There was a time when young Italian men had to undergo compulsory national service and once complete, the choices available were limited and thankfully Armando decided to re-educate himself in something such as quantity surveying or engineering. It’s not often that they become one of the most interesting and prolific photographers of Prog Rock and a major music magazine journalist. Armando Gallo however did exactly that. He began interviewing popular artists (his first being Rita Pavone) whilst still working at an engineering company. Feigning sickness on occasion to interview the Beatles when necessary and other artists, Armando’s focus had shifted and he looked for more. At the start of the early 70s Armando caught the emerging wave of Prog Rock, including one of the most potent acts on the Charisma Record label. This would start a lifetime career as a background character to the music scene, witnessing moments many could only dream of.
Initially we met Armando in late October 2014 not long after the première in London of the Genesis documentary Sum Of The Parts. Armando was in London on business as part of the Hollywood Foreign Press eying up various film premieres, one of which was the Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch about the life of Alan Turing. Armando proudly showed us the deluxe Led Zeppelin remasters featuring photos Armando had taken of Led Zeppelin back in the early 70s. We conversed about many things, his Genesis app and the band itself, settling on a formal interview next time he was in London. Reconvening in February the next year we sat down for a proper conversation and look through his previous Genesis book and the app that has superseded them.
TEJ: So we’re here today to talk about your brand new application “I Know What I Like”.
AG: It’s an old app now!
AG: Well I had to wait nearly a year to convince the management to intercede for me with regard to the music publisher for the rights to use the music of Genesis,. Once Tony Banks saw the app in February 2014, exactly a year ago, he spent a couple of hours going through the app page by page and he loved it.
The following day for some unknown but great reason I got a meeting with Tony Smith. He said he didn’t need to see the app but that I should give him some songs I wanted to use in the app so that he could help me with the licensing. Meanwhile, we had put in some music of various musicians around the world, all of whom are fans of Genesis. All these pieces of music were inspired by Genesis. They’re professional musicians who 20 to 30 years ago became musicians through listening to Genesis.
TEJ: So you had some help early on…
AG: They knew about the making of this app so they were sending me pieces of music. It is wonderful because as you read the book you have some music and you think, oh my god – this is something new, so it could have misled. Finally it took seven or eight months to get all of the various publishers to give me the OK to use twenty tracks for up to 30 seconds of Genesis music. You can download all of the (Genesis) music from iTunes and listen to them inside the app.
TEJ: We saw a few promo videos of the app. In one of these someone had downloaded the music and it appears on screen as a vinyl record with the correct record label. We thought that was a nice touch, very imaginative and interactive.
AG: The app really is a show of affection from the band to the fans all over the world. The fans financed this app with a Kickstarter campaign. All I had to do was give the go ahead to some other fans in Argentina [Mike Sobex and Gabriel Foux] who became masters of this new technology. They took care of all the original interviews and they took care of the photos. I went back to my files and I picked up some photographs that I had forgotten I had. So there are more than five hundred photographs in the app that you can see or blow up or move. Every time you go through the app you see new things. There was a review from the Genesis fan club magazine Dusk and he wrote, “Can you imagine if the book that was at the side of your bed for the past twenty years, suddenly comes to life” that is how he described. It was really beautiful.
TEJ: Was it Mario or Claudio who said that?
AG: Claudio Fracasso.
TEJ: What a lovely way to describe the app. As you have released about five or six books about Genesis, to now be able to bring the book into the 21st Century with the app which includes music, the vinyl player, a lot of the interviews you conducted back in the 1970’s and over 500 photos. It’s terrific. What other help did people give?
AG: A lot of fans sent material as well. They anticipated that I might need some material such as tickets and posters, et cetera. I have recently completed a scan of the Pete Frame family tree that Mr Frame did for the original book. But there is a lot of stuff ready for an upgrade of the app. The app is good also because we can always put in more stuff.
TEJ: Unlike a book in which you would have reprint a revised version.
AG: Yeah, we can always add to the app. It is such a new technology that people wonder if there is a market for it; it’s not something you can give as a present. You would have to go on the Apple store and you would have to download it and pay a fee to unlock all the magnificent material. It is still something that is new. Some people are used to going to the iTunes and App store instead of going to the record store. Three years ago I didn’t know what Facebook was or apps. I wasn’t really aware of downloading music. So it was Gabriel Foux whom contacted me and as asked if I would be interested in doing the app of the Genesis book. I said “What?”… so you learn.
TEJ: But it’s so rewarding that you gave him permission to do that!
AG: It was so very good. By learning new things I sort of rejuvenated myself. Yesterday I did an interview with Lady Judy Dench, and I do not know how old she is, but I’m 71! Anyway, she said everyday she learns a new thing. This is a good way to keep young and to keep the mind active and it’s really rewarding.
TEJ: We subscribe to the idea that everyday is a lesson in which you should learn something.
AG: You should make an effort to learn something new, they teach you that at school as children, but learning should never stop. Once you stop that’s when you die, not just your mind but your curiosity.
TEJ: Honestly I believe that once you stop progressing your purpose here is done, you need to embrace each day.
AG: Well that’s why they call the present, because it’s a gift.
TEJ: Tell us about the So app for Peter Gabriel you did before the release of the Genesis app.
AG: We actually did it in the period when I was hoping for Genesis management to be enthusiastic about the work in progress by these Argentina fans. It was a difficult step to go forward with such a pioneering thing. Whilst we were waiting on getting some involvement from the band themselves, Peter Gabriel decided to go out and tour the So album and he did a book as part of a deluxe box set and they used a lot of my pictures from 1986; around 44 to 48 pictures which I got paid really well for. I told the guys in Argentina we have the book, we can convert the So book into an app. All of my pictures are there. I’m not looking for money, you can do it as a gift to Peter Gabriel and I hope it will turn him on and maybe the app can go out for free. So the app went out for free and you could download the book, at that point Real World got involved and they gave us all of the videos from So. I put together all of the pictures from the video for Sledgehammer, which still holds the record for eleven MTV awards. We were very generous about the app and I was very interested in helping these kids put their foot in the door of Real World.
AG: But there are changes in the world. Before there was a record company and a manager, but now there are lawyers and it’s very intriguing. What I am saying is the passion and the love with everything that went on with the art of music has kind of gone out of the window. The record company is non-existent and it’s in the hands of the lawyers. If the art doesn’t make money they are not interested. Maybe I made a mistake to give Peter the app for free to go out and convince people as the fact you could download the book for 0.99 cents (sold as 99p in the UK) to see how the app would do and if there was a market there.
TEJ: The idea of offering it at that price to test the water and promotion is immediately obvious.
AG: It’s not on Peter Gabriel’s website anymore or on Facebook, you put a link on Facebook and it reaches only ten percent of the Facebook friends.
TEJ: Quite disheartening.
AG: Well you’d have to put it on every week and drum it up.
TEJ: Well as a fan I would say that Peter’s website and Facebook are always very current, so that’s ok as it works in that regard but if you were promoting an app it has a fanfare people hear about it and it’s promoted for a week then it drops down the page.
AG: You can hear the disappointment in my voice.
TEJ: I can but you shouldn’t see it as a personal thing it’s just the machine of the music business currently.
AG: I think it’s going to be very hard to reestablish the incredible creativity of the late sixties and early seventies which was the era of progressive rock when all of these kids where just coming out and feeling incredibly free of recording by doing whatever. Genesis was one of these bands, they were sent out there and they were getting ten pounds a week, where they were sent out to a villa in Surrey – go there eat Shepherd’s pie and potatoes… do the music you love.
TEJ: Tony Stratton Smith (Charisma) saw them as a long-term investment not instant money, something you don’t find as often these days.
AG: Yeah he created the band, why in the documentary Together and Apart/Sum of the Parts is he not mentioned?
TEJ: Well it’s most certainly an oversight but the documentary makers had their goals changed a lot.
AG: It’s a tragedy that he wasn’t mentioned.
TEJ: They did interview Tony Smith but this footage wasn’t used, they went to America and they had interviewed Ed Goodgold.
AG: Oh they found Ed Goodgold? Oh Ed Goodgold, I got this from Phil about Ed. He would come with a bunch of burgers and chips, he made them feel as though the sun was shining on each of them.
TEJ: Well it’s what they needed, that kind of mood lift. He also recounted in the first Archive box set how he paired Genesis up with Lou Reed on an early American tour, it was an amusing story.
We take a short break and have a nice drink as we’re in an up market hotel near Green Park tube station. A discussion emerges about the different locations of the Charisma Records offices. One period in time they are based just off a street that runs parallel to Shaftesbury Avenue and during a later period they are near Soho Square.
TEJ: Armando, let’s go back to the beginning. How did your adventure with Genesis begin?
AG: Well I was into The Nice and Rare Bird…
TEJ: They were both signed to Charisma…
AG: Yeah! With Rare Bird they [Charisma] made their first money because the first single sold three million copies [Sympathy – name of the song]. How lucky can you be.
TEJ: That’s good business surely?
AG: No no they were lucky. Total luck! Nothing to do with Charisma really. They were a massive hit in Europe and it sold a million copies in France.
AG: So that brought the money in day by day as they didn’t know where the money was coming from so they started the label from there. I remember doing an article for Rare Bird where I took the pictures in Battersea Park because Graham Field was living along Prince Of Wales Drive in this house where he had all the Hammond’s and Leslies (Cabinet) band equipment, as they were rehearsing in his apartment. They were a great band, in fact it was Rare Bird who told Charisma that you should get this band [Genesis] to open for us and check them out. So Genesis were playing around the corner from Rare Bird at Ronnie Scott’s. I think John Anthony was producing them at the time with The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other then he did Pawn Hearts [Van Der Graf Generator]. Fuck! Pawn Hearts was just unbelievable to me and Trespass was out at the same time. Trespass was very sweet to me, very plain, it didn’t have balls.
AG: To me Pawn Hearts destroyed In The Court Of The Crimson. King Crimson was really paranoid and crazy I would listen to them if I was staying in because I didn’t have a date or a woman didn’t call me back… I would then put King Crimson on. With Pawn Hearts, I mean, the sky opens up at night, you know. That’s when I started like the Paul Whitehead stuff with the album cover, it is amazing and then straight after that Nursery Cryme came and I only picked up Nursery Cryme because I saw Genesis at the Lyceum and I went to see them because Van Der Graaf Generator was playing on my birthday in 1971. I got in there and Tony Stratton Smith came up to me and he said “A pint?”. Handing me this glass he says, “Go and check this band you’re going to love it.” and it was Genesis. I went with my pint up to the front. The Lyceum was rags on the floor with people laying down and sitting down. In fact I wrote an article with the words “the festivals were still happening in the winter” because it was like being in a field or a meadow with people just laying down smooching but nobody was standing. I went up the front and I saw Genesis for the first time (24th January 1971). By the time I got there they had fans just jumping up, they had fans just going nuts, but in effect they were the first fires of Genesis. I remember everyone just lying down or sitting down and then one person maybe a man or a woman would just go crazy and jump up like a cork out of a bottle of champagne.
AG: In fact one of the first pictures I took was from behind one of these people jumping up, and in the background you see the band. It was at that point Peter Gabriel came out and did The Knife. For someone who didn’t know what it was like seeing Genesis, the audience was sitting down very calm; they were like nailed on the floor.
AG: Even the singer (PG) has this little flute and this little bass drum; nothing was happening. Then, all of sudden, they were playing the Knife. Peter to me was a bit like Mick Jagger, it was like seeing the band with a sort of invisible gauze as though it was in a film, then Peter would come out with a mic stand wielding it like a sword and it felt like he was cutting through this invisible gauze and the energy was coming out from the stage into the audience and then back onto the stage and that’s when the stage melts with the audience… that’s when the concert happens. I knew after that I wanted to be a photographer and to photograph every concert I went to. I didn’t want to sit down in the audience being there right by the stage, the heat felt like a big sauna that I was soaking wet every time I came out of a good concert.
TEJ: So the concert at the Lyceum in 1971 was the turning point for you?
AG: Yeah! It was the turning point of wanting to know who this band was. So I went to Charisma and I picked up a copy of Nursery Cryme and I knew I liked this band. I remember going home with anticipation of wanting to put this record on and putting the needle down and it goes ‘brwammm, brwammm brwaaam brwammm’ (imitation of the opening guitar to The Musical Box). Still, to this day, The Musical Box is my favorite track of Genesis.
TEJ: Yes it builds from that quiet moment to something much more powerful.
AG: And I thought this band is going to be huge in Italy because it had everything I grew up with. It had lyricism. which we call musica lyrica or Opera. For us all the drama is in the lyrics much like Opera. The Musical Box had all the dynamics of classical music all the stuff I grew up with including melodies from the past and when I did the paintings in 1978 with Paul Whitehead I wanted to incorporate our vision of Genesis in a painting and of course the zipper had to be there from the story of Peter’s from the woman who unzips on the tube.
TEJ: That story appears on the back of Genesis Live.
AG: Yeah that’s the one, at that point Paul and I agreed that the music of Genesis was so old both of us were fascinated that there were these young people, 20… 21… who like this music, but it was so old… how the fuck can that be?
TEJ: That’s the magic of Genesis though.
AG: I remember Peter telling me these stories of his grandfather having this attic in his Victorian house. Peter would go up there and find these old costumes and he would be dressing up. So there was always this element of old that was interesting. The idea to have this old man who unzips with this beautiful white light that comes out which was the creativity coming out. But to me Supper’s Ready was this good against evil and light against darkness. So I wanted to make a statement that, hey we’re dealing with light here ; if you turn onto Genesis it’s not Black Sabbath you know!
AG: So it’s white light coming out of this man’s brain, the old man’s mind, which of course was the old man from the musical box.
TEJ: If we recall you used that painting on the German version of the book from 1978.
AG: Yeah, in fact I commissioned Paul Whitehead who was a struggling artist at the time. Like all artists you have moments in your life when you don’t know how to pay the rent. So I said to him just do me a painting and I’ll pay your rent, you know. So we spent five days doing this painting, we did it together and I was there, I was hungry so I went to get a beer and a sandwich and when I went to pay the bill was six dollars and sixty-six cents. $6.66
AG: He wanted to put 666 in the fountains but I was like fuck, I don’t want to put 666 in the fountain. So he put it in Roman numerals instead.
TEJ: So your first book was actually released in the UK in 1978, with feet on the cover, which we have read you didn’t choose.
AG: This was around when And Then There Were Three was coming out. Tony Smith came to my house in Lake Hollywood Drive and he played me the album. It was then I thought this book is going to sell a lot because I knew from the album that Genesis would have a hit with Follow you Follow me. Tony Smith acted as my agent with Sidgwick & Jackson for that book.
AG: I had originally delivered the manuscript and the pictures of the book in September of 1977. Around March/April ’78 they sent me the proofs with this cover and I said what the fuck is this?
TEJ: The two feet sticking out of the water…
AG: The original title of the I Know What I Like book was “The Lamb, The Fox and The Musical Box”. The original story was going to be Peter telling me about The Lamb and telling me about how he couldn’t get a record deal and how he couldn’t get a publishing deal, Genesis went on to become (something bigger) and he was kind of lost. That was the beginning of the book but then I realized that it was a Peter Gabriel book not a Genesis book, so I said I can do that later. The idea was for The Lamb, The Fox and The Musical Box it was really a great story of Peter with Genesis.
TEJ: That would have been an excellent title but it would have required more than a pair of feet on the cover.
AG: So the colour pages were only around 8 to 16 pages of which 8 were Peter Gabriel and I said we cannot do that… Peter Gabriel has left the band… this is all Peter Gabriel. If we were going to do that we would be doing a Peter Gabriel book. From memory; because they had the photographs in London, I drew the 32 photo pages from my memory to redesign the layout as this was before fax machines. You see everything happens for a reason, I got angry and I screamed I said a lot of things like fuck you etc… I thought they were going to change the cover. I came to Knebworth and there was a truck at the back of the big field with sixty thousand people, instead of having a nice stand at the side of the stage or at the entrance of the park they just had this truck but we did sell a thousand books that day.
TEJ: The only show in the UK on the 24th June 1978 with Brand X and others…
AG: I went there and they wanted me to sign the book, I said I’m not signing that fucking book… it’s not my book (owing to disputes over the cover design). In fact there is a picture of me biting the book in “From One Fan To All The Others” that’s the only picture of me (at Knebworth) you’re going to get.
We break for a drink; the heating is pretty warm and cosy on this February evening in this hotel.
TEJ: You took control of the book and released an updated version in 1980?
AG: The original publisher wanted to do a paperback and not even in colour, so I decided to do it myself. I got the message from Peter Gabriel’s song “When things get so big, I don’t trust them at all, you want some control — you’ve got to keep it small.” So I formed DIY Books and that’s how it started. Peter Gabriel was doing his third album, the one with Intruder on it. I went to Reading (Festival) and I found out Steve Hackett was playing there so I felt great about that. (August 1979). At this point I was going to do a book on Peter Gabriel as I wasn’t interested in doing another book on Genesis but Peter took so long in exploring other things that I did some interviews, which updated the book I then came back and I spent October, November and December (1979) redesigning it as though it was a new book. I found out whilst I was working for the top magazine in Italy that the publisher had a printing company near Rome and whilst I never discussed any formal payments I knew if I had ten thousand books printed it would cost me a modest percentage per book.
AG: So I proposed this to Tony Smith as he had not long started Hit n Run publishing and at the time he was doing the songbooks. But he wanted “Evolution Of A Rock Band” to be released in America, why change it just let it go. In a way I was obsessed with the book being right they felt probably that I was obsessing too much in fact Mike Rutherford said “You should do another book straight away” In fact Tony Smith wanted to get me together with The Who, But I was so hurt by “Evolution Of A Rock Band” the way it came out.
AG: I had done many interviews with different bands and artists where I liked the album but they would say the album is shit because we had nothing to do with the mixing, nothing to do with the cover. I now understood their pain because you put so much heart and love into something and someone just fucks it up. So I wanted to do it right and it took me two years to grab the bull by the horns and so I went to Italy. Back then books were made where you had to photograph every page to make the plates and then do colour separation. Many people were doing it. I was in Italy throughout, from the 7th January. And then, on my birthday, I went to London to show the book to the guys. It was just the blueprints but I did have some proofs with different papers including different covers. It wasn’t just black but gold, green, and red. They went for that one [Armando points to the black cover paperback bought with us]. I still have those covers.
AG: By incredible serendipity I had left them on the first day in October of the rehearsals for Duke and here I was with an almost final product and it was the final day where they were cutting the album. One track after the other. Mike then said “I’m going home! I don’t want to hear from anybody for two weeks.” Tony Banks said “Me too” and he left then there was just me, David Hentschel and Phil Collins. Phil then sat me in the producer’s chair in the centre of the mixing board in the studio and I sat there as I could hear Behind The Lines. It was so funny because it was the very first listening of Duke before it came out and just before it was mastered. Phil was so great and happy.
TEJ: The tour started in the UK in March. In the tour programme they had photos of your I Know What I Like book.
AG: Well what happened is, when I was over for those two or three days I gave Tony Smith one last chance to do the book with Hit n Run. He chose those colour pages and asked if he could have them for the tour programme. That was a cheap decision to take those images over the whole book but I did some dupes of the colour separation so that they could print the programme and we gave him some pieces of the book [text] and I asked if I could put an advert in for the book and that went out on the tour programme.
TEJ: In the tour programme there was an advert for the stand version, and then there was a deluxe leather-bound version with gold leaf writing on it. The next time you would release a book on Genesis it was around 1984 in the UK and 1985 in Japan.
AG: Yes that was with Omnibus press. I stopped the printing of the Genesis I Know What I Like book because I had become the publisher of my book. This meant I had to go places like Tower Records with a box of twenty books.
TEJ: So you became the distributor or took on the distribution?
AG: This word ‘distribution’… what actually happened is I took my Volkswagen bus around all the record stores in Los Angeles with a box of twenty books, which was very heavy. I would say can you put them next to the Genesis stuff, I don’t want any money now but if you sell them you can make 25% and that is how the book got sold, Then I went on tour with Genesis. The Duke tour… my first show was Vancouver but I went to the sound check to find that the concert cancelled, but at the same time I got a phone call with the magazine in Italy telling me that they had set up an interview with Bob Marley in Jamaica and I thought; Oh shit! They were doing Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and I had interviews set up in Portland. So if you think about it, in 1980 the promotion was really only on the radio whereas sometimes Genesis could only do one interview leaving the other radio stations in these towns disappointed so I would take over. Here I am in the middle of a Genesis tour and I have all these things going on, then I went to Jamaica and I met the man who would change my life. When I came back to Genesis something had changed in me. I spent three days in Jamaica. But I spent an amazing night there. I went at eight o’clock at night to do an interview with Bob Marley, but I did the interview at 04:30 in the morning. At dawn in the Wolflight…
AG: There was also a camera crew. They’re filming the Wailers who were rehearsing for the Uprising tour.
TEJ: That was the last tour Bob did?
AG: Yeah… At around 4am there was this guy in this packed studio who said come here. There was also this French writer who had been there four or five days but they didn’t want to talk to him. In the meantime I had to get back to LA where Genesis would have played The Roxy and I wanted to be back for the Roxy and this was Wednesday. I managed to fly back for Saturday but I had missed the Long Beach gig on Friday night. Anyway, back to Bob and Jamaica. So we went upstairs and the French guy came with me. There was a room with one chair where Bob was sitting eating some food from a plate and a room about the size of this hotel room with ten people stood around the room. I sat on the floor to interview him and I said “I’m from Italy” and Bob said “Do you love the Pope?” and I said something which made them all laugh. I told Bob who I am and that I went to school with the priests and I didn’t have a good time.
AG: Bob said “That’s what’s wrong with the Catholic faith they keep you so scared of the Devil that they forget you have to see the sky.” The way he said it I was thinking this guy is a poet, it really woke me up. I left him but when I told him how long I was going to be in Jamaica which was three days he said “Oh three day’s, mon is like three hours, next time try to come back with the woman you love on a night with the full moon and try to stay at least a month!”
TEJ: Was this the time you got a photo of Bob reading your book?
AG: Yeah, it was the morning after the interview it was around five thirty or six in morning and I said if I come back at nine would it be ok to take some pictures, I went back to the hotel to try to get some sleep but by the time a taxi was called and then I had to get back from the hotel… I didn’t sleep much. I got back to where Bob was just before nine. About 5 minutes later he came out and I took some pictures. There were people hanging around; women with their kids… it was a kind of communal place. He comes out and I give him my Genesis book. He sat down and started looking at it and I took some pictures there was the French guy (Interviewer) so I have some pictures of me with my army bag and camera’s, the woman and her kids and Bob reading the book. Then this kid brought a football and they started playing football and he kicked the ball towards me and I stopped it he gave me a little smile and I was there taking pictures, they were playing two against two and the goal mouth was just two bricks when he stopped there was this mango tree and he grabbed a mango from the mango tree and he ate it. When he finished the mango I got the other camera out and that’s when the camera fell on the floor and it opened… Oh shit! I closed it and so I didn’t have the portrait but I didn’t throw it away even though this much (shows a length of about four inch in terms of exposure) was all lit up. But there was on particular shot where you could see his face, have you ever seen that shot?
TEJ: Isn’t that the one where Bob appears to have an aura around him?
AG: I have it on the laptop but I used to carry a slide, when he died the following year it blew my mind. The way this photo came out wasn’t just an accident the sunlight hit Bob Marley and I have put the photo on my Facebook on Bob’s birthday. With that I had to go back to Duke.
TEJ: An entirely different animal.
AG: Yeah, it was a show up North [America]. Genesis were meant to do a radio interview and I was on afterwards, but they were late so I ended up doing my radio interview and Phil arrived. I was talking about Bob Marley. That tour was crazy they were selling the programme and my book. I had to get back to Los Angeles to fill up the merchandise truck. I went to Houston and my book wasn’t on sale but the show was good. After that I went to New Orleans and I met Margret Maxwell, you know Margret Maxwell?
TEJ: No please tell us about her Armando…
AG: Margret Maxwell, “Mumdiddlywashing”, at the time was a woman in her mid fifties and she is about eighty-five now. Back then she had just become a grandmother and she had raised all these kids and she had decided that she wanted to do what she wanted, that was to shoot rock concerts. She loved Genesis. She came to New Orléans to shoot Genesis and that’s how I met her and we really got on. You didn’t see older people shooting then, it was all younger people. She was going back to Missouri so I went back with her and had a break. She was going to see the band in Denver so I was going to go to Denver. I went to Denver and Phil was so happy because Jill was flying in to see the show and Phil had met her about a week before at the Rainbow (Bar and Grill) next to the Roxy. Phil said “Go out and enjoy the concert, it’s going to be a good one tonight.” and I did. After that I went to St Louis. So in Tower Records in Westwood there was this beautiful display of Duke when I walked in with my twenty boxes of books there was this kid behind the counter and he said, “Are you Armando Gallo?”. The things that happen when you become famous.
AG: He said “Do you have the Genesis book?” and I found out he was the guy who did the display for Tower Records, Dan Jones. So here I am in St Louis and I called him up and asked him how much they were paying him, I said do you still have the Duke display. He told me they had taken it down and it was out in the storeroom, so I said bring it over to Chicago. We set up a table with the Duke display and we had a sign saying get your book here and we would sell fifty to a hundred books. That’s when I became electrified. Just imagine signing a book and giving a handshake with someone who is so happy to have this and so happy to have met you. After a hundred of these I was buzzed. So that was great and it was the last three weeks of the tour. In Philadelphia things went weird and we had to pay our percentage in like one-dollar bills… five dollar bills. We had sold around 200 copies of the book.
TEJ: Do you remember anything else from the Philadelphia shows?
AG: We had a morning free and I remember we went to see this movie that everybody was talking about with Jack Nicholson.
TEJ: Would that be The Shining?
AG: Yes that was it, The Shining fuck at ten o’clock in the morning Jesus Christ, when we came out we didn’t want to eat.
TEJ: It’s a tense movie.
AG: Well everything went great. Later on I was on tour with Cheap Trick in 1981, but around this time I was having personal problems and headaches with issues connected to the book so I stopped printing the book. I nearly ended up doing a book on Cheap Trick. I went to Madison Wisconsin where they are from and I realised that in order to do a book you have to feel like a hundred percent behind the artist otherwise it just doesn’t come out good.
TEJ: Would you ever consider an App on other bands, artists considering the amount of photos you have of so many bands, artists.
AG: It’s finding the time, I am flown all over the world by the Hollywood Foreign Press. But back to the book!
TEJ: So what happened next?
AG: Well in 1984 I was asked if I wanted to do a Genesis book, I said I can’t do another book. So someone suggested that I do a photo book. Bob Wise calls me up; he says, “Armando I’m going to Japan.” – I had told him about Japan and the nice things there – “I’m going to Japan in ten days, why don’t you bring some slides? I’m getting together with the Shinko music designer and we can put together a photo book on Genesis. Think about it I’ll give you a call in a couple of hours.”
AG: I had a friend called Becky who was from Japan. She wanted to return there, so when Bob called me back I said for plenty of money (laughter) and two tickets I can do it. In the meantime I had Dan Jones at Argo pictures and I said to him pick up five hundred pictures that you would like to see in a photobook. So I went to Japan, I was in a shoebox of a place with three designers and we were doing ten pages a day and Bob Wise came in to see us and he said “Fuck your working in here?”
TEJ: Fast forward to 1987 and you reprinted the 1980 book.
AG: Yeah I started a publishing company with my brother, and I was trying to get music sales in Italy and they wanted my Genesis book and I not give it to them but they requested. So Tony Stratton Smith passed away so I decided to dedicate the book to him. I did a limited edition print, I did ten thousand copies, which were a limited edition.
(During this time Armando ended up directing a music video for U2)
TEJ: I found out that you shot photos on the Genesis theatre tour in autumn 1992.
AG: Those photos belong to Genesis. They asked me to shoot those photos. Maybe there was a plan as I was actually going on vacation in Italy. I said give me plenty and pay my expenses and they did, they asked for my bank details and the money was in the account. Then they sent a car to the airport to pick me up and I traveled on the train to Newcastle with Tony Smith then Edinburgh. On the way back we did Manchester and then we came back by bus.
TEJ: Did you do the Earls Court gigs?
AG: Yeah I did Earls Court as well it was the first two or three nights but by then I had lost a bit of interest and I treated the shows as though I was a hired gun. After all those years Tony Banks was the same… Mike Rutherford was falling asleep all the time. I managed to get a photo of him on the bus, with his eyes open (Armando pulls an impression of someone exhausted with their eyes wide open but asleep).
Straight after Armando had finished the Genesis tour he went on holiday before remerging as a photo credit on a promo photo Peter Gabriel was using to promote Secret World the live album from the US / Secret World tour of 1993/94
TEJ: Things went a bit quiet and then in 1997 you return to the world of Genesis with a photo of the band in Malta during their video shoot.
AG: Well, in 1997 my magazine sent me to the Farm as Genesis were coming back with a new singer. I cannot remember why I was at the Farm but then I went to Malta. I flew out to Malta the next day, when I met Ray Wilson I gave him a copy of the book with the feet (1978 first edition). I did a small interview for the magazine and I shot a few photos, on the way back I was in London and I thought hey I have shot these pictures but they (the management) told me they did not have a budget for these photos, but they did ask for some dupes if they needed them but they never used them for anything.
TEJ: You took some photos of Genesis on the Calling All Stations tour?
AG: In Rome…
TEJ: It’s in the 1998 version of your book on the last page; the photo is dated February 18th 1998.
AG: It’s taken with a long lens I was standing from above.
TEJ: Things went a bit quiet then you did a private release of the book titled “I Know What I Like” which was a hardback book. What made you do this book?
AG: The internet was coming in. Someone (Jack Beermann) told me about this Genesis website called The Path, and they were laying out the pages of the book perhaps the first twenty pages on the website. So I contacted him (Thomas Holter) and he’s a Norwegian kid and I said “ Your site is really beautiful, I’m a Genesis fan but this is my book and you cannot do that.” We became friends. I was going to Finland as I was writing for a Finnish magazine. I stopped there and had a beautiful time over two days with Thomas.
He gave me the idea to do a reprint so he put down something on his website “would you be interested in having the genesis book” and he had a lot of response right and I was thinking of doing a thousand copies and at the same time Paul Whitehead was broke so he came to work for me and as we were doing the book we were listening to Nursery Cryme and The Musical Box came on so we decided to do a new cover with the old man and I got him to do an introduction. Later I realised that he doesn’t talk about the book in his introduction.
I went to the same printer in Italy during the world cup. I was thinking I can go to Italy print this book and watch the world cup from the Italian TV which is better than the American TV. I had the book printed there and they have the same people there, we had to redo the plates and print two thousand copies and whilst the printing was running they said hey we have the paper we might as well do three thousand and I said are you sure, how long is it going to take? They said “five minutes” ok do three thousand.
TEJ: I think on The Path you original mentioned two thousand as the number printed !!!
AG: At that point I wasn’t interested in distributing the book, I had this storage locker for my things with air conditioning and I put all the books there. So the people who would reach me, I knew were big genesis fans and I would send them out a letter to order the book so I could make some money.
TEJ: I recall reading there was a delay in the book being shipped
AG: Although in the meantime I nearly died
TEJ: Really (Armando lifts his shirt and there is a huge scar from his lower stomach right up to the top of his chest) which is stunning at first it looks like a large shark tried to take a bite out of his torso
AG: Yeah, I came out with a little colostomy bag and after three months the head of the department came to see me and I had told my wife to bring me some of the genesis books to give to the surgeons, the doctors had visited and done their thing then this guy comes and sits down he starts looking through the books and he says “what does he mean in Games without frontiers?” they were big Genesis fans. When I had the reattachment I was in surgery for seven hours and if it wasn’t for him and the other four surgeons I would have had a colostomy bag for life. I was in hospital for eleven days for the reattachment, these are the good things that the book made for me saved me a few times and got me out of trouble.
Stunned we pause for a drink, Armando’s lovely wife (Cheryl) Skype’s him and a friend of Armando skype’s him afterwards and there is a conversation going on in Italian before long we return to the closing section of the interview.
TEJ: So the next time you in the Genesis sphere is when you appear on the “Genesis Songbook documentary” in 1999 / 2000.
AG: Yeah they interviewed me in Los Angeles; they said we can’t pay you very much maybe, they gave me a small amount. The director was alright but I look terrible because I don’t smile in it, when you’re on camera you always have to remember to smile a bit otherwise you come out of it looking wrong or very heavy. There was this guy behind the camera (Armando pulls a grumpy face describing how this guy looked) I remember I talked about The Musical Box. They wanted me to talk about something else but I just talked about The Musical Box.
TEJ: It was great to see you on the songbook, it felt like you came across very natural
AG: Every time I tell these stories it just depends who I am with there are always these different tangents.
TEJ: The next time we heard from you was when the Kickstarter campaign started for the app in 2013 and we all know how that turned out. Thank you for giving us so much of your time.
We wrap up the interview and Armando gives us a guided tour of the app funded through Kickstarter. It’s extremely impressive the level of detail and content in it. We press to see Armando would be interested in opening it up for iPhones and smaller devices but he rightly points out it wouldn’t look as good as it would be too small to appreciate.
The app had an interesting baptism of fire, care of a kickstarter project. Amazing how in this day and age that things deemed impossible five or ten years ago are now possible through crowd funding. Armando some fantastic and enticing prizes at various tiers and levels. These featured from having your name in the credits to having high quality canvass prints of some iconic photographs from Armando’s catalogue of Genesis photos, the prizes become even more stratospheric taking on the form of Armando meeting kickstarters in London or even at his home in LA with a meal of Italian Cuisine being created from Armando’s fair hands.
To learn more about the wonderful crowd funding kickstarter project you should click on this link – note the kickstarter is finished for the moment.
To purchase the app click here. A free version is available as a teaser but the full book (App) is £14.99. Thanks again to Armando for sitting down for us and exploring his Genesis and photographic past.
There is a kindle version but this is far less immersive than the app, its the book with a large amount of images in a digital form.