The third in our series of member bios in #ProgLoopGenesisWeek is: the keyboardist and founding member Tony Banks!
He was born in East Sussex, England, as the youngest of five children. His mother, a pianist herself, was particularly into music and this helped Banks to experience music from a very early age. At the age of eight, he started taking piano lessons at school. He commented that he was “an average piano student at school, playing Rachmaninoff and Ravel”. What separated him was that he was very keen on playing by ear, which in most cases leads to writing original pieces. At around 13, his new piano teacher sparked his interest in classical compositions and became an important deciding factor for Banks to pursue a career in music.
Studying at Charterhouse, he was one of the founding members of Genesis. Along with Rutherford, he was the longest active member of the band and just as the band evolved from folk to prog to pop, so did the sound of Banks. Throughout his career, he used many instruments, ranging from Hammond organs, mellotrons, ARP Pro Soloist and other synths and a variety of pianos.
He didn’t have a flamboyant personality on stage, unlike his counterparts in bands like ELP and Yes. Compared with Peter Gabriel’s stage presence, he seems almost like a ghost in concert footage. But according the music historian Wayne Studer, he was “the most tasteful keyboardist of prog rock.” This especially becomes clear when you stop and think about the keyboard parts in songs like “Supper’s Ready” or “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight”, even “Firth of Fifth” has keyboard parts that, though complex, still manage to be just right for the music. This is probably because Banks didn’t concanterate on performing blazingly fast licks, but thoughtful and reflective melodies that sink in our hearts.
Fun Fact: Something that you probably don’t know about Tony Banks is that he can also play the guitar and the bass! Some of the most memorable 12-string guitar sections in the Genesis discography, in songs such as “The Musical Box”, “Entangled”, “The Cinema Show”, were contributed by him.