Last week I was very happy to get to see the amazing work of Steve Hackett and his band of merry men. He played at Symphony Hall here in Atlanta Ga. and he offered a mixture of Genesis material from his time with the band. Steve joined Genesis for Nursery Cryme, the same album that brought us Phil Collins as drummer. Since that time he has done multiple albums and shows. The fact that he keeps coming back to his Genesis material is a testament to the time tested power of this seminal progressive rock band. It was a truly fascinating show, but the longer effect has been the afterglow. My seats were nice and close to the stage. I could see the band very well, including the wonderful theatrics of vocalist Nad Sylvan who managed to find a way to present the show without being a Gabriel clone. However, the sound was not very clear. Some distortion in the speakers in our area made it difficult to follow. I could hear that the band were working hard and the songs were played with reverence and respect to the original material, and sometimes I could let go of the critical self that kept wanting clearer sound, but as I said the outcome was more about what came after.
Back when I was a member of the Columbia record and tape club (hey it only cost a penny), I got my first Genesis album, Abacab. I had heard Abacab on our local rock station and fell in love with it almost immediately. I remember staying with my grandparents in their camper out at Stone Mountain Park and listening to my little boombox playing Me and Sarah Jane while I looked on at children playing in the park. It seemed a more playful song than Abacab and again I was hooked. This cassette got tons of play and probably got played out (I think I even had to do some repair to the cassette).
The next step on the highway was more interesting. My earliest job was as a bookseller in a used bookstore in Stone Mtn. Aspen Book Shop became my base for learning about all of the greatest progressive artists (even if I did not immediately understand some of them at such a young age). The owner was a big Genesis fan. He had tons of tapes of older Genesis and made me aware of their history. From him I learned about Trespass, Nursery Cryme, all of the amazing older Gabriel era Genesis albums. I borrowed these tapes and copied them when I could. They were fantastic journeys delving into musically foreign lands and I was getting brought to these places all the time by my wonderful and amazing boss. He had been a traveler of music for a long while and much of my taste today can be rooted in his guidance- Thank You Paul- wherever you are!
Now I am a bit older and time has gotten away from me. I do not remember the order in which some of these things happened. But another important story from my fanship with Genesis comes from church. I attended a rock and roll is evil type church service hosted by the reverend Steve Timmons (a sham of a man but we all fell for his bullshit). He presented a 2 hour sermon on the evils of backmasking, and then pointed out that the music was just as bad when played forward. He played snippets of music out of context in this presentation. Of course one of the bullet points was the part of Supper’s Ready titled “Apocalypse in 9/8 (Co-starring the delicious talents of Gabble Ratchet). In this space Gabriel, almost screaming from the pulpit of rock and roll, “666 is no longer alone, He’s getting out the marrow in your backbone, and the seven trumpets blowing sweet rock and roll, gonna blow right down inside your soul.” Of course this was the only part of the song he played for us, so you can imagine that out of context this piece sounded scary to an already guilt filled preteen who was just finding his way through the boundaries of organized religion. So I came away, totally afraid of all things secular rock. All my favorites vanished behind a haze of fear and guilt that if I kept listening I would go to hell. I began listening to Christian music only, but you’d better believe that the Christian music store was setup so that it had a “sounds like” section and there were albums that supposedly sounded like Genesis. I bought many of them, but now, here in this future time, I remember none of them while Genesis still lingers. I told my boss about what was said in church and all I remember of what he said was “the song is right”. It should be noted that Paul was a messianic Jew, so he had a great deal of religiosity to himself, but he made peace with it all and his love of rock and roll flowed freely.
Flash forward again. I was working for a local temp work agency known as Temp Force. Temp work was one of the many ways I really started to experience the work a day world. I entered rather easily into blue collar work, filling vials of pool chemicals, stocking and sorting goods in warehouses, and filling orders for wallpaper. This was a world of working men and I was perhaps the youngest in the crowd. Nevertheless I worked hard and for quite some time made money in this way. One day while filling order tickets for wallpaper, I brought in the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway to listen to during work. It was the egalitarian tradition of the folks around the warehouse to give each other time on the stereo. Most of the time this was reserved for late 80’s pop and R&B. Common songs were things like “Blame it on the rain” and “Ride my pony”. Enter Woody, who decided that amidst a crowd of mostly black men, he would introduce into this workaday world, The Lamb! For those who know the album, you might feel that much of the music is at least melodic enough and vocal enough to offer something for everyone. “It’s the last great adventure left to mankind”, so goes The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging. To their credit, the guys around me made it all the way to The Waiting Room. However, it was this song that resulted in a lot of hemming and hawing and finally I was asked to stop playing it. Looking back, admittedly this is not a song that improves productivity and likely just had many scratching their heads in wonder that anyone would even listen to this.
I got to see Genesis live when they did the Invisible Touch tour. It was a happy moment. I bought my tickets last minute and went to the Omni alone. I sat on the left of the stage and I could see the band very well. My favorite moments of the show were when they dusted off the medley with The Cage (also from the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album). I did not realize what a special performance I was seeing. I mean I was happy to be in the crowd, I loved the music, but nothing in me was aware that this would likely be the last Genesis show I ever saw. I was high on the music. Invisible Touch was another album that stayed with me constantly. Say what you will about the Collins pop era of the band, it still took me places. I still have the cassette somewhere in the remains of the great flood of 2010.
So it is, particularly at this moment that I feel indebted to this band. Last week I listened to most of the first three albums, keeping Supper’s Ready on repeat and finding hidden meaning that is not really present. The song for me, at this moment, is a piece about the love of two people and the way that the narrator navigated what he believed was a rift between he and his lover. So either as daydream or as mythic journey he finds his way into a world of strange characters and biblical apocalyptic visions. The song speaks in ways that I cannot easily translate here, but I will put the lyrics at the bottom of the page along with the song for those who want to better understand. No matter which way I slice it, the lyrics, the visions, the feel of this piece of music has ebbed and flowed over me in the last week and I am in a period of rediscovery. This music is almost 40 years old and it still touches me in ways I did not expect. As I mature and see the world anew in the light of fresh knowledge, I rekindle love for different musics. As I prepare for another week of fly by the seat of my pants therapy, I see that I will be looking deep into the pool for the bluegirls and hovering like a fly waiting for the windshield on the freeway. So I invite you all to join me for the ride, whether you dance on a volcano, or live in the Home by the Sea, let me know what your favorite or most meaningful memories of the band Genesis are. Perhaps next week we will do some spelunking into the meaning behind some of these songs.
I. Lovers’ Leap
Walking across the sitting-room, I turn the television off.
Sitting beside you, I look into your eyes.
As the sound of motor cars fades in the night time,
I swear I saw your face change, it didn’t seem quite right.
…And it’s hello babe with your guardian eyes so blue
Hey my baby don’t you know our love is true.Coming closer with our eyes, a distance falls around our bodies.
Out in the garden, the moon seems very bright,
Six saintly shrouded men move across the lawn slowly.
The seventh walks in front with a cross held high in hand.
…And it’s hey babe your supper’s waiting for you.
Hey my baby, don’t you know our love is true.
I’ve been so far from here,
Far from your warm arms.
It’s good to feel you again,
It’s been a long long time. Hasn’t it?
II. The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man
I know a farmer who looks after the farm.
With water clear, he cares for all his harvest.
I know a fireman who looks after the fire.
You, can’t you see he’s fooled you all.
Yes, he’s here again, can’t you see he’s fooled you all.
Share his peace,
Sign the lease.
He’s a supersonic scientist,
He’s the guaranteed eternal sanctuary man.
Look, look into my mouth he cries,
And all the children lost down many paths,
I bet my life you’ll walk inside
Hand in hand,
gland in gland
With a spoonful of miracle,
He’s the guaranteed eternal sanctuary man.
We will rock you, rock you little snake,
We will keep you snug and warm.
III. Ikhnaton and Itsacon and their Band of Merry Men
Wearing feelings on our faces while our faces took a rest,
We walked across the fields to see the children of the West,
But we saw a host of dark skinned warriors
standing still below the ground,
Waiting for battle.
The fight’s begun, they’ve been released.
Killing foe for peace…bang, bang, bang. Bang, bang, bang…
And they’re giving me a wonderful potion,
‘Cos I cannot contain my emotion.
And even though I’m feeling good,
Something tells me I’d better activate my prayer capsule.
Today’s a day to celebrate, the foe have met their fate.
The order for rejoicing and dancing has come from our warlord.
IV. How Dare I Be so Beautiful?
Wandering through the chaos the battle has left,
We climb up a mountain of human flesh,
To a plateau of green grass, and green trees full of life.
A young figure sits still by a pool,
He’s been stamped “Human Bacon” by some butchery tool.
(He is you)
Social Security took care of this lad.
We watch in reverence, as Narcissus is turned to a flower.
V. Willow Farm
If you go down to Willow Farm,
to look for butterflies, flutterbyes, gutterflies
Open your eyes, it’s full of surprise, everyone lies,
like the focks on the rocks,
and the musical box.
Oh, there’s Mum & Dad, and good and bad,
and everyone’s happy to be here.
There’s Winston Churchill dressed in drag,
he used to be a British flag, plastic bag, what a drag.
The frog was a prince, the prince was a brick, the brick was an egg,
the egg was a bird.
(Fly away you sweet little thing, they’re hard on your tail)
Hadn’t you heard?
(They’re going to change you into a human being!)
Yes, we’re happy as fish and gorgeous as geese,
and wonderfully clean in the morning.
We’ve got everything, we’re growing everything,
We’ve got some in
We’ve got some out
We’ve got some wild things floating about
Everyone, we’re changing everyone,
you name them all,
We’ve had them here,
And the real stars are still to appear.
Feel your body melt;
Mum to mud to mad to dad
Dad diddley office, Dad diddley office,
You’re all full of ball.
Dad to dam to dum to mum
Mum diddley washing, Mum diddley washing,
You’re all full of ball.
Let me hear you lies, we’re living this up to the eyes.
Momma I want you now.
And as you listen to my voice
To look for hidden doors, tidy floors, more applause.
You’ve been here all the time,
Like it or not, like what you got,
You’re under the soil (the soil, the soil),
Yes, deep in the soil (the soil, the soil, the soil!).
So we’ll end with a whistle and end with a bang
and all of us fit in our places.
VI. Apocalypse in 9/8 (Co-starring the Delicious Talents of Gabble Ratchet)
With the guards of Magog, swarming around,
The Pied Piper takes his children underground.
Dragons coming out of the sea,
Shimmering silver head of wisdom looking at me.
He brings down the fire from the skies,
You can tell he’s doing well by the look in human eyes.
Better not compromise.
It won’t be easy.
666 is no longer alone,
He’s getting out the marrow in your back bone,
And the seven trumpets blowing sweet rock and roll,
Gonna blow right down inside your soul.
Pythagoras with the looking glass reflects the full moon,
In blood, he’s writing the lyrics of a brand new tune.
And it’s hey babe, with your guardian eyes so blue,
Hey my baby, don’t you know our love is true,
I’ve been so far from here,
Far from your loving arms,
Now I’m back again, and babe it’s gonna work out fine.
VII. As Sure as Eggs is Eggs (Aching Men’s Feet)
Can’t you feel our souls ignite
Shedding ever changing colours, in the darkness of the fading night,
Like the river joins the ocean, as the germ in a seed grows
We have finally been freed to get back home.
There’s an angel standing in the sun, and he’s crying with a loud voice,
“This is the supper of the mighty one”,
Lord of Lords,
King of Kings,
Has returned to lead his children home,
To take them to the new Jerusalem.