Between 1980 and 1986, the British trio Genesis released a series of four consecutive hit albums, each more successful than its predecessor by as many as five times. Because drummer/singer/songwriter Phil Collins had a parallel solo career take off during that time, reading the critical reviews from many respected music writers in this period imply that Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford and keyboardist Tony Banks unwittingly, if not unwillingly, were somehow led by Collins in a more mainstream pop direction. However, the simple facts just don’t bear out that assumption.
Songs such as the dirge-like “Mama” and the spectacular showstopper “Home by the Sea/Second Home” were nowhere near the pop mainstream. “That’s All “, “Illegal Alien”, and “Taking It All Too Hard” were indeed mainstream hits, but in Rutherford’s “Just a Job to Do” thirty years ago Genesis addressed the issue of state-supported shadowy covert surveillance and even torture, the subjects of today’s major films such as Rendition and Zero Dark Thirty as well as Congressional hearings, not exactly your typical pop pablum. Barely three years later the astonishing 15 million-seller Invisible Touch with “Land of Confusion” going Top Five as a single would say a lot more about the changing mainstream tastes in 1986 rather than any musical agenda by the band, and the #3 hit “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” would effectively silence any silly debate about pop vs. rock by running over nine minutes long!
Moreover, it wasn’t just Collins who was branching out: by the time his 1982 second solo album Hello I Must Be Going made Phil a star in his own right, Rutherford and Banks had each done no less than two solo efforts apiece. Instead of siphoning off creativity and diluting Genesis of strong material, my guests Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, and Phil Collins maintain that their respective multiple solo albums clearly inspired the group to lift any self-imposed restrictions to the Genesis sound, as you will hear in this week’s classic rock interview In The Studio on the 30th anniversary of what the guys still refer to as their “Mama Album”. – Redbeard