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
MENU OF MYSTERIES
deal with Ray Wilson?
Is there a 2-LP Live album?
What's the deal with Silver Song?
What does the story for The Lamb Lies Down
on Broadway mean?
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
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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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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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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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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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the heck does the story for The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
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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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
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
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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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,
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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
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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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
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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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
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
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
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.
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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