Genesis: Together and Apart

Saturday night sees the UK TV broadcast of Together and Apart, a new documentary that tells the story of prog legends Genesis, from their early days at Charterhouse School to their on-screen reunion for the film.

We attended a screening of the movie and spoke to director John Edington, whose earlier feature Pink Floyd: The Story of ‘Wish You Were Here’ won a Classic Rock Award for best film in 2012.

“I’ve made a lot of documentaries, and I don’t think you can make them by committee”, says Edington. “So I held firm to certain principles: that we should have Access Access Access, and that the uncomfortable stuff shouldn’t be edited out or slid over. Nothing that could be considered controversial was removed.”

The presence of the disgraced Jonathan King in the film could, of course, be considered controversial, but King did have a role to play in the band’s early career, and ignoring his input would be rather like making a documentary about WWII and glossing over the part played by the little guy with the moustache.

This isn’t to say that nothing is left out: there’s no acknowledgement of Ray Wilson or the Calling All Stations album, no mention of Charisma boss Tony Stratton-Smith, and Steve Hackett’s solo career is given very short shrift. As for Genesis revelations, nothing truly startling emerges apart from the news that Phil Collins’ maniacal “ha-ha-haa” cackle on Mama was lifted from Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s The Message (note: anyone who’s read 2001’s The Genesis Songbook won’t be startled by this news).

Fans will be delighted by the inclusion of previously unseen live footage from The Roundhouse in 1970, when the then-unsigned band shared a bill with fellow hopeful David Bowie. “Anthony Phillips recalled a film crew being there, and that set me off on a search”, says Edginton. “I discovered a tiny clip of it on YouTube, and tracked down the owner. There’s potentially a much longer film to be made about the whole event if he can ever get the money together.”

There’s plenty of other live footage in the film, but anyone hoping for complete performances will be disappointed. “I love Supper’s Ready. It’s fantastic. But you obviously can’t show the 23-minute performance”, says Edington. “If you wanna see other stuff in depth, and delve into other areas, you have to make some harsh decisions. Critics always say of music documentaries — especially when they’re about bands — ‘you only showed a short clip of that great performance’, but the other side of that is that an awful lot of people watching are much more interested in the stories, the themes and the analysis. So you have to try and balance the two.”

It’s a healthy balance. The band members are candid and the talking heads insightful, but the most fascinating parts of the documentary are when the classic line-up are together in the same room. Seated side-by-side, you’re given a vivid picture of the dynamic between the members, and it’s not always comfortable viewing. They’re funny, but direct with each other in a way that only men who’ve known each other a long time can be, their remarks occasionally laced with affectionately delivered but stinging barbs. And despite Collins and Gabriel being the most public faces of the band, you’re left with the impression that Banks actually ruled the roost: there’s something a bit military about him, a very English mix of stiff upper lip and delightfully brusque delivery. You imagine he’d be a useful chap to have around during a shipwreck.

_Together and Apart is on BBC2 on October 4 at 9.15pm. The film will be released on DVD under the title Sum Of The Parts in November. _

_R-Kive, a 3-disc collection featuring classic Genesis tracks alongside solo material by Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett, is out this week. _

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.