Fifty years ago this month, a new album appeared in British record shops with a black cover and four words written in tiny gold lettering on the front: From Genesis to Revelation. There was no mention of a band, and according to legend, most stores dumped the LP into the religious section where it sank without a trace. Nobody could have predicted it was the launch of a band that would grow exponentially bigger during the next two decades until they were selling out four straight nights at Wembley Stadium as their various solo endeavors blared out of radios all over the planet.
But back in the days of From Genesis to Revelation, the five members of Genesis were an unknown group of teenagers at the remote Charterhouse boarding school in England. “We were hardly a band,” said guitarist Mike Rutherford, “and we couldn’t play our instruments.” But when Charterhouse graduate Jonathan King — a pop producer who scored a hit of his own in 1964 with the single “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon” — visited the school during an alumni weekend, he was given a crude demo tape by a friend of the band. “I immediately went, ‘Fucking hell, this boy has got a lovely voice,'” King remembered decades later, referring to Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel. “It was full of youth and enthusiasm.”
King called a phone number written on the cassette, got in touch with a stunned Peter Gabriel and signed them to Decca Records. He also named them Genesis. They had a batch of songs by this point, but had only played extremely tiny gigs and school still occupied most of their time. “We ended up making an album, these four or five guys who really couldn’t play our instruments,” said Rutherford. “In those days, being given a chance to make an album was pretty unusual. It didn’t happen very often to people of our calibre.”
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The album was recorded in just three days at Regent Sound Studio on Charing Cross Road in London. Without their knowledge, King layered up the tracks with goopy strings. The band was apoplectic when they heard the finished version, but it was too late to do anything about it. “I completely freaked out,” said guitarist Anthony Phillips. “It was an indescribably awful feeling. I felt as if my whole world was caving in.” (Listen to the whole album above and judge for yourself.)
King began losing interest in the band when the album tanked, and when their new music moved from simple pop songs to complex progressive rock he lost all interest. “We realized that King would never want to follow the direction we did,” said keyboardist Tony Banks. “The more complicated we wanted to make the music, the less he liked it.” By 1970, Genesis were signed to Charisma Records and later that year they signed a young drummer named Phil Collins. By that point, they had dropped every single From Genesis to Revelation song from their set list and they never played anything from it again.
But they remained grateful to Jonathan King for giving them a name and a chance long before they really deserved one. When they reunited with Peter Gabriel for a one-off reunion show in 1982, King introduced them from the stage. He also never tires of telling the public that he discovered Genesis, though he served a four-year jail sentence in the early 2000’s after being convicted of having sexual relations with underage boys. He’s always maintained his innocence, though in recent years he’s been tied up in other legal issues surrounding similar allegations from his past.
Meanwhile, From Genesis to Revelation has found an unlikely fan in Noel Gallagher. He was always the first person to bash bands like Genesis during the heyday of Oasis, but he recently discovered their earliest album and says his 2017 song “If Love is the Law” was inspired by the From Genesis to Revelation obscurity “The Conquerer.” “I became obsessed with early Genesis,” he told Rolling Stone, “and I was like, ‘Fuckin’ hell, why has no one ever fuckin’ mentioned this?’”