Lessons From Genesis

By | Tuesday, January 10, 2012 Leave a Comment
There have been a great many creative team-ups in comics over the years. Stan Lee & Jack Kirby spring immediately to mind, but there's also Marv Wolfman & George Perez, Denny O'Neil & Neal Adams, Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird, Mark Waid & Mike Wieringo... Regardless of how well the folks meshed and how good of friends they are, it would seem that their work is inevitably broken up. In mainstream comics, of course, the creators themselves historically don't have much say in who they get to work with and there are often outside factors preventing further collaborations. In the worst cases, though, there's a falling out and one of the partners walks away with extra baggage that keeps them from ever even considering teaming up with their former partner again.

I'm a fan of prog rock. Especially old school stuff like King Crimson, Nektar and Pink Floyd. My favorite band, though, was Genesis. Forget about Invisible Touch (with maybe the exception of "Domino" and "The Brazilian"), go back to A Trick of the Tail, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway or earlier for their really good stuff. Basically anything from before Steve Hackett left. (Though, since this is a comics related blog, I feel the need to point out that the first album after Hackett departed included "Scenes from a Night's Dream" which was about Winsor McCay's famous Little Nemo.)

In any event, I've read and heard more than my fair share of interviews with the band members from Genesis. One of the later ones that struck me was when Mike Rutherford was talking about that period I just mentioned. Peter Gabriel had left to do his own thing. Steve Hackett had just done the same. Phil Collins was having marital troubles. The band ended up putting itself on hiatus in 1979 after recording their first album without Hackett. Rutherford and Tony Banks did some solo work, Collins went on tour with Brand X and started playing around with some solo material himself (which would ultimately become Face Value in 1981). What Rutherford said in that later interview was that, in retrospect, that hiatus was crucial for them because it gave them all a chance to explore other avenues. So when Collins, Banks and Rutherford came back together in 1980, they had already worked on all their independent pet ideas and there was no jockeying to get this idea or that idea into the Genesis effort. They could focus on collaborating together and not vying to get their own musical ideas onto the album.

Now, arguably, their albums after that weren't as good creatively (though I do like the "hidden suite" on Duke and handful of their lesser known songs from subsequent albums) there's no question that they became more well-known and financially successful after that. And, individually, they all created a lot more. Mike + The Mechanics have ten albums, Rutherford has two solo albums, Banks has eight solo albums, Collins has eight solo albums and two soundtracks, plus they collectively have twelve more albums as Genesis since 1980. Not to mention an assortment of singles and Collins had a brief acting career in there as well. I'd call that a pretty impressive output, especially there's very little, if anything, there that's outright bad. Some not as good as others, obviously, but nothing you're going to stop mid-song.

Where I'm going with this is that, if an individual has a need to be creative, as many musicians and artists do, then their creative desires need to be given room to flourish. And that may not be on the project they're working on! Getting work done and creative expression are not necessarily overlapping goals. Creative folks need to express themselves, and a group setting isn't usually perfectly conducive to that. They might be able to get some of their ideas out, but probably not all of them. They can't not scratch that itch indefinitely, so they need some space to go off and do whatever it is they need to do -- write, draw, play music, sculpt... Hopefully, they'll be able to satisfy their creative urges before they become resentful of their partner inadvertently stifling them.
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