A Trick of the Tail is the seventh studio album by English progressive rock band Genesis. It was released in February 1976 on Charisma Records and was the first album to feature drummer Phil Collins as lead vocalist following the departure of Peter Gabriel. It was a critical and commercial success in the UK and U.S., reaching No. 3 and No. 31 respectively.
Following Gabriel’s decision to leave the band, the remaining members wanted to carry on and show they could still write and record successful material. The group wrote and rehearsed new songs during mid-1975, and listened to around 400 audition tapes for a replacement frontman. They entered Trident Studios in October with producer David Hentschel to record the album without a definitive idea of who was going to perform lead vocals. After the search for a singer proved unfruitful, Collins was persuaded to sing “Squonk”, and the performance was so strong, he sang lead on the rest of the album.
Upon release, critics were impressed by the improved sound quality and the group’s ability to survive the loss of Gabriel without sacrificing the quality of the music. The group went out on tour with Collins as frontman and Bill Bruford as an additional drummer, and the resulting performances in the US raised Genesis’ profile there. The album has been reissued on CD several times, including a deluxe package with bonus tracks in 2007.
Founding member and lead singer Peter Gabriel decided to leave Genesis in late 1974, midway through the tour for the album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. His bandmates hoped he would reconsider, as they were still in debt and felt his departure could destroy the band’s future, but ultimately accepted that he would leave. The remaining members felt they still wanted to collaborate musically, and show journalists and critics they were primarily a song writing team that could still produce good music. Keyboardist Tony Banks had been close to Gabriel personally, and did not want the band to split up on top of seeing less of one of his best friends. He had written a number of songs for a possible solo project before deciding they should be used on the new Genesis album.
Following the end of the tour, guitarist Steve Hackett recorded a solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte with guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford and drummer Phil Collins, feeling unsure that Genesis would survive. He reconvened with the remaining group members in July 1975. Banks and Rutherford were particularly keen to write and record new material so that critics and fans would accept Gabriel’s departure. The group began rehearsals in a basement studio in Acton, and quickly wrote material they were happy with, but had not yet found a replacement lead singer. They placed an anonymous advertisement in the music paper Melody Maker for “a singer for a Genesis-type group”, which received around 400 replies. Some applicants sent photographs of themselves in costume and wearing masks, as Gabriel had done on stage. A few weeks into rehearsals, Melody Maker managed to find out about Gabriel leaving the band, and their story made the front page of the 16 August issue, where journalist Chris Welch declared Genesis dead. The group spoke to the music papers to deny they were splitting up and explained they had a new album written and waiting to be recorded.
“I didn’t want to not be the drummer … this is what I did. This is my territory.” (Phil Collins recalling the choice of a new lead singer to replace Peter Gabriel)
Recording began in Trident Studios in October 1975 with producer David Hentschel. Hentschel had served as tape op and then engineer on earlier Genesis albums and Collins had become a fan of his album Startling Music, a re-recording of Ringo Starr’s album Ringo on an ARP 2500 synthesizer. Collins thought the group could carry on as an instrumental act, but the others felt that it would be boring without vocals. The group had still not decided on a replacement singer, so they decided to start recording backing tracks and audition singers as they went. Gabriel visited the band in the studio and listened to the album, and thought they had succeeded in proving to others that they still were “a whole, strong band without me”. He knew that the group could write strong material, but the little effort it took them surprised him the most.
A Trick of the Tail had a positive reception from music critics, who were impressed that the group could not only survive the loss of Gabriel but still deliver a good album.The sound quality had improved from previous albums as a result of Hentschel’s production skills. The album reached No. 3 in the UK, remaining on the charts for 39 weeks, and No. 31 in the U.S. It was certified Gold in the UK by the British Phonographic Industry in June and in the US by the RIAA in March 1990. The album remained in the UK charts for 39 weeks and recouped a significant amount of $400,000 worth of debt they had accumulated by the time Gabriel left.
For the first time in their career, Genesis filmed promotional videos for their songs. The first to be filmed was the title track, which features the band playing to the song together around a piano, including composite shots of a miniature Collins hopping around on a piano and a guitar. The group also produced promotional films of “Ripples…” and “Robbery, Assault and Battery” (by wikipedia)
After Peter Gabriel departed for a solo career, Genesis embarked on a long journey to find a replacement, only to wind back around to their drummer, Phil Collins, as a replacement. With Collins as their new frontman, the band decided not to pursue the stylish, jagged postmodernism of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway — a move that Gabriel would do in his solo career — and instead returned to the English eccentricity of Selling England by the Pound for its next effort, A Trick of the Tail. In almost every respect, this feels like a truer sequel to Selling England by the Pound than Lamb; after all, that double album was obsessed with modernity and nightmare, whereas this album returns the group to the fanciful fairy tale nature of its earlier records. Also, Genesis were moving away from the barbed pop of the first LP and returning to elastic numbers that showcased their instrumental prowess, and they sounded more forceful and unified as a band than they had since Foxtrot. Not that this album is quite as memorable as Foxtrot or Selling England, largely because its songs aren’t as immediate or memorable: apart from “Dance on a Volcano,” this is about the sound of the band playing, not individual songs, and it succeeds on that level quite wildly — to the extent that it proved to longtime fans that Genesis could possibly thrive without its former leader in tow. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)
Tony Banks (keyboards, mellotron, guitar, background vocals)
Phil Collins (drums, percussion, vocals)
Steve Hackett (guitar)
Mike Rutherford (bass, guitar)
01. Dance On A Volcano (Rutherford/Banks/Hackett/Collins) 5.55
02. Entangled (Hackett/Banks) 6.28
03. Squonk (Rutherford/Banks) 6.24
04. Mad Man Moon (Banks) 7.32
05. Robbery, Assault And Battery (Banks/Collins) 6.11
06. Ripples… (Rutherford/Banks) 8.02
07. A Trick Of The Tail (Banks) 4.34
08. Los Endos (Collins/Hackett/Rutherford/Banks) 5.44