The band that entered my consciousness earliest in life that qualifies as a full-blown obsession is Genesis. I was awakened to their music at age 11. Like it is with most bands, I had heard of them beforehand; the earliest time I can remember was when I was about 5 or 6, seeing the music video for “Invisible Touch.”

Those were the Phil Collins days, and for about a year after becoming Genesis-crazed, that’s all I thought there was. Then my dad told me they used to be fronted by Peter Gabriel. “That ‘Sledgehammer’ dude?” I thought. “Weird!” Even weirder, Phil wasn’t someone they hired after Peter left, but someone who was in the band all along as their drummer. When Peter went solo, they searched high and low for a new lead singer, auditioning belter after belter who just didn’t fit. In frustration, Phil just said, “well, I’ll have a go, then.” It worked and it stuck; search over.

I was enamored with their 80s pop phase, though I didn’t think of them as a pop band. To me, “pop” meant (and still means, to a certain extent) mindless clichés about romance and dating, and lulling the masses into stupidity and atrophy; I wanted no part of it. And yes, I did actually think about those things at 11 years old.

So Genesis wasn’t a pop band. I got a lot of superiority out of the fact that my favorite band sang about social decay, money-grubbing televangelists and the apocalypse instead of who they have a crush on this week. I was swimming in deeper waters than most of my peers, and I liked that.

…But Seriously

My interest in Genesis – alright, my all-consuming passion for them – led me into Phil Collin’s solo career as well. My dad happened to have a cassette copy of Phil’s 1989 album …But Seriously. I ate it up. The horn section and overdone synthesizers didn’t bother me; I was wooed by Phil’s honesty and passion, as well as his monster beat and groove. Trust a drummer to have a killer stomp to his music. Sure, most of what he was singing about was romance, but he seemed to come at it from a different angle than all those hordes of pop singers. He sung about romance gone sour, break-ups and bittersweet remembrances.

Of course, Genesis’s “In Too Deep” was a little more than I could stand. As one of Phil-era Genesis’s most successful songs, I was familiar with it before I became obsessed. Even committing myself to Genesis whole-heartedly, I couldn’t bring myself to like “In Too Deep.” Cloying and sickeningly sweet it was, but its biggest crime was that it was clichéd, the very thing I liked Genesis because they weren’t. However, “In Too Deep” was forgivable because it was on the same album as “Land of Confusion,” which at that time was my favorite song, and “Domino,” a song that contains the lyric Take a look at the beautiful river of blood! Gimme a break; I was 11.

Peter Gabriel on the Foxtrot tour. …a flower?

My Genesis phase was a source of irritation for my family, God love ‘em, but it would have been a lot worse had I been aware of the Peter Gabriel years. It wasn’t until a few years later that I bought a copy of Foxtrot, my first taste of this other Genesis. It was then that I realized that even though I was swimming in deeper waters than my peers, I was still wading in the surf compared to the ocean that awaited me.

Next: pencil-diving into the Dead Sea.