A New Appreciation by Andy Thomas




Prologue: The world in 1969


Richard Nixon becomes president - Concorde makes its first test flight - John Lennon and Yoko Ono marry - Students riot at Harvard University  - The Stonewall riots in New York mark the start of the gay rights movement - The Rolling Stones' Brian Jones drowns - The crew of Apollo 11 lands on the Moon - Charles Manson and his followers carry out their murder spree - British troops are deployed in Northern Ireland - The Woodstock Festival is held in New York State - Monty Python's Flying Circus is first broadcast - Details of the 1968 My Lai massacre by US troops in Vietnam are made public - Colour television begins in Britain - Violence erupts at the Altamont Free Concert in California


Significant album releases in 1969: Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin & Led Zeppelin II - MC5: Kick Out The Jams  - The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground - Sly & The Family Stone: Stand! - The Who: Tommy - Crosby, Stills & Nash: Crosby, Stills & Nash - Procol Harum: A Salty Dog - Yes: Yes - The Beatles: Abbey Road - King Crimson: In The Court Of The Crimson King - The Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed - Deep Purple: Concerto for Group and Orchestra


...and then there is From Genesis to Revelation, by an unknown band, without - according to the sleeve - even a name as such. And yet this album, released on 7th March 1969, would herald the beginning of a unique and extraordinary career.



The Genesis of Genesis

In the mid-1960s the British public school of Charterhouse in Godalming, Surrey, found that even it was not immune to the huge cultural shift occurring around it. Boys started playing pop music in their spare time, pushing against institutional repression. Two Charterhouse 'groups' began to come to the fore: Anon (featuring guitarist Anthony Phillips and guitarist/bassist Michael Rutherford) and Garden Wall (featuring singer Peter Gabriel and pianist Anthony Banks). The two units gradually pulled together as a songwriting collective with drummer Chris Stewart and brought themselves to the attention of ex-Charterhouse pupil Jonathan King, now a pop star and producer, when he came back to visit the school.


Demos were exchanged, with initial enthusiasm (particularly for Peter Gabriel's voice) but then ambivalence from King after less impressive follow-ups. However, the artful contrivance of a song with Bee Gees tendencies, 'The Silent Sun', designed to catch the ear of Bee Gees fan King, did the trick. After two (failed) singles were released, in 1968 the young men were gathered to record an album, losing Stewart and hiring John Silver as their new drummer. King suggested a conceptual theme, loosely telling the story of the Bible, and christened the band Genesis. The discovery that a US group already existed with that name meant that the resulting album was issued without a band name and only a title: From Genesis to Revelation. Released in 1969, the record sold a few hundred copies and then sank without trace- before being resurrected in countless reissues once the band hit big. Genesis decided to keep their name and began to contemplate a career without King.


But what of the album itself? How, 50 years later, should we approach this fragile, and yet crucial step, for a group that would both change, and help write, the language of rock? Is it now possible to find a whole new appreciation for From Genesis to Revelation in its own right?

An advert for the album

The first album

From Genesis to Revelation is, by default, the very first Genesis album. Not, as is often said, Trespass (which would follow in 1970). And yet it is frequently implied, even by band members, that this crucial debut is some kind of proto-Genesis project, uncanonical and unworthy of discussion. This is a shame and has seen the opening to Genesis's studio career unjustly suffering something of the same treatment regularly served to its closing (studio) curtain call Calling All Stations, often equally dismissed as an ignorable side-project. In truth both are fundamental bookends that leave gaping holes in the band's evolutionary chart if left out of the picture. From Genesis to Revelation, especially, is unwisely overlooked to the detriment of the Genesis legacy.


The album's low standing hasn't been helped by the multiple re-releases licensed by Jonathan King's company over the decades, which have seen a variety of mutilated versions in a series of mutant covers, only a few of which slightly resemble the original's Spinal Tap-anticipating 'artwork': i.e. plain black with a simple title in an ecclesiastical font. Extra tracks are generally spliced into the running of the re-releases at the beginning or end, or the album is split over more than one disc, with the clever linking instrumental passages often horribly clipped, masking the intended symmetry of the experience.


Like many, drawn into the world of Genesis by my love for the band's mid to late 70s period, I came to this album through its first 1976 re-release in Decca's Rock Roots series of cheap compilations, which threw together early efforts from bands who later made it big. Featuring that now ubiquitous photo of a very young Genesis, with Phillips cutting a studious pose, Rutherford appearing stoned and the others looking moody, its juxtaposition with the standard Rock Roots artwork of an old 60s Dansette-style boxed record player somehow made it seem all the more ancient by the time I discovered the band. Though at that point the music on it was less than ten years old, it somehow already seemed like a relic from the deep past; something to be investigated with curiosity but not necessarily played for pleasure. An astonishing forty and more years later, this impression has continued to colour numerous listeners' view of From Genesis to Revelation. It is a great pity as, if not quite a lost masterpiece, the album has many delights to offer and points the way to much that would follow.



A big step

What, then, of the listening experience itself? Don't indulge the deniers: the fact is that From Genesis to Revelation is the most significant step the group ever took, allowing a bunch of students a first taste of the big bad music business and introducing them to the potentials of using sound to create dreams in a studio. Both adventures, flawed as baby steps usually are, would provide valuable lessons which would serve Genesis well in future. Moreover, musically, the album sows important seeds that would blossom soon enough. To act as if this record doesn't exist is both to foolishly warp history and lose the opportunity to enjoy some infectiously tuneful gems that are never less than charming.


Indeed, what is striking about the album, and the clutch of demos and cast-offs available from this period, is how remarkably fully-formed Genesis are as they first come into the world. Although primitive and naïve in places, as one would expect, there's nonetheless an impressive confidence in the vision being created that seems almost hubristic. This is not a gaggle of fledglings who don't know what they want. The years spent bashing out old R&B hits in cold Charterhouse anterooms have clearly gifted valuable lessons in song construction and playing skills that, though still antediluvian, are strong enough to have given them ideas above their station. This kind of self-belief can knock down any barrier, and Genesis would become experts at pressing on regardless in the face of sometimes savage critical opposition. They may have initially seen themselves (as claimed) as primarily fronting some sort of songwriters' collective to provide material for others, but in reality being their own masters was going to be the only way ahead to assuage this kind of conviction. Photos of the studio sessions show very young men, incredulous over their luck at getting this professional opportunity- but they also look determined and serious about what they're doing. [1]


Of the talents breaking through, it is without question Gabriel's vocals that demonstrate the most initial promise. The youthful tones are rich and melodic in an attractive style that is never quite recaptured when maturity soon afterwards gifts the singer his huskier and more familiar melodramatic style, beloved though it is. There's a hint of things to come as Gabriel barks out the chorus of 'In the Wilderness' and other livelier moments, but for now the overwhelming impression is one of honeyed tones and late-teenage self-confidence that goes a long way to distracting from the rather crude production hampering the instrumentation. Aside from Jonathan King's unfortunate predilection towards youthful males (as later prosecutions would expose), it is still easy to understand why it was Gabriel that he was most drawn to on hearing the demos. [King continues to protest his innocence over the charges made against him; a trial over new charges collapsed in 2018 after "serious failings" by Surrey police.]


In terms of playing, Tony Banks stands out as the main glue holding the songs together. His piano skills are rarely less than competent, bar the odd bum note (in the first bars of the opening link to 'Window', for instance), inevitable on an album essentially thrown together in a few days during the summer holidays of 1968. [2] Anthony Phillips, though clearly still developing, demonstrates a visceral style on his occasional moments in the sun, which are entertaining and encouraging when not being traduced by the strings and brass which infamously claim many of the lead breaks. This is a chrysalis stage for the most part: reduced to a rhythmic strum for much of the album, Phillips's true transcendent ability would eventually emerge for its brief and glorious Genesis flutter on the next record, Trespass. But there are glimpses, and they are promising ones. Mike Rutherford's own true skills, likewise, would be revealed later, but the bass, when audible in the production mirk, pretty much does what it needs to here. Chris Stewart's drumming on the singles, and John Silver's on the album- neither much valued by either the band or King it would seem- generally fulfill a metronome service over performance, as they tap away to a basic effect. According to King: "neither Chris Stewart or John Silver were very good drummers and they knew it; the result was that the drums are very low in the mix." [3] Shaker and tambourine do seem to hold the rhythm down as often as a full kit. A few (usually distorted) fills stand out, but Genesis would have to wait a couple of records for percussion to take its proper place in the soundscape.


The concept

As for the themes of From Genesis to Revelation, the Genesis studio years begin with the very thing that many detractors wrongly believe the band spent most of its 28-year recording career producing: a concept album. The concept itself- "absolutely pathetic," says Banks, perhaps rather harshly [4]- was a wheeze reportedly invented by King and provides for an extremely loose journey through scenes and themes concerning humankind's development- as recorded in the Bible, hence the title. The emphasis, though, is firmly on the book of Genesis, justifying the band name, even if it is bizarrely undeclared on the LP cover. In honesty, beyond the earlier and more obvious references to "new-born worlds" and serpents, one would be hard-pushed to pick up the theme from a casual listen but being aware of the premise does give a wider gravity to an otherwise essentially lightweight song cycle. The end result is a collection of perfectly hummable and attractively delicate pop confections with wisely nebulous lyrics that can be taken as a greater whole or treated (as many of them were originally written) as merely a miscellany from innocents taking their first tentative steps towards conquering the world of rock. Either way, the experience is valid and makes for nothing less than an amiable 43 minutes. Listeners would have to wait another five years for Genesis's one and only proper concept piece, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, the premise of which, it could be argued, is even more obscure than this for all its undoubted delights.


In superimposing the Biblical imagery, his simplistic production aside, King had clearly spotted what even the band members themselves hadn't at this stage; that there was something in their demeanour and musical ambition that might suit a wider screen than the average pop band. Although King himself seemed unwilling to grant full voice to the admittedly unproven musical talents of his protégés, cutting out solos and long arrangements and preferring to gloss things with easy-listening orchestration, kudos should nonetheless be granted for his attempt to do something different for them by encouraging an overarching theme, even if the band were robbed of a name at this stage. Those members not called Gabriel having rejected the deliciously-alluring suggestion (apparently made by King's then business partner Joe Roncoroni) of 'Gabriel's Angels' as a moniker- "which appealed to me!", says Gabriel, "Somehow this didn't seem to register with the others" [5]- the band accepted 'Genesis' instead- only to have to ditch that too due to legalities, as the quote below explains. Hence just the album title appears on the original sleeve, with no defining outer illustration, in hindsight an act of marketing sabotage that presented the record as some kind of cryptic project (a musical? A compilation?) rather than a band product, condemning the players to anonymity. The quirky back-cover notes, seeming to anticipate the mock-intellectual nonsense that Frankie Goes to Hollywood would thrive on 15 years later, even make a boast of this:


"The group started as Genesis, biblical centuries ago. But fate intervened, other groups became Genesis and who were we to fight. So we changed our name in America to Revelation. Moments later, up came another Revelation. Now we are the group without a name, but we have a record and we want to give it to you, name or not."


Legend states that, as a result, the album got filed away in the little-sought 'Religious' sections of some record stores. True or not, this arcane novelty wasn't going to elevate anyone to immediate stardom, for all its pleasures. Most of Genesis agree that had it actually sold, their subsequent career may never have happened, as continuing contractual ties with King would likely have held them back as an ephemeral pop phenomenon with diminishing returns. The universe thus moved in a mysteriously beneficial way. Despite the booing that would greet his typically self-aggrandising introduction at the Milton Keynes 'reunion' gig (minus Phillips) in 1982, and aside from the justifiable resentment at the eventual revelations about his character, the fact is that King was almost certainly the svengali the band needed at this stage. And he vanished at about the right moment, allowing the next crucial stage of evolution to take place.


A mutual letting-go appears to have taken place in the twilight of this failed release. After briefly appearing to split, Genesis would quietly reform and King didn't try to stop them. By way of legacy, he had gifted the band some vital work experience and, as importantly, given them a name, the legalities of which appeared not to be a problem in the end. Few members of Genesis ever seem to have liked this name much, and its implications of high-minded grandeur would haunt them in the mainstream power-pop years, but in the absence of anything better it stuck- and thus rock history was written.


'Where the Sour Turns to Sweet'

Let us turn to the album itself, then. Rock history always begins with the songs. Occasionally a band hits big first time but others need prototypes before success. From Genesis to Revelation is undoubtedly an exercise in prototypes, some of which would turn out to be dead ends - but others were roads to the future. The record opens with an impressively moody bit of 60s slink to announce 'Where the Sour Turns to Sweet'. The groovy finger clicks set against pensive piano chords and Gabriel's cryptically direct statements ("We need you with us; come and join us now") are effective and suggest deviant and jazzy themes to come- but this is a deception. The track abruptly stops. After a dramatic pause, proceedings reboot and the album's real stall is set out with something more akin to what will follow; major-key piano and strummed guitar, over which Gabriel's mellow tones slide. Genesis would never really toy with jazz, and only this and the somewhat misplaced experiment of 'The Magic of Time', one of the demos from this period, with its Dave Brubeck-like patter, edge into it. A tiny nod would resurface in the bluesy sampled sax lines of the aptly-named 'Run Out of Time', the very last original studio song Genesis released in 1998.


Fleshing out the straightforward if melodic verses of 'Where the Sour Turns to Sweet' are wordless choirboy oohs and aahs which seem to have sprung straight from the echoing voices that would soar into the rafters of the school chapel, an influence that Gabriel has acknowledged: "Hymns used to be the only musical moment at Charterhouse...The organ in Chapel was magnificent and the playing was great...excellent. Everyone would stand up and scream their heads off." [6] These layered harmonies, a little rough and ready as some of them are, smooth over passages that might sound empty or bland without them; they are dutifully and generously deployed here and across the album and demos of this period. The 'choirboy' effect would persist as far ahead as 1971's Nursery Cryme, and occasionally beyond, before rich layers of Mellotron and synths filled the gaps instead.  


On a fanciful day the album's opening lyric, inviting the audience into the story ahead and presumably suggestive of angelic realms calling humankind into being, could also be seen as a wider invitation to join Genesis on a journey that would run far longer than surely anyone could have envisaged when these wide-eyed ingénues were throwing together their first full-length creation. Disappointingly, the stark bravery of the opening finger-clicks and reprise at the close of the song isn't followed up for the rest of the LP, although the chorus restates the chords under its layers of euphoric strings and brass. 


One of the original 4-track masters for the album

One of the original 4-track masters for the album.


Ah yes, those strings.


One controversy continues to dog some people's enjoyment of this otherwise inoffensive album. Appearing to lack full confidence in the talents of his fledglings to rise to the heavenly heights he was envisaging, King hired one Arthur Greenslade (with help from Lou Warburton), a well-known session conductor and arranger whose impressive credits include Shirley Bassey's 'Goldfinger', to retrospectively enhance what the band had thought were essentially finished mixes, bar the odd production embellishment. Not made party to the full nature of the additions, in the same way that Paul McCartney reportedly exploded at hearing Phil Spector's overly-lush reworkings of the infamous Let it Be sessions, Genesis were far from happy with the end result. Phillips, in particular, reportedly became apoplectic on hearing the final version of From Genesis to Revelation, with its plethora of overriding string lines and brass fanfares: "I tore out of the room and I went and lay down for about two hours... It was an indescribably awful feeling. I felt as if my whole world was caving in." "The strings were a big mistake... We had an image of a bank of warm string sound, with acoustic guitars, which would have been lovely. Not just a single-line melody which was really dominant." [7]

But, Phillips's understandable feeling of betrayal aside, how warranted is the general vitriol so often heaped upon the strings? Banks (whose co-written material with Gabriel predominates on this album) seems more keen, and the frank reality is that the resulting sheen does give the album a three-dimensional quality it might lack without Greenslade's interventions, especially given the poor sound afforded to the band. The squeezed and scratchy dynamics, routinely entering distortion of the wrong kind in intense passages, is one of the elements that distances the listener's engagement, almost certainly contributing to the album's minimal reputation amongst fandom. If these songs sounded even as good as the Trespass sessions, From Genesis to Revelation might be heard in a different light. The strings and brass, which do actually seem to have been properly recorded, somewhat fool the ear into improving the overall effect. It has been asserted that the very need to add the orchestra onto an album only recorded in basic four-track made things worse by requiring the frequent 'bouncing' of pre-existing recordings into one horribly squashed channel of the stereo to make way for Greenslade in the other- but neither the strings-free mixes of some of the same tracks, available on Genesis Archive 1967-75, or the mono mixes, really sound much better.

(The mono version, independently mixed, appears to have less reverb on Gabriel's vocals, the strings and brass do seem a little quieter and the song lengths are slightly different, but the general effect remains.) Parts of the King oeuvre demonstrate that it was possible to get good recordings- Gabriel's uncannily clear voice on the single 'A Winter's Tale' for example- but haste and a frugal budget seem to have left the long player with the then bog standard sound reserved for B-list acts. It's sobering to reflect that something so dynamically crude was released in the same year as the sonic treat of The Beatles' Abbey Road.


Love or hate it, the orchestration is without question well played and expertly arranged and, to this ear, adds more than it subtracts. The fuss over the strings often eclipses the observation that the brass and horns are often very effective, especially on Side 2. The fact that it is almost impossible to hear the Greenslade-free mixes without the brain adding the missing elements back in- notably on an available basic mix of 'One Day'- suggests an appropriateness to the embellishments that King might have been right about, and 'Where the Sour Turns to Sweet' is an example of their best use. That Banks would spend the next few years surrogating not dissimilar string lines with Mellotron (1971's 'Seven Stones', for example) says much. It would, perhaps disappointingly, be another twelve years before any kind of horn section would be allowed near Genesis again, and further orchestral outings would be restricted to a brief association with a live Australian string section in 1986. Apart from these and Brian Eno's modest contribution to vocal effects on The Lamb, musical collaboration would never really be for Genesis, perhaps because of this first unsettling experience.


The main criticism that can probably be levelled at the strings is that they do in the end become somewhat unimaginatively ubiquitous. A certain weariness sets in, particularly in the second half, when it dawns on the listener that the possibility of using other palette-broadening instrumentation was clearly dismissed in favour of an easier route from the start- suggesting that King always knew what he had in mind for the final effect even if he didn't tell the main players.


It would, however, be unfair to say that King allowed no adventuring. One of the joys of From Genesis to Revelation, pointing the way to future experimentation, is the series of short instrumental links that bridge many of the tracks on the album. With the band already champing at the bit to break free of convention (by all accounts), King, who had no interest whatsoever in longer arrangements, encouraged them to stick to standard pop structures. The presence of these intriguing connecting passages, then, sometimes mysterious and atmospheric as they are, feels like a concession, and the fact that they were allowed onto the record at all is something to be grateful for. Indeed, it is these apparently throwaway jams and short pieces that perhaps give the first real glimpse of the Genesis that would emerge post-King. Acting as mortar between the bricks of the main concept, the links are not as random as they may at first appear, often resolving into related chords or appropriate pauses that perfectly set up the following track. It is this quality of a genuine effort having been made to present the album as more than just beginners' pop bunged out randomly into the market that mitigates much of the criticism thrown towards this period: it could easily all have been so much less. Whatever commercial dreams King may have had for his Gabriel's Angels, he didn't take the obvious course and did allow the expression of at least some of the band's less conventional ambitions, potentially risking mainstream appeal in the process.


'In the Beginning'

Perhaps the bravest piece of linking experimentation occurs with the lurking organ chord that opens 'In the Beginning', giving way to a tearing electronic throb which itself steps aside for an insistent bass riff, one of Rutherford's few memorable- and audible- moments on the album. The courage of this avant-garde intro is never matched thereafter, but it does set the scene for one of the record's highlights. And there are no strings.


'In the Beginning', a colourful description of God creating his world ("Father, son, looks down with happiness, Life is on its way"), provides the first glimpse of the kind of excitement that will punctuate the best musical moments of Genesis's career, with Phillips getting a rare chance to assert himself between the choruses and Banks holding back with a quiet but effective little piano chord that rides abstractly over the verses. An "ocean of motion" and scenes of geophysical drama ("furnace of frenzy")- not exactly standard pop fare- are depicted with evocative phrasing, and it won't be the last time lava gets a mention in the life of the band. But it's in the repeated and ecstatic 16-bar hymnal sections that things lift up and we get the first of those spine-tingling unrelenting minor-key riffs under soaring vocals that Genesis will perfect and thrill aficionados with for years to come. It's hard to hear Gabriel's triumphant Cecil B de Mille-like calls of "Is that the chariot with stallions gold? Is that a prince of heaven on the ground? Is that the roar of a thunder crash?" and not feel some stirring of primal awe and Biblical fear somewhere deep in our loins.


Gabriel's uplifting performance already begins to show the vocal qualities that will help lift the group to unimagined heights. This is impressive stuff and although the song's heart-racing conviction is something of a one-off for the album (mirrored, perhaps, only by 'In Limbo's final section) it is clear by now that this isn't going to be just another record. The fact that the band included 'In the Beginning' in the early live performances that would help produce the Trespass material, when the rest of its stablemates had fallen by the wayside, suggests that Genesis also saw this as an early highlight. The of-its-time 'Itchycoo Park'-style 'phasing' effect plastered over the instrumental breaks only adds to the fun.

Ant during the sessions for the album

Ant during the sessions for the album.

'Fireside Song'

It's not clear at what stage the 1968 demo 'The Magic of Time', with its amusingly mistimed jazzy brush fills and jaunty piano, was actually written, but its bustling lyrics about rain filling rivers, life emerging on the ground and a direct reference to a "silent sun" fashioning the world suggests this song may at some point have been intended to follow 'In The Beginning' in the conceptual sequence. Instead, the LP's narrative, such as it is, following a moody and portentous piano piece which anticipates the long intros of 1972's 'Time Table' and 1973's 'Firth of Fifth', jumps to a calmer moment of creation with 'Fireside Song'. With the fallback strings, strums and major keys present and correct, here the lyrics already look back to a time of "confusion, disappointment, fear and disillusion", as if such days of chaos have now passed, fulfilling the rejected demo's role of explaining how "it came to pass that nature's creatures came to face the world". Although firesides are never actually mentioned, the implication is of a settled early humanity now warm and protected, where it sees "hope reborn with every morning" in the song's sweet and dreamily mellow chorus. A serpent will soon be along to change all of this. The meticulous diction of the ensemble group vocals (with Banks to the fore) is rather charming in its innocence; perhaps the point.


Banks has stated that 'Fireside Song' was originally more chordally complex, but that he simplified it to give it a more commercial edge, a sign that he was learning a pop sensibility that might have taken Genesis more directly down a mainstream route in some parallel universe. [8] Instead, this approach would be put on long hiatus for over a decade before eventually being rediscovered to great reward. From the next album on, the complex chords and convoluted arrangements would have their say first. Rutherford's autobiography implies that writing simpler songs is harder than the progressive genre where different segments are just continually added: "Long songs might appear clever and hard to write but for us they were easy. We'd just take bit A and bit D and segue them together. What we didn't realise was that it was generally better if you didn't try to use the whole alphabet every time." Referring to 'Looking for Someone', on Trespass one album on, Rutherford adds: "If I had it now, it'd be a fabulous song as I could make something out of just the first couple of bits. Back then we rambled on with another eight minutes, throwing in bits and pieces." [9]

If Rutherford's observation is followed through, it implies that the band actually started their career with more sophistication and compositional maturity than they would employ in the much-loved Trespass to Wind and Wuthering art rock years. There is perhaps a level of truth to this- certainly, the clear skills for pop songwriting on From Genesis to Revelation are often overlooked by those for whom long instrumental breaks and multi-part movements mean bigger and better. Which, of course, sometimes they do- 'Looking For Someone' is a case in point, despite Rutherford's reservations. Some of us love it all and cherish both sides of Genesis, but it's worth a thought for the unborn classic hit singles the band might have filled the early 70s with if they hadn't spent years on all the complex prog and funny masks. Despite clearly having the ability from the start to write short songs with singles potential, the band would soon choose not to, although Phil Collins notes in his autobiography that as early as 1975's A Trick of the Tail Banks and Rutherford apparently wanted to again: "They want to write hit songs, singles that will reach the pop charts."


Fan conflict over the relative merits of the 'longer' and 'shorter' songs has never gone away. But plenty of short poppier songs are present and correct in their overtly progressive period ('I Know What I Like' being Exhibit A, but see also 'Harold the Barrel', 'Time Table', 'More Fool Me', much of The Lamb, etc.) and didn't seem to present a problem to listeners at the time. Even when Genesis did return to predominantly shorter songs and rediscovered their pop roots, the fact that the longer pieces were never entirely jettisoned suggests they knew well that both sides were an essential part of their make-up. It was perhaps the disappointment of a certain section of the audience at the letting go of the symphonic approach that was more the issue rather than the existence of shorter songs per se. The accusation that the later short tracks were simply substandard moneyspinners has always been rightly denied by the band, summed up by Collins in the booklet notes for 2014's R-Kive compilation: "It's not like we get the shorter songs out of a cheap barrel, and the other stuff is finely aged. They all come out of the same source." [10]     


'The Serpent'

The longest song at this stage of the band's evolution (albeit at only 4.36) was 'The Serpent', a reincarnation of a much earlier version. One of the key 1967 demos that first caught King's attention was a song called 'She is Beautiful'. Widely available online, as an extra track on some of the multiple Revelation re-releases, and on the Archive collection, it's not hard to see why King liked it. Although very basically recorded, with minimal percussion, the sinister bouncy riff on the lower keys of Banks's piano and an icy-sharp performance from Gabriel create a striking impression. Its rather threatening, and potentially troubling, portrayal of female vanity signifies a fear or bemusement around femininity that will permeate lyrics throughout Genesis's career. In what at this stage was likely a hangover from the then-Public School personification of women as an entirely different species to be avoided where possible (thus setting up an inevitable counterintuitive curiosity, entirely unrealistic expectations or ingrained reservations), early lyrics often characterise females as figures of preying danger or betrayers of apparently innocent men (a spectre inflated to fantastical levels on The Lamb- Phil Collins would later find his own reasons to lyrically angst over such issues).


The song's protagonist here attacks the object of his apparently obsessive infatuation as a "nervous wreck with a sweet façade", whose rising career as a model is perceived in direct inversion to her cold rejection of the man, as she supposedly sacrifices her feelings and integrity for empty success ("vanity arrived with fame"). Yet the pathetic yearning of "Give it up, baby, Honey give it up and come back to me" reveals the real agenda, compounded by the closing hilarity of "Don't take my love away from my arms, Oh no, I need her near me every single day, Please don't take her away, I need my love". The woman is not so hard and undesirable after all, then- it's just sour grapes. All this makes for a genuinely entertaining and powerful song, but some counselling is surely going to be needed for the protagonist somewhere along the way.


The Serpent Italian 7" single release

The Serpent was the B-side of the 1974 Italian 7" single release of In The Beginning.

Although 'She Is Beautiful' was primarily a Banks/Gabriel composition, around the same time, in a life-imitating-art irony, Phillips was finding himself in a similarly difficult romantic situation with a successful ballerina that would tear itself apart soon enough. Phillips has stated that this contributed to the fragile mental state that would help build to his departure from the band just a year or so after- but it did later gift the world his lovely songs 'Lucy Will' on 1979's Sides album, and 'Lucy: An Illusion' on 1980's Private Parts and Pieces II: Back to the Pavilion.


Loving 'She is Beautiful' but failing to see how it could fit the conceptual sequence of From Genesis to Revelation, King appears to have persuaded the band to rewrite the words- while still retaining the female betrayal theme ("And god created womankind, The vessel of Satan's hold"). While some of the raw impact of the original is lost, in its new guise 'The Serpent' remains one of the most memorable contributions to the record, full of atmosphere and a suitably dramatic hint of dread to announce the arrival of Devilish influence into Eden. With bass replacing the low piano notes of the original in another rare prominence for Rutherford, and the addition of distinctive clicking drumsticks (in a very rare prominence for John Silver, assuming he is playing them) replacing the hesitant chords of the bridging sequences, this strings and strums-free track stands out from the rest of the album. The echoey stick strikes seem disturbing simply for being unexpected, aptly denoting perhaps the sudden presence of an outside force that doesn't quite belong there, while Banks's 'House of the Rising Sun'-style background organ adds an archly melodramatic horror-film feel to enhance the effect.  


The lyrics are sharp and inventive here, and fruitfully pantomimesque: "Creator made the serpent wise, Evil in his tempting eyes, Man is wonderful, very wonderful, Look at him- Beware the future." The inference is that the world has as much to fear from humankind as from the serpent, or at least that the two are interminably entwined: "I'm waking up, the day of Man has come". Given the effectiveness of this more literal lyrical interpretation of the album's concept, it's perhaps surprising that such directness is shifted to more nebulous themes from hereon. Then again, yet more direct Biblical references might have seen the album still filed in the 'Religious' racks today.

While losing the stark frankness of 'She is Beautiful', the lyrical shift into 'The Serpent' demonstrates that King's insistence on inflating naïve schoolboy fantasies into grander, more cinematic visions did successfully encourage the fledging writers to go beyond the mundane. That expansion, enforced as it may have been, clearly had a long-lasting influence on the direction Genesis would take as the next five years unfolded. The visions would get grander, deeper and darker, while an overtly religious take on good-against-evil would be revisited for 1972's 'Supper's Ready' just three years later.

'The Serpent' is prefaced with one of the most telling of the linking instrumentals, a moody minor key jam of guitar, bass and pattering bongos that wouldn't be out of place on The Lamb. Remarkably, just before the fade, Phillips unexpectedly breaks into a stand-out riff that will eventually be recycled as the main theme of 'Twilight Alehouse', a song that would soon feature in the band's live sets and finally be recorded during the 1972 Foxtrot sessions, although this would not actually surface until its release as the B-side of 'I Know What I Like' in early 1974. It's a shame that moments like this were relegated to such fleeting glimpses at this stage, but the band never wasted good potential, sometimes storing riffs and whole passages up for years before calling them into service, as 'Genesis Plays Jackson' (available online and on the extras disc of the 1970-1975 remasters box set), which contains elements of several future Genesis classics, makes clear.

'Am I Very Wrong?'

Another indelible clue to the band's future path opens up on the following track, 'Am I Very Wrong?'. Following a reflective piano interlude, with a curious melody of spiky notes, it's as if some kind of time portal to Trespass unexpectedly opens up, with twinkling acoustic guitars (plucked not strummed) set against Gabriel's haunting flute, all making their debut in the Genesis soundscape in what sounds like a lost passage from 'White Mountain'. Any From Genesis to Revelation doubters should by now be placated that this is very definitely the same group of their later affections.


With the serpent's influence, self-doubt seems to be setting in as humankind asks itself whether life in a compulsory paradise is really the way to go. Is an eternal life of automated joy without choices actually freedom?: "Am I very wrong, To try to close my ears to the sound they play so loud?, Am I very wrong?, The happiness machine is trying hard to sing my song." The song is too subtle to mention apples or a Tree of Knowledge (although Banks will directly reference both in his 1978 solo song 'A Curious Feeling'), but it infers a turning away from the Creator. Accordingly, as the chorus flies in, seemingly from another realm, Gabriel's mournful doubts are offset by what appears to be the angelic voice of the happiness machine itself, courtesy of a Phillips vocal, reinforcing the point as it attempts to pacify with syrupy tones: "Today's your birthday friend, everything alright, Let us our greetings to you send, Happy friend, everything all right, We hope your life will never end." This torturous promise of eternal pacification is taken up by Gabriel as an angst-ridden negative in the coda, as he repeats "never end" to himself in increasingly desperate tones as if the realisation of what that really means is finally sinking in.


It has to be said that there's something endearingly sweet about Phillips's boyish, imploring and fragile tones here. He reportedly had ambitions to be the singer before giving in to Gabriel's obvious talents. Phillips's delicate voice would mature and find its own niche in his solo years. In general, the band's ensemble vocals, which are something of a feature in the early years (not least in the choirboy layers), fade away as the albums go by, especially with the arrival of Collins, whose own obvious talents in the backing vocal department were quickly utilized and would soon begin to dominate, culminating in his seemingly predestined (with hindsight) elevation after Gabriel's departure. On that score, in his book Genesis: I Know What I Like, author Armando Gallo was the first to note that 'Am I Very Wrong?' appears uncannily to anticipate the dilemma Gabriel would face when the pressures of stardom and alienation from his fellow band members crashed in on him in 1974-5: "Am I very wrong, To want to leave my friends and the curse of the happiness machine?" ... [11]


Peter Gabriel & Ant during the sessions

Peter and Ant during the recording sessions.

'In the Wilderness'

The brighter piano arpeggio which opens 'In the Wilderness', along with the title, suggests that some kind of escape or expulsion from Eden has occurred and that humankind is now on its own as the angelic forces recede, although not without some relief from both sides by the sound of it: "Leaving all the world to play they disappear"'. The tones of the happiness machine clearly still waft down, but people have turned their backs on it: "Music, all I hear is music, Guaranteed to please, And I look for something else". The minus of this is that they now have no protection against the violence from the likes of the coming conqueror, hinted at with "Fighting enemies with weapons made to kill, Death is easy as a substitute for pride".


'In the Wilderness' is one of the straightforward pop rockers of the album, wasting no time in getting from its simple verse to its big hummable chorus, clearly the main reason for its existence. There is little else there and no middle eight beyond a brief repeat of the opening arpeggio (where Silver manages to throw in a rare big fill without getting snipped out by King) before the irrepressible chorus returns. The strings work well here- again sounding uncannily like the Mellotron flourishes that will soon replace them- and make they no apology for their dominance. Gabriel rises to the task by giving one of his best performances on the album in a voice closer to the harder tones he would soon develop, even if he had to go to desperate measures to achieve it: "It was pitched above my range. You could hear this desperate sort of retching noise as I struggled for the high notes. I had to keep taking showers, anything to try and keep me awake." [12]

The band's pride in having come up with such a strong chorus is made clear by the repetition of the theme in two subsequent instrumental reprises that demonstrate once again that far more thought went into the presentation of the album than is often given credit for. As the main song fades, the chorus melody crossfades back in with just Banks on piano, now in a minor key, sounding a sudden note of melancholic doubt, perhaps about the wisdom of choosing wilderness over paradise. As this itself fades, we have the perfect close to Side One, temporarily closing the narrative to allow for a handy toilet break and a cup of tea in the days when intervals were unavoidable but were made something of. Turning over a record was on one hand an annoyance, but on the other it offered opportunities for dramatic pauses and creative enterprise (the vinyl first side of 1978's Peter Gabriel II, for instance, plays the old but effective trick of continuing into the run-out groove, the twinkling synths of 'White Shadow's dreamy coda thus looping forever on non-automatic turntables).

'The Conqueror'

With the break over and the listener sat back down by the Dansette, the melody of the last chorus is restated once more in the regretful tones which open Side Two, as Phillips (backed by Rutherford) now takes up the theme with quietly muted electric guitar- and an appallingly hissy amp. The continuity now neatly picked up, the album quickly throws off this melancholia with the bold lower-octave piano stabs fanfaring the arrival of 'The Conqueror'. This piano rundown (as with the 'She is Beautiful' demo) provides the main backbone of the whole track, which, like 'In the Wilderness' before it, sticks to a solid verse-chorus cycle with no variation or middle eights until the final stop and restart of the coda. What the song lacks in variety it makes up for in spirit, with its breezy upbeat insistency providing one of the dancier moments of the album- not an opportunity Genesis would provide too often, even in their pop years, as famously self-referenced in a much later album title.   


In some ways 'The Conqueror' is a precedent to the following album's 'The Knife', both lyrically and in its propulsive major key verses. The approaching Conqueror sounds a lot like the latter's angry protagonist, with his unstoppable idealism and heads rolling in his wake. Does this version represent the pharaoh that enslaves the Israelites ('In Hiding', which follows, suggests a period of exile), or just one of the myriad psychopathic kings and tribal leaders that seem to infest the Old Testament? If so, there's a hefty lyrical anachronism here that seems to anticipate the invention of firearms a few thousand years too early: "Hey look out son, There's a gun they're pointing at your pretty face." Yet the line "He's busy building monuments, To hide inside his empty grave" sounds like a possible allusion to the pyramids. In reality the conceptual lyrics pretty much go off-piste from hereon, into generalization that might refer to scenes from Exodus and the following biblical books which record tribal wanderings, relationships and conquests, but equally they might not. By now, the listener probably isn't too concerned about narrative consistency if they've even been following it this far. Either way, there are some more feminist issues worthy of discussion, with a rather risqué reference to concubines, as the "Hero is working overtime" with his "Five hundred little women". There is, however, a warning about not taking action against the rise of fascists: "He's bought the castle on the hill, He's bought it just to knock it down, The local power shout him down, They say he's just an empty-headed clown". For all that, the Conqueror remains firmly on his way and the heads will soon be rolling; which is what usually happens when the rise of tyrants remains unchecked. 


The relentless verse-chorus cycle finally ends when the song unexpectedly stops for breath nearly three minutes in, leaving just Gabriel's voice, backed by a few sparse chords from Banks, to state rather mysteriously "And the words of love were lying on an empty floor, Just in the place where the Conqueror lay". The main riff then cranks up again at full pelt, at which point something entirely unexpected occurs- Anthony Phillips gets a guitar solo. There's been a valiant effort throughout the song to make his mark with a continuously squirling top-line (on the edge of feedback), underpinning the verses. With no strings or brass to contend with, when the final cycle returns it's as if Phillips seizes what he knows may be a rare opportunity and lets himself go before King can pull down the faders, which happens soon enough but not before the guitarist gets a brief moment of satisfaction. It's not his best solo, and Phillips sounds as if he's standing in a bathroom a couple of blocks away, but it nonetheless allows for a moment of trippy 60s acid noodling that successfully sustains the slightly anarchic energy of the track until the end. While it might have been nice to have heard more of this kind of improvisation elsewhere on the record, it's still something.


Stand-out solos for the sake of showing off a player's skills were never really part of what Genesis did, for all the group's famed dexterity; the needs of a track and the welfare of the ensemble effect always came first (although Steve Hackett might disagree over 'The Cinema Show'). As such, it could be argued that 'The Conqueror' provides one of only six full electric 'solos' that Phillips ever got to give in his Genesis years, the others being the B-side 'That's Me', elements of the demos 'Build Me a Mountain' and 'Going Out to Get You', and his two big moments in 'The Knife'. His soloing style at this stage- although it can still be heard as late as 1984's 'The Women Were Watching' on his Invisible Men album- has a high-register wailing style, fascinatingly bending the notes almost to the point of being off-key. Phillips's full and rich post-Trespass career would eventually give more than enough exposure to his unquestionable musical genius.


'In Hiding' 

No link or prologue is granted for 'In Hiding', which bursts straight into the warm harmonies of its memorable chorus as 'The Conqueror' fades. It's an effective attention-grabber for another softer piece in the standard production style. The very simple backing of piano, acoustic guitar and strings playing in a waltz rhythm, a rare time signature for Genesis, allows room for Gabriel's honeyed vocals to breathe here, as he gives one of his most sensitive performances on the album.


The ensemble chorus of "Pick me up, put me down, Push me in, turn me round, Switch me on, let me go- I have a mind of my own" implies what the character is actually in hiding from. Now escaped from the tyranny of the Conqueror and his "Factories of truth", the verses suggest a time of repose, perhaps of exile, or simply a self-imposed escape to be at one with nature: "I walk among the tall trees, This is beauty I know, I'm in love with it all." Sung in lightly tremulous tones throughout, the vocal effectively conveys a feeling of relief and gratitude for this pastoral interlude.


The back-to-nature theme has the feel of a Phillips lyric, but the words were actually written by Gabriel. Musically, 'In Hiding' is a direct re-use of another early demo, 'Patricia', a 1967 instrumental first made available on the Archive set, the earliest publicly available recording of Genesis that exists (not including the 'Pennsylvania Flickhouse' demo by Charterhouse band Anon). 'Patricia's scratchy amateurishness, clearly recorded on a home recorder in someone's living room, is endearingly loveable. Mighty oaks would grow from such little acorns.


There's an odd moment in the revised song where the words appear to get a little suggestive: "In hiding, I will take off my clothes"- but this is then qualified by the line "...that I wear on my face." Grammatically "I will take off THE clothes..." would be more correct and sound less strange, but maybe it's a moment of poetic licence. This facial undressing appears to come full circle from the rather peculiar instruction of 'Where the Sour Turns to Sweet' to "Paint your face all white, To show the peace inside".


Tony and Ant during the recording sessions

Tony and Ant during the recording sessions.

'One Day' 

The pastoral mood is maintained by the optimistic fade-in- the first for Genesis- to 'One Day', which threatens a whole track of default strings and strum. It's about now that the déjà vu of predictable arrangements and major keys does begin to grate a little as the listener begins to wonder whether yet another track can really use exactly the same recipe, only to find that it can. Some catharsis is achieved, to be fair, when the band suddenly pause to play the reboot trick again, at which point Banks strikes up a sunny piano arpeggio to introduce the main song. Another strong chorus is then pulled out of the hat as further compensation, with its memorable brass fanfares complimenting the vocals and with the choirboy backing to the fore.


The consistently high quality of the album's choruses, never failing to hook, is one of the more impressive features of From Genesis to Revelation, and at no point is there a feeling of being cheated in this department. Even so, there's a growing sense that by now we've pretty much heard everything the album is going to offer, with no avant-garde instrumental jams and barely any minor key moodiness left to offset the sugariness, while the repeated resort to simple verse-chorus structure, adhered to yet again here, starts to feel like a lack of ambition. With the songs not appearing to have been written in order, this dearth of variety suggests a flaw in King's sequencing of the album rather than a deficiency of the writers.


Lyrical plans to "fly away" with a lover to "the kingdom of my dreams", after perhaps over-cutely gaining advice from birds, cherry trees and animals, suggest an unrequited fantasy love, rather than anything too real. This is a universe away from 1980's 'Please Don't Ask'. But the nature theme of 'One Day' holds continuity with 'In Hiding' even if any sense of a story has now blurred into extreme vagueness, perhaps another sign of production weariness setting in and someone simply saying "that one will go into the sequence fine there".


The bouncy piano link that opens the next track seems to owe a nod to the "Crabalocker fishwife" moments of The Beatles' 'I am the Walrus', which would probably have been high on Banks's listening list in these years (just wait until he hears In the Court of the Crimson King). The same riff will be recycled on Hammond organ for 'Visions of Angels' just a year later. What this piano interlude lacks in playing accuracy, with one stark bum note, it makes up for with jauntiness.


Sadly, the promise of a new mood to refresh the crucial two-thirds point of the album isn't fulfilled, and instead we get 'Window'. Written by Phillips and Rutherford, on its own it's a perfectly nice piece, but with yet another resort to pastoral horns, strings and laid-back vocals it's hard not to feel a sense of resigned weariness at this stage. On the plus side, the prophetic plucked acoustic guitars are back and the song is graced with a distinctive middle 16-bar section, the climactic chords of which have that unique Genesis sense of transcendence, lifting the listener to heights of anticipation- only to drop them down here with a peculiar line about Jack Frost seeing someone kissing an albatross (no, really), which manages to be both surreal and trite at the same time. With other lines about "The little nymphs dance in her hair", this is Genesis at their most whimsical. Happily, the next time we meet nymphs, in 1971's 'The Fountain of Salmacis', things will have dramatically darkened somewhat.


Lyrically, 'Window' follows the theme of 'In Hiding', with peace being found in nature and thoughts of a beloved offering solace: "Guiding us forward through pastures of dream day, Days to enjoy, peace I knew once before me, Dawning to dusk on the hills until morning, Come see me, take my hand..." It's all sweet enough, but it probably isn't going to win anyone's choice as the album's finest moment. It's worth noting that on YouTube (which, sadly, may be the only place some new fans hear these songs, cut into chunks there as they are), 'Window' receives far less comments beneath it than some of its From Genesis to Revelation stablemates, which might say something.


'In Limbo'

The pensive piano and acoustic guitar link which opens 'In Limbo'- not the most rock and roll title ever coined- threatens another round of starry-eyed walks through nature. Fortunately, another thing occurs entirely, as even King seems to have realized that something drastically needs to happen at this point. Cutting through the pastoral haze, one of the strongest riffs of the album bursts in as Banks suddenly hits his lower piano keys at full velocity (again) to provide the bass lockdown for one of the most exciting, if unruly, songs in this collection. The brass fanfares rise to the occasion, brazenly dominating the soundscape yet effective, while the band seem to let go and relax, with Silver clattering away merrily somewhere on the squeezed far right of the stereo for this upbeat and invigorating bit of very 60s grooviness. 


In fact everyone seems to have relaxed perhaps just a little too much here. It's hard to say at what point in the recording schedule 'In Limbo' was laid down, but there's a strong sense of studio time perhaps running out and not much care being taken in any department. The accuracy of the players is loose to say the least, with a sense of even the usually tight Greenslade struggling to either time or tune his own overdubs to the mess presented to him. Everyone seems to be rushing just to get any take at all down on tape. The very humanly-timed handclaps that add much to the track's fun are at least provably real, in the days before drum machines. The sound, however, never great in the first place, seems to disintegrate entirely here, with mounting distortion and tininess hardly helping to separate the melee. The sleeve notes suggest a fraught atmosphere in the control room in general, with references to King "... who screamed, occasionally had fits and attempted not to turn white-haired", which is an odd thing to want to point out to a buyer. Yet for all this, there's a joyous freedom that results here and this track is the lift the album desperately needs at this stage.


The comforts of being at one with nature seem to have waned for the protagonist at this point, with yearnings of wanting to escape somewhere else yet again. Eden wasn't enough, and now the world at large isn't either: "Take me away, To the deepest cave of the night, Take me away, Voices of love, here am I, In the sad, sad world of fear." Things get worse as the song reaches its exhilarating final apotheosis: "Peace- floating in limbo, Limbo- leading me nowhere, Peace- now without motion, I cry- when will I die?, God- where is my soul now?, My world, please set me free." Perhaps talking to that serpent wasn't such a good idea after all.


This exhilarating coda is an early example of one of those moments where Genesis seem to instinctively know how to crank up tension and excitement, supplying the opportunity for a tingle-down-the-spine experience that Genesis listeners know so well, even if it is hard to explain to non-believers. Here, it's present in the way that the bass note is suddenly held and new chords, both uplifting and anxious, are introduced, while Gabriel's angst-ridden vocals soar above and the ensemble sound reaches a crescendo, with Phillips cramming in as many inventive lead lines as he can possibly muster before the faders are downed. The distorted tape can't take it and the fade ensures this closing section ultimately doesn't go anywhere, but Genesis would soon learn to give moments like these room to breathe by themselves.


Mike during the recording sessions

Mike during the recording sessions.

'Silent Sun'

After this rush of excitement calmer waters are required and 'Silent Sun' provides a good reliable anchor point, restoring a feeling of normality and also allowing space for one of the band's most succinct pop songs, specifically crafted as it was to catch King's ear with a contemporary Bee Gees-type melody. From this point of view, it might be argued that 'Silent Sun' is the most important song Genesis (in this case Banks and Gabriel) ever wrote, given its successful outcome at a moment when King's attention was threatening to wane before a deal was even made. The single version- 'The Silent Sun'- released in February 1968 and featuring Chris Stewart on drums, saw Genesis making their first tiny, yet huge step into the world of commercial releases. Its opening piano line and tense high-frequency string note pulls the listener in immediately and the simple verses lead effortlessly to an anthemic chorus, while the major key orchestra and strum template works at its best here. It's even recorded quite well, perhaps because it may have been put down before the creeping production ennui and deadlines set in. There seems no reason why this straightforward song of unrequited love couldn't have been a hit given proper marketing, being a perfectly acceptable tune that a milkman could whistle. But fate had other plans in store for Genesis.


The album version (slightly shorter in duration, perhaps due to a tweak in vari-speeding, as there is no structural difference) is a simple remix of the single and therefore features Stewart and not Silver, but nothing jars and both versions sound much the same. The song's inclusion here in the running order, given the fact that it was written some time before the album and its binding concept was even thought of, makes clear that any pretence at maintaining a narrative has now been dispensed with and 'Silent Sun' simply provides a good strong pop moment to fill a last few minutes before the album's hasty wrap-up.


A lover's pleading to a seemingly unresponsive companion continues (or begins, give the song's role as the band's first public exposure) the theme of chasing errant females, something that will perhaps culminate, in Gabriel's era, in 'Counting Out Time'. Here the frustration is romantic rather than physical. The woman herself is "the silent sun that never shines", but she is also "the warmth of my lonely heart". She is the "tiny stone that hides from me" and, worryingly, "a mountain stream that chills the sea". As with 'She Is Beautiful', it's not quite clear why the narrator insists on pursuing such an obviously unsuitable partner, but there it is, with the chorus imploring: "Baby you feel so close, I wish you could see my love". But she clearly can't. As a song, however, it works, even if the single's failure denied the nation's milkmen the lift to their morning routine that it surely deserved to be.

'A Place to Call My Own'

How, then, to finish an LP which began with such lofty ambitions? Realistically, it was never going to be possible to live up to the expectations raised by its grand title. Short of specifically penning songs about the later books of the Old Testament, the story of Christ and the hallucinogenic visions of St John's Revelation, which might have been fascinating but would demand a double album and probably a religious conversion too, a descent into hazy cop-out was always guaranteed, and From Genesis to Revelation duly delivers one. The mounting desperation temporarily masked by the undisciplined excitement of 'In Limbo' and the opportunistic insertion of the ready-made 'hit' 'Silent Sun' is finally faced full-on with 'A Place to Call My Own', a song seemingly called into service to donate a hastily constructed 'conclusion' to the story.


The surviving fragment of a much longer composition by Phillips, the lyrical opening "... And I've nearly found a place to call my own" overtly suggests we are hearing the closing moments of something once intended for bigger things. The mysterious words, sung portentously against simple yearning piano chords, suggest some kind of esoteric truth buried under their romantic allusions: "Waking gently, feel her presence near, Devil shattered, warmth is everywhere, I am only a child of hers, my guardian goddess, Now I'm reaching my journey's end, inside her womb". For all that a serpent made its presence felt on Side One, curiously this is the only direct reference to the Devil on the entire album, suggesting that some kind of victory has been attained over him and a reliable partner/lover found at last, perhaps placing this part of the narrative somewhere beyond the last events of Revelation in some kind of future paradise. Or perhaps the otherwise potentially sexually suggestive line about reaching a journey's end "inside her womb" is intended to suggest the waiting Christ child waiting to be born from Mary? Maybe. Maybe not. As with most of the songs on From Genesis to Revelation, we are left guessing.


Aware that a token effort might be needed to end the album with at least some sense of spiritual transcendency, with the short vocal interlude of 'A Place to Call my Own' over in a few lines, King, predictably but perhaps aptly, calls Greenslade into action for one last intense building bonanza of strings and horns, the band practically invisible bar some distant piano and bass and a final burst of wordless choirboy la-las, suggesting angelic realms vanishing into glowing 'The End'-type clouds. Although a tacked-on epilogue is better than no epilogue at all, a sense of weary strain is palpable in this slightly forced close. With someone in the studio apparently keen to get home, job done of providing at least a kind of finale, the faders are hastily pulled down and Genesis's first full-length musical adventure is done.


So, over two sides we have travelled from Genesis, but perhaps not quite to Revelation. Or not yet. As already noted, Genesis would return big-time to religious imagery in 'Supper's Ready' in 1972 which actually does take the Book of Revelation as the inspiration for its last two climactic movements, unwittingly (or not?) supplying a belated conclusion to what was begun here.



From Genesis to Revelation, then, while plainly being a flawed first go from absolute beginners, is far from the irrelevance that some fans imply, and sets the scene for much that will follow, both musically and thematically, although the clues are often subliminal rather than overt. Even the inner lyric insert, with its scratchy Tolkienesque red line drawings, is not very different from that which will accompany Trespass (in initial pressings) and the inner gatefold of Nursery Cryme (followed eventually by A Trick of the Tail, Duke, Genesis and even We Can't Dance), loosely depicting scenes from the songs.


The fact that Genesis were afforded a lyric sheet at all in days of often minimalist packaging for starter groups in itself says something about the genuine commitment made to giving the band a real chance. Although sales may not have materialised at the time, artistically the effort made to elevate what could easily have been just a pile of re-recorded demos in any old order pays off. That more expansive vision, encouraged by King from the start, certainly appears to have influenced Genesis never to shy away from epic visions. Without the impetus of this LP, it is possible that we might not have heard much more from this rather creative bunch.


In re-familiarising oneself with the material from this crucial period, it is possible to rediscover another 43 minutes of very listenable music from a band that has surprisingly limited material available from the Gabriel-led era that so many people claim to cherish; just five studio albums for those who discount this one. A whole extra album, then, is surely a welcome experience which deserves reappraisal. What merit is there in fans, and even band members, walling this achievement off as if it never existed? While not perhaps a lost gem of priceless value, and with much shinier riches to come, From Genesis to Revelation is nevertheless a pretty coloured stone on the path, well worth picking up for another look.


Andy Thomas


[Many thanks to Jonathan Dann for checking and suggestions]



Andy Thomas is an established author and lecturer, well known for his works on unexplained mysteries and conspiracies, as well as history and folklore. He is also a dedicated Genesis fan and an experienced keyboard player who has been playing live around South East England for 34 years. His favourite albums are Anthony Phillips's The Geese and the Ghost and Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Find out more about Andy's work at:







Released by Decca Records, 7 March 1969 [SKL 4990]


Side One


1- Where the Sour Turns to Sweet (3:14)

2- In the Beginning (3:42)

3- Fireside Song (4:16)

4- The Serpent (4:36)

5- Am I Very Wrong?  3:28)

6- In the Wilderness (3:21)


Side Two


7- The Conqueror (3:44)

8- In Hiding (2:56)

9- One Day (3:16)

10- Window (3:53)

11- In Limbo (3:06)

12- Silent Sun (2:08)

13- A Place to Call My Own (1:57)


Produced by Jonathan King

Recorded and engineered by Brian Roberts and Tom Allom

Additional orchestration by Arthur Greenslade and Lou Warburton



Main personnel (names as billed at the time):


Anthony Banks  (Piano, keyboards, vocals)

Peter Gabriel  (Vocals, flute)

Anthony Phillips  (Guitars, vocals)

Michael Rutherford  (Bass, guitars, vocals)

John Silver  (Drums, vocals on From Genesis to Revelation and other tracks/demos from that period)

Chris Stewart  (Drums, vocals on early singles and demos)






Notes and References



1- Photos of studio sessions:  The book Genesis: Chapter and Verse (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007) includes many valuable shots from the From Genesis to Revelation recordings, along with other insightful images from this time.


2- Recording time:  Sources vary as to how many days were allowed for the first album's recording. In Hugh Fielder's The Book of Genesis [Sidgwick and Jackson, 1984, page 19], Peter Gabriel says "We recorded From Genesis to Revelation in a day". Perhaps more realistically, in Genesis: Chapter and Verse [ibid., page 37], Mike Rutherford says "the album only took three days." On the other hand, Armando Gallo's Genesis: I Know What I Like [DIY Books, 1980, page 14] states "In the summer holidays of 1968, Jonathan King had booked the band for ten days at Regent B [studios]." The ten-day claim is repeated in Phil Collins's autobiography Not Dead Yet (Century, 2016), although of course Collins wasn't there and might just be quoting Gallo, who wasn't there either. However, it is not clear whether the "ten-day" Regent B sessions also included the time for the strings and brass overdubs, which infamously didn't involve the group.


3 - Jonathan King on Stewart and Silver: Quoted from Genesis: Chapter and Verse [ibid., page 45].


4- Banks on album concept: "Absolutely pathetic" quoted from Genesis: Chapter and Verse [ibid., page 33].


5- Gabriel on 'Gabriels Angels': Quoted from Hugh Fielder's The Book of Genesis [ibid., page 18].


6- Gabriel on Charterhouse Chapel singing: Quoted from Genesis: I Know What I Like [ibid., page 14].  


7- Phillips on the added strings: Quoted from Genesis: Chapter and Verse [ibid., page 38] and (second quote) from Genesis: I Know What I Like (ibid., page 15).


8- Banks on simplifying 'Fireside Song': In Genesis: Chapter and Verse [ibid., page 37], Banks states: "The verse was something I had originally written using really quite complicated chords and one day I sat down and thought that the melody line itself was nice, but why didn't I just use the most bog standard chords I could underneath to see how it sounded. And I thought, 'That sounds actually a lot better'."


9- Rutherford on long songs: Quoted from Mike Rutherford's autobiography The Living Years [Constable & Robinson, 2014, page 72].


10- Collins on writing short songs: The reference to Banks and Rutherford wanting to write hit singles again by 1975 is quoted from Collins's Not Dead Yet  [ibid., page 142], while his defence of the shorter songs is from the booklet for the R-Kive compilation album [Virgin records, 2014, page 5].


11- Armando Gallo on 'Am I Very Wrong?': Gallo's observation on the appropriateness of the words to Gabriel's later situation is made in his own Genesis: I Know What I Like [ibid., page 158]: "Maybe the most interesting line is from Peter's 'Am I Very Wrong?' where he seems to predict his split from the band seven years later." [Six?]


12- Gabriel on 'In the Wilderness' vocals:  Quoted from The Book of Genesis [ibid., page 19].





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