Above: Phil ponders the mysteries of the universe while listening to his own version of "Tomorrow Never Knows."  

 

In this page, we consider the most mysterious aspects of Genesis--those questions that have been raised over the years, but which, for one reason or another, proved difficult to answer, or even impossible (such as "Was it a, or was it b, or was it x or z?"). Can this clouding of the truth be due to some sort of complex conspiracy, or is it in fact the work of outside, alien influences, like those guys who made the crop circles? To know that, you'll have to read the book. By which I mean, scroll down. My answers are not complete or totally true or (in some cases) even there at all, but I think my questions are good, and that's what counts. If you have any mysteries you'd like to add to the list, or if you have some answers you'd like to provide me with, by all means contact me.


MENU OF MYSTERIES
What's the deal with Ray Wilson?
Is there a 2-LP Live album?
Squonk...Huh?
What's the deal with Silver Song?
What does the story for The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway mean?
A Duck?
Whatever happened to...?
What's the answer to the riddle of Lurker?
Is Invisible Touch a concept album?
How come there aren't more female fans?
How come Tony Banks isn't more popular?
Did Genesis ever sell out? If so, when?
Will Genesis ever get back together?




What's the deal with that Ray Wilson character? And what about that album, Calling All Stations?
This album and its lead singer are a source of constant debate and recrimination among fans. Everyone wants to know, didn't it suck? Or didn't it rule? Why didn't they make another album with Ray? Why don't they get back together with Phil? How come the Americans didn't like it? It's the album that gets discussed the most, it seems like. Well, opinions are as varied as the visible spectrum (I could also say, "opinions are like assholes; everybody has one," but the spectrum one sounds nicer, don't you think?), so there's no "right" opinion about CAS. My opinion is balanced on a knife's edge, in that I both dislike and enjoy the album. I like singing along, but my objective mind (at least I think it's objective) tells me that the music is rather lame. The lyrics are all about loss and guilt and bad relationships, very mid-life crisis and very unoriginal. The music is not particularly thrilling, except in one or two places. But it still has that Genesis sound.

Some fans of CAS who didn't like it at first listen will tell you that the key to enjoying the album is not to think of it as a Genesis album, but instead to think of it as the first album by some new band, or simply a collaboration between Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford. Those fans say that as soon as they stopped thinking of CAS as a Genesis album, and stopped comparing it to other Genesis albums, then they were able to find the good things about it. Sadly, in my case the exact opposite is true. If I had heard a cut from CAS on the radio in 1997 and was told it was by a new or otherwise non-Genesis band, I would have dismissed it immediately as light pop music. I would have switched stations and never thought about it again. The fact that this album is by Genesis is the ONLY reason I bought it, and probably the only reason I keep listening to it. No, what I think the real secret is to learning to like an album you don't like is to just keep listening to it. Once you become accustomed to the music you're listening to, you can learn to like it. This is true of almost any type of music. Even albums I've despised on first listen I have learned to truly like after enough repeat listens. It all has to do with getting used to it.

As for why it didn't do well: everybody knows that! Your lead singer is your band persona; this is especially true in Genesis, where Phil Collins (or Peter Gabriel) was the only one in the band who ever really had any personality on stage. When he leaves, nobody knows the band anymore. Plus Genesis was just getting old, and other bands were replacing them. Also the style of music they play is rather old-fashioned; it's rock/pop, yes, but the issues they sing about are mature and whiny, not adolescent and whiny. And the musical style sounds like it's from the early 90s, not the 21st century. In the US, the radio stations and such were probably afraid that without Phil the album would not be popular, so they didn't play the cuts as much, and thus it became a self-fulfilling prophecy; with nobody listening, nobody was buying, and nobody's going to buy tickets to a tour they know nothing about, with some weird lead singer instead of Phil Collins! And who's going to opt for another album from a reformed band line-up that sold fewer records on their latest album, when every previous album sold more than its predecessor? So, in short: the system is to blame! Darn system.

As for Ray Wilson personally, I have nothing particularly against him; I've never had a listen to his solo work, so I have no room to judge. I can say that the lyrics he wrote for CAS are generally, IMO, very bad ("Small Talk," "Nowhere Else to Turn"). I think he's a fine singer, and I would not object if they made another album with him--so long as they kept him away from the lyrics.

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The Mystery of the 2-LP Live Album
In the summer of 1973, the first Genesis live album was released. Called simply Live, it was some edited numbers from two different shows taped for the King Biscuit Flower Hour (one at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester, England; and one at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England). Ever since then, rumor has circulated that an initial test pressing of two LPs was made of that album, with one additional track: "Supper's Ready." Though previous generations of fans may have doubted its existence, relatively recent evidence has made me as sure as I can be without having a copy myself that the "test pressing" does exist; it is probably one of the rarest, most valuable Genesis artifacts out there. The Genesis Museum actually has a photo of the genuine article, a Dutch record on the Philips label. Most would assume that just having one additional song would have given the album only one additional side, so it would have been a three-sided release (this is what Scott McMahan assumes in his passage about the LP in his discography), which does not seem at all feasible for an official release, even a test pressing. But possibly this was just a radio promotional copy, as the Museum LP photo has written on it (although, as the site's proprietor later told me, his is the only copy he has seen with that message on it), and was not really considered for official release by the band. This would actually make it NOT a test pressing for the Live album, but simply a copy of the radio show recording. On the site the album is priced at $1750-$2250! The author of the Museum site (Adam Gottlob) says he knows of less than 10 copies in existence (including his own, which he scanned and put on his website, and I promptly stole it and put it on my website, above). He even has a shot of the information sheet/track list that came with the record; the track list is as follows: Side One, 1 Watcher of the skies, 2 Musical Box; Side Two, Get 'em Out by Friday; Side Three, Supper's Ready; Side Four, 1 Hogweed, 2 The Knife. All of the songs are labeled as being from Leicester, except "Hogweed" which is from Manchester. As you can see, the tracks have been arranged in such a way as to make up four sides, albeit some of them are awfully short. The venues assigned to the tracks are actually the exact opposite of Scott McMahan's information for the Live album; he says all the tracks but "Hogweed" were from Manchester, but "Hogweed" was from Liecester. Simon Funnell agrees with the former information that most tracks are from Liecester. To add to this proof, several CD bootlegs surfaced in the early 2000s which are almost certainly transfers from copies of these famous LPs (among them Some of You Are Going to Die, Test Pressing, BURP 21, and the excellent TM Productions remaster). A quick comparison will show that the music is the same as on the Live album, that the intros are longer but still contain what fragments were present on the official release, and that a version of "Supper's Ready" at very similar quality level is also there. Some versions even put the songs in the right order ;).

Scott McMahan spent a lot of time and research and words refuting this "myth" in his discography, but was still sent messages from people who claimed to have copies of it. Scott has a final quote from some guy in his discography who says the Dutch pressing is not a radio show but is in fact a test pressing, that the Philips label had no affiliation with King Biscuit Flower Hour and that US radio stations didn't actually even have promotional LPs until much later in the 70s, so the Dutch pressing MUST be the real thing. (This seems to contradict with the Dutch LP photos in the Genesis Museum, since the record is clearly labeled as a radio promotional copy. Actually the Genesis Museum photos support McMahan's considered theory that the "test pressing" is in fact just an edited version of the KBFH shows.) He also mentioned that it had been bootlegged as Some of You Are Going to Die.

Scott in 1998 had still not seen a copy of the LP. Alan Hewitt, does not state in his book Opening the Musical Box definitively either way whether this album even exists, much less how many copies he has seen. (Actually this is another case in the book of slight inconsistency in Alan's information, as he says quite confidently in his band history portion of the book that the Dutch Philips label test pressings "do exist," while in the collectible items section he only says they are "reputed to exist.")

It's interesting that uncertainty over the item's existence has persisted so long. As I say, recent evidence has made it quite obvious to me that this item does exist--the only real mystery in the case is how this strange form of the album ever went so far into production as to have any number of LPs cut and produced. Of course, the number of those produced are very small and as I say, this is a very rare artifact of great value to any serious collector. However, if anyone out there has a copy, please let me know, and I'll start getting together my $2250... (Just kidding!)

BTW, I posted about this mystery on the official site, and the owner/manager of the Genesis Museum (Adam Gottlob, AKA kinglerch, who was mentioned earlier) responded to it. He provided this theory for the origin of the Dutch pressing: "It is most likely a test pressing of the concert for what was to become the official Genesis Live LP, but was pressed for radio airplay long before the album had been finished, cut, and mixed." This would make it a sort of freak, in that it is not quite a radio show and yet not quite a test pressing for a live album. Is he right? Who knows! It seems like a good explanation, though.

Another addendum: out of the blue, someone posted on the genesis-trades mailing list some interesting, possibly "inside" information about the double-LP (the following is a cleaned-up, grammatically correct passage from the email): "a friend of mine here in Portugal, the actual director of CBS/SONY who once worked for Phonogram Int. (International?), has one copy, given to him at a Charisma party in London in 1975." Luis goes on to say that the record he saw did NOT look like the one featured on the Genesis Museum site, but instead was printed with a message similar to the following: "Phonogram Int (13-3-73) Holand promotion edition." He also gives what appears to be a catalogue number: Charisma 6830140-1 (this is basically identical to the catalogue number listed on the Genesis Museum for the test pressing). The track list has the correct dates and seems to actually represent the set list. He claims that his tape from this record is now circulating, though not under the name of Some of You Are Going to Die, whose sound quality he describes as "poor." I have also been sent photos from another collector who claims to have multiple copies taken from a Philips warehouse. The mystery goes on.

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Squonk... Huh?!!?
PART ONE: The Legend
It's fairly safe to say that if you have found your way to this part of my web site, you probably are familiar with the fact that the band Genesis wrote a song called "Squonk." Chances are also fairly good that you like the song (seeing as how, if you hate Genesis and all their works, you wouldn't go to the trouble of visiting a fan web site and reading their ridiculously long and over-analytical band-related literature--though you might, out of sheer ignorant spite, visit a chat room in order to deride Phil Collins and poor defenseless Tony Banks). You may even have gone so far as to read and learn the lyrics and wonder what the heck the band (or specifically, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, who get writing credits for the song in the liner notes--though it's possible Mike was the one who wrote the lyrics) was talking about when they recorded that song. But how many of you out there have really gone out of your way to figure out what the Squonk is?

Some of you may be surprised to learn that the "Squonk" was not an invention of these English public school boys; nor were they even the first bunch of lads to reference the squonk in a pop song! No, that honor probably goes to Donald Fagen and his friend Walter Becker, who as Steely Dan wrote the fantastic song "Any Major Dude Will Tell You" for their 1974 album Pretzel Logic. In this song, if one can decipher the swaggering vocals of the mighty Donald, one can hear him croon:

"Have you ever seen a squonk's tears? Well, look at mine!
The people on the street have all seen better times."

Are you now hungry for more? Do you want to know if Steely Dan have also written a song all about the squonk? You'll just have to listen to the song--if you don't have Pretzel Logic, I highly recommend you buy the album or any of Steely Dan's other releases--even their newer ones. However, I think I will have to burst the balloons of all those ignorant of the full Steely Dan/squonk connection--Steely Dan are rather well known for their cryptic lyrics and eclectic references, and this is in fact the only mention of the squonk in the song and in the whole Steely Dan oeuvre. Donald Fagen clearly assumed that his listening audience knew enough about the squonk to not need any explanation of its origin--he makes a mere passing reference to the creature and moves on, never looking back.

However, for those of us who aren't as well learned as Donald, I will give you some squonk background (as stolen from BBC's h2g2 site--I don't know what it is, but it was very informative). The squonk is a mythical creature and, as such, its exact origin is unclear. However, the creature was well known by the late 1800s in Pennsylvania. Here's another fancy fact for you: the state tree of Pennsylvania is the Eastern Hemlock. Why? Well, because they've got (or had) forests with piles of hemlock trees in Pennsylvania, and in the late nineteenth century, that lumber was Pennsylvania's life's blood. The hemlock, as well as carrying a dangerous poison under its bark, also produces a substance called tannin, which is apparently the basis of common ink.

But all of this is beside the point. Suffice to say that Pennsylvania had forests in which piles of lumberjacks were crawling around, and in that kind of situation it won't be long before you come up with legends of some kind of mythic creature who lives in those forests. Right? Right. In this case, the creature was the squonk (scientific name Lacrimacorpus dissolvens), and boy, was he an ugly fella. All accounts describe the race of squonks as very shy, due to their extreme ugliness--an ugliness which seems to consist mainly in unfortunate skin ailments. They are covered in warts and moles and such, and have very baggy skin; and, rather than keeping a stiff upper lip about it and going around saying that beauty is what you've got on the inside and all that, they rather take the opposite course and spend all their days weeping over the unfortunate physiognomy which nature has seen fit to hand them. Since they hate their appearance so much, they don't want anyone else seeing them--certainly not humans, who are presumably all--even on their worst days--much prettier than even the prettiest squonk.

Their skin being so nasty, and generally being the source of their ugliness, one would think that they would be a very unwanted class of creature and that, rather than having a lot of work keeping away from his fellow beings, the squonk should have no problem shunning any lumberjack who happened to stumble near (seeing as how most people will not want to look at something ugly unless they absolutely have to). But in fact (as the more popular legend about the squonk claims) the very skin which makes the squonk so nasty is what also makes him so valuable, and consequently makes people very keen on meeting him. That's right, the squonk pelt--presumably due entirely to its rarity--will pull in a king's ransom, so hunters (who are always ready to kill something that is so rare as to be nearly extinct) are always on the lookout for squonks. Thus the famous JP Wentling (or Wentley), who was presumably who Mike Rutherford was thinking of when he wrote "Squonk." For, just like the lyrics of the song, Wentling was able to track the squonk by the trail of tears it left on the ground during the night of a full moon, and he tricked the poor creature by imitating its piteous cry and drawing it near enough to toss it in a sack. Here we may assume that squonks attract each other in their misery, which is nice; it's comforting to imagine that, even if you are incredibly ugly, you have the chance of finding someone else who is at least as ugly as you are--surely two squonks will have enough in common to be able to hammer out some kind of a friendship, providing that so many of the species exist and are in close enough proximity of each other to enable them to eventually meet. They at least seem to have the urge to commiserate with each other, as the success of Wentling's trick plainly shows.

Anyways, Wentling thought he had it made--that he could drop the whole tannin-trading business and settle down in a solid gold house and eat off of silver platters every day, feasting off the riches of his rare (possibly unique) squonk pelt--until he eventually opened his sack (after having carried the wailing squonk at least part of the way home, possibly to a tumbledown lumberjack's shack--like the kind of place the tin woodsman lived in in The Wizard of Oz) and found nothing inside it but a pool of bubbles and tears. For this is the squonk's one special trait apart from its ugliness, its only defensive measure: it can dissolve into a liquid by-product of its own misery (hence the scientific name, which, if I know my Latin, which I don't, seems to talk about sadness and dissolving).

It is this alluring story which has caused several authors producing compendiums of myths and folklore and beasts to include the squonk in their works, and it is these literary works which have informed and inspired the works of our beloved pop artists. At least those pop artists of the seventies, who were a tad more concerned with interesting references like this than the musicians of other decades of the twentieth century. (For those of you interested, authors who have discussed the squonk include William Cox, Jorge Luis Borges, and one Carey Miller; unfortunately all of their squonk-related books are out of print, except perhaps that of Borges.) Even present artists are intrigued by the squonk: hence the Squonk Opera, a group of artists and performers who had/have a multimedia show on Broadway--though probably very little of it refers to the ugly blighter for which they have named themselves. As of my writing this, Squonk Opera's web site is the first hit that comes up if you search for "squonk" on Google.

PART TWO: The Song
But let's get back to Genesis. One might ask, is there anything more to the song "Squonk?" Is it merely a re-telling of the Wentling story, or is there some underlying, second meaning? Some have gone so far as to suggest that this song is about the previous lead singer Peter Gabriel. A Trick of the Tail, on which the song appears, was after all the first album without Pete at the helm, and maybe the band had something to say about him? Clearly, if "Squonk" was the band's message for Pete, they didn't seem to think very highly of him: one hardly goes about writing symbolic songs in which they compare their best friends to ugly, warty beasts that go around crying and whining all the time about their own ugliness.

In fact, I find the idea of this interpretation of the song frankly ridiculous. Though there have always been slight tensions in the band due to artistic differences, and though indeed Peter has never really wanted to play music with the guys again since his departure, Genesis are very nice British boys and have never resorted to name calling, even on a symbolic level. In fact, I'd think it's safe to say that almost none of the songs they ever wrote contained symbolism on that kind of level. Genesis wrote about things that interested them, and never couched those things in allegory or metaphor--the only person who did that was Peter. Also, there is another reference to Peter Gabriel on the album A Trick of the Tail which is far more positive and obvious, and I think basically quashes the idea that "Squonk" is about Pete--though "Squonk" is still connected with the reference. The theme to that song is repeated at the very end of the album, during the conclusion of "Los Endos," and it is here that, in the background, one can hear Phil singing a couple of modified lines from Pete's lyrical odyssey "Supper's Ready:" "There's an angel standing in the sun...Freed to get back home!" (or possibly "need to get back home").

If the band thought Pete was a whiny, crying, pitiful beast, why would they quote his own lyrics at the end of their album? As is more widely accepted in the fan circles, these final lines in "Los Endos" are the true final tip of the hat to their former band member and still good friend Peter Gabriel. If the band really did write "Squonk" about him, it is doubtful they would have been in the mood to help the guy out with the reunion concert in 1982, and that they would continue to say nice things about each other on all of their interviews and in all the biographic movies.

PART THREE: The Real Mystery
A final, interesting question related to "Squonk" comes from Genesis fan Ken Walker, who sent me the following theory (and also inspired me with the idea of rambling on as I have above about the song). I will use his words (as he has invited me to):

"On the song 'Squonk' from A Trick of the Tail, I distinctly hear the lyrics 'you better watch out, you better watch out' sung by someone who sounds suspiciously like Peter Gabriel, and not Phil Collins...I know the old saw about how much Phil sounds like Peter (which I think is bullsh**, as Phil's voice was always pretty smooth compared to Peter), and that maybe it's a glitch in the LP (although I hear the same thing on LP and CD)...It's patently obvious to me that Peter and the boys decided to have a prank (or wank, or whatever the British called it in the 70s) and have Peter sing a few words on the first non-Peter album, yet I've been unable to convince the people who should most readily grasp this obvious truth."

Without going into a whole debate over whether Phil really sounds like Pete or not, especially in the early to mid seventies (they certainly don't sound like each other now!), I would like to say that if you do sit down and listen to these lines on the CD or the LP, it is hard to simply push Ken's idea away out of hand. Admittedly, Phil was just starting out as a lead vocalist and might sometimes hit some weird areas in his range during these early years (and, indeed, as he has aged and toured extensively, so his voice has altered considerably; and those familiar with the chart-topping, soul-ish Phil vocals of the 80s can easily be surprised by a sudden shift into his 70s voice); but even a careful listener will find it hard to admit that the "you'd better watch out" line doesn't sound a little....off. I myself don't think it sounds like Peter--but I don't think it sounds that much like the surrounding Phil vocals, either. In fact, upon hearing this mystery for the first time, I found myself going back to the stories of the band's lead vocalist rehearsals in '75. One well-versed in Genesis history will recall that, before Phil muscled in and took over the job (supposedly on the advice of Jon Anderson, but really on the advice of Phil's ego), the band searched far and wide for a new lead vocalist (to fill the magic brassiere? no...), but had a very hard time of it. In fact, as the story goes, they only had one guy actually come into the studio. Phil pointedly stayed away that day, and the guy (whoever he was--another mystery, that is, but if anyone knows the answer please tell me!) sang on the track (you guessed it) "Squonk." Now of course what the band always says is that even this guy who they'd taken into the studio wasn't hitting the right notes, and in fact his performance was what Phil described rather bluntly as "fucking average." So it's very unlikely that they would keep any of the work he did. But if there is another vocalist on "Squonk," I think it's more likely that it's this mystery man than that it's Peter Gabriel.

However, this is only my opinion. My theory is that, though their separation was amicable, the band and most of all Peter were not anxious to get together again so soon after the end of the Lamb tour (the new album was recorded in the fall of 1975, I believe, and Pete's touring days with the band had wrapped up in the summer of that year). Though I believe they weren't so angry with the man as to write a nasty song about how ugly he was, they also weren't ringing him up every other day and asking him in cheerful voices to pop 'round to the studio and have a listen to the hit album they were making without his help. One also is tempted to wonder how, if Pete did actually sing some vocals on this album, the information has never leaked out. Why would the band keep this interesting news secret for over 25 years? And, the most telling question: if Pete had to sing one line of the new album, why would it be "you'd better watch out, you'd better watch out?" How significant can that line really be? Is it possible that Phil couldn't sing it the way they wanted it sung (even though, for years afterward, he sang the whole song fine consistently while on tour)?

Still, bands have kept secrets for longer than that (have the Beatles ever said anything about the whole "Paul is dead" mystery?), and short of having been in the recording studio in 1975, one can never really know whose voices really got laid down on that track. So there's something for you to chew on the next time you listen to A Trick of the Tail. Or even Pretzel Logic. Remember, you don't know what it's like to be a squonk until you've cried yourself into a puddle of tears--but it's a good bet that you'd probably smell like hemlock. So you'd better watch out!

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What's the deal with "Silver Song"?
This is a song that ends up on Genesis bootlegs a lot, but it's technically a song written by Anthony Phillips and Mike Rutherford while they were members of the band (in 1969). It was written for Johnathan Silver, an early drummer who had left the band (hence the title; it sounds sillier now that you know what it refers to, doesn't it?). Apparently it stayed only in written form until November of 1973, when Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins recorded the song, along with "Only Your Love," another Phillips tune. The real mystery here, apparently, is in why Ant, Mike and Phil got together to record these songs at this time; and additionally why, after being recorded, they were not officially released--except for "Silver Song," which was finally released as a bonus track on a re-issue of Ant's first solo album, over thirty years later! Alan Hewitt's book has the following explanation for how the song's recording came about, straight from the lips of Anthony Phillips: "That summer [of 1973] Genesis had a bit of a lull writing Selling England by the Pound. Mike and I were talking about possible solo things. We heard about the Charisma album of modern hymns (Beyond an Empty Dream) and 'Silver Song' came to light at the same time. Phil came down and sang on the demo of the hymn ('Take This Heart') with a few friends. Then the 'Silver Song' idea came up--I can't remember how we played it to him, but he loved the idea..." (There is also a very similar explanation for the recording of "Silver Song" available on Anthony Phillips' official website, in the FAQ section, here.)

As for the songs not being actually released, Alan Hewitt says: "Either way, the session including the prospective B-side 'Only Your Love' was recorded and proposed as a Phil Collins solo single, although this idea was subsequently shelved and the recording still lingers somewhere in the Charisma archives." "Silver Song" was played on a radio program, probably not long after it was recorded, but that was it. After that, various bootlegs appeared with various versions of the song taken from the studio outtakes, as well as versions of "Only Your Love" (I have both songs, including the version of "Silver Song" taped off of the radio broadcast with the radio announcer coming on at the end--refer to the text links in the first sentence of this entry). When "Silver Song" was officially released by Phillips on Private Parts and Pieces I, it was a version with his vocals, not Phil's. Why? Why? Why? Who knows? Now Mike and Ant had always been friends, so it makes sense Mike would help Ant on his solo album work; and Mike knew Phil, so it makes sense that he would introduce him to Ant as a good vocalist. Phil also does vocals on Ant's first LP, The Geese and the Ghost. So why not release the "Silver Song" single, or put it on an album? We may never know. It was probably some weird record company decision. I blame the system. Darn system. (Most of this info was from Scott's discography.)

Even the press release on Ant's official site announcing finally the official release of "Silver Song" with Phil's original vocal cannot explain the reason why that release was delayed for over thirty years.

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What the heck does the story for The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway mean?
Ha ha ha ha ha! I laugh in your face for asking such a question! Isn't it obvious? Well, maybe it isn't so obvious. Actually, from the word go, or the first sentence of Peter's liner notes ("Keep your fingers out of my eye"), the story is about as obscure and obfuscating as any concept album could well be--The Wall is a cakewalk in comparison. For every person you ask this question of, you will have a different answer. Though most will be variations on "Eh?" Peter himself has always been very reluctant to discuss the meaning of the story; one response I've heard in an interview when he was asked to explain the story was: "Uuuuuuhhhhhhhhh...I was hoping this wouldn't come up." The other band members, not having had any part in the writing of the story (except when Mike and Tony helped on the lyrics to "Light Dies Down"), are not much help--the most Phil has ever said is that it is all about split personalities.

I believe there are several sites out there that try to interpret Peter Gabriel's epic, but the one I know most about is (of course, again) Scott McMahan's discography, which includes the Annotated Lamb. This is an excellent amalgam of the lyrics, liner notes, and stage story for the album. However, I think Scott was trying too hard to put the story into a Christian framework; I'm sure some of the imagery was Christian, but finding a quote from the Bible that mentions ostriches and linking it to Pete's one use of that word in the liner notes seems like really stretching it to me. I myself have written two papers about The Lamb, in which I think I came to grips with my own interpretation of the story. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have any copy of either of these papers anymore (how I rue it! rue, rue!), but I do have some memories left of my views. One main view I have that I don't recall seeing elsewhere is that the title track is introductory in more ways than one; "The Lamb" is actually an outline for the whole rest of the story. The first verse about the movie theatre calls to mind the frozen screen that engulfs Manhattan in the second and third tracks. "It seems they cannot leave their dream" gives the feeling of being trapped, as in tracks four and five. The screen that moves over Times Square, showing memories of the city in two dimensions, is very like a movie screen, and the memories of the town and its inhabitants are rehashed in "Back in NYC" and "Grand Parade," as well as "Counting Out Time," which is really a flashback song. The second verse of the first song is talking about drugs and drug use ("Nighttime's fliers feel their pains"), and I think also refers to the songs opening the second disc: "Lilywhite Lilith," "Waiting Room," "Anyway," "Supernatural..." I think "Lilywhite Lilith" being able to "take you through the tunnel of night" is a metaphor for drugs, particularly cocaine, which is also known as "white lady." The last verse, about "Suzanne tired her work all done," is probably referring to a prostitute, and corresponds to Rael's less than stellar experience with love later in the story, detailed in "Lamia" and "Slippermen." The raven section of "Slippermen" sets off the final climactic race and the decision Rael has to make at the end. The end of the first song has Pete shouting "I'm Rael!" which is similar to his ending cry "It is Real, It is Rael!" Also, the ending of the first song and the very ending of the album are both repeated lines that reference other classic rock songs. The end of the first song references the Drifters' "On Broadway," and the end of the album references the Rolling Stones' "It's Only Rock 'N' Roll."

Well, I won't get that much more into it here; if I ever find those papers I wrote, I will add them to my writings/reviews section on the Goodies page. I think The Lamb is Pete's masterwork and one of the best things this band ever did. I would like to make one more assertion, though, and that is that Scott overlooks a large part of the story's meaning in pushing it into the Christian context. If Pete was going for a Christian story, he'd want to use some kind of trinity, wouldn't he? But the story is really about duality, and dual personality: John and Rael are continuously at odds with one another, but at the end when Rael gives himself up to save John, they become one another. Two become one. This duality of opposite forces balancing one another is actually much more common in Eastern religions, yin-yang, that sort of thing. One of the things I did in my second paper about this album was link it to Buddhism, and I know this is going to sound very silly, but it fit really well! I read an interview with Pete in the 70s where they talked about his interest in Zen Buddhism, which is exactly what I linked it to. Rael has to give up the material world, his material self, and become enlightened with spiritual knowledge. You also get the sense of Rael living many lives and being sent back to try again (he blacks out and wakes up again in "Cuckoo Cocoon," definitely meets Death in "Supernatural Anaesthetist," and seems to go through yet another transformation in "Colony of Slippermen"), until he gets it right. This is very Eastern, and it reminds me of the book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, in which an Indian boy goes through many different ways of life before he finds enlightenment.

Here is some additional insight, courtesy of Genesis fan Charles Fleeman. It took me a whole year to get this on the site, but I did it, Charles!

Thought I'd mention that I wrote a paper in college about the Lamb in 1978, I may have a copy somewhere, but my interpretation was more psychoanalytical, and the story was Peter's battle with being in a band and wanting to be solo, being on the road and wanting to be home. Those sorts of things, personal reasons for leaving the band and some history. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is a swan song. I read a lot of Jung as a High Schooler, particularly "Man and His Symbols," and used that kind of analysis for the story. You may know, but Jung looked at literature and mythology etc. to find archetypes about people. So did Peter.

Anyway, if there was a brother relationship in the context of Genesis, I felt it was between Peter and Tony, and that John could be a Tony symbol.

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A Duck?
In the liner notes to Duke, you'll see that both Tony and Phil played the "Duck." Did the SPCA get them for cruelty, you ask? No! Because in fact what they were using was a duck-call! Tony says that this was the best way to get the sound they wanted on certain songs, especially "Behind the Lines." I've never been able to spot it, but apparently it's in there somewhere, when they wanted a "brassy" sound. Scott quotes Tony Banks on the explanation for this, but in the quote Tony isn't expressing himself well, and it's unclear how they actually used the duck-call. It sounds as if it was mainly Phil blowing it into a microphone. "I held the book so tightly in my QUACK!"

In regards to this whole thing, some more developments; I have been told that the sound credited as "Duck" is in fact "a form of Vocoder used to get the distorted vocal sounds on Duke's Travels and Man Of Our Times." I don't know how true this is, but let me also provide the quote that Scott McMahan uses in his discography in regards to this. This is taken from a 27 April 1991 interview with Tony as a promotion for his new album Still:

Tony Banks: Uhm, It was this kind of, it was an attempt...it was a way of triggering...this was back in the early days, you know, before technology could sort of give you all the things you wanted. It was a way of triggering the, I think it was a Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer. We triggered it using Phil's voice. But he used it, instead of this was trying to get a sort of brass sound on a couple of tracks, particularly "Behind The Lines" and the way of doing it was using a duck-call. You know, one of those duck-call things you can get. We used that into the microphone, and it got just the right kind of sound, so that we put it down that we played a "duck". We hoped a few people would ask a question about it you're the first person I think since the album was released who's asked us about that! So there you go.

This doesn't sound altogether intelligible to me, but it does sound as if Tony is saying a real duck-call was used, but put through a synthesizer.

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Whatever happened to [fill in the blank with various old members of the band]?
(The official site's Genesis General FAQ, if it still exists, answers this very question in more detail than I have used here.) Well, I'm guessing we all pretty much know what happened to Anthony Phillips, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett and Bill Bruford (and if you don't, you can simply check the various news sections on the official Genesis site). The people you really don't hear about are the early drummers--Johnathan Silver, John Mayhew, Chris Stewart--and that one interim guitarist, Mick Barnard. Ever wonder what they did after missing the Genesis boat? Well, Johnathan Silver crawled back out of the woodwork for the reunion in 1998 in promotion of the first box set; he also did some interviews that ended up on the Songbook DVD. Scott McMahan tells us that he is a television producer in Grenada. Chris Stewart is the author of a "Rough Guide" travel book called Driving Over Lemons which details his experiences living as a farmer/sheep shearer in Andalucia, Spain (no, I'm not kidding). The book came out in 1999. As far as I know he's still living in Andalucia, and I believe there is a follow-up book. Alan Hewitt tells me that John Mayhew has returned to his "old trade" of carpentry and is currently living in Melbourne, Australia. I have, as yet, no information on what happened to the elusive Mick Barnard. As an update, though, I have recently come into possession of a photo of Mick (I had no idea what he even looked like previously). Apparently he was interviewed by not only Dusk (the Italian Genesis fanzine) but also the author of the Genesis history book, Inside and Out. I don't have the text on either one, so I don't know what's up with him--probably the interviews don't go into that anyway, they just focus on his time in Genesis. Anyway, I have his photo in the Faux Bios section (taken in December of 1970).

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The Riddle of "Lurker"
For the longest time, I was certain that the answer to the riddle in this song was "Man." But let me go back to the beginning. Here are the lyrics:

Meanwhile lurking by a stone in the mud
Two eyes looked to see where I was
And then something spoke, and this is what it said to me:
Clothes of brass and hair of brown
Seldom need to breathe, don't need no wings to fly
And a heart of stone
And a fear of fire and water
Who am I?

Before I started reading Scott McMahan's discography, I had no idea this was a riddle (actually, I don't think I even knew the lyrics). At the time his discography wasn't actually complete. I remember asking him while corresponding with him about obtaining bootlegs what he thought the riddle meant. His best answer at the time was "Man." Humans can wear armor ("clothes of brass"), they don't need wings to fly, and they certainly fear fire and water, because both (in the right quantities) can kill them. But it didn't really fit everything ("seldom need to breathe"? I don't think so!). I just read Scott's final interpretation of the riddle, which was: submarine. Talk about out of left field! His explanation sounded as if it had been really forced, too. But, it was followed by what must always be the final word on all things Genesis: the comments of Tony Banks. Tony says: "I'm afraid to say really that there is no real solution...It was a bit of a joke." Gah! Tony was just messing with our heads! Actually, it really is the most satisfying answer to the riddle. Nice to know that Genesis can still mess with your head.

Fans still seem to insist on coming up with possible answers to the riddle. But that's cool. It gives one something to talk about between albums... ;)

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Is Invisible Touch a concept album about a nuclear holocaust, the phrase "Invisible Touch" referring to the touch of radiation, which will grab right hold of your heart and mess up your life, the song "Domino" referring to the aftermath of the nuclear war and the individuals affected by it, and the song "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" taking place in a Blade Runner-esque future (see the music video) where there are lots of people addicted to drugs?
No. Nice to dream though, isn't it?

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How come there aren't more female fans? (or, "Why can't I get a date with a Genesis chick?")
Phil Collins and Tony Smith have come up with some rather demeaning explanations for this one. Ray Wilson pointed out that Genesis members "don't get the women" during his very factual introduction for "Home by the Sea" on the '98 tour. But actually, a visit to the official site forum will show you that there are in fact female fans (unless they're lying about their gender--but what would they have to gain??) of Genesis, who are just as excited about the band (perhaps moreso!) as any male fans. Indeed, on some live recordings of band performances screaming women fans can be heard. Still doesn't seem like there are as many girls, though. One simple answer to this puzzle is the ratio of men to women in the band: 1 to 0. There are no ladies! So it's almost unavoidable that the band would be more likely to write songs about things men are interested in than things women would be interested in. Just saying "ladies like the love songs, and that's why they started coming to the concerts more after 1978" is too simplistic and stereotypical to really answer the question. There's actually a very dark sexuality to a lot of early Genesis that is very male and animalistic, I think (such as the raw need expressed at the end of "The Musical Box"). This is not to suggest that Pete is gay, but that the heterosexuality he is expressing is the kind of animal desire best understood by men (how sexist is that?).

But there's a real (for lack of a better word) "fruitiness" to their very early work, like FGTR, that really appeals to my wife. In these early days, though, they weren't really writing their own music yet, just sort of parodying what they saw around them, and this psychedelic folk/pop had an appeal that was coming from its own roots, not from the band. The lack of female fans in the early days (70-77, say) may have been a larger reflection on the gender-specific pull of prog rock bands in general; were there a lot of female Yes or King Crimson fans? Hmmm...But I think a lot of the gender gap comes from the guys in the band themselves. Genesis for a long time was really a bunch of school kids, from a British school no less, probably fairly repressed and not very experienced with the opposite sex. Pete was the first among them to have a family, and when he did, he left the band! Genesis just didn't get the ladies, and so how could they write songs that would appeal to them? But if you are a lady and you do like Genesis, even the old "school boy" Genesis of the 70s, bless you; you've seen something in them that many ladies haven't. If I wasn't married already, I'd ask for your telephone number.

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How come Tony Banks isn't more popular?
Fans of Tony are probably wondering this all day, every day. In fact, they're probably thinking about this so often that it must be difficult for them to perform even simple tasks, like eating or chewing gum while walking, jumping rope or playing handheld video games. Tony Banks himself probably thinks about this even more than them, so you can just imagine how debilitated he must be; no wonder he's so stiff on stage! Now obviously, if I could answer this question, I should run out and become a music manager immediately. But one simple answer is: the music he writes is not popular music. How about this, too: he's always changing his lead singer. As I've said before and am going to say again, the lead singer of a band is its persona. If you keep changing your singer, people lose the ability to tell who you are. Mike and the Mechanics have admittedly played around with their lead singer, but not nearly as much as Tony has. Plus, Mike ended up with the lead singer from Squeeze, whereas Tony had Fish. Fish may be well known in the UK, but here in the US most people you ask will think you're talking about the things that swim in the sea. Tony also used a female lead singer on "Lion of Symmetry;" Toyah, who sounds to me like a combination of Jon Anderson and a nine-year-old girl with laryngitis. Jumping between male and female singers makes it even more confusing for those listeners looking for a consistent sound. Tony's music is also complex, sometimes long, and very keyboard-based. Most pop music is much more guitar driven, or at least has more guitar in it.

And I for one (please don't kill me!) find a lot of Tony's music, well--cheesy is the best word, I guess. Or perhaps "tepid." There's no real aggression, even in the bits that should be aggressive, because he's using a synthesizer. Synthesizers and keyboards just sound really dinky to me most of the time. There. I said it. When he was using an organ or a mellotron, there was something other worldly about the sound. But keyboard tones are artificial and often sound very weak, watery.

So if I think Tony's music is cheesy, why do I like Genesis? Well, Genesis is not just Tony. There was something about their group dynamic that made Genesis more than the sum of its parts, as I have said elsewhere. Playing and jamming and composing together really raised Phil's and Mike's and Tony's music to another level. Even Tony's solo writing contributions to the band sound better to me than a lot of what I've heard of his solo stuff. There's some kind of catalytic process that occurs when Genesis record music, which is what kept them coming back for all those years between solo albums.

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When did they sell out/Did they ever sell out?
[For the sake of this mystery, let's assume that selling out means "only in it for the money." That is, producing music with the sole purpose of making money and accruing the most fans, not for artistic fulfillment.]

You'll find fans arguing, sometimes vehemently, about this one. Usually it revolves around Phil: his influence made them into a pop band and ruined their prog heritage. Others though will say that the band all moved into poppish music as a natural stylistic progression. Others still will say that they never really dropped their prog heritage and were still doing long, epic, majestic songs up to the end ("Tonight, Tonight, Tonight," "Home by the Sea," "Driving the Last Spike," "The Dividing Line"). Some will say that "their music just happened to become popular, it wasn't any choice or change they made." I think most will have to agree that the Genesis of the 80s and 90s is not the Genesis of the 70s. In fact, their style changed almost from album to album! And in the 80s, they definitely began writing shorter, more accesible songs with fewer layers and less musical complexity. Their songs ceased to be about mythology and obscure references and fables and became more about real life situations and people (this is not to say that their songs couldn't still lapse into fantastical scenarios; they just didn't do it nearly as often). Part of this has to be the departure of Gabriel and Hackett, both of whom were particularly fascinated by fantasy and (as Steve puts it) the romance of places and times. Part of this change can also be linked to the change in the times; prog was dying and those types of subjects just weren't popular anymore in the music world. Fantasy had been played out, and in the eyes of many, hadn't been a very good idea in the first place. Genesis went with the musical flow of the 80s like everyone else: synthesizers, drum machines, reggae, hip-hop and even rap have all influenced later Genesis tunes. Movements in musical style are a cultural force, kind of like an independent simultaneous innovation born out of the feeling of the times. Genesis brought to this musical direction their own unique perspective.

In part, I would say Phil's tendency towards pop music and pop themes did push the band in that direction. But it was also the times, and the pressure of record companies and changing fan tastes. Basically, it was the system. Darn system. But I don't think Genesis ever really "sold out," in the sense of catering to the masses. I'm sure all groups want to make a record that lots of people like, but Genesis has always been first and foremost about the music, and making their own music that satisfies them. The only time I think they were too worried about what other people would think was when they made CAS (Tony himself said that CAS was the first time he felt like he was competing against top 40 bands), and look where that got them! Another time where the band were thinking too much about their image and not enough about their music was ...And Then There Were Three..., where they felt they needed to demonstrate that they could still handle being a band, and ended up making an album that couldn't decide which way it wanted to go. Both of these albums were made after the departure of a member. The only good album the band made after the departure of a major member was ATOTT, and that was because they weren't thinking too hard about their image and what others would think of them; and also because Pete was not, as many at the time assumed, the band's core writer, but only one part of a supposed democratic songwriting collective; and really for the first two albums after Pete left (and before Steve left), most of the band were still in that fantasy/mythology state of mind, still willing to explore the romance of places.

What I'm trying to say here is: yes and no. Yes, I think they did worry about making a popular record at times, which could be considered "selling out" in a sense; but at the core they maintained their artistic integrity, and still wrote music that they were proud of.

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Will they get back together?

Yes! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yeeesssss, YYYYEEEEEESSSSS!!!!!!! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!

It was announced at the original press conference on 7 November 2006: the reconstituted band were indeed going to tour Europe in the summer of 2007, as Phil/Tony/Mike/Daryl/Chester. A later press conference on 7 March 2007 (the 36th anniversary of their first overseas gig in Belgium, oddly enough) confirmed further dates in the US. This of course was not the Gabriel/Hackett five-piece reunion all die hard fans were hoping for--but a reunion in this form was actually discussed by them, so there is still some hope that that ultimate reunion may still occur.

For more on my own personal reaction to the reunion and the form in which it is occurring, you can read my lengthy review of a recent Musical Box show where I discuss this. I will say that even when I purchased the tickets to the shows, it was still hard for me to believe or conceive of the idea that I was finally going to get to see my favorite band perform live, after over twenty years of listening to their recordings, hoping, and dreaming. For the first five or six years over which I have developed and maintained this web site, it has been with the assumption that Genesis was a broken-up band, a thing of the past only. It is such a strange and exhilarating sensation to be here writing for this site while the band is actually together and touring.

I finally got to see them perform live in September of 2007, and my reviews of those shows are posted here. I also have a collection of the Encore series "official bootleg" recordings from the tour, which I review here. For my previous ruminations on this mystery, before the actual reunion occurred, please continue reading:

DATELINE: APRIL 2006
Well, I never thought I'd add to this mystery, but in fact recent press releases have provided us some non-rumor, solid evidence that we may just have a sane basis for hoping a little that there may one day be a real GENESIS REUNION. Hackett admitted to being approached by other band members about a reunion, I heard news that they had looked into auditorium spaces, and a recent interview with Phil Collins confirms that he and other band members sat down to discuss the idea of doing some (of all things) Lamb performances some time in the future, which would be videotaped and some such.

Of course, what has always made the idea of a reunion so difficult is the busy schedules of the various members, and the stark refusal of Peter to have anything to do with his embarrassing past. Even now I believe Peter has denied wanting to take any part in Phil's crazy scheme. And Phil having recently split up with his third wife will probably not help matters.

I will repeat here what I have been saying to other Genesis fans discussing this news: I will believe in a Genesis reunion when the tickets are in my hand and I am driving (or flying) towards the venue where it is going to occur.

So far, the issue of my proximity to a hospital has not been necessary.

My original answer to this mystery:
One thing that the Genesis fan (or "FOG") must cultivate is patience. They must wait while the various members go off to do their solo projects, or their movie soundtracks, or their acting roles, or their divorces. They must be able to shake off the constant false rumours of a new album or a new tour, to not get too excited whenever someone mentions the word "reunion." They must sit, and wait. And eventually, if there is some higher power guiding things for the greater good, or if the guys really aren't lying about still liking each other, then all FOGs will be rewarded. Many speculate idly about a reunion, or make long imaginary set lists, but it won't happen until it happens. And when that day comes...let's just hope there's a hospital nearby when I hear about it.

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