The singer and songwriter Peter Gabriel helped to form the Progressive Rock band Genesis in 1967 alongside Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Anthony Phillips and Chris Stewart. But that first line-up wasn’t even the one to record their debut album “From Genesis to Revelation” in 1969. In the following years a lot of changes happened until everything settled when Phil Collins became their drummer in 1970.
Besides contributing as a songwriter and a singer, Peter Gabriel also was a real performer when performing live with the band. Genesis was really a theatrical band when he was the frontman and that continued until he left in 1975. By that time they were a respected and successful Progressive Rock band and they had six albums on their discography.
But why did Peter Gabriel decide to leave Genesis?
The reason why the singer and songwriter Peter Gabriel left Genesis
It was after the birth of his first daughter that Peter Gabriel reached a point where he decided he needed more time to be with his family and also to explore other things artistically. He credited that to the lack of empathy many of his bandmates had when his daughter was born and had to be in an incubator for a month during the recording of “Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” (1974).
At the same time he had been approached by the American movie director Willian Friedkin, asking the musician to be involved with movies. Those were key elements for his decision to leave Genesis, but the band managed to convince him to do another tour that lasted until 1975 when he finally left.
He explained those stories in an interview for the “Genesis Archive” documentary released in 1998 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage). “I had been contacted by Willian Friedkin (who had made) ‘The Exorcist’, which was a hot film at that time. A really well made film and he had great ideas for sort of revolutionizing Hollywood and bringing in whole new teams of people that never worked on film before.”
“We wanted me to work on story and visual ideas. For me that was really quite exciting and I mean, still something to this day, something that I enjoy doing. It was the time of the birth of my first child and there was a rough birth and the hospital didn’t think she was going to make it.”
“She spent the first month in an incubator. To me there was no question, the priorities. We were in the middle of making ‘Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’. So I was spending a lot of time at the hospital. I think that Phil (Collins) had a kid but the others really weren’t appreciative of all that family side of things, which they now are. Their lack of openness and of understanding of that situation for me was a deciding factor as well. They then persuaded me to stay on and (do a tour) which would take us to the middle of 75.”
“I guess it was somewhere around summer, autumn 74 that when I decided to quit. That was very hard (but) it was definitely the right thing for me to have done. Clearly it was good for them, because it sort of brought Phill out front and gave everyone a little bit more space, I think. I always look upon that time as a healthy part of growing up,” Peter Gabriel said.
There was no animosity between Peter Gabriel and his bandmates
At the time Peter Gabriel decided to leave it didn’t take long for the press to discover and then share the news. So not much later the singer decided to release a statement explaining why he decided to leave the band. It was printed by the Melody Maker magazine at the time and he said that the band had become their master. Because it was affecting the spirit and attitudes of the group.
He felt he needed to live other experiences and that couldn’t be fitted into the schedule of a band that wanted to keep going, recording and touring. Besides learning about other things, he also wanted to dedicate more time to his family. Something that wouldn’t be possible as the frontman of the group.
He only left Genesis because he wanted to be on a different path
In the same statement he explained that his ambitions of becoming a Rock star had been fulfilled at the time. He also noted that there wasn’t any kind of animosity between him and the band. It was purely a decision he took thinking about a new direction he wanted in his life.
“The vehicle we had built as a co-op to serve our songwriting became our master. (It also) had cooped us up inside the success we had wanted. It affected the attitudes and the spirit of the whole band. The music had not dried up and I still respect the other musicians, but our roles had set in hard.”
“To get an idea through ‘Genesis the Big’ meant shifting a lot more concrete than before. For any band, transferring the heart from idealistic enthusiasm to professionalism is a difficult operation. (…) As an artist, I need to absorb a wide variety of experiences. It is difficult to respond to intuition and impulse within the long-term planning that the band needed. I felt I should look at/learn about/develop myself. My creative bits and pieces and pick up on a lot of work going on outside music.”
Peter Gabriel continued:
“Even the hidden delights of vegetable growing and community living are beginning to reveal their secrets. I could not expect the band to tie in their schedules with my bondage to cabbages. The increase in money and power, if I had stayed, would have anchored me to the spotlights. It was important to me to give space to my family, which I wanted to hold together, and to liberate the daddy in me.”
“There is no animosity between myself and the band or management. The decision had been made some time ago and we have talked about our new direction. The reason why my leaving was not announced earlier was because I had been asked to delay until they had found a replacement to plug up the hole. It is not impossible that some of them might work with me on other projects,” Peter Gabriel said.
Phil Collins played on his solo album and he attended the final Genesis concert
As Peter Gabriel said there was no animosity between him and his bandmates and that was shown over the decades. In 1980, Phil Collins played the drums on Gabriel’s third solo album. He was the drummer on the tracks “Intruder”, “No Self Control” and “Through the Wire”. He also made the drum pattern on Intruder, the snare on “Family Snapshot” and surdo on “Biko”.
Five years later, on Collins’ third solo album “No Jacket Required”, Peter Gabriel made the backing vocals for the track “Take Me Home”.
They remained close over the years since there were many special documentaries about Genesis, which Peter Gabriel attended.
When the band decided to make one last tour in 2022, Gabriel went to see their final show and went backstage to say hello. “Phil wasn’t in as great a shape as he used to be, but they did a great job,” he says. “Me going was a rite of passage, really. I’d been part of the creation of Genesis. So I wanted to be there at the end,” he told Mojo magazine at the time.