Happy Anniversary: Genesis, A Trick of the Tail
39 years ago today, Genesis released an album which proved to be a defining moment in their evolution: their first full-length effort featuring Phil Collins as the band’s frontman.
The idea of Collins taking over for Peter Gabriel, Genesis’s original lead singer, was not one which had been planned from the beginning. Indeed, when Gabriel bid the band adieu, Collins, Tony Banks, Steve Hackett, and Mike Rutherford held auditions for a new singer, and even as they were doing so, Collins would’ve been just fine if Genesis had carried on and played nothing but instrumentals. After almost bringing aboard a gentleman named Mick Stickland as their new singer, the band and Stickland ultimately opted against moving forward with their collaboration, predominantly due to the fact that the backing tracks for the band’s new album had already been recorded, and they weren’t in the best key for Stickland. After additional auditions proved unsuccessful, Collins opted to take a shot at singing “Squonk,” after which he found himself more or less drafted for the position.
Some have said that A Trick of the Tail feels like a spiritual sequel, at the very least, to Selling England by the Pound, but whether that’s because the band wished to return to that sound in the wake of Gabriel’s departure or that it’s simply the way their creative juices were flowing, it’s hard to say. Whatever the case, even setting aside how successful Collins’ time with Genesis ultimately proved to be, what was most important at the time A Trick of the Tail was released was the fact that it cemented Genesis as a viable commercial entity without Gabriel. Not only did it hit #3 on the UK Albums chart and #31 on the Billboard Top 200, its sales – per Banks, at least – were double those of its predecessor. Although none of its singles proved to be hits, the band’s profile was raised enough in the States that their next album, Wind & Wuthering, finally gave them their first entry on the Hot 100: “Your Own Special Way.”
Of course, after Wind & Wuthering, Steve Hackett left the band as well, resulting in another seismic shift in Genesis’s sound, this time into far more commercial territory. Still, at least we’ve got this little look into that brief window during Collins’s tenure where the songs may not have been chart-topping singles, but they were definitely coming from a very creative place.