How Genesis transitioned to the Phil Collins era with 'A Trick of the Tail'

music news 02/02/2019

On this day in 1976, Genesis released 'A Trick Of The Tail', their seventh studio album and the first to feature drummer Phil Collins as full-time lead vocalist following the departure of original vocalist Peter Gabriel. After auditioning over 400 vocalists, which saw Collins teaching the potential lead singers the songs, the band decided that Collins should be the new vocalist.

They'd initially entered Trident Studios to record 'A Trick of the Tail', later released in February 1976, without having promoted Collins to singer. That left producer David Hentschel without any real sense of direction for the project. It was only after Collins took a shot at singing "Squonk" that something clicked.

"That first few days writing, we coulda gone over and coulda gone under. But the first day of writing with myself, Phil and [fellow co-founder] Tony [Banks] actually, it took off," said Genesis co-founder Mike Rutherford.

The new formation, founded in a moment of deep confusion, would ultimately take Genesis far afield of the band's original progressive-rock roots, which was hinted on 'The Trick of the Tail' with the soaring ballad 'Ripples'. They left behind the more ominous ballads which had dominated album 'The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway' quickly. 

"'The Lamb' was a hard album to make. The whole concept of 'The Lamb' was darker, longer, and it was a real uphill battle to finish. That’s why 'A Trick of the Tail' was easier to make. It was lighter, Phil was singing, and we had a whole new scenario with a breath of fresh air," said Rutherford.

Collins wasn't the only emerging new voice though: guitarist Steve Hackett took a more central role with the delicately conveyed epic 'Entangled', having just released his solo debut album - 1975's 'Voyage of the Acolyte'.

"I was really edging away from the group at that point. I was getting tired of bringing ideas into the group, which I felt they weren't going to do. If the ideas were more radical, they weren't necessarily going to do them. I felt that the band was heading towards an area that was becoming very safe," Hackett said.

He was right of course - and Hackett would leave the band one album later. But for now, Genesis had weathered Gabriel's departure as well as achieving a new momentum. 'A Trick of the Tail' matched their best ever UK chart finish at number 3, and found the band in the US Top 40 for the first time ever - a place they would revisit many times in their career.