Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Reflections on a second lockdown

On Saturday night a priest posted that one hour after the new restrictions were announced, Anglican Twitter was looking for loopholes. It started me wondering why, and caused me to scrap what I was going to say in my All Saints' Day sermon and hastily put something else together. The problem (as with many arguments between clergy - especially online) is that several issues get bundled up together in one argument, and we sometimes talk across each other, rather than tease out a question. The same thing happened during the earlier lockdown, which I wrote about at the time.

This time around, I have notices three themes cropping up regularly:

  • Churches need to meet for congregational worship (and many focus on holy communion here) in order to nurture the spiritual lives of their people. Suspending services will be detrimental.
  • A resistance to the government telling the church that it can't meet for worship, along with criticism of the C of E bishops for not protesting loudly enough. Faith leaders, including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have now written a joint letter on this subject, which you can read here.
  • Concern that lockdown will have a damaging impact on all aspects of the well-being of our society. 
First of all, it is undeniable that these concerns are not trivial; they are real and substantial. As a parish priest I would much rather be in a context where we could be running a full range of services of worship, Messy Church, Toddler Praise, and our drop in tea and cake session for older people, etc. It would be great to see the cafes and pubs open and thriving, and people secure about their futures. I don't want to live in lockdown any more than some of my more vociferous colleagues, but unlike them, I do think it is a necessary evil.

Let's consider those concerns. Earlier in the year, churches went without meeting from mid-March until services began to resume in July. We missed some of the most important celebrations in the Christian year - Holy Week, Easter, Ascension & Pentecost. Here at St Nicholas' we maintained a weekly online worship, we emailed, phoned round, and also posted services, messages and prayers. We ran quizzes, prayers and courses on Zoom, and when we were able to come together again, our numbers were soon getting back towards normal, with a few vulnerable people staying in touch watching the recording of the service. 

This time around, the lockdown will cover 4 Sundays, unless circumstances require an extension, and the terms are somewhat less strict than last time. Clergy can still go into their buildings to record services, and funerals are permitted in our buildings. We can also continue to open up to enable people to pray. That is why I am struggling to see why this merits so much more protest than last time.

However, the problem now is that faith communities were not consulted, whereas during the first lockdown, the Archbishops saw cooperation as part of the national effort. That leaves me wondering whether 'this is not about that'. Perhaps the protests are less about the effect of suspending services per se and more about the lack of consultation, otherwise we should have been shouting much more loudly in March/April. I'll soon write some more about the issue of corporate worship and lockdown, but for now I would simply observe that faith communities proved very resilient during the long break. We share a sense that our security ultimately derives from something beyond ourselves and all of our activities or rituals.

Related to that is the unease a number of people feel about freedom to worship. A government banning gatherings for worship is not a comfortable scenarios, and in other contexts would be (and in some locations is) very sinister. However, despite my lack of trust in the Prime Minister in many ways, I don't think the elimination of faith communities is on his agenda. Places of worship are not being singled out here - lots of other clubs, associations, businesses and activities are also affected. The issue for us to watch is that, once the emergency is over, those freedoms are restored and full democratic accountability is back in place for this and future governments.

For me the biggest concern is the impact that lockdown will have on wider society. Businesses are in difficulty with jobs, livelihoods, and homes put at risk. Social life is effectively suspended, isolation inevitably follows, and with dark nights that is made all the worse. I fear that mental health problems will inevitably become more widespread as a consequence.

This latter point certainly merits some noise from faith leaders. There are some really good charitable efforts going on around the country to support people in all kinds of need at this time, including many originating in churches. However, it is government that can make the real difference - whether with meal vouchers, furlough, business support or boosting funding to mental health services. Holding our leaders to account for how they are sustaining our nation's life at this time is a crucial contribution we all can make.

For all my scepticism about the competence of our leaders, I am sufficiently convinced that infection rates are rising, and that without substantial action, the graphs for new infections, hospital admissions and ICU occupancy will go beyond what the NHS can handle. Lockdown is a very costly option, and whilst I think that action could have been taken sooner and for a shorter duration, I still believe that it is the best available choice in the circumstances. 

As I looked around my church on All Saints' Day I saw a lot of older people, some of whom have significant health challenges, and I was worried. Given the rapid rise in infection in our area, gathering them in a building was starting to feel like a risk we should no longer be taking. Yes - I'll miss us meeting together. Yes I'll miss sharing in communion. Yes, I'll find Zoom and YouTube poor substitutes for 'real' meetings, and yes I am worried for all the people who live in my parish. However, this may be the way to ensure that we are all around to meet again in a few weeks' time, when hopefully the risks will have reduced, and better measures are in place to detect and deal with infections.




Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Funerals, Churches and covid-19

You may have seen headlines about a letter written by Chris Loder, the Conservative MP for West Dorset, about resuming funerals in parish churches. It was signed by 35 of his party colleagues, and asks for the Bishops of the C of E to give permission for funerals to take place in church, in line with government guidance.

The first thing to say is that we would all like to be back to normal. I would rather have taken today's funeral in church than at the graveside. We want our buildings to be available to the communities they are there to serve. However, that can only happen when it is safe and practicable to do so, and pressure from a group of MPs is not a helpful contribution at this stage.

It's worth taking a look at the current guidance for managing funerals during the pandemic, which has been published by the government. It addresses a number of issues, including who should attend and the management of the 'venue'. The guidance (or are they really regulations?) make it clear that there are significant restrictions on who should attend, and that a series of hygiene and social distancing measures need to be in place at the venue.

Perhaps the place to start is about who can attend. Funerals are one of the few occasions when a small gathering of more than 2 adults can occur legally. The guidance says that numbers should be limited to ensure that 2 metres can be maintained between people:

"alongside the Funeral Director, Chapel Attendant, and funeral staff only the following should attend:
  • members of the person’s household
  • close family members
  • or if the above are unable to attend, close friends
  • attendance of a celebrant of choice, should the bereaved request this"
Round here, for practical purposes, that is being interpreted as 10 mourners at the crematorium or at the graveside (although in the latter case, I have spotted an occasional extra mourner standing at a significant distance in the cemetery).

I am told that some crematoria have security checking people on the gate, but thankfully that isn't the case where I am. However, there are full-time staff around if required to assist were there a problem. We have to anticipate the same scenario at a church door, should restrictions ease. Church buildings are often closer and more accessible to the bereaved than a crematorium, so more mourners might be expected to try and come. Someone has to enforce that at the door, and I don't relish the thought of anyone having to turn people away from a service in church - especially a funeral. I don't know who I would want to ask to do that. Funeral directors might oblige, but they are not members of or representatives of our church community, so if there was an issue about access, I'm not sure it should fall on them.

Then there is the issue of precedent. A blanket ban on all activity has the merit of being clear. Once the church doors are open for funerals, it inevitably begs the question as to why they couldn't be open for other services too. It is reasonable to argue a case for funerals as an exception to the rules, but it would increase disquiet about other services being blocked. Opening up churches has to be looked at as a whole, and not just on one specific issue.

The current regulations themselves lay down a whole set of conditions for the funeral ceremony venue, which all make a lot of sense. These include:
  • "mourners who attend should be signposted to the advice on social distancing and that they should not attend the funeral if they are unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • venue managers should ensure that handwashing facilities with soap and hot water and hand sanitiser are available and clearly signposted
  • venue managers should ensure that processes are in place to allow a suitable time to clean and disinfect the area in which the service has taken place both before and after each service, paying attention to frequently touched objects and surfaces, using regular cleaning products
  • venue managers should consider how to manage the flow of groups in and out of their venues to minimise overlap between different groups and allow for adequate cleaning
  • venue managers should maximise ventilation rates of the premises by opening windows and doors where possible."
A minority of C of E churches will be able to cope with this fairly well - especially churches which are physically large, have a good set of loos, and paid staff who can police, usher and clean. But for many parish churches, that is a set of obligations they would struggle to fulfil.

For example, many church buildings don't even have windows that will open, or sinks with hot water (a cold tap in the vestry is sometimes all they have!). Smaller churches often have narrow aisles which will make getting in and out a slow and laborious process. Furthermore, the people who volunteer to assist at funerals as vergers, wardens and organists (and cleaners) in many churches are over 70 and so should be at home while the infection is in wide circulation (as well as those with health conditions). 

I am sure that some easing of restrictions on the use of church buildings will gradually come through over the next few weeks. That may include funerals, and managing expectations in the midst of all of that will be a significant challenge for clergy and church councils. Some churches will probably be able to do more than others for periods as we transition from where we are now to whatever the new normal will look like. We will also have to carry out thorough risk assessments on all of our activities (including services), asking questions that we never thought we would need to ask. 

The false assumption in the MPs' letter was that churches aren't already asking the questions as to how long these arrangements must persist. We ask them every day, but we also know that we have a duty of care for every gathering in our buildings (often of a vulnerable demographic). Church of England ministers are taking funerals in these strange circumstances every day, so we are painfully aware of the difference between this and what used to be normal. I've been impressed by how bereaved families have not only coped with, but fully understood and accepted the current situation. In all 6 funerals I have dealt with since lockdown, the families have been very helpful, cooperative and appreciative. But I wish I could have done more, and I wish the church building could have been an option, but it can't and shouldn't be until we know the risks have been reduced to a minimum.

Perhaps if Mr Loder and his friends had a chat with some of their local clergy, they might find it helpful in learning more about the challenges we all face in moving forward as lockdown eases, and a little more understanding about why the current measures are in place.



Album Sleeve Challenge Day 8

Today we visit Motown. There are so many Motown compilations, but this is one I was given in the late 70s, and I still have it. All collections of this kind have gaps, of course, but this is a pretty decent set of 20 tracks, including Grapevine, Reach Out I'll Be There, Dancing in the Street, etc.


Back in 2001, we were visiting good friends in Dearborn, Michigan, so being that close to Detroit meant a visit to Motown Studios was irresistible. That part of town was still very much an African-American area.  The museum itself was surprisingly modest, with no official car park and very little signage, except for the one immediately outside.

By Blob4000 at English WikipediaLater versions were uploaded by FuriousFreddy at en.wikipedia. - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2907568


When we got inside, there were only a handful of people there, and it was only a few dollars to go in. We were immediately identified as Brits, of course, and the man who guided us round told us that quite a few of their visitors were from the UK. David Bowie had dropped in a few weeks ago, and Paul McCartney had also visited in his time.

The whole place is remarkably small and modest, yet all the amazing classic hits from 1958 to 1970 were recorded there, so the atmosphere was amazing. We were also showed the flat upstairs, where artists such as Diana Ross would pack records into boxes between sessions to be mailed out to record shops. In the 1960s in the US, racial barriers were still very real obstacles even in the music industry. 

Oddly, despite the UK having plenty of racism of its own, the artists of Motown found it a very receptive place for their music, although things went slowly for the bus full of Motown stars working its way around the country in 1965. However, after national TV exposure on a Ready Steady Go special on TV, the chart hits started to follow.

I think my love of Motown come not just from the music and the memories of it being on the radio as a kid, but it also connects with a long-term interest I have had with the civil rights movement in the US, and the struggle for equality that these artists had to endure.

And it's a rare example of music that [almost] makes me want to dance...


Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Church Buildings, Streaming and Lockdown

For about the last 40 years as a youth leader, ordinand and clergyperson, I've been constantly preaching the message that the church is not a building, but people. It's a jumping record (if you do vinyl) or a loop (if you're digital) that I intend to maintain whilst I am still capable of coherent speech. In fact, no-one ever really contradicts me, but in the way churches behave and prioritise their activity and energy, you might come to a different conclusion.

This has all come up again, because clergy have been instructed not to go into their buildings regularly - whether to pray or worship along, or to stream services online. In reaction, some go into their churches anyway, some have gone to significant lengths to make a room in their vicarage look ecclesiastical for streaming, some just keep their heads down, others of us have accepted that something more simple might have to suffice.

This has prompted a number of discussions on Facebook and Twitter, and some significant heat has been generated:
  • about the importance of buildings as holy places
  • about a sense that prayers / communion in a kitchen/living room/study are somehow less legitimate than those "in church".
  • about streamed worship and what sort of church it creates / shapes
  • about the authority of the archbishops to prohibit clergy from using the church buildings entrusted to them.
Buildings

Let's take church buildings first. It is clearly the case that specific, dedicated buildings are not essential for the church to be authentically the church. To say otherwise would be dismiss the life of the church in the early centuries of its existence, along with persecuted churches through the centuries, not to mention the many congregations (including in the C of E) which gather in school halls or community buildings week by week. There are many more pressing theological, ecclesiastical and social questions that are a much greater threat to the church's legitimacy than the buildings being utilised.

That's not to say that buildings are irrelevant or trivial, but they are not an end in themselves, and they are not fundamental to the church's being. At a practical level, a church building is useful - it's a venue, it's a known location, and usually provides an instantly recognisable location and focal point for identifying the church's presence. And that has a profound symbolism - church buildings are often viewed with affection by the local community because of its associations with sad and happy memories in the lives of their families and friends. Go to any churchyard on a fine day, and you'll probably see others placing flowers, looking for their ancestors or just remembering. This can have a profound meaning - especially in communities where generations of the same family have lived.

At an aesthetic level, Church buildings can be beautiful symbols and pointers to the beliefs of the community that use them, and to the God who is worshipped within them. Some of the greatest art, sculpture, architecture and stained glass have been created to that end. The 800th anniversary of laying the foundations of Salisbury Cathedral has just happened, and that's an example of a structure that for many points not only to the sky, but also to God himself.

The trickier bit is when people start to talk about sacred space, so-called 'thin places', or stones that have been prayed in for a thousand years. Anyone who has been to an ancient Christian place of pilgrimage or spirituality will appreciate this. I have had that sense visiting Lindisfarne and Iona, for example, but even in these cases we need to be careful. Are we saying that somehow God is more present in these locations, or that the barriers are thinner or lesser?  Are we finding that these locations are especially good at helping us discern the God who, in fact, is just as present everywhere else? To put it more technically, is there something ontological about a 'holy place'?

My own view is that there is nothing ontological about holy places, but the significance of the events that created those locations in the first place, and the long history of pilgrimage, worship and devotion around them creates its own dynamic of expectation and receptivity. People certainly seem to have experiences of God in a closer and more immediate way in these places, but that doesn't mean that they are intrinsically different to anywhere else. Don't get me wrong, I don't see the experience of sacred space as insignificant, but it shouldn't create a spiritual hierarchy in our heads that effectively says God doesn't turn up in certain places, or at least he turns up in a superior way in some places, rather than others.

Coming back to today's debate, it is undeniable that many church buildings are very helpful in preparing people to pray, in providing visual symbols, pointers and signs for worship, and being places of encounter. Having said that, in my 8 years as a stewardship adviser, I met a number of vicars, church wardens and treasurers of village churches, who would have been glad to be rid of a listed building with a 6-figure repair bill so that they could meet instead in the village hall.

I have also been reflecting on whether the passions circulating about buildings also have something to say about our own faith development. It's probably fair to say that the most significant moments in my own faith and in discovering my vocation happened on CYFA ventures in hired school premises, or in youth group meetings in church halls. Over the years, I have been aware that I don't associate church buildings with important formative moments or key periods in the development of my own faith. As a result I have had to listen carefully and learn about people's love for, attachment to, and sensitivities about church buildings in order to understand and engage with their spiritual life, but it doesn't come naturally to me.

More positively, I see the current restrictions as an opportunity to rediscover God in everyday life, in people, and in unlikely places - even my study. After all, although Jesus did spend time in the Temple, he invested an awful lot of it in other people's dining rooms, and the eucharist was not instituted in a church or temple, but a room borrowed for a group meal. Perhaps there's something new for all of us in that.

Streaming

I saw a Twitter conversation about the term 'virtual worship'. I think one of the official C of E channels had used the term, and some people felt it suggested a contrast between online and 'real' worship. Obviously there is a difference in the means of delivery of worship, but how has that changed our experience and engagement with worship.

As a minister, my experience is primarily in putting together and sharing online worship. The thing I am missing is probably best summed up with the word rapport. There is the absence of the more formal liturgical response - no "and also with you" or "amen" can be heard in from of my computer. I miss the nods and smiles when I welcome people to services; I miss the occasional chuckle or even comment back during sermons; I miss the handshakes of the Peace, I miss placing holy communion in people's hands, and sharing in singing together the songs of worship. Facebook Live, YouTube and Zoom can compensate for some of that, but it's not the same. If you're not religious, compare having a coffee, a meal or a drink with your mates on Zoom versus sitting with them in the cafe, bar or restaurant.

Of course, in church we're also asking questions like "is it real worship"? I think it is "real" whenever people sincerely engage with it wherever they are, but whether it could ever be normative is a different question. As it's all very new and feels a strange and temporary way of being, our little YouTube sessions feel like a stop-gap measure. Involving others in online worship is more complicated, and requires a certain amount of technical ability and resources. I have been keen not to end up doing "the Mike Peatman show" on a Sunday, but avoiding that has resulted in me having to spend more time with iMovie. Furthermore, we have to remember that significant numbers of churchgoers are either not online at all, or don't feel confident enough with technology. We are currently sending out prayers and sermons on paper to 14 people, which is about 1/3 of our regular congregation.

I haven't gone down the line of streaming communion services where I am doing it on my own. There is a theological justification for doing a 'solo' communion - joining in the worship of heaven and the worldwide church, and for my more catholic colleagues it is an offering for the church and the world whether present or not. For me any celebration of communion is a corporate activity - I don't celebrate the eucharist, we celebrate it and the priest presides at the celebration. With no people physically present in the room, that sense is diminished, as well the fact that no one else can contribute in sharing the liturgy, readings, prayers or anything else involved without a level of multi-camera tech I don't possess. Just as with the other streamed acts of worship, I have a discomfort with worship where the human focus is on one person.

Authority

This is going on a bit, so I'll be quicker here. The debate around restrictions sometimes explicitly, and sometimes more subtly raised the questions of authority. The law says that a minister of religion may leave their house to go to a place of worship. It doesn't say just for special occasions, checking the building or for emergencies. Legally clergy can go to their churches to pray on their own, and I presume they could stream a video of it as well, provided they were alone. [Of course the safety of lone working then becomes a question!]

However, the Archbishops have issued two statements here and here making it clear that clergy should not use their buildings. Challenged on Andrew Marr, Justin Welby said that it was guidance, not instruction, although the first letter says that churches "must now be closed not only for public worship, but for private prayer ".

This was bound to activate all the clergy who don't like getting any guidance/instructions from their bishops, even thought they are often the ones who complain about the lack of leadership. However,  there are real problems here. I'm not a church lawyer, but I doubt that Archbishops can easily override the legal right of clergy to prayer in their churches - and what the Archbishop said on the Marr show would support that.

With this perceived uncertainty, there are now letters getting signed about letting clergy back into their churches. Given that it's probably riskier going to Morrison's than to an empty church, personally I don't see why they shouldn't if they really want to; it's already legal.

Rounding Off

There's also a pressure to allow funerals in church again. That's harder, as once church is open for something 'public', it sets a precedent, and also places churches in the role of policing what appropriate social distancing means and potentially having to turn people away at the door.

What has become clear is that covid-19 has shaken up our entire way of life, and the church has not been immune. Along with all other aspects of life, we have had to learn new things, and have perhaps been reminded of the importance of community and relationship in a fresh way. We need to turn our energy away from claiming our rights within the life of the church, and concentrate instead on what it means to be the church for the wider world in this time of crisis.

This time will pass, and many of our previous ways will return, and others won't and shouldn't. In the meantime we need to pray for the wisdom to know the difference between the two.





Monday, May 04, 2020

Album Sleeve Challenge Day 7

This one gets us into the 80s to when I was a student, regularly buying albums (often second hand from a market stall). However, I bought this one brand new and it's by a band I have seen live three times - Big Country. I saw them first touring the debut album The Crossing, later supporting Queen at Knebworth, and finally acoustic in Morecambe a couple of years ago. They were a band that were immediately recognisable in their sound, and their songs had an edge to them - with plenty of social comment. It's probably one of the best protest albums of the 80s.



Steeltown made no. 1 in the UK, but wasn't a massive success commercially worldwide - partly because songs about 80s UK industrial decline and Thatcher's Britain didn't have great traction in the US market. However, it's a fine legacy for the late Stuart Adamson to have left us.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Album Sleeve Challenge Day 6

This is where you can find the explanation for the album sleeve choices I'm placing on Facebook. It's been interesting to list what has been influential, rather than what has been a favourite, although sometimes the two are the same.


Next up is Liege and Lief by Fairport Convention. I've tended to regard my musical tastes as 'acoustic' rather than 'folk', as I wanted to avoid the image of beardy bloke with finger in the ear singing in a nasal tone about fair damsels in meadows. Fairport certainly do traditional folk, but the musicianship and the vocals of Sandy Denny put them in a different class, but also opened up folk music to me. 

Just after Debbie died, some friends invited me to join them at the Cropredy Festival in the August, and so discovering folk, and beginning to recover are kind of closely associated. No Cropredy this year, but I intend to be there in 2021.

If you're a bit of a sceptic [and I would understand that], check out Crazy Man Michael as a track.




Saturday, May 02, 2020

Album Sleeve Challenge Day 5

I think I will struggle to complete the facebook thing to name 10 albums that have influenced my musical taste, but here's the next one. What interested me about the challenge was the focus on influence. This isn't a list of my favourite albums, although there is overlap.

If we are talking influence, then there ought to be a jazz album on here somewhere. I could have gone for the more obvious Miles Davis, but my dad was a fan of jazz from a slightly earlier era - Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, etc. I remember him going to Music Inn in Nottingham, which could do specialist stuff, in order to get a copy of this album (no Amazon back then). 



Concert by the Sea is taken from a concert by Errol Garner in 1955 in Carmel, California. It wasn't even a planned recording - a radio engineer from Armed Forces Radio did it and it was adopted and released. The original LP had 40 or so minutes of tracks, not in the order they were performed. It was a huge success. You can now get a CD with the full concert, which I bought for my dad a couple of years ago.

The Beatles got me playing the guitar, Nick Drake has made me want to learn more; I can't really say what Errol Garner did, but I know he's part of the soundtrack, and that is why he is here.

If you don't know anything else by Garner, you will probably know the song "Misty", which he wrote, even if it's only because of the movie Play Misty for Me. He couldn't write music; he recorded things for colleagues to transcribe. Misty isn't on the album, so here he is playing it.



Friday, May 01, 2020

Album Sleeve Challenge Day 4

Not sure I'll get to the end of the Facebook thing to name 10 albums that have influenced my musical taste, but here's the next one. I'm providing the explanation of my choices over here on the blog, because the 'challenge' asks you not to do that in your Facebook post.

I discovered Nick Drake's music quite late in the day - not that there's a great quantity to discover. He managed 3 proper album releases before his premature death, and some archive material has been released since. No known live footage exists, and much about him remains a bit of a mystery.

However, his first album, Five Leaves Left, remains my favourite. In many ways it's a very simple production with enough strings to provide drama and atmosphere, but not so much that the songs get sanitised and drowned out. Richard Thompson contributes guitar on the opening track, and Danny Thompson [no relation] features on bass on several.

The different chords, tunings, rhythms and time signatures of his guitar work made me go back to my standard-tuned acoustic to see if I could learn new things after all these years. One day I'll master River Man. As an album, it's well worth a listen, and you may find you recognise at least one track.



Thursday, April 30, 2020

Album Sleeve Challenge Day 3

Continuing with the Facebook thing to name 10 albums that have influenced your musical taste, here's the next one. I'm providing the explanation of my choices over here on the blog, because the challenge asks not to do that in your Facebook post.

It would be hard not to include the Beatles somewhere in this challenge, and I realised that if we are talking most influential album, this was the one. I got it at some point as a teenager, and around the same time I acquired a guitar. It wasn't very good, and I couldn't play much to start with, but armed with a Beatles song book from the library, it made me learn strumming rhythms and new chords. Eventually I could actually play along, and so the Beatles were key in getting me going with playing the guitar. 

This may not be my favourite album - and it's a compilation - but it contains some great songs, and it certainly had a lot of influence.


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Album Sleeve Challenge Day 2

Over on Facebook, there's a thing going round where you are nominated to post the 10 albums that have influenced your musical taste. No explanation or review is part of the challenge, so I'm linking here in my Facebook post to provide some background in the unlikely event of anyone wanting any.

I had just started secondary school when the Peter Gabriel era of Genesis was happening. I remember listening to Foxtrot and Selling England By The Pound at a friend's house, and later at university we listened to the back catalogue, with all its strangeness. We debated whether any of the albums after Gabriel were as good and compared them to other 'prog' rock of the era - Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson etc.

Aside from the musical merits and the strange and, at times, pretentious lyrics they have a particular sound to them. As well as Peter Gabriel's distinctive vocals and lyrics, the eerie sound of Mellotrons, tricky drumming and unexpected chord sequences intrigued me. Not sure how early Genesis has influenced me, but somehow I couldn't leave it out.


As a PS I probably ought to say I also likes some of the later material - notably the Genesis album of 1983, and I saw them live in 1987. But although it's not exactly cool to say so, I can't help wishing I could have been there for an early gig like some of my [older!] friends.