Doug Melbourne's 'The Lamb Diaries'
Chapter One – The Phantom Dennis
THE STORY SO FAR....
ReGenesis is a band devoted to playing the early music of Genesis - the period of the band when they were champions of the early Seventies prog rock scene, when they were fronted by Peter Gabriel, and when Phil Collins was just a really, really good drummer.
Over the course of 12 years, ReGenesis went from playing in the back rooms of pubs to faithful fans, to being listed in Mojo Magazine's "Top Ten Tribute Bands" with appearances on Television, UK tours and performances at some of London's most famous venues including the London Astoria and the Shepherd's Bush Empire.
I described our journey in a book - "How Much Do We Get for this Gig Anyway". Which I may have already mentioned. Not that I'm trying to persuade you to buy it.
Although you could.
If you wanted.
I'm not saying you have to.
But some people have said it's quite good.
Anyway, I digress.
I left the band in 2001, but the band didn't notice and continued happily without me until 2006 when it seemed to reach the end of the line.
But in 2009, I "got the band back together" and we started up again, mostly doing tours based around classic albums. The "Trespass" tour, the "Foxtrot" tour, and finally, the "Selling England By the Pound" tour. All went well. Indeed, the “Foxtrot” tour in particular was probably the most fun we’d ever had!
The logical step after "Selling England By the Pound" would have been to continue to the end of our chosen era with a "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" tour and certainly we had many fans asking when the dates would be available.
But it was not to be.
At the end of our very successful "Selling England By the Pound" tour, guitarist Andy Gray and Bass player Shaun Hunt left - so we were reduced to a three piece, and an unmotivated three piece at that.
Having had a reasonably busy few years of ReGenesis I was looking forward to doing other things, which I duly got on with.
We had some abstract discussions regarding getting the band going again, and possible new members, but nothing concrete.
To be honest, I was reasonably sure that we had reached another full stop and there was no further activity in sight, perhaps forever!
This seemed a little sad after twenty years. Was this it? All that work and all those gigs, just to peter out due to lack of interest?
I sounded people out about a possible farewell gig but the mood was indifferent and I wasn't prepared to bust a gut getting everyone on board.
Probably no-one would come anyway. Everyone hates us. For weeks, I became a hermit, living in a cave and foraging for food using makeshift weapons. Or, more accurately, I moved to Marlborough.
So, 2014 passed without a single ReGenesis related activity. It didn't exactly feel like the end, but there was no band, no plan, and no opportunities.
2015 started in a similar way. I was busying myself with my other band The Glorious Fools (Nige and myself had set this up, a tribute to the late, great John Martyn), and lots of work and family things. Oh, and I wrote a book.
And then one day, I picked up a copy of "Hand. Cannot. Erase" by Steven Wilson.
"Hand. Cannot. Erase" is a modern prog rock masterpiece. Embracing many aspects of traditional prog rock (lashings of mellotron, unusual numbers of beats to the bar, long instrumental passages etc.) yet still somehow managing to sound contemporary and vital, it is a concept album telling a very modern story about a woman who becomes isolated from the human race in its information rich, social networking age and eventually dies, unnoticed.
It was the first prog rock album I had really listened to in a long time - I'm not a huge fan of neo-prog as a general rule, my prog rock interest is pretty much confined to a couple of dozen albums, all released between 1969 and 1975, with a few notable exceptions.
But this album captivated me. Fired up with enthusiasm, I secured tickets to see the band live in Cardiff.
At the gig, "Hand. Cannot. Erase" was performed in its entirety, with visuals provided by projections behind the band. The visuals were quite diverse and had been created by a number of different artists. It was stunning, as were the band.
I immediately felt a yearning to be on stage myself, playing this challenging genre of music. I always enjoyed the frisson of fear before launching into "Apocalypse in 9/8" or "Firth of Fifth", and the satisfaction of getting it right!
My only mild criticism of the Steven Wilson show was that I could have done with a few numbers highlighting the musicians! Every single song, even those not part of the concept album, was accompanied by a video. In fact, at one point a screen came down at the front of the stage reducing the band to blurred shapes! It got a bit exhausting.
Nevertheless, the variety of visual interpretations was generally very exciting and thought provoking.
At some point during the show, a thought popped into my head - "This kind of thing would be great for a Lamb show!".
By the time we had got home, I already had a load of ideas about staging the Lamb frolicking in my head.
OFF WE GO
So, first things first. We didn't have a band!
But there were some possibilities. When Andy Gray had quit, I had thought of Tom Janssen - he had made a great contribution to the Glorious Fools album and indeed I had discussed it with him in 2013 before we realized that Shaun was leaving as well.
The "Mike Rutherford" role was more problematic. As I've mentioned before, bass players who also play 12 string guitar and bass pedals with their feet are not exactly common. However, Facebook to the rescue! Nick Loebner was someone I was aware of on the prog scene and indeed was tackling a couple of Genesis numbers in his own band, as well as being a regular visitor to ReGenesis gigs. And so, 21 years after auditioning Glyn, we set up at the same studios to audition Tom and Nick!
As usual, we listened to the recordings. It was about as ropey as you'd expect from 4 people who had never played together before, playing very difficult music, much of it being played by half the band for the first time!
But there was more than enough in terms of 'good bits' to feel comfortable with the potential of the line-up. And we all got on like a house on fire.
Step one accomplished. We had a band!