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Changing Rock History, Or Telling The Stories The Fans Want To Hear…?

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Changing Rock History, Or Telling The Stories The Fans Want To Hear…?

23 October 2014

Steven Reid

The new Genesis documentary, Genesis: Together And Apart, which debuted a couple of weeks ago in the UK on BBC2, has caused no little controversy in how the documentary makers, and presumably the three "remaining Genesisers", portrayed - or didn't - certain departed members of the band. In fact so incensed and disappointed was Steve Hackett, the guitarist who played on six of Genesis's most celebrated studio albums and who arguably is the only member to actually keep their heritage alive through his Genesis Revisited albums and shows, that he went as far as issuing a statement after the broadcast saying, "[The documentary] does not deliver the theme of Together and Apart. Whilst [R-Kive] represents us all equally, the documentary does the opposite ... In interview I spoke at length as much about my solo career as my time in Genesis, but was not given any editorial involvement." In fact Hackett's lengthy solo career (the most prolific and eclectic of any ex-Genesis member) was completely ignored, while in sharp contrast, Peter Gabriel (who remember left before Hackett), Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks all had their extracurricular activities covered in detail (in the case of Banks, much more than it deserves…). However the most galling aspects of the whole documentary (which, as a fan of all eras of the band, I did still reasonably enjoy) was watching Hackett actually being cut out of most of the footage where the five main players in the Genesis story sat in a row together and chatted candidly, humorously and sometimes frostily about their band. Sitting on the far left, Hackett is more often than not left out of camera shot and heard from even less, while his on stage only "replacement" Daryl Stuermer, who was never a full member of the band, received almost as much screen-time. However Hackett isn't the only Genesis alumni to come out of the affair poorly, original guitarist Anthony Phillips not even being mentioned in the credits as a member of the band he helped create (he is interviewed), while Ray Wilson and 'Calling All Stations', the album on which he replaced Collins as singer, don't even appear to exist anymore. Considering every other Genesis album was credited with its release date and chart position in both the UK and US, surely not just a simple oversight regardless of its comparative lack of success?

In the end, few people came out of the documentary with credit, Collins was refreshingly candid about his, now, love him or hate him celebrity persona, Gabriel, as ever, true to his reasons for being in the band and for leaving them - watching him being exasperated as Banks (who comes across as an egotistical tyrant) once again ripped into 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway' a full 40 years after its release, brought a smile to the face - although not Gabriel's! While Rutherford merely came across as pretty passive in the grand scheme of toings and froings the band had suffered over the years. However in fairness to Genesis, this airbrushing of a band's history by the band themselves isn't something they've taken to alone. The recent Bad Company documentary, The Band. The Music. The Story., completely removes any talk of what happened after Paul Rodgers departed; two singers, Brian Howe and Robert Hart and six albums (the same amount of studio albums Rodgers sang on with the band), expunged from history. While Asia did the same, the reformation of the original 1981 line-up in 2006 seeing a huge amount of work (six albums and eighteen years) shuffled into the bin, while the musical partner, John Payne, of the only original member to soldier through those "wilderness" years, Geoff Downes, was given the rights to the name - Asia featuring John Payne -presumably because in ways others than those presented on the band's official website, such an integral and lengthy member of the band couldn't be denied the use of the name Asia completely.

For fans of these band who stayed with them through thick and thin, this rewriting of history more than sticks in the throat, favourite members of days gone by disrespected and derided for a populist view. Personal agendas favoured over what really happened, or an even handed view. However, what's the option? Would we rather see public bun-fights like those KISS indulge in every few months, as original members call each other names, alleging intolerances on a worrying level? Or the in court, out of court wrangling the likes of Queensryche have endured in recent years, dirty washing aired for all to snigger over? Is Steve Hackett's, excellent, Genesis Revisited activity preferable to two versions of Wishbone Ash carrying on in tandem, or Great White and Jack Russell's Great White touring the US simultaneously? Or the who's in them this week, splitting, reforming, multiplying, dividing, reforming, splitting and disbanding, history of the likes of L.A. Guns, or Enuff Z'Nuff? I suppose it depends on whether it's the drama or the music that gets you frothing.

Maybe we should all take our hats off to Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt of Status Quo, the pair previously coming across as bitter and reasonably twisted about the other two people integral to the "best" era of their band, Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan. The former pairing astute enough to publicly and privately let bygones be bygones and hit the stage again as the "Frantic Four", while simultaneously keeping the existing version of Quo together as both a touring and recording entity; resulting in Quo fans, and the band, having their cake and eating it.

In the end, who are we mere bystanders, albeit ones who've invested a huge amount of time, energy, emotion and money into these bands, to tell them how they should view or present their own history? They say that you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. It would also appear that you can choose which band members are real band members and which are there only in the diehard fan's minds. However there's little denying that those who allow the fans to choose, such as Steve Hackett, Brian Howe, Robert Hart or John Payne, come out of things looking far more dignified than those manipulating the facts, even if it is, as the arenas fill for the manipulators, only the minority who care.

Steven Reid


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