the artist's history as a solo artist. From his beginnings through 2004's First Final Farewell Tour, Mario offers 224-pages of detailed information on Collins' musical journey. The biography includes approximately 29 full color pictures, many of which I have never seen before. Because I do not speak very good Italian, I was not able to read this text, but if Mario keeps putting out tombs like this, I'm going to have to get myself a tutor!  

In addition, the text offers an overview of Phil Collins' side projects which has been written by Enrico Geretto. Geretto's work even goes so far as to include a flow chart outlining Collins' activity for his side projects and related session work. Last but not least is a discography that includes albums, videos, and beyond! Whether you speak Italian or you're just a collector of Phil Collins, you will find it to be a great resource. Some time before it's release Mario posted to the Official Genesis site's forum that he was looking for a title to his Collins book, and I posted, "How about The Singing Drummer?" I don't know if it's coincidence or not, but if I happened to persuade Mario to use the title in any way, I am completely humbled. Order yours today!

To get more information or to purchase this book click here.

 

Genesis Behind The Lines: 1967-2007 
written by Robin Platts
© 2007 Collector's Guide Publishing
(List Price: $17.95)

Robin Platts' first Genesis book, Genesis Inside and Out, left me more than a little disappointed. While it was the first Genesis biography to recognize the role of Mick Bernard as a temporary guitarist between Anthony Phillips and Steve Hackett, it had a few serious mistakes and really had a huge emphasis on the '70s with less than appropriate attention of the later period of the band's amazing history. So, when I first heard that Platts' was issuing a new Genesis book, I was skeptical that it would be little more than a repackaging and slightly updated version of his last book. After reading Platts' latest Genesis book, Genesis Behind The Lines: 1967-2007, I'm glad to say that is it a much better book that his first attempt, but still does not manage to overcome all of the issues that plagued Inside and Out.

After having read the new book, I can say that Platts did not simply repackage his old edition; this is clearly a more detailed version. The content of the old book was worked carefully into an expanded yet concise history with the glaring errors corrected. Platts does a much better job of assembling the chronology and it is very clearly written, but there is still a heavy emphasis on the '70s with far less detail on the '80s, '90s, and beyond. In fact, the first 110-pages focus on the late '60s and '70s with only 47-pages covering the three decades that followed! This is especially disappointing. Especially, since Platts' book incorporates the band's solo projects in Behind The Lines, and as most people know, the '80s in particular was a very fruitful period. Its not that the high points of the '80s and beyond aren't there - they are, but the lack of detail in comparison to the first part of the book is grossly evident. If Platts had provided the same level of detail in the '80s onward as he did in the 1967-1979 period, this would possibly be one of the best biographies available. Sadly, once again, the latter years feel rushed and once again leave you with the feeling that Platts interest is predominantly in the early years of Genesis.

The book also provides with a limited discography that covers the basics including Genesis albums, singles and solo projects through 2007, but it will leave die-hard collector's disappointed in its lack of detail as far as catalog numbers and various pressings from different countries, etc. are concerned. Fans will also enjoy the 8-full color pages, but the images are just random albums covers and singles, and I think this was a real lost opportunity where Platts could have focused on rare items exclusively or perhaps band pictures, live shots, etc that can't easily be found elsewhere. All in all, Behind The Lines 1967-2007 is well written and gives the overall history of the band at a reasonable price. Many people will find this an enjoyable and insightful read despite very few new revelations. That being said, I still don't think Behind The Lines is a "definitive" biography on Genesis and its members, but it's certainly a step in the right direction.   
 

 

Phil Collins: The Definitive Biography 
written by Ray Coleman
© 1999 Simon and Schuster U.K. (out of print)
(List Price:
£6.99, paperback edition)

Ray Coleman's Phil Collins bio-book, The Definitive Biography, provides a stark and seemingly honest "warts and all" portrayal of arguably one of rock music's most successful artists of the last half century. Coleman's book focuses very heavily upon Phil Collins - the man, and ties the incredible successes of his career as a drummer, songwriter, singer, producer, actor and philanthropist to the many trials and tribulations he faced personally and professionally on his miraculous rise to the top of entertainment's A-List. The story is told largely through the recollections, stories, and quotes of Phil's contemporaries, his manager, family members, touring bandmates, ex-wives, his drum tech, and session musicians as well as other people who have worked or known Collins personally during this period... including insight direct from Collins himself! Unlike Steve Hackett's 2009 biography, Sketches of Steve Hackett, which has some personal details but never lets you know too much about the guitarist's personal "skeletons", this book really exposes Collins' personal life to a degree of intensity you don't normally hear too much about. Despite his international rock superstar status, Collins lives a very private life when he's not being scrutinized by the tabloid media, and this book shines a glaring spotlight on that private life with a level of relentless microscopic detail that comes across as being so exposed so its almost uncomfortable at times to read. Not just because its brutally honest or candid, but because its fraught with so many personal details (that you or I would not want to share about ourselves on our best day) that you can't help but feel like you understand Collins a bit better, flaws and all, as a real person instead of just a rock n' roll icon by the time its done. Or, at the very least, you have a much greater appreciation for the fact that solo albums like Face Value, Hello, I Must Be Going! and Both Sides, truly come from the heart and soul of the artist.
 
Truth be told, Coleman's telling of the history is not completely positive and optimistic. While it does show Collins as being the same guy on and off the stage and accentuates his workaholic approach to creating music and other creative projects, it also shares some of the darker side of his character and the very high level of expectations he holds for the people he involves himself with professionally. While I can certainly appreciate the level of detail and work that went into outlining Collins' personal life and how it tied to his career in this biography, and its certainly well done with only one or two very minor errors and glaring omissions, I really wanted a bit more about Phil's actual career as a musician here. The biography seemed to spend a tremendous amount of time on Phil's divorces, and I only wish the same level of detail was poured into his actual career as an artist. For example, I would have loved a little more detail on his studio session work. The author does touch in great detail on Collins' work and relationship with Eric Clapton and Stephen Bishop as well as his avid pursuit of side work with the jazz fusion band Brand X and producing Frida's Something's Going On and Philip Bailey's hit 1984 album, Chinese Wall. So, its not like this aspect of his career is ignored, but knowing how active Phil was in the studio as a session player and producer, particularly in the '70s and '80s, I wanted a little more about that aspect of his career. On the Phil Collins biography DVD, A Life Less Ordinary, they also share far more insight into the relationship between Collins and his father and how that sort of instilled his incredible work ethic and his life-long desire to earn the respect of his father. Unfortunately, that is missing here as well. Of course, I think Coleman's book paints a far more genuine and detailed picture of Phil Collins than the slightly "fluffy", sanitized documentary video that is A Life Less Ordinary

Perhaps the biggest omission is the lack of interview content from Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, the two musicians who probably know him best having worked closely with Collins as bandmates in Genesis since he started with the band in 1970 on and off through his life almost to where this book leaves off in 1996. The biography concluded with brief mention of Phil's then new big band project (which resulted in 1998's Hot Night in Paris album) and his then forthcoming Tarzan soundtrack project with Walt Disney (which resulted in 1999's Tarzan soundtrack, eventually resulting in an Academy Award for Collins and a short-lived Broadway show spin-off). The 288-page book includes an appendix with a very basic discography and filmography on Phil Collins including his work with Genesis, but its so rudimentary, its not going to be something an avid fan of Collins work would ever flip back to use as a guide or tool to collecting. Its really designed more for the casual fan who would be shocked to know that Phil Collins made albums with Genesis before 1980. Its omissions on his list of guest appearances on other musicians albums are many and leaves much to be desired. Coleman was very ill by the time this book was nearing completion, so my guess its that the lack of detail in this regard probably falls with the colleague to finished compiling it after Ray's untimely passing.

All in all, I really enjoyed the Ray Coleman's biography on the life of Phil Collins. Sadly, as mentioned, this did turn out to be Ray's final book (actually released posthumously in 1999), so an updated version of this biography is not likely to surface. This is a real shame since what's here is very well done and with a few modifications and some key additions, this could easily be one of the better (if not the best) Genesis related books ever written - certainly on a solo artist from the band. Its well known that everyone in the Genesis camp is tight-knit about personal details that they do not want out in the public, so its rare to see anything to this level of raw detail released in a commercial format. I would highly recommend the book to any Phil Collins or Genesis fan. Despite the vulnerable light it sometimes puts Collins in, it leaves you with a real respect for what he has achieved as an artist and a human being. Despite those incredible professional achievements, your reminded that he's just as imperfect as the rest of us... which made his story all the more enjoyable to read.

To get more information or to purchase used/collector copies of this book, click here.

 

Genesis Inside & Out 
written by Robin Platts
(Out of Print)

Although band activity might be dormant in the Genesis camp, a flurry of biographical books have surfaced in the past several years. From a new hardback reprint of Armando Gallo's incredible photo book, I Know What I Like, to books by fans like Alan Hewitt's recent Opening The Musical Box to name but two, Genesis fans have had plenty of historical fodder to chew on of late.

As a fan, I have always enjoyed these books, but I wonder how many times can you rehash the same old facts with a few new quotes spliced in and call it original? Rarely are more than one or two new pieces of information revealed in these unauthorized tell-alls about the band or it's members. On top of that, the ultra-large type in most of these books makes me feel like not only am I a moron for buying the same story again and again, but that my intelligence is further in question for allowing these publishers to print what would be a 40-page book and expanding it to over 180 pages, including photographs, with a font size that a blind man could read with ease! All that, just to be able to make a paltry book seem comprehensive and more in-depth than the last six biographies that emerged in the past few years before it. 

Still, to Mr. Platts' defense, a few new chestnuts of data or, perhaps more accurately, moments of historical clarity are revealed in his new interviews with Anthony Phillips, Steve Hackett, and Daryl Stuermer... but not too many. Perhaps more interesting were comments by Mick Barnard, who served as a "fill in" guitarist for a few months after Anthony Phillips' departure and before Steve Hackett's arrival to the group. 


Platts provides thoughtful attention to outlining each song as it was recorded and what the behind the scenes environment was like in the evolving face of the early days of Genesis both in the studio and on the road. Sadly, more than half of the book offers this wonderful attention to the Peter Gabriel years with the second half lacking Platts' same level of care or interest, with the remaining pages coming off as being rushed and far less organized. The addition of solo projects seems to distract Platts even further, with certain well known elements of Genesis' history glossed over very quickly. As further example of Platts' loss of attention to detail, several inaccurate statements are made towards the end of the book. One such inaccurate statement was that the band had discussions with ex-Marillion vocalist Fish. While this was a rumor, I, personally, interviewed Fish around the release of his 1999 album, Rain Gods With Zippos, and Fish himself stated that he was NEVER in discussion with Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, or Genesis' management about replacing Phil Collins. Fish further stated that by the time he heard that he was being considered by Genesis, he called Tony Banks and was told that Ray Wilson already had the job. 

Perhaps the worst mistake in the book was Platts' claims that when Genesis reunited in September 2000 to honor their manager, Tony Smith, who was receiving the prestigious Peter Grant Award, that Peter Gabriel got on stage and performed "Turn It On Again" with Genesis. This is also not true. Yes, Peter Gabriel was at the event (as Platts acknowledges) and, yes, he posed for pictures with the band, but he did NOT perform on stage with Genesis. These are just a few of the mistakes I found in the second half of the book. While I don't want to be anal about trivial information, and I realize that we're not reading Tolstoy here, facts are facts. Besides, when the first half of the book is done so well, it seems a shame to botch the job in the final chapters.

Following the end of Robin Platts' book is a basic discography. Again, like the biography, there are some holes in the latter part of the discography. According to Platts, there were no singles for the Calling All Stations album in the USA. Again, this is false. "Not About Us" was a commercial CD and cassette single. If you want to count promotional singles you can also add "Congo" and "The Dividing Line" which were also pressed as U.S. CD singles for radio play. Platts also offers a very limited bootleg discography. While the author offers a disclaimer that Inside & Out doesn't provide every bootleg listing, Platts doesn't even offer a relatively complete list of the shows that have been bootlegged (which is easy enough to do, especially since many websites already provide this information). Still, if you're going to include bootlegs at all, at least attempt to provide a somewhat decent list of what was recorded or simply don't bother! 

This combined with the other mistakes is just a terrible shame. By reading this book, it's not difficult to surmise that Platts is probably a true Genesis fan, but the author clearly has much more interest in the early years of the band, which comes across crystal clear in this biography. While there is nothing wrong with that, Platts' bias turns Inside & Out into a mix of well studied '70s Genesis information with a seemingly blatant disregard for the same level of interest on anything done by Genesis post 1980. As a reader and Genesis fan, if you're looking for an excellent overview of the group's early years, this is a great place to start, but there are other books that offer much more accurate insight into the band's latter years. I can't say that I didn't enjoy reading Inside & Out, and I won't say that it's the best book ever written on Genesis. What I will say is that this book would make a good first draft to a great, more thorough career biography. If you are only looking to buy one Genesis book and get a thorough, well-rounded overview of the band's entire history - this is not it.
 

 

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