Anthony Phillips is an English multi-instrumentalist and composer with a career dating back to the late 1960s. As a solo artist, he’s recorded more than thirty albums.
Phillips entered the scene as a member of Genesis, which he co-founded in 1967 with fellow pupils at Charterhouse boarding school. He serves as their primary guitarist on the 1969–70 albums From Genesis to Revelation and Trespass.
In partnership with Genesis bassist–guitarist Mike Rutherford, Phillips developed the spectrum guitar style — achieved with multi-tracked 12-string acoustic and nylon guitar — heard on the tracks “White Mountain,” “Visions of Angels,” and “Stagnation.”
Phillips left Genesis after the completion of Trespass but his successor in the band, Steve Hackett, further developed the spectrum guitar style alongside Rutherford. Echoes of the departed co-founder’s style appears on the subsequent Genesis songs “Can-utility and the Coastliners” (1972), “Cinema Show” (1973), and “Entangled” (1976).
Phillips was born on December 23, 1951, in Chiswick, West London. He initially aspired to sing and joined his first band in preparatory school, but was let go after flubbing the lines to Lonnie Donegan’s “My Old Man’s a Dustman” during a school function. This inspired him to take up guitar instead. The first song he learned to play was “Foot Tapper” by The Shadows. He named his first composition, “Patricia,” after his first crush. (Its chords and melody would later be retooled as “In Hiding,” included on the first Genesis album.)
After a brief residency in the United States during his early teens, Phillips enrolled at Charterhouse, an independent public boarding school for boys in Godalming, Surrey. There, he formed the R&B/beat group Anon with fellow pupils Mike Rutherford, Rivers Jobe, and Richard Macphail. They cut one demo, the Phillips composition “Pennsylvania Flickhouse.” As members dissolved and academic pressures took their toll, Anon dissolved in December 1966. (Jobe later surfaced in blues-rockers Savoy Brown).
Phillips and Rutherford continued as a songwriting duo. As demo sessions loomed, they invited another pupil, keyboardist Tony Banks of fellow Charterhouse act Garden Wall. Banks invited two bandmates, singer Peter Gabriel and drummer Chris Stewart. As a five-piece, they demoed their originals and handed the tape to alumnus Jonathan King, who’d become a successful performer and producer.
King decided to manage the young band, which he named Genesis. In 1968, he produced their first two singles, all group-credited, followed by the album From Genesis to Revelation, recorded with drummer John Silver and released in 1969 on Decca. Comprised of 13 songs, it mixes baroque pop and psych, echoing contemporary works by the Bee Gees, The Moody Blues, and the soft-side Rolling Stones (“Ruby Tuesday,” “Lady Jane”).
After a brief pause in band activity, Genesis resumed in late 1969 with drummer John Mayhew. They gigged and rehearsed intensely for several months, during which Phillips developed nausea and stage fright. Regardless, they signed to the newly formed Charisma Records (Audience, Rare Bird, Lindisfarne, Van der Graaf Generator) and recorded their second album.
Completed in July 1970, Trespass features six songs jointly written by Phillips, Rutherford, Gabriel, and Banks. The credits attribute Phillips with acoustic 12-string guitar, lead electric guitar, dulcimer, and (backing) vocals. His 12-string work, in concert with Rutherford’s 12-string and nylon guitar, is most prominent on the side-two epic “Stagnation,” a filigree-laden tapestry that would influence later Genesis works. On the raging album-closer “The Knife,” Phillips plays gruff, distorted riffs unlike anything else in his catalog.
Soon after sessions wrapped, a road-weary Phillips (and Mayhew) departed Genesis. The remaining band briefly considered folding, but soon carried on with a new drummer, Phil Collins. By New Year’s, they hired guitarist Steve Hackett, who mixed the filigree-laden Trespass sounds with his own tapping–bending style. A leftover Phillips–Rutherford idea, rehearsed under the working-title “F#,” formed the basis of “The Musical Box,” the opening epic on Nursery Cryme, the first post-Phillips Genesis album.
Immediately following his departure, Phillips composed a handful of new pieces (incl. “Which Way the Wind Blows”, “God if I Saw Her Now”, and “Henry: Portraits from Tudor Times”) that he demoed with a tape recorder at his parent’s home in August 1970. After listening to the works of Finnish Romantic composer Jean Sibelius, he decided to seek classical training. In 1974, Phillips earned his license as a music teacher.
Meanwhile, Phillips cut numerous demos, including the jolly folk ballad “Silver Song,” written in 1969 as a parting ode to then-Genesis drummer John Silver. One version, recorded with Phil Collins, was intended for an autumn 1974 release as a single. It would have marked Collin’s debut as a solo artist, plus the first post-Genesis credit for Phillips. However, Charisma and Genesis management vetoed the song’s release for unspecified reasons.
Phillips first resumed collaborations with Rutherford during the latter’s off-time from Genesis. In October 1974, they commenced sessions for a proposed album that would take 25 months to complete. In the meantime, they co-wrote the hymn tune “Take This Heart,” performed by the Charterhouse Choral Society and produced by Phillips. It appears on the 1975 multi-artist Charisma comp Beyond an Empty Dream (Songs for a Modern Church), which also features tracks by John McLaughlin, Clifford T Ward, and Capability Brown.
During 1976, as the on-off sessions slowly reached completion, Phillips secured a deal for the upcoming album’s US release on Jem-subsidiary Passport Records (Nektar, Camel, Synergy, Fireballet). For release in the UK, Genesis manager Tony Smith established Hit & Run Music.
The Geese and the Ghost
Anthony Phillips released his debut solo album, The Geese and the Ghost, in March 1977 on Hit & Run Music (UK) and Passport Records (US).
Wise After the Event
Anthony Phillips released his second solo album, Wise After the Event, in May 1978 on Arista (UK) and Passport (US).
Private Parts & Pieces
Anthony Phillips released his third song-based album, Sides, in April 1979 on Arista (UK) and Passport (US).
Private Parts & Pieces II: Back to the Pavilion
Private Parts & Pieces III: Antiques
Anthony Phillips collaborated with keyboardist Richard Scott for an eponymous album as Invisible Men, released in October 1983 on Passport Records. In the UK, Invisible Men appeared in April 1984 on Street Tunes.
Private Parts & Pieces IV: A Catch at the Tables
Private Parts & Pieces V: Twelve
Private Parts & Pieces VI: Ivory Moon
Private Parts & Pieces VII: Slow Waves, Soft Stars
Missing Links Volume One: Finger Painting
Anthony Phillips released the instrumental album Slow Dance on September 24, 1990, on Virgin. It consists of one long piece (50:28) divided into two parts. This was his second large-scale work (after Tarka) since his 1981 release 1984.
- The Geese and the Ghost (1977)
- Wise After the Event (1978)
- Private Parts & Pieces (1978)
- Sides (1979)
- Private Parts & Pieces II: Back to the Pavilion (1980)
- 1984 (1981)
- Private Parts & Pieces III: Antiques (1982) with Enrique Berro Garcia
- Invisible Men (1983) with Richard Scott
- Private Parts & Pieces IV: A Catch at the Tables (1984)
- Private Parts & Pieces V: Twelve (1985)
- Private Parts & Pieces VI: Ivory Moon (1986)
- Private Parts & Pieces VII: Slow Waves, Soft Stars (1987)
- Tarka (1988) with Harry Williamson
- Missing Links Volume One: Finger Painting (1989)
- Slow Dance (1990)
- Music to Eat: “Phil Collins, Anthony Phillips and the Song That Wouldn’t Die” (April 9, 2018)
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