Collins and Hackett made their studio debut on the album Nursery Cryme (Originally Released November, 1971), which featured the epic "The Musical Box" (sample (info)) and Collins's first lead vocal performance on "For Absent Friends". Foxtrot, released in October 1972, contained what many consider to be one of the group's most celebrated works - the 23-minute "Supper's Ready" (sample (info)) and the Arthur C. Clarke-inspired "Watcher of the Skies", that solidified Genesis's reputation as songwriters and performers. Gabriel's flamboyant and theatrical stage presence, which involved numerous costume changes and surreal introductions to each song, made the band one of the most talked-about live acts in the early 70s UK rock scene.
Peter Gabriel painted his face white and partially shaved his head during the Selling England by the Pound tour in 1974.
Selling England by the Pound followed in November 1973 and was well received by critics and fans. According to one biographical account, Gabriel was very conscious of lyrics and references that might suggest a slant towards American audiences. He was keen to avoid this and insisted that the album carry the title Selling England by the Pound, also the title of the Labour Party manifesto at the time. The album contained "Firth of Fifth" (sample (info)) and "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)", songs that remained part of Genesis's repertoire in future live performances. During this period, guitarist Hackett became one of the first to use the "tapping" technique normally credited to Eddie Van Halen and "sweep picking" popularized in the 80's by Yngwie Malmsteen. These techniques were used in the song "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight".
Genesis ventured into a more ambitious project with the double disc concept album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (sample (info)) (1974). The album was released November 18, 1974. The story features the supernatural journey of protagonist Rael, a Puerto Rican youth in New York City, and his journey through a parallel reality. During his adventure, Rael encounters several bizarre characters such as The Lamia, borrowed from Greek mythology, and the Slippermen during some satirically twisted circumstances. Interpretation of the Lamb remains a matter of speculation as there is no official explanation of its meaning.
Rather than the lengthy tracks featured on prior albums, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway collected many shorter tracks connected by a variety of segues. This change was due to the album's production, as well as the appearance of bolder electronic keyboard sounds and a departure from songs featuring British themes to those that were American. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway strained relations between members of the group, particularly Banks and Gabriel. The other members of Genesis essentially wrote the music to The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway without Gabriel's participation (with the exception of "Counting out Time" and "The Carpet Crawl"). Gabriel focused on the story and its lyrics separately from his bandmates (with the exception of the song "The Light Dies Down on Broadway" written by Banks & Rutherford). Genesis embarked on a world tour promoting The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and, since this was a concept album, performed it in its entirety.
Gabriel announced his departure from Genesis in August 1975, following the The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour. He felt estranged from the band, and his marriage and birth of his first child added to his personal strain. Gabriel explained his departure in a letter to fans entitled Out, Angels Out:
The vehicle we had built as a co-op to serve our songwriting became our master and had cooped us up inside the success we had wanted. It affected the attitudes and the spirit of the whole band. The music had not dried up and I still respect the other musicians, but our roles had set in hard.
Gabriel's first solo album (Peter Gabriel, 1977) featured the single "Solsbury Hill", an allegory about his departure from Genesis.
Phil Collins-led era: 1975-1996
Phil Collins performing "That's All" in Buffalo, NY, 1983. Also visible are Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and Daryl Stuermer.
The group began auditioning lead singers without a clear idea about the kind of singer they were looking for, although they knew that they did not want a voice too dissimilar from Gabriel's. Phil Collins, whose backing vocals had featured previously in the Genesis sound of the Gabriel era, was given the job of coaching prospective replacements, including Jon Anderson of Yes. "I really wanted to have a crack at it...[b]ut I wasn't about to ask. I wanted someone to ask me", Collins recalled later in an interview. Eventually, Genesis settled with Collins as their new lead singer, hoping that their fans would be more forgiving if the new lead vocalist came from within the ranks.
Genesis's first post-Gabriel album, A Trick of the Tail (1976), was well received, outselling all previous Genesis albums. The album featured a markedly clearer production than previous albums, which came courtesy of new producer David Hentschel, who had previously served as engineer on Nursery Cryme. Another influential factor was that Collins, in the opinion of some, sounded "more like Gabriel than Gabriel did". The album featured "Ripples", "Dance on a Volcano" (sample (info)) and "Entangled". Despite the success of Trick of the Tail, the group remained concerned with their live shows considering Gabriel's elaborate performances. Collins felt confident that he could handle live vocal duties, but definitely needed another drummer while he sang. Bill Bruford, drummer for Yes and King Crimson, offered to drum while Collins attended to vocal duties - a suggestion that was palatable to the band.
Bruford joined on tour in 1976 as drummer. For their tours starting in 1977, the jazz fusion-trained Chester Thompson, a veteran of Weather Report and Frank Zappa, took over live drumming duties to allow Collins to concentrate on vocals. Collins's approach to live Genesis shows differed from the more theatrical performances of Gabriel, and his interpretations of prior songs were lighter and subtler. Years later, Gabriel told Collins at the 1982 Milton Keynes reunion show that Collins sang the songs better than Peter, but never quite like him. Also in 1976, Genesis recorded Wind & Wuthering, released in January 1977. This was the first of two Genesis albums to be recorded at the Relight Studios in Hilvarenbeek, the Netherlands. The album got its name from Emily Bronte's novel Wuthering Heights, whose last lines - "how anyone could ever imagine unquietslumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth" also inspired the names of the seventh and eighth tracks of the album. The album featured "Blood on the Rooftops" and "Afterglow" (sample (info)), as well as the complex multi-part suite "One for the Vine". The animated movie B.C. Rock featured bits of "Afterglow". The band signed with a new manager Tony Smith, and all their songs were thereafter published through his company, Hit & Run Music