Genesis and Ian Knight

by Regis Boff

downloadIan Knight died not so long ago and I miss him. He was a British rock stage designer who I first met when he showed up to design for Genesis around the same time that Peter Gabriel began cutting the rectangular section out of the front of his hairline.

For almost six years we did every show the band did in the US and Europe and Canada. Through most of that time, Ian, who wasn’t a very big man, combed his hair upwards from the sides near his ears to the center of his head then redirected that forward to a point just above the bridge of his nose. He only wore black and covered himself with a body length, red velvet lined black cape. He was never without the cape. Peter Gabriel, to his credit, never got jealous.

No band at the time had more innovative stage designs than Genesis and Ian helped much in this.

After Genesis he went on to Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart. He adored Rod Stewart. Stewart is clearly a sweet man.

Between 1966 and 1971, he staged concerts at the Roundhouse for Jimi Hendrix, Country Joe and the Fish, the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, the Rolling Stones and Elton John.

Ian was also involved with the first installation of theatre productions on cruise ships. In 1981 he worked on Ronald Reagan’s inaugural ball as US president, at which Ian surreptitiously introduced a troupe of transvestite trapeze artists.

A decade later I hired him to do my country shows and a few in Rhythm and Blues. Ian could be honest with artists. This doesn’t get you very far generally but he was more often than not successful in getting through to them. I remember an argument he got into with the manager of the Pointer Sisters over camera distances for the overhead audience screens. Ian wanted the girls shot mostly at wide angle with few close-ups. The manager demanded to know why? Ian, in a well-filled room turned to the guy and said, “Because the Pointers Sisters are very ugly”.

He and I traveled to Thailand together and had our lives altered somewhat by this amazing country and it’s gentle people, him more so than me. Ian wanted to go North towards the Cambodian border and I was afraid to come, people told me it was safer for the Brits than for Americans. He made many trips there afterward eventually marrying a Thai woman named Ngeon Khprjunklang and having a son Alistair. Actually he had married two Thai women but the first one did not work out. They had a mushroom farm together but mother proved to be too annoying.

People living or dead are the trees that you have carved your past into with the knives of growing and changing. Ian is tall in my forest.