If Timothy Leary’s infamous declaration of the late ’60s to “Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out” ever found an ideal human embodiment, it was not the craggy old professor himself (who later walked back the “Drop Out” part) but instead a culturally adaptable individual straight from the post-industrial greyzone of Manchester named Neil Andrew Megson. And although the future Genesis P. may not have actually been been born dropped out and tuned in, they certainly were by the age of 14 and continued to be so right up until their crossover day last week at the age of 70.
By 15 Gen P. had already ditched much of the standard literature, fine art, and music popular within the burgeoning teenage counterculture (Kerouac, surf rock, etc.) and had graduated to the surrealists, Aleister Crowley, and The Fugs, in other words the type of confrontational and highly stylized art that the newly minted Genesis P-Orridge would churn out over the next six decades.
So what type of “work” did Gen churn out during that time? Well, surely any freak who’s found their way to this here site will worship at the everlasting proto-electro-industrial throne of Throbbing Gristle. And ’60s trad rock and psych revivalists surely have a lot of love in their hearts for Psychic TV. These two pioneering ventures alone would be a enough to solidify anybody’s legendary status, but the work of G.P.O. spanned far beyond these counter cultural touchstones and indeed beyond music, swerving into confrontational performance art, literature, non-pretentious pop art excursions, sculptures, and more. The key theme linking these disparate ventures is good old fashioned chaos, but it’s a chaos that takes on many different forms; from the clash bang menacing minimalism of The Gristle to the more traditional song structures of Psychic TV to all those tabloid-headline-generating COUM collective performances that bordered on genuine physical assault to the modern tribal shamanism of Thee Psychick Bible. Name any worthwhile cultural trend since the ’60s and chances are Genesis had their fingers in the honey jar, and yet they always swerved the hypebeast tag by bringing their singular sensibilities to stamp on anything they dabbled in, with the most important of those being a dedication to understanding the true essence of any movement before delving in and therefore having a bedrock understanding to work from that allowed this non-traditionally-talented individual to flourish within many forms.
For those who argue that lifestyle itself is the most important artform, Genesis excelled here too. From their lumpen hippie beginnings in the wreckage of the early ’70s London counterculture to the dead-eyed proto punk fascist chic of The Gristle days to the Brian Jones disciple phase of their 40s in Psychic and Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth to their gender fluid pioneer work with The Pandrogeny Project, Genesis’ life reads like a series of signposts pointing the way culture would lead for the past half century.
The fact that Genesis was of limited traditional abilities in many of their undertakings is made instantly moot in nearly every instance through studied dedication and, most importantly, a deadly tuned instinct that allowed Gen to hone in on the true essence of any undertaking. This wasn’t “just blag it, man” punk rawk amateurism-as-an-attribute, it was the unmistakable impression of a natural born artistic shapeshifter, a conjurer capable of weaving influential greatness out of thin air under any circumstances.
No matter how you may feel about Genesis on a personal level, one fact cannot be denied: Gen made an imprint on this world through his art that worked to change it for the better. Long live.
Note that the below 20 “tracks”, like Genesis themselves, branch out beyond music since this is not only unavoidable when dealing with such a diversified artist but since the non-musical and musical ventures feed upon and inform one another, weaving an intricate and thrillingly diverse tapestry of the type that just can’t be summed up on Wikipedia. Dive in.
Worm – Early Worm
Before The Gristle, before COUM, before Transmedia Explorations even, there was Worm, the university project that would feed and inform everything that came after it. Long out of press, here’s the first and only Worm LP, hilariously titled Early Worm, in its entirety:
It may seem hard to believe for someone so type A/borderline cult leader, but Genesis was at one time simply another cog in a London commune called Transmedia Explorations that thrived on throwing the daily lives of its members into intentional chaos to make them stronger and pulling off anarchic/genuinely assaultive public performances. Importantly, this led to the idea for COUM which, alas, led to Throbbing Gristle. While no actual footage exists, here you can find Gen speaking extensively on his formative months in this grimiest of lumped hippie communes:
Straight out of Hull, straight out of Hell, the COUM collective was conjured by Genesis based on their dealings with Transmedia, taking that Wreckers Of Civilization template and pushing things much, much further. And while their antics and the ensuing tabloid media frenzy may have received the most attention at the time, they also started banging about on some proto electronic instruments with the addition of a very important new member, future Gristle Cosey Fanni Tuti. If you’re a Gristle disciple and haven’t heard this, then you’re really no disciple at all:
inspired by Marcel Duchamp, Genesis put on a truly surreal exhibition around the time Gristle was roaring to life called Art Vandals which featured such acts as spilling the guest’s food and drinks and engaging them in uncomfortable conversation that would leave them in tears or running for the door. unfortunately no video exists, but Genesis touches on that time here, and it sounds unbelievable:
Throbbing Gristle – 20 Jazz Funk Greats
Here we go. Taking the aforementioned Cosey Fanni Tuti and drafting in fellow art-damaged miscreants Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson and Chris Carter, The Gristle was born. To this day one of the most innovative, frightening, singular, and consistently brilliant bands, a band with no true influences, a band that was brand new territory from the very start, Throbing Gristle is a pioneer of many voids. And never did they sound better than on 20 Jazz Funk Greats.
Throbbing Gristle – Zyklon B Zombie
The first ever TG song finds them at their formative, menacing best:
Throbbing Gristle – Slug Bait Pts. 1 & 2
More essential early Gristle.
Throbbing Gristle – Maggot Death
As their sound evolved, shit only got stranger.
Throbbing Gristle – Hamburger Lady
Arguably TB’s finest song right here:
Throbbing Gristle – Dead On Arrival
We’ll wrap up the TG section with my personal fave track:
Psychic TV – Godstar
Hey look, Genesis could write an actual hit song! Switching up the grim industrial vibe of TG for something more cosmic and trad-rock leaning, our hero managed to crack the charts. One of the unlikeliest feats in contemporary music history.
Psychic TV – just Like Arcadia
While certain passages in the Gristle cannon could border on being pretty, with Psychic TV Genesis really allowed his considerable traditional songwriting chops to shine through.
Temple Ov Psychic Youth – PSYCHLOPEDIA
Genesis’ ’90s musical output, although far more off-the-radar than previous, continued the shining path they never quite strayed from, herd in its essence here on this rare tape. The Crowley-inspired “Moonchild” is of particular importance.
Thee Majesty – Hey Baby!
Even as late as 2007, Genesis remained in his musical prime as can be seen on the underrated Vitruvian Pan album.
Thee Psychic Bible
If you’re a Genesis P fan who doesn’t own this book, then get your hands on it immediately.
Suing Rick Ruben
No, this isn’t music, art, or literature. It isn’t a performance piece or a gallery event or a statement. it’s nothing more than a potent form of justice. For yes, in the ’90s our hero successfully sued bearded new age bullshit artist Rick Ruben for 1.5 million of his Beastie Boys blood money. Leave it to Gen to turn litigiousness into a form of high art.
Appearance in DIG!
There is only one likable person in the entirety of Ondi Tmoner’s unfortunately popular Anton Newcombe hit piece DIG! and it sure as fuck isn’t any of the members of Brian Jonestown Massacre or The Dandy Warhols.
30 Years of Being Cut Up
By far Genesis’ most fleshed out and successful exhibition.
Try to Altar Everything
And now for an exhibit I was fully blessed to see live, Genesis’ exploration of the Hindu pantheon that just may be his most realized esoteric exploration.
Dissing Caitlyn Jenner
Arguably Genesis’ most important social project was his final one: The Pandrogeny Project. In transitioning, along with his wife, to a gender neutral state (thanks for the surgery money, Rick!), they foreshadowed and pioneered the push back against gender definitions which has gone mainstream in a way not even Gensis could have foreshadowed. But this didn’t mean our hero would just roll over and bow to any rich, self-anointed transgender spokespersons. Their statements on Caitlyn Jenner were powerful, eviscerating, and well-studied:
“There are lots of teenage kids on the streets of New York who are hustling and risking Aids because they need to get money because they have to transition, they have to change, and they’re prepared to risk their lives because it’s such a deep need, and they don’t have that back-up system. Apparently Caitlyn is already saying things like, ‘It’s so difficult being a woman and having to decide which designer gown to wear when you go out at night’ and ‘who should do your hair’. That’s not being a woman, that’s being a glamorous Hollywood figure and that’s not how it is for most people. We’re not saying Caitlyn isn’t courageous in terms of the personal experience, but the way it’s being presented by the media could end up being really, really damaging. We actually saw one thing on the news and Caitlyn’s going, ‘I feel like I can be a spokesperson for the transgendered community.’ And then later on she says, ‘I actually don’t know any transsexuals.’ What the fuck, she’s going to be spokesperson? She hasn’t got a clue. The human body is not the person. Identity is the way the brain operates; it’s memories, it’s sensory input and output. The mind is the person.”
Rest in peace, Genesis, and may flights of Brian Jones’ magisterial coats lay you gently to your rest.