Genesis wasn’t much of a pop band, at least not at first. Before the take over of Phil Collins at the mic, before the cheesy synthesisers, and before the music videos with the whitest dance moves you’ve ever seen, Genesis were something akin to groundbreaking.
That’s because no other band was playing progressive quite the way Genesis did. Other groups like King Crimson and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer were indulging in lengthy solos and conceptual themes, but Genesis pulled these elements into highly ambitious, fully fleshed out epics like ‘The Musical Box’ and ‘Supper’s Ready’. With Peter Gabriel at the helm, the group were distinctly English in their presentation but wildly exotic in their compositions. To have a song that didn’t sprawl or connect with an overarching narrative was almost inconceivable.
But by 1973’s Selling England by the Pound, Genesis had become comfortable and confident enough in their abilities to allow a little bit more mainstream accessibility started to show. Guitarist Steve Hackett and drummer Phil Collins were now fully integrated into the band, and Genesis were feeling like a solid unit. The grand epics came easy, but when they stumbled onto something that resembled a pop hit for the first time, there was a noticeable hesitancy.
‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’ had a monster chorus and a strong Beatles influence, but its clear commercial appeal didn’t sit well with the band. They agreed to release it as a single, but only in the UK. They declined an invitation to perform the song on Top of the Pops, feeling as though their image didn’t suit the programme well. The group could have raised their profile to unprecedented levels, possibly establishing a sizable American audience for the first time. But Genesis decided to stick to their guns, going on the road and performing directly to the people.
The band’s ambitions reached their peak with 1974’s The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. A Gabriel production from start to finish, the album featured a full record-length story that wasn’t easy to perform or understand. The recording and subsequent tour strained relationships within the band: Gabriel isolated himself and wished to return to his family, while the group continued to try and climb out of their debts. Even through all of this, the rest of the band were shocked when, at just the fourth stop on the tour, Gabriel informed the rest of the members that he would leave at the end of the tour. Genesis would survive, but it would be the end of an era.
Check out the isolated vocals for ‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’ down below.