In July 1970, a callow 19-year-old, who had a brief career as a child actor in TV commercials and used to help out at the Marquee Club after school, answered an advertisement for a drummer in Melody Maker.
The audition went well and Phil Collins was suddenly a member of Genesis (with two Charterhouse public school boys, Peter Gabriel and Tony Banks).
The Nursery Cryme album featured Collins singing lead vocals on one track, while their accompanying live shows attracted much attention thanks to Peter Gabriel’s elaborate masks and on-stage props – and the group’s perpetual retuning of instruments.
After years of building a solid live following, their fourth LP Foxtrot was to provide their first UK chart success, while their first taste of the charts in the USA did not come until 1974 when Selling England By The Pound (1973) reached #70 in the States. The album (their fifth studio effort) represented a quantum leap for the band in both creative and commercial terms.
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974) came at a difficult time for Genesis. The album was recorded in rural Wales, with Peter Gabriel’s vocals recorded separately in London’s Island Studios. Whether anyone – Gabriel included – really understood what the LP was about is open to conjecture, but the double album features some of his most consistent writing and the band’s pithiest playing.
Peter Gabriel quit the band at the end of the ‘Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’ tour in 1975 for “personal reasons”. After an unsuccessful 18 month search for a replacement vocalist (during which the band auditioned more than 400 singers), drummer Phil Collins took over vocal duties for the Trick of the Tail album.
Not bad for a Londoner who lost his job as the Artful Dodger in the 60’s stage production of Oliver because his voice broke . . .
Ex-King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford joined the band in 1976 to allow Collins to come out from behind the drum kit to fulfil his new duties on tour. Steve Hackett departed in 1977 and the rest of the band opted to continue as a trio.
The Duke album (1980) topped the UK charts and provided Genesis with their first ever British #1.
1981 saw a pair of album releases – The new Genesis album, Abacab, in September and Face Value, the debut solo album from Phil Collins. It didn’t look too hopeful on paper – An ageing drummer who’d spent the previous 11 years in a Prog Rock band, and whose past experience included a role in a stage production of Humpty Dumpty, a tour of duty promoting Smith’s Crisps around Britain (which involved demonstrating a dance called ‘Do The Crunch’), and a job as an extra in The Beatles‘ film A Hard Days Night (1964) – releasing a solo album inspired by the acrimonious break-up of his marriage.
But Face Value went straight to Number One in the UK charts. By the summer, Collins had accumulated three UK hit singles. Meanwhile, Abacab spent two weeks at #1 in the UK, giving the band three hit singles as well as their first ever US Top 10 hit.
Peter Gabriel apparently first wore his wife’s dress and a fox’s head onstage after the group’s press officer, tired of hearing his charges moan about their low profile, told them they weren’t getting written about because they were “so fucking boring”.