Is music art? Do you consider music a visceral experience, something artistic that enriches you? Do you listen to it the way you look at someone’s painting? When a friend asks you to read something, a poem or a story are you respectful of the courage that it took to write it, to hand something so precious to another human being, some part of you that is now in your hands to crush or nurture? When you look at a painting do you see the hands that made it come to life, the eyes which held such vision?
I think about these things, lately I think about them a lot. I have written a lot of things and submitted them to be published, received those dreaded rejection letters. Sometimes I have received my manuscript back just a few days after I mailed it. Sometimes I never heard anything.
I guess this seems an odd beginning for a music blog. Truth to tell, I was not going to write a blog on Genesis since the last blog was on Peter Gabriel. So I am going to write a bit about Genesis and also write about music as art. I thought about this a lot yesterday which has led us to this point, writing about a band that in some ways I already covered but in other ways I have barely scratched the surface. In my Peter Gabriel blog I wrote that I had two favorite Genesis albums, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway which is the last album with Peter Gabriel and Duke which of course features Phil Collins. They are not back to back albums they just are my favorites from this band. You could not get two more opposite singers than Gabriel and Collins and that is the heart of this blog entry.
I believe there are some big differences between English rock bands and American rock bands and that includes solo artists and of course I mean more than the bloody accents. With English acts I really believe that everything from album covers to live performances are all part of one work of art, one experience. Each performance is a manifestation of that art. I read Peter Hook’s books on Joy Division and New Order and its surprising how much time and energy he spent talking about sleeve art for everything from singles to special editions to album art work. It clearly was part of the experience. When you look at some American rock band covers what you get mostly is a result of a photo op. They merely pick the best picture. The music is the art. Stage shows are the same thing. Go see most American rock acts and what you get is a simple stage with lights, sometimes laser lights but mostly its room for the bands to play. There are exceptions of course. Alice Cooper invented shock rock and his performances were about shocking the audience as much as they music they played. Marilyn Manson is a continuation of that. Kiss of course is all about the live act, explosions fire everywhere. Motley Crue very similar with roller coaster tracks so that Tommy Lee can play the drums upside down. You pay and expect to see these things. Then there is one Frank Zappa (mission accomplished Tammy) whose sole purpose was to write and perform music that was so bad that people would like it and buy it anyway thinking there had to be something there. Jokes on you. Bands like those are in the minority especially bands like Zappa. In the early 70’s David Bowie became Ziggy Stardust, it was an entire performance. The Who had Townasend with smashing guitars, Moon destroying his drum kit and Daltry spinning his microphone. It was part of the show. Almost every English band was more than the music they played but the show they performed. When you bought a ticket to a David Bowie concert you were not going to see David Bowie. You were going to see Ziggy Stardust. When you bought a ticket to a Genesis concert, you were not paying to see a band play music you were going to see Peter Gabriel.
Mention Genesis to most people and they don’t know that Gabriel was a founding member and the original lead singer. These same people think that Genesis is Invisble Touch, and We Can’t Dance and all the big hits with Collins on vocals. Phil Collins is a great vocalist too. He is a wonderful performer and had he never sang a note he would still be one of the greatest drummers who banged a drum. But he isn’t Peter Gabriel. They are two vastly different performers and because of that two vastly different bands. It isn’t the music, it’s the singer. My first Genesis album was Duke which came out my senior year of high school. I loved that album, love it more now. Turn it On Again is one of my all-time favorite songs. I love that song, and I mean I really love that song. But before there was Collins singing there was Peter Gabriel and he was the show. Now I was into my 40’s before I went and gathered that early Genesis music. One thing about Genesis is that they can really play. Wonderful songs and regardless of who is singing great vocals. You never knew what Gabriel was going to wear or do onstage. It was all pomp and glam and costume and makeup and it was amazing. Go ahead look early Genesis up on youtube and watch. That show was all part of the experience, like going to see Ziggy Stardust you went to see the show, you went to see Peter Gabriel.
Your friends would ask, “Hey what songs did they play?”
“Hell I don’t know but Gabriel wore a Jesters outfit. What a great show.”
And it was the way art is meant to be viewed, an experience, taking you to another place, one filled with imagination and wonder.