Phil Collins may be the most famous member of the rock band Genesis, but he didn’t even join the group until three years after it was formed. The band was co-founded in Godalming, a town in Surrey, England while the members were still attending Charterhouse School. The original line-up included Peter Gabriel (vocals), Anthony Phillips (guitar), Tony Banks (keyboards), Mike Rutherford (bass & guitar) and Chris Stewart (drums). At one of their gigs, the band caught the attention of Charterhouse alumnus Jonathan King, who soon signed Genesis to a recording contract.
The band’s debut album – From Genesis to Revelation, released in March of 1969 – was a hesitant step forward to a career that would span over 35 years. “You know, 15 and 16 year old school boys back in the age of rock, and you’re suddenly whisked up to London to spend the day in the recording studio,” former drummer Chris Stewart said of the making of the album. “Pretty exciting, I’ll tell you!”
From Genesis to Revelation is a concept album; producer Jonathan King’s lofty idea was to have an album of songs loosely based on the Bible. “I was full of ideas in those days,” King once said in an interview. “As usual, ahead of my time.” The result is an ambitious one; it’s that of a band that hadn’t yet found its musical niche. “We were very pretentious young kids,” he continues. “They did this very good album, I thought.”
Genesis soon was to evolve into a progressive rock band. Yet, From Genesis to Revelation seems to be influenced by pop music more than anything else. This is evidenced by the first song “Where the Sour Turns to Sweet,” an upbeat yet surreal invitation: “We're waiting for you / Come and join us now / We need you with us / Come and join us now.” The song that follows – “In the Beginning” – is more of a straight rock song. “Fireside Song” is a quiet ballad backed with strings.
It was Jonathan King’s idea to add strings, and the band was disappointed with the result. According to one online review, “He [King] apparently wanted to achieve something of the sound the Moody Blues had gotten (with the London Symphony Orchestra) with their Days of Future Past album.” The idea failed. From Genesis to Revelation sold poorly. The initial sales tally was 650 copies. Once the band began achieving worldwide success, their debut effort briefly dented the US charts in 1974, peaking at #170.
From Genesis to Revelation was a rocky start by what was to be one of the world’s best-selling bands. Genesis has gone on to sell approximately 150 million albums sold worldwide.