Any number of Genesis fans would have given their vintage copy of "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" to have been a fly on the wall at a recent gathering in London.
They were all there -- Genesis founders Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips, along with later additions Phil Collins and Steve Hackett.
The occasion was a photo session for "Genesis Archives Volume 1: 1967-1975," a long-awaited boxed set of rare and unreleased performances from the British rock group's halcyon years.
And though the majority of those present were no longer part of the band, they report that the feeling was as warm as if they'd all been playing together through the years.
"It was fantastic," says singer-drummer Collins, who left the band in 1994 to concentrate on his solo career. "We all laughed and enjoyed each other's company so much that we said 'Why don't we form a group?'
"We all love each other very much. There have been different reasons for different people leaving, but the actual affection we have for each other hasn't changed."
Rutherford -- who, like Banks, remains in the band they formed at their boarding school in England -- says there's a simple reason the friendships have never dimmed.
"There's never been an argument -- ever, I don't think -- about money," says the guitarist, who splits his musical time between Genesis and his side band, Mike & the Mechanics.
"I can honestly say that. We've argued about everything else, but not money. I think that's when bands get in trouble and fall out, when money becomes a factor."
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Genesis' first single, "The Silent Sun" -- a tune only the truly faithful heard but which marked the beginning of what would become one of the most durable bands in rock, one that survived the aforementioned departures of key members but continues as a going concern.
The latest incarnation of Genesis, in fact, had just finished a European concert tour a few days before the "Archives" photo session.
Meanwhile, the band's former and present members are busy with their own projects. Gabriel is in the studio working on a new album, his first since 1993. Rutherford is planning a new Mike & the Mechanics album before starting another Genesis effort with Banks and singer Ray Wilson.
And Collins is juggling a wealth of activities, including a big-band tour, a greatest-hits album for the fall and songs for Walt Disney's 1999 animated film feature, "Tarzan."
Amidst all that, however, the musicians actually have broached the idea of a reunion concert, or even a short tour.
"I've got a funny feeling in the back of my mind that before we call it a day, we might do something," says Rutherford, 47. "It seems silly not to, I think. The time might come along one day to do a one-off kind of thing."
Collins, meanwhile, says he threw out the idea of playing together again during the photo session and will bring it up again during a group dinner set for July in London.
"I'm happy to do that," he says. "I wouldn't be opposed to doing a little tour, just me playing drums and letting Peter sing. That would be fun."
A REALLY BIG (BAND) SHOW
In fact, it was a desire to reconnect with drumming that led Collins to form a jazz-style big band, which plays both his solo hits and songs from the Genesis catalog.
He started it during 1996, after he moved to Switzerland and was invited to put together a performance for the famed Montreux Jazz Festival.
A big-band fan since first hearing Buddy Rich albums more than three decades ago, Collins admits to being surprised by how difficult a task it was.
"I knew it was not going to be easy; I didn't realize just how difficult it was going to be to do it properly," he says with a laugh. "You're sort of playing along or snapping your fingers along to a Buddy Rich record or a Count Basie record, and it's quite easy. But then actually being in the driver's seat is very, very difficult."
Collins reached out to a variety of arrangers, including Quincy Jones, who helped put the songs together -- including renditions of "In the Air Tonight," "Invisible Touch" and "Los Endos" -- and even came up with special transcriptions for his drum parts, since he doesn't read music.
Collins augmented his regular band with more players and wound up doing a short tour of Europe, with Jones conducting and Tony Bennett as the special guest singer.
For the North American big-band tour, Collins has tapped R&B singer and former Tears For Fears member Oleta Adams to sing, although he'll step to the microphone for a couple of songs during the encores.
"It's an interesting slant," says Collins, 47, who recently recorded a cover of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colours" for his greatest hits set.
"I think my fans will accept it; all the tunes we're doing, they know. Some of it will be harder to recognize than others. That's the carrot, really, the fact that these people will know the tunes.
"But I hope it won't be just my audience. I know jazz crowds are renowned snobs -- some of them, anyway -- but I hope there's a curious jazz crowd that comes to see us, too."
Rutherford, meanwhile, says he's just now starting to whip Mike & the Mechanics into shape, though both singers -- Paul Carrack and Paul Young -- will be participating.
GOOD OLD DAYS
Neither Collins nor Rutherford mind spending a bit of time with Genesis past, however. Rutherford was more involved with "Archives" than Collins, but both are pleased with the live material -- particularly the full performance of the Genesis rock opera "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" -- which they feel better represents the band than some of its studio recordings of that era.
"We were always too uptight in the studio," says Collins, who recalls arriving early for his 1970 audition for Genesis and spending the afternoon swimming in the pool at the house where the tryouts were held, listening to the other drummers' mistakes and plotting what he would play.
"We just would never capture, either sound-wise or performance-wise, quite what we were capable of doing. I have (concert) tapes, and there's so much fire and bite to the sound, and yet we never really got it right ... although I think we got it righter as the years went by."
For the "Lamb" performance on "Archives," Gabriel and guitarist Steve Hackett went back into the studio to re-record their parts -- Gabriel because one of his large, rubber stage costumes rendered his vocals inaudible.
The Genesis musicians -- including Gabriel and Collins -- also are working, slowly, on a new recording of the song "Carpet Crawlers" for the second volume of "Archives," which will cover Collins' years as Gabriel's reluctant successor in 1975.
"I just wanted to play the drums," says Collins, who subsequently launched a solo career that expanded Genesis' success but also eclipsed the band in some ways. "Unfortunately, we couldn't find anybody else to do the job, so I got it by default."
GENESIS WON'T EXODUS
Collins says he's disappointed that American audiences did not embrace "Calling All Stations," Genesis' first album without him. It sold poorly, and similarly low ticket sales forced the cancellation of a concert tour.
If anything, he says, his departure from Genesis should have been a boon for devotees who felt Collins steered the band in too commercial of a direction.
"These are the people who should be loving this band now," Collins says. "I'm not there, and they've got Tony and Mike, who basically are the spirit of Genesis, write songs ..."
For his part, Rutherford says Genesis hasn't given up. The European tour was successful, and the group plans to make another run at North America after it releases its next album.
"We'll try and do some more Genesis before the gap gets too big," he says. "It was a tough time to do this move, really. I suppose Genesis ended on such a high with Phil, and there was a little bit of backlash towards Phil, anyway -- on his own and with Genesis.
"But we've been through this kind of thing before. We've learned how to be patient, really."
© Reuters, by Gary Graff