Bill Bruford on Genesis, Yes, and King Crimson

Posted on Sat Feb 2 2008 at 8:54 pm in the category 1970s, Bruford, Bill, Genesis, King Crimson, Progressive Rock, Yes -- Copyright notice

I recently took the book Genesis: Chapter and Verse (2007) out of the library. It’s mainly a collection of quotations from each of the band members, as well as collaborators, on various stages in Genesis’ history. There are some interesting things in here.

Bill Bruford, who is best known as the drummer of Yes in the early years and then of King Crimson (on which see my post here), comments on his involvement with Genesis once Phil Collins became lead singer in 1976 (after the departure of Gabriel, on which see my earlier post on Trick of the Tail). Bruford became Genesis’ drummer for the 1976 tour. Seeing that Bruford was, at one point, a member of all three of the most well-known progressive rock bands, it is interesting and somewhat humorous to hear his perspective.

First of all, he comments on how Genesis was viewed in the early days:

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’. . . (p. 198)

Bruford also comments on the overall atmosphere of each of the three bands in connection with his own less orchestrated style:

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).

Anyone who has heard an album like King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man knows what Bruford means by improvisation.

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