Portions of this article have been adapted from Spicer, 2000: 77-111.
Gabriels fondness for dressing up in costumes [and] playing silly
games (about which he would later reminisce in his 1980 solo hit Games
Without Frontiers) began famously at Genesiss Dublin concert on 28 September
1972, during the opening weeks of the Foxtrot tour, where, unbeknownst
to his fellow band members, Gabriel appeared onstage wearing a red dress and a
foxs head thus mimicking the character depicted in Paul Whiteheads
surrealistic cover painting for the Foxtrot album to perform the
finale of The Musical Box. (In her contribution to this collection, Laura
Leante examines Gabriels different onstage personae and use of mime in various
live performances of this particular track.) Whiteheads trio of cover paintings
for the Trespass, Nursery Cryme, and Foxtrot albums may be viewed
at the artists official website: www.paulwhitehead.com. Needless to say,
the surrealistic images found on the album covers of many of the British progressive
rock groups in the early 1970s contributed greatly to the overall reception of
the genre, an important topic beyond the scope of the present article.
The first three Genesis albums failed to chart in their native Britain, but by
January 1972 Trespass had reached #1 in Belgium, and by March, just prior
to their first seven-date tour of Italy in April, Nursery Cryme had risen
to #4 on the Italian charts. Foxtrot was Genesiss first U.K. hit
album, reaching #12 in late 1972.
3. Transcribed from an interview in the
1990 BBC film Genesis: A History (available on video but not DVD). I highly
recommend this film to the reader who wishes a more detailed account of the history
of Genesis during their early period, including fascinating concert clips.
4. When asked recently about how Genesis would typically compose their epic songs,
Tony Banks confirmed that a lot of things were sections we brought in, but
as you develop them with the group you change them (from a 23 November 2001
interview, available online at the official Genesis website: www.genesis-music.com).
5. The initial inspiration for Watcher of the Skies came to Banks during
the groups first Italian tour: I wrote the lyrics
We were sitting out on top of this building, and it was a hot
sunny day, and we were just looking out across a vast area of buildings and fields,
and there wasnt a soul to be seen. It looked like the whole population had
just deserted the planet, and thats what Watcher of the Skies is
an alien being coming to the planet and seeing it completely
(Gallo, 1980: 42).
6. For a detailed description of
the Mellotron and the myriad other keyboard instruments used in progressive rock,
see Vail, 1993.
7. See Holm-Hudson, 2008. Holm-Hudson asserts that Bankss
affinity for such linear chromatic progressions reached its apex on the two Genesis
albums immediately following Gabriels departure, A Trick of the Tail
and Wind and Wuthering, where several of the songs are credited solely
to Banks rather than the group as a whole. He then goes on to analyze the voice-leading
design in a number of chordal passages from these mid-period albums using so-called
neo-Riemannian techniques, an important sub-discipline of music theory
that has developed mainly in North America over the past decade or so. For a useful
survey of neo-Riemannian concepts and progressions, see Roig-Francolì,
2002: 863-71. See also Capuzzo, 2004: 17799.
8. The sheer lengths of
the tracks rendered the majority of British progressive rock unsuitable for release
as singles. Nevertheless, Genesis likely at the urging of their record
label, and in the quest for a U.K. radio hit did release an edited version
of Watcher of the Skies as a single in February 1973 (Charisma 103; the
single failed to chart in the U.K.). In order to cut the track down from over
seven minutes to less than four, the single edit begins squarely at the onset
of the main groove, thus omitting entirely the Mellotron introduction as well
as the reprise of this music that serves as the songs extended instrumental
coda. In his contribution to this collection, Dai Griffiths explains why he prefers
his progressive rock in shorter doses, and so he would probably enjoy this edited
version. However, Im sure that many Genesis fans would agree with me that
without the dramatic build-up of the introduction arguably the songs
most striking feature the single version of Watcher comes across
as something of a letdown.
9. Admittedly, Genesis themselves would later simplify
their pedal-point grooves on their more commercially-accessible records during
the 1980s and 1990s, often resorting to the well-worn stadium rock formula of
repeated tonic eighth notes in the bass, as evinced by such radio-friendly singles
as Turn it on Again (1980), Abacab (1981), and No Son of Mine
10. Beginning with Nursery Cryme, Mike Rutherford often
used bass pedals in conjunction with his electric bass to add extra muscle to
the tonic pedal at especially climactic moments; listen, for example, to the booming
entrance of the bass pedals that Rutherford deliberately saves for the third and
final verse of Back in NYC (at 4:18).
11. To date, probably the most
illuminating study of grooves in pop and rock music is Hughes, 2003. Hughes distinguishes
between two main types of groove: exotelic, designed to create a sense of
completeness at [its] end and then simply use repetition to generate a wave-like
pulsation from completeness to incompleteness and back; and autotelic (or
self-generating),designed to lead the listener to expect its
beginning will follow its ending (15). If we examine the main groove to
Watcher of the Skies (Example 1b) along these lines, the staccato bass
riff seems self-contained within each bar while, at the same time, the syncopated
two beat pick-up figure at the end of each bar in the organ part seems constantly
to push the groove forward into the next downbeat, thus creating a wonderful tension
between exotelic and autotelic components within the same groove. A thoroughgoing
examination of pedal-point grooves in Genesis is a topic that deserves an article
all of its own, one which I hope to pursue at a later time.
12. The drumming
in Riding the Scree suggests also the complex polyrhythmic style of free
jazz, a style that Collins was able to explore more fully in his work with the
British fusion group Brand X during the late 1970s and 1980s.
13. My thanks
to one of my graduate students in New York, Tom DeMicco, for sharing with me his
transcription of the Firth of Fifth intro. For an extended analysis of
Firth of Fifth, see Macan, 1997: 10612; see also Enzio Temporelli,
Musica e Alchimia: Strutture Esoteriche e Matematiche Nella Musica Dei Genesis,
available online at http://www.tonybanks.it/html/frame_variematematica_popup1.htm.
14. For an analysis of Because, focusing on Lennons seemingly naïve
misappropriation of nineteenth-century harmonic syntax, see Spicer, 2001: 4449.
15. From the aforementioned interview with Gabriel in the BBC film Genesis:
16. To be fair, the borrowing of themes and characters from
mythology and science fiction formed only part of the typical subject matter for
Genesiss lyrics. As John Covach notes in his recent rock history textbook
, Gabriel spun bizarre tales, most of which delivered stinging, if sometimes
obscure, criticisms of British life and values (Covach, 2006: 332). A case
in point is the third track on Foxtrot, Get Em Out by Friday,
which, in a not-too-subtle attack on the U.K. council housing system, chronicles
the plight of tenants threatened with eviction in a futuristic Britain where the
directors of Genetic Control have announced a 4ft restriction on humanoid
height so they can fit twice as many in the same building site.
This social criticism aspect of Genesiss lyrics would reach
its peak in their follow-up album to Foxtrot, Selling England by the Pound.
17. Compare, for example, the opening section to The Musical Box (from
18. On the studio version of Suppers Ready,
Gabriels voice during the verses of Lovers Leap has been double-tracked
so as to sound simultaneously at pitch and at an octave higher, giving the singers
persona a kind of split personality in accordance with the message
in the lyrics.
19. It is evident from the lyrics that the Guaranteed Eternal
Sanctuary Man a fireman who looks after the fire
is meant to represent Satan himself.
20. Many of rocks harmonic idioms
owe an allegiance to blues traditions. The cadential progression bVIIIVI,
for example, can be understood as a variant of the VIVI progression
that closes a typical twelve-bar blues, with bVII substituting for V, as it frequently
does in rock harmony. Emphasizing its root motion in descending fourths rather
than descending fifths, Walter Everett has coined the term double-plagal
cadence for the bVIIIVI progression; see, for example, Everett,
2001: 364. For a more extended discussion of modal harmony in rock music
and the use of the lowered seventh in particular see Moore, 1995: 185201.
21. The pulsing eighth notes and their accompanying repeated harmonies
at the beginning of the Apocalypse in 9/8 (15:38 ff.) have long
reminded me of the famous incessant "Augurs of Spring" chord in Stravinskys
The Rite of Spring (1912). For a fuller analytical explanation of the harmonic
and textural similarities with Stravinsky in this passage, see Spicer, 2000: 9596.
22. From a Banks interview by Alan Hewitt that originally appeared in The Waiting
Room magazine (available online at twronline.net). Banks goes on to describe
how the organ solo crystallized during an extended jam session in the studio involving
a trio consisting of himself, Phil Collins, and Mike Rutherford. Interestingly,
this foreshadows what was to become Genesiss preferred method for composing
new pieces beginning with the 1978 album
And Then There Were Three
when the group was in fact reduced to just these three members.
Jerusalem is perhaps the most famous and beloved of all Anglican hymns.
In concert, Peter Gabriel made the reference to the hymn even more explicit through
the bizarre story he told as a lead-in to Suppers Ready, which culminated
in his whistling an odd, jazzy reinvention of the tune he called "Jerusalem
Boogie" (one can hear Gabriels story on the live version of Suppers
Ready available on Genesis Archive 196775). Certainly Banks,
Gabriel, and Rutherford would have known the hymn from their boyhood years spent
at the exclusive Charterhouse school, where no doubt they would have often sung
the hymn at morning assembly. Gabriel has described the importance of hymn singing
in shaping his early musical experience: Hymns used to be the only musical
moment at Charterhouse.
[T]he organ in Chapel was magnificent and the playing
Everyone would stand up and scream their heads off.
was really emotional, and people would come out of Chapel feeling like they were
on top of the world (Gallo, 1980: 14). For a discussion of the profound
influence of Anglican church music on many of the classic British progressive
rock groups, see Macan, 1992: 102103.
24. Despite the statement to the
contrary on the groups official website, rumors of an impending reunion
of the classic early-70s lineup continue to circulate voraciously among Genesis
fans. This seems all the more unlikely now that the 1980s lineup of Collins, Banks,
and Rutherford have announced that they will be reuniting, without Gabriel and
Hackett, for a 2007 world tour.
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