Bill Bruford, who is best known as the drummer of Yes in the early years and then of King Crimson, was another person that suggested that Phil Collins should become the singer after Peter Gabriel left in 1975.
How Bill Bruford Joined Genesis
In 1976 both drummers were working together in Brand X; Collins on drums, Bruford on percussion. Genesis had auditioned many singers, but no one stood out. Bruford vaguely remembers saying, “Why don’t you stand up front and sing, and I’ll cover for you on the drums? Then, you know it won’t fall apart.” He offered to do it for a bit until they got comfortable and found someone else. He felt no deep affinity to the band’s music. “I was just concerned with doing a good job on drums as a kind of ‘hired gun'”. He has been quoted as saying, “I behaved badly, sniped critically and impotently from the side lines”, for which he subsequently apologised.
Bill Bruford would spend 6 months touring with Genesis in 1976. You can hear recordings from the albums Seconds Out and Three Sides Live. Below is live footage of Genesis live in concert 1976.
“I like to wing it a bit on stage, but Genesis were very, very precise”
In the book Genesis: Chapter and Verse (2007), it is interesting to note some comments made by Bill Bruford about Genesis.
His comments on the early days of Genesis:
I think everybody in Yes and King Crimson thought that Genesis would never make it because they sounded like a combination of the two groups. We thought they might be too late — we’d been there and done it. We saw them along the lines of ‘Genesis are quite fun, but they’ve got a guitarist who sits down like Robert Fripp and a drummer who plays a bit like Bill; the Americans have already had that’. . .
Bruford also comments on the overall atmosphere:
I like to wing it a bit on stage, but Genesis were very, very precise. I’m much more accustomed to making it up as I’m going along. . . I’d learnt the tunes from the albums, and if it felt a little different from what Phil would have done, people would look at me and say, ‘Hey, Bill, could you make it sound a bit more like the record?’. . . [N]ot being much of the session type, I didn’t do terribly well at just delivering the parts. In fact, what finally drove me out of rock n’ roll was the repetition. That’s what had separated me from Yes. Why I had found King Crimson so attractive was because they were way more open: ‘Surprise us, go ahead, let’s improvise, terrific.’. . . (p. 198).
The mood in Genesis was such a contrast to the chaos of Yes, where nobody could agree what day of the week it was . . . How we in Yes ever got anything done, I still don’t know (p. 199).
When l first heard Seconds Out l was not quite a teenager and being that my dad was into Jazz l loved progressive music. Someone put on ‘Cinema Show’ and l went and sat by the speakers in amazement! Then l found out that Bruf was drumming…well l just went bonkers!! lt was my first introduction to their early music and like Yes, ELP, and Zappa those soundscapes are etched into the backdrop of my life.
Bruford and Collins were drumming together, with Collins playing the kit for the first half of the instrumental section, Bruford on cowbell and blocks, and then they played together on the kits. The initial incredible drumming was Phil alone.
I have been wondering this lately. So, you are saying the second half of the instrumental section was both Phil and Bill?
Bruford had a very distinctive drum sound — as did Phil, but in very different ways — anyway, Bruford’s sound went along pretty cool with some Genesis songs (“The Cinema Show”, “Dance on a Volcano” and even “The Lamb….”), but other songs, such as “Squonk”, also “Firth of Fifth”, Bruford sounded very much like the wrong drummer. I will say, however, that Bruford’s spontanaeity added a really cool new dimension to a couple of songs — throwing in rapid-fire, machine gun-like drum fills that didn’t exist on the songs before.
Phil played the masterful 13/8 instrumental section of Firth of Fifth….as far as I know, after Phil’s vocal part, it was mostly Phil – check after 2:50 on to hear the difference – Phil was so much subtler, point, symphonic in his playing….then again, it was his creation, that drum part.
Actually, the best version before Chester Thompson joined is on this recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9kpfULsdUo. Bill didn’t join in on the instrumental section….though Chester did on the second half. Typically, Phil took over the drums after the vocal section, and Bill or Chester would join in at a climactic part. Otherwise, for the early Chester version, check out Six Hours Live video.
Actually, I heard Phil say it was fun for a while, but Bill would keep doing different things. I assume Phil didn’t want to share the spotlight or maybe felt the attention should be more on vocals. Bill is head and shoulders above Phil, a mediocre drummer who did his best work on “Nursery Crime.” Also, his best vocals (“For Absent Friends,” his only song I’m not tired of). It’s ironic Genesis, my favorite band, found him when they were looking for someone more creative because he missed so many opportunities to do more, as what Bruford did with “The Cinema Show,” shows. Ken Miller
Hi Ken –
Phil, yes, but Tony Banks more than he complained that Bill just wouldn’t learn where the critical accents were – those compositional joints in the very “composed” Genesis songs. Or he couldn’t help but improvise. Bill admits this.
Phil had no trouble sharing there spotlight. “Plays Well With Others”, his session-drumming compilation, was from a comment, and a gift t-shirt, from Chester, his drumming spotlight-sharer for forty years. Phil has done more collaboration with other drummers and/or percussionists than most drummers do. He admires and praises Frank Zappa’s use of two drummer, was a backup vocalist for many years, and chose to share the stage with two or three percussionists for his Big Band jazz project and his FFFTour.
Mediocre? I leave loads of room for different opinions – how I learn. But the sheer number of accomplished drummers who call Phil a master drummer, for work he did beginning with the loose-around-the-edges but inspired Nursery Cryme, the universal rating in the top ten and top five of progressive and mainstream rock drummers. I wonder where the “mediocre” comes from. Bruford consistently expressing his admiration of Phil, and admitting that their ears and musical choices were similar; the number of artists of every style choosing him not just for albums but for tours. Neil Peart writing a tribute to Phil, calling his work, on SEBTP “an enduring masterpiece of drumming”, characterizing Phil’s technique, command of tone and the whole kit, creativity, lyricism, touch as some of the key inspirations for his own effort to become a world-class progressive drummer, Phil as one of his five main drumming role models. The words used by others is “master” or” masterful” (Taylor Hawkins and Brann Dailor); Robert Plant (“magnificent”); Bonzo teaching Jason odd-times and sticking technique using Genesis tunes; John Wetton (“the best I’ve ever played with”, stating that Phil had better ears, locked in better with the bassist, and rocked better than Bruford). The influence his work with Brand X has had on a generation of drummers. The number of projects he and Bruford shared – among them Brand X, Fripp who loved his cymbal work and flexibility, serious about bringing in Phil with Wetton as a Red-style trio because of the synergy they had on Breathless. The number of drummers on YouTube attempting classic Genesis tunes and rarely ever nailing the timing – the gifted Nick DiVirgilio, whose work is deeply influenced by Phil’s approach, breaking down Collins’ beats, their uniqueness and intricate timing, even the simpler stuff. Not to mention that in my own practice for the last 45 years, and playing and working with top-shelf progressive and jazz musicians, its rare that even the rudiment-kings don’t recognize the intricacy and musicality of his work. Mediocre hasn’t come up.
Bruford was a magnificent drummer. He made himself a student and explorer of drums long after Phil stopped studying Buddy Rich and Billy Cobham. But for those days, and listening to those days now, many of us take the deeper, more melodic grooves, skittering and accenting left hand, and whiplash timing of Phil’s even over Bill.
Well said, DJ Sapen, couldn’t agree more, and thanks for the research.
Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd………..timeless music. Nothing like it today, or probably ever again.
ha. can’t return, we can only look behind….it was a strong consolation to see these boys show up with Bill Bruford at the Berkeley High School Auditorium in 1976, Peters departure was a shock and….well of course life is different every day. Bruford and Collins both at it though on their respective kits was cool, didn’t enjoy Chester near as much later years…
Why in the god’s name was cover the climax part with Bill and Phil on CINEMA SHOW drum duet? I know that from the past movies from before, but I though in this time you’ll show that part uncovered, is there any footage with that part without the movie?
That’s just how the producer edited the film. Absolutely terrible. He is consistently unresponsive when people ask him for the unedited footage, he seems completely uninterested in releasing it.