If you’re of a certain vintage—let’s just say old enough to bore millennials to death with nostalgic rants about how MTV used to play music videos, man—then you will remember Peter Gabriel’s visually stunning “Sledgehammer” video from his award-winning 1986 album So. You will have had your heartstrings tugged by his “In Your Eyes” and its pitch-perfect appropriation in Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything. And you will know—though maybe not as well as Patrick Bateman—the sounds and images of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” This music may not have aged as well as those of us who grew up hearing it (or vice versa), but it left an indelible impression on a generation and defined 80s pop culture as much as Michael Jackson or The Bangles.
But if you are of a slightly earlier vintage, you will remember these fine musicians for an entirely different reason. Before the catchy dance-pop silliness of “Sussudio” and “Big Time,” there was the arty, high-seriousness of Genesis, as fronted in its heyday by Gabriel, with Collins pounding the drums. Though the band persisted well into the 80s and 90s after Gabriel’s 1975 departure, melding funk, soul, and pop in innovative ways as Collins took the lead, die-hard Genesis fans swear by its classic configuration, with its surreal concept albums and stage shows rivaling Wall-era Pink Floyd or Bowie’s Stardust phase. If you’re none too keen on later Genesis, the slick synth-rock hit machine, and if the aforementioned flamboyant productions are your cup of English prog-rock tea, then we have a treat for you.
Just above is a fully restored concert film of a 1973 performance at England’s Shepperton Studios, “perhaps,” writes Dangerous Minds, “the single best representation of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis on film.” Though the concert precedes the band’s Gabriel-era swan song—double concept album, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway—it does showcase the strongest material from their two previous records, Foxtrot and the truly excellent Selling England by the Pound. Prominently on display are the eccentricities that sharply divided critics and enamored fans: the odd time-signatures and abrupt tempo changes, virtuosic musicianship, literate, esoteric lyrics, and Gabriel’s theatrical makeup and costuming. The effect of it all is sometimes a bit like Rush in a production of Godspell, and while This is Spinal Tap took a lot of the air out of this sort of thing three decades ago, the film remains an impressive document even if the performances are hard to take entirely seriously at times. See below for a full tracklist:
“Watcher of the Skies” (8:04)
“Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” (9:02)
“I Know What I Like” (5:46)
“The Musical Box” (11:39)
“Supper’s Ready” (23:59)
The story of the film’s restoration is intriguing in its own right. The Shepperton footage was rescued by a small group who pooled resources to buy it in a New York estate sale. Since then, Youtube uploader King Lerch and his confreres have upgraded the original restoration to the HD version you see above.