It all started with “Follow you, Follow Me.” The last song on the Genesis album “…And Then There Were Three.” For years, Genesis had been the darlings of the progressive rock world. Selling a fair number of records but never breaking through to superstar commercial status. Their fans, a snobby bunch at times, liked it like that. It was part of their coolness. It added to their hip factor. You judged college roommates by their music taste and if they dug Genesis and you did too, you were living with a friend for life.
Then it all changed. “Follow You, Follow Me,” was the last song on the first album after the band was reduced to its remaining three core members, Phil Collins, Michael Rutherford and Tony Banks. Two albums removed from the loss of Peter Gabriel and one from the departure of founding member Steve Hackett, the trio was only just beginning to get their groove on or to many existing ‘hard core’ Genesis fan, they were entering the demarcation zone. They were selling out.
“Follow You, Follow Me” became a minor hit and it sparked the let’s just say ‘the feminine appeal” of Phil Collins. The song was the band’s first to reach the Top 40 and paved the way for Genesis to become a major commercial success in the 1980s, but it also drove a wedge between the pre- and post- fans of the band. A schism that still exists today.
There are a few bands and their rabid fans that have those moments of departure and lift off. Where they lose or at least alienate their first group of fans and trade them in for a larger crowd that buys a lot more records and sings way too loud at their concerts. Genesis is just one of the more divisive groups in rock history. It’s often painfully obvious to even the most casual observers at the band’s shows. For instance, on their 2006 tour, they did a full retrospective of their careers song wise. The fans appeared to be equally split and a simple visual scan of the audience made the separation quite clear. During ‘Misunderstanding” half the crowd stood and sang then when “Watcher Of The Skies” was played the other half stood silently and appreciated the presentation.
KZYR’s Steve Leigh and I enjoy the back and forth on what we have called “the Demarcation” albums. There is U2’s “Joshua Tree” and Metallica’s “Black Album.” Ice Cube’s “Lethal Injection,” turned hip-hop fans sideways while many including the aforementioned Leigh are disgruntled that bands like The Goo Goo Dolls went overtly commercial with “Dizzy Up The Girl.”
The term sell out has always been prevalent in the rock world and though some of us prefer the days when concert tickets were easier to get for your favorite bands who can blame a band for selling albums and lots of them? It’s rather ironic that hard core fans of a young band get rather indignant over their ‘discovered here’ band having finacial success. Instead of basking in the fact that they noticed the band early on, they take a reluctant supporter role and even become prone to bash their previous favorite group in conversation sometimes rather belligerently.
I openly count myself as one of them. I think Genesis’ last great album was “Abacab” yet I secretly feel pride in the fact that I know every word to their debut “From Genesis to Revelation.” A fact that doesn’t get me better seats to their concerts but it does help my cool factor at least in my own mind.