It really should have been so simple.
Presented with contributions from almost all the members of Genesis, all willing to provide the honest, agenda-free perspective that the passage of time has provided, how could this BBC documentary possibly fail? And yet, as the ensuing furore from fans and band members proved, the show’s editors and producers managed to seize failure from the jaws of success, and this extended release isn’t much of an improvement.
To be fair, there are many aspects of Sum Of The Parts that are engaging and insightful: the tales from Charterhouse detailing the fledgling band’s early rebelliousness against the school’s regime; Peter Gabriel’s comment that, at an early gig, there were “more people on the stage than in the audience”. Other tales, often surrounding Gabriel’s choice of garb, from dress and fox’s head to ‘Slipperman’, are also cheery. What’s truly compelling is the constant undercurrent between the members when interviewed together, which provides an insight into the dysfunctional family that Genesis remain. Indeed Gabriel’s description of Tony Banks (“an awkward bastard but we loved each other too”) neatly summarises many of the inter-band relationships.
Steve Hackett’s account of why he left the band makes for uncomfortable viewing, with the rest of the band remaining mute, motionless and staring into space. There’s also some perspective offered on their later, poppier works that makes you almost forgive them for that new direction. It’s easy to sneer at these clips from the Invisible Touch period, but for many they were still great pop-rock songs which became part of your life, even if you dismissed them at the time.
But then, there are countless blemishes. The random ‘talking heads’ are irksome, their insights seemingly gained from Wikipedia or a quick look at a script seconds before the cameras rolled. Especially irritating was the profound declaration from one of these ‘experts’ that all prog rock is about mythical creatures and unicorns. Then, another astute observation: “American rock was very American.”
Worst of all is the shabby treatment accorded to Hackett. Other solo careers are covered in relative depth, so for his eclectic body of post-Genesis work to be completely ignored is unforgivable (something which even Tony Banks now accepts). There’s also no mention of the still alluring Wind And Wuthering album, and Ray Wilson’s stint fronting the band for Calling All Stations is similarly airbrushed from history. This should have been _the _Genesis documentary, but due to all these flaws, that is yet to be made.