This timeless post, from back in 2017, is one of our all-time most viewed. And with good reason. It seemed a good time to re-visit it…
There is a reason why “This Is Spinal Tap” is must-see viewing on rock and roll tour buses. Some of the most diehard fans of the 1984 mockumentary are those who work in the music business: artists, roadies and tour managers, who know all about band members getting caught inside stage props, bizarre rider requests and even drummers dying in bizarre gardening accidents! Genesis tour manager Regis Boff is no different. In fact, he may have participated in one of the most Spinal Tap moments in rock history. Here, in his own words, Regis tells us all about it.
See Related Content: Regis Boff on Keith Moon
I was responsible for what is arguably rock’s most embarrassing moment.
A standard early-to-mid-70s Genesis show finished with Peter Gabriel dressed in his “Magog” outfit: a long velvet black cape and a giant triangular headpiece. Towards the climax of the show, Peter would throw off his hat and cape to reveal himself in a silver jumpsuit. We made him momentarily invisible by detonating controlled explosions that came from metal pods at the front of the stage. The audience was blinded and dazed so it made for an excellent finish. We filled these canisters with a martini of flash and gunpowder that would be criminally outlawed today, whereas back then it was quietly banned. We never told anyone we were going to do it. One of our roadies filled them a couple of hours before the show and set them off just at the right moment.
This incident took place sometime between 1973 and 1975, either in Cleveland or Berlin (Believe me, in my world that is terrific accuracy!).
Someone had the inspiration to “fly” Peter into the air while the audience was blinded (it was most likely Peter himself). He’d be hoisted fifteen feet into the air by nearly invisible thin metal wires and finish the song floating in a silver jumpsuit, as the curtain closed. End of show. Nice. He’d also be concealed by the smoke machines and the intense fog that bubbled up from stage hands dumping huge blocks of dry ice into buckets of water. If the prevailing winds permitted, this vapor would fill the entire stage.
To make the “flying” work, I brought in an “expert” who had flown Elton John and his piano into the air a few months earlier. This guy would harness himself to the wires connected to Gabriel via a truss. Then he’d climb to the top of a tall ladder on stage left out of sight and wait. On my cue, he would leap off the ladder and, because he was the counterbalance, up Gabriel would go. I did the cueing because I had no other real job, having finished my critical job of running around hallways closing doors so no breeze would alter the course of our stage fog! I sweated the cue because if I got it wrong, Peter would be mid-song and everything else would fall to shit.
Well, I thought I nailed it, but [on one particular night] I was maybe a second too soon, and all hell broke loose. Peter went up quickly and crookedly. His left shoulder was at least a foot and a half higher than his right. In his surprise, he dropped his microphone, launching it forward onto the stage, where it rolled into the explosions from the gunpowder pods, which sent the blast sound directly into the huge audience speakers. Lord knows how many of the punters, who had the misfortune to have been standing near them, are now deaf!
Meanwhile, some asshole had opened an outside door, so all my smoke was blowing backward towards the dressing rooms leaving the mayhem clearly visible. The flash pods (we were later to learn from the fire dept.) had been way overloaded, thereby becoming perhaps the first incident of actual cannon fire during a live show in the history of rock.
As my bad luck would have it, Peter’s mic sound also went through the band’s stage speakers and I saw out of the corner of my now tearing eyes that Tony Banks, the keyboardist, was in the center of the stage hitting Geoff Banks, the explosion roadie (no relation), over the head with a tambourine, screaming “I am deaf! You made me deaf!” All this happened within a nightmarish ten seconds.
So, to recap: Gabriel’s nearly horizontal, fifteen feet in the air, with no microphone and a black cape dangling from his foot. The keyboardist is pounding a roadie as the hapless bastard is desperately trying to extinguish the residual smoke and flames still pouring from his canisters. The audience is in a state of stunned mass trauma, and I have smoke filling up the dressing rooms. So what was the absolute last thing this God could think of to do to me?
The front curtain would not close.
To their credit and to my abiding resentment, most of the audience hung around to watch us try to cut Peter down. It took such a long time!
Editor’s Note: In the 1991 Documentary, Genesis A History, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins remembered it with a slight twist, Phil saying: “I turned around to the tour manager and said YOU’RE FIRED!” But Regis did, indeed, stay on as tour manager after this ignominious moment of rock history!
– Regis Boff
Photo: Genesis image courtesy of Getty Images
Tony Banks is so uncool.
What do you know? Who are are anyway?
Tony Banks was good enough at his job that he can be uncool if he wants too.
Its all just the sheer craziness of touring! These things are all controlled by computers and such now; thank goodness! Must have been a laugh though!
unfortunate nobody immortalized these Genesis bloopers on video…
Phil recounts yelling “You’re fired!” at a gig from the The Lamb tour, where the flashing effect was due to occur during the closing piece of the set, “it” revealing Gabriel and a dummy that looked like him on either sides of the stage, for a brief moment. Reportedly, the roadie had used too much gunpowder and there had been a deafening explosion. Mike Rutherford confirmed the facts in his autobiography.
I was at that show! I thought everything went fine and that ending was planned. I WAS really high, so…………
I did flashpots for a local Boston band and had one show where I visualed the stage just before ignition to see an audience member reaching out with his hand on the pot to tilt it so he could look into it. Basically aiming it at his face. Adrenaline is a great thing. I jumped the corner of the stage, got to him in two steps and hit him in the chest hard enough to lift him off the ground and making him drop the flashpot which went off as soon as it hit the ground. In the half second between hitting him and the flashpot going off his expression went from surprise to anger to shock. I leaned over to him and said, “You would have lost your hand.”
I don’t think flashpots were used after that. Real close call.
Narrowing things down, it can’t have been Cleveland in 1973 since they weren’t in Cleveland 1973. Peter would pull off the cape towards the end of “Supper’s Ready,” so that dismisses “The Lamb” tour in the 1975 and the second half of 1974.
And the guy who opened the outside door was called an asshole?
I was at the Munich show on that tour. To this day I never knew how they did that. I always figured it was just the drugs and I didn’t see what I thought I’d seen.
I was a stage hand in the NYC Academy of Music in 1974 working the Genesis show. Our setup was a little different to get Peter flying. He was going to be airborne because we had a rope connected through a hidden overhead back stage pulley rig.
Regis was to give the cue and the fireworks technician would detonate and at the moment of explosion and light flash, three of us riggers were to pull with all our might a rope (as if ringing a church bell) and the harnessed Gabriel would rise and suddenly appear floating in midsong.
We’re ready and when Regis said “Go” we immediately tugged the line. Gabriel is airborne and laughingly there is a failure and no fireworks explosion!
It was spectacularly stupid.
We were flawless in our part of the stunt and our crew chief couldn’t resist, with all sincerity exclaiming, “Perfect Regis, perfect!”
Well, at least it wasn’t Great White.
Banks is the best, He IS Genesis. Whoever says otherwise knows sh*te because even Peter, Phil and Mike have said this repeatedly.
I was at that show. Shit happens it’s not a perfect world. Life went on.
A bit of theatre sadly lacking in today’s mundane money driven bands.
Tony hit someone with a tambourine? There goes my view of the perfect English Gentleman.
Good LORD this is FUNNY!!! “Spinal Tap” would be SOOO proud!!
Some soul, somewhere, MUST have this on tape/film, yeah?