10 May 2009

By Request: Take a Trip Back with Father Tiresias

Genesis, Chapter I

In hindsight, I must actually have heard “Follow You, Follow Me” on the radio first of all; but the first Genesis I ever heard, in knowledge of the band’s name, was likely The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Probably “Back in NYC”; I distinctly remember counting it out in seven, as well as the deep thudding-but-slightly-squishy bass notes accenting the downbeat of each measure.

I had already known for a few years that the head of Pink Floyd’s “Money” is in seven [and, a bit amusingly considering my much-later relocation to Boston, my first encounter with “Money” was at a high school dance on Cape Cod while on a band exchange]; but as the Floyd tune is closely tied to R&B roots, “Back in NYC” struck me very freshly as seven with a difference . . . and then (unlike the Floyd number, which breaks into four at the middle) the contrasting bits were also in seven . . . and the reckless guitar fuzz bursting in for “No time for romantic escape,” the return to the A section . . . “so I’ll burn it to ash,” and the subtle velvety glissando which plunges down to deep bass on ‘ash’. This was pop music as I had never heard it, nor even imagined it might be; and I liked it mightily.

The three LPs of The Lamb and Selling England by the Pound, I came very quickly to know every note of (and if the septuple meter of “Back in NYC” caught my attention, I found yet more of it, and with various creative subdivisions, in “The Battle of Epping Forest” & Tony Banks’ solo in the middle of “Cinema Show,” e.g.). An old mate from high school had the post-Gabriel live double-LP Second’s Out, including numbers from Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot, at that time out of print in the states . . . at some point, I found import copies of each. I found something of a difference in tone between the first pair of ‘the classic quintet’ albums, and my favorite Selling England and Lamb, but I found them all engagingly creative.

(I may possibly be bucking consensus in preferring Nursery Cryme to Foxtrot . . . I find the dystopian “Get ’Em Out by Friday” just a shade hectoring, and there’s the odd line in “Supper’s Ready” — “And even though I’m feeling good, something tells me I’d better activate my prayer capsule” — whose eccentricity seems clunky.)

Of the post-Gabriel quartet albums, A Trick of the Tail is a strong favorite (especially “Ripples”). A by-now crusty memory is of comparative disappointment with Wind & Wuthering, but it’s time to revisit that.

By good chance (meseems) the first new Genesis release during my awareness of the band, was Duke. Without side-tracking into reasons why, I’ll just say at present that this is my clear favorite among Genesis albums. That preference was (I think) already established (though possibly still to some degree beneath the surface) when a friend of mine who was working at Warner had an extra ticket for their Madison Square Garden date on the Duke tour.

Duke on cassette (as well as The Lamb) was playing in the car as I drove out to my freshman year at the College of Wooster. Soon after my arrival (though not as any result thereof) Abacab was released. The apparent confusion of the following items is no doubt related to my having applied myself to some reasonable extent to my studies as a freshman: a. I immediately very much liked the title track (yes, even the pared-back vamp at the end); b. I managed to go to the Cleveland date on the promotional tour; c. to this day, I’m not at all sure that I’ve actually heard the entire album.

Back at home one of the summer breaks from Wooster, I found a vinyl EP (or a single, I don’t quite recall) with “Keep It Dark” (from Abacab) and “Naminanu” (until the recent box reissue, so far as I know, not particularly available otherwise). “Naminanu” is perhaps an unlikely track over which to contract an obsession . . . but, I just liked it a great deal from the start.

Over the next few years, I let my turntable pass out of my life, and as a necessary result, the vinyl (all that vinyl) slipped gradually out of my musical awareness. At the advent of the compact disc, although I did begin partly by ‘reclaiming’ even pop music which I had ‘lost’ through lack of vinyl-playing capacity, Genesis remained obscurely off in the wings.

So it is, I have ‘discovered’ the boxed Genesis remasters after decades of neglect. And the tale to be told must wait for another entry.

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