This Is The World We Live In: A Phil Collins-Era Genesis Song Countdown

by Benjamin Ray

genesis_invisibleThe story of Genesis is one of three separate bands, as has often been told.

In 2022, Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford toured as Genesis for the final time, putting a capper on the commercially-successful era of the band that ran from 1978 to 1993. It was an era that spawned many Top 40 pop hits, but also one that sounded nothing like the Peter Gabriel-led art rock years of 1970-75 that preceded it. The band would occasionally feint toward this era in its concerts, usually in the form of a one-shot medley of songs, but by and large it was forgotten as millions of new fans flocked toward “Invisible Touch.”

The Gabriel-era Genesis, with Collins as drummer and Steve Hackett on guitar, remains a unique entity in the progressive rock world of the time and is still beloved by fans worldwide (me included). The Vault recently ran a song countdown of this era, starting with Trespass and ending with Gabriel’s departure after The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.

When Gabriel left, Collins took over as singer, and the remaining quartet released two good art-pop-rock albums before Hackett called it quits as well; one listen to Wind & Wuthering shows that keyboardist Tony Banks was coming to dominate the songwriting and playing. The remaining trio of Collins, Banks and Rutherford quickly morphed into an art-pop outfit, writing much shorter and simpler songs that became hits while only showing flashes of the creativity and instrumental prowess of the Gabriel years. These six albums became the band’s most popular, yielding many hits, until Collins walked away after 1993’s I Can’t Dance, effectively ending the band’s career save for the sporadic tour.

What’s important to remember is that bands change and evolve over time… or at least they should. Genesis had gone as far as it could go with its original sound on Lamb and should not be faulted for changing directions. As great as songs about giant hogweeds, knives, carpet crawlers, aliens and the apocalypse are, a simple and direct song can be just as tricky to write and still have it connect with an audience. The truth is, Genesis did one thing and did it well for a while, and then switched gears and did another thing well, and that’s okay. So did the Beatles, Journey and Fleetwood Mac.

This countdown will examine the Collins years of Genesis’ tenure, starting with 1976’s A Trick of the Tail and running through I Can’t Dance, with an attempt to look at each album and release along the way (including the studio songs from Three Sides Live, the Spot the Pigeon and 3x3 EPs and the various B sides of the era, most of which were included on the Archive #2 and Genesis 1976-1982 and 1983-1998 sets). As usual, live tracks are not included as separate entities unless they were unique to an album and worth mentioning to the overall story. Remixes and single versions also are ignored because they’re stupid. And remember, this is one writer’s opinion; just because your favorite song isn’t in the top five doesn’t mean I’m right and you’re wrong, but if it leads to robust discussion, then have at it.

94. “Who Dunnit?,” Abacab: Come on, did you really think any other song would be here? This is an embarrassing lark, even from a band with a sense of humor, that would have been unthinkable just seven years prior. I’m all for having fun in the studio, but riffraff like this is normally saved for compilations 20 years down the road, not on Side A of a major release. Truly terrible.

93. “Illegal Alien,” Genesis: There was a time that Genesis was majestic. Then 10 years go by, and they release this hideously dated and awkward attempt at a social commentary, with Collins singing in some sort of affected Mexican accent. Just dreadful.

92. “Never A Time” & 91. “Since I Lost You,” We Can’t Dance: One could interchange most of the ballads on this area of the list, because Genesis wrote so damn many of them on their last several albums. There’s no reason why these are lower than the others; they all run together after a while. Maybe it’s what the band thought the public craved from Phil at the time?

90. “Many Too Many,” …and then there were three: The first album post-Steve Hackett was a muddled, downbeat affair, with the band attempting to break free from its progressive rock constraints but unwilling to embrace full pop music yet. Collins was still trying to save his marriage and the band had not had any real hits, and this album sits as a crossroads transitional piece with a lot of mediocre songs like this one.

89. “Taking It All Too Hard,” Genesis: A dull, repetitive ballad.

88. “Anything She Does,” Invisible Touch: The wimpiest track on this album, even worse than the ballads, a synthesizer assault with Collins bleating nonstop.

87. “Alone Tonight,” Duke: A dull, repetitive ballad.

86. “Guide Vocal,” Duke: A brief, inessential link between songs; it made more sense when the Duke Suite was being written (more on this later) but as a standalone it’s nothing of note.

85. “Evidence Of Autumn,” B-side: The flip side of “Misunderstanding,” sounding like a halfhearted mid-tempo leftover from the prior album.

84. “Keep It Dark,” Abacab: Oof, this one is rough. Genesis didn’t really write riffs, and this is why.

83. “Say It’s Alright Joe,” …and then there were three: Like much of the album, meh.

82. “Me And Virgil,” 3x3 EP: A classic Genesis story song, but overlong and with several awkward pauses that interrupt any flow.

81. “Way Of The World,” We Can’t Dance: More social commentary, perhaps, but with the wimpy sound that by 1993 had become passe.

80. “The Brazilian,” Invisible Touch: I don’t know why I hate this so much, but it’s just so ugly and garish and plastic. It is everything that “Firth of Fifth” is not, which is why old-school Genesis fans used this album as a Frisbee after hearing it once.

79. “Living Forever” & 78. “Tell Me Why,” We Can’t Dance: More dentist-office Muzak from a band that was clearly done.

77. “Paperlate,” 3x3 EP: I never liked the horns that Collins brought in, even if I respect the decision to try something new (that is what the progress part of progressive rock means, after all). This one is just annoying.

76. “Match Of The Day,” Spot The Pigeon EP: The band is embarrassed by this song (but not by the others already mentioned, which is funny). It’s a simple song about soccer, sung by soccer fans. Maybe it’s a bit childlike, maybe it has nothing to do with any Genesis songs that had come before, but it’s not as bad as its reputation.

75. “Feeding The Fire,” B-side: Unlike their original incarnation, Genesis would end up putting out a lot of B-sides and two EPs between 1976 and 1993, and many of them are better than the songs on their parent albums. This is not one of them; though it has some grit, it’s overlong and uninspired.

“I’d Rather Be You,” B-side
“Cul-De-Sac,” Duke
“Heathaze,” Duke
“Man Of Our Times,” Duke
“Snowbound,” …and then there were three
“The Lady Lies,” …and then there were three
“Another Record,” Abacab
“Just A Job To Do,” Genesis
“Like It Or Not,” Abacab

I realize it may be unfair to lump these together, but that’s how I hear them, despite repeated listens. There was a definite lack of quality control during this time, and a lack of guitar, and the mediocre tracks on the Genesis albums from the time Hackett left are just as many as the good tracks, which never happened under Peter Gabriel.

65. “Hold On My Heart,” We Can’t Dance: A lush and syrupy ballad, solo Collins in all but name.

64. “Me And Sarah Jane,” Abacab: There are some interesting ideas in here, especially the bridge section, but ultimately this builds to nothing.

63. “Scenes From A Night’s Dream,” …and then there were three: Not quite sure what this is referring to, but it has the sort of literary whimsy of Wind and Wuthering with the we’re-kinda-musically-lost appeal of this album. It has a faint Trick of the Tail vibe, the only reason it’s up this high.

62. “Throwing It All Away” and 61. “In Too Deep,” Invisible Touch: This pair of ballads was part of the reason the album was a raging success, and part of the reason older fans hated this new approach. It needn’t have been a surprise, as this was the direction things were trending, and one hopes that people who bought this album checked out the previous albums and were drawn in. The latter song is probably the better one, even if it sounds like solo Collins all day long.

60. “Unquiet Slumber For The Sleepers…”, Wind And Wuthering: Literary allusions to “Wuthering Heights” aside, on its own this is a short and moody keyboard piece, as gray as the album cover. It doesn’t quite work on its own but only as part of the closing suite on the album.

59. “Undertow,” …and then there were three: A typical synth-fest from the album, but sung with heartfelt conviction by Phil; he had fully inhabited the role by now.

58. “Vancouver,” B-side: Musically, it’s akin to the rest of …and then there were three, but lyrically it’s similar to the Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home,” and it’s well sung but a bit bland.

57. “Wot Gorilla?”, Wind And Wuthering: A short instrumental, not leaving an impression, and included because Hackett’s song “Please Don’t Touch” was dropped since Collins couldn’t get into it. Probably the dumbest title in the band’s career, and that includes the subtitles of “Supper’s Ready.” Hackett would include it on a solo album shortly thereafter; it was yet another dig in a year full of them, and part of the reason he got fed up and left after the tour.

56. “On The Shoreline,” B-side: Solid track, of a piece with the rest of the album, but with a little more presence. This and “Hearts On Fire” should have been included in place of the ballads higher up on this list.

55. “Pigeons,” Spot The Pigeon EP: Dumb fun, part of the British slice of life that called back to songs like “I Know What I Like” and “Return Of The Giant Hogweed,” but with a shorter, poppier yet still off-putting approach. It’s a strange little number but that insistent one-note riff sticks around, blaring over Collins’ wry jokes.

54. “Behind The Lines,” Duke: The opening fanfare of the song is great, and the first two minutes draw the listener in, setting the stage for how Genesis will attempt to bridge pop and progressive rock. Unfortunately, once the song shifts into a more proper format, it loses its luster and gets old quick.

53. “Man On The Corner,” Abacab: Collins would write two songs about the homeless in the span of about 9 years; his solo take was “Another Day in Paradise,” and this was the band’s attempt, a slice-of-life about a guy who just stares and shouts and has no home and maybe not all his mental faculties. It sounds like a Collins solo track, evidence that his successful career post-“In The Air Tonight” had influenced the band’s songwriting.

52. “Dreaming While You Sleep,” We Can’t Dance: More bland AOR from the album, mildly more interesting than some of the others, but not by much.

51. “Silver Rainbow,” Genesis: Although the second side of this album is pretty dreadful, this is the only song worth going back to more than once. It’s got a pulsing beat (for an ’80s synth track, anyway) and is all about losing your virginity.

50. “Fading Lights,” We Can’t Dance: This was supposed to be the epic closer, I imagine, a final 10-minute prog-pop track that puts a capper on this era of the band’s career. It’s melancholy and not especially memorable, but in its sentiment people heard the end of the band. Genesis has denied this, inferring that’s more about a general feeling of knowing something good is ending, wishing you could go back and do it again, and knowing that’s not possible. One can identify with the lyrics and hear the band saying goodbye, with the benefit of hindsight, which lends the song gravity.

49. “Deep In The Motherlode,” …and then there were three: It can be hard to listen to this album in one sitting, but taken song by song, some of them stand out above others. This one isn’t musically different from the rest, but the lyrics are compelling, an oft-repeated story about miners heading west across the U.S. to find their fortune in the 1800s.

48. “Do The Neurotic,” B-side: In another time, Genesis would have put its seven-minute instrumentals as the centerpiece of its records. In 1986, such a composition was relegated to a B-side of a ballad. It’s actually a fun number, skittering and alive, a coffee-fueled synth and guitarfest that would have been better served in place of “The Brazilian” on its parent album.

47. “No Reply At All,” Abacab: The song isn’t especially good, a solo Collins track that was becoming the rage on this and future albums, but it’s brought up several notches due to the horns. I’m not a huge fan of them here, mind you, but I appreciate that Genesis was still willing to take chances, to try new things, to progress. Just because they dropped guitars and wrote shorter love songs doesn’t mean they weren’t still the same guys who had written Lamb six years prior. So, that is to say, I appreciate this song more for what it represents than how it turned out, but evidently it was a hit too, so there you go.

46. “All In A Mouse’s Night,” Wind and Wuthering: The second Banks solo composition on the album and, predictably, another entry in which guitars are almost completely ignored until the closing. Hackett was tired of this by now, and tired of what he felt was arcane songwriting; why bother being in a band if they’re going to write prog numbers about mice that don’t require your services? There’s really no lyrical depth here, simply telling a story (maybe a children’s story?) about a mouse trying to escape death, but the closing section is clearly the best part of the song.

45. “Ballad Of Big,” …and then there were three: An interesting number, transitioning from a shuffle in the verse to a more expansive chorus, with a sort of ominous feel and some Wild West lyrics. Odd coming from these guys, but Collins was always a fan of the whole American Cowboy mythos.

44. “A Trick Of The Tail,” A Trick Of The Tail: The weakest cut on the album, which isn’t a bad thing given how far we are into this list. The conceit of Trick was all about oddball characters that may or may not have been human (and are referenced on the cover). It’s good, and the lyrics conjure the image of not only the beast but his journey and capture as a caged outsider; it’s just not as good as others here.

43. “Submarine,” B-side: Genesis goes Pink Floyd! This slow, instrumental space rocker sounds like the last few minutes of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” and evidently was supposed to be part of a suite that included “Dodo” and “Naminanu,” which would have made Abacab a hell of a lot more interesting.

42. “Open Door,” B-side: A lovely song about visiting someone you love after you die. Maybe a little too sad to have fit into Duke’s playlist, but worth seeking out.

41. “The Day the Light Went Out,” B-side: A creepy little sci-fi number that musically could have fit on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, with some more guitar and less synth, of course. One of the last examples of the Gabriel-era songwriting before it was mostly abandoned.

40. “Duke’s End,” Duke: Basically, the first half of “Behind The Lines,” a rollicking yet short instrumental that closes the album and Albert’s story. (Note: The Duke Suite was a 30-minute song with six parts, which would be played that way on stage during the tour, but on the album it was broken up with other solo songs not related to the main theme).

39. “Los Endos,” A Trick Of The Tail: A closing instrumental, restating several of the musical themes of the album (along with a cool bass line) and allowing the guys to just roam free. In concert, it would be predated with a drum duet between Collins and Chester Thompson. Originally supposed to be the second half of “It’s Yourself,” but when that song was dropped, this was fleshed out into its own track and given a more energetic midsection.

38. “Inside And Out,” Spot The Pigeon EP: Genesis rarely wrote about real-life issues, but this is a rare example of when they did that works. It’s a mostly-acoustic song with an uplifting keyboard instrumental end section that concerns the story of a guy falsely accused of sexual assault—or maybe it wasn’t false, or maybe the lines were blurred that night—and the difficulty one has even when getting out of prison because the shadow of that incident hangs over the guys’ head. I like to think the end section is more cheerful because the subject is finally free from prison, but the lyrics indicate he’ll never be truly free, not least because he can never fully remember what happened that night.

37. “You Might Recall,” 3x3 EP: For some reason, this was left off of Abacab, and considering some of what made it, this decision is puzzling. It’s a solid song with some tricky percussion work, one of the better offerings of this recording session.

36. “Invisible Touch,” Invisible Touch: Ugh. I know, it was a big hit, exposing the band to a previously-untapped audience. Any guy who ever dated a woman who gets under his skin, but who he can’t quite let go of (for better or worse), can relate to the lyrics. It’s catchy as hell. But it betrays everything Genesis had been about in the Peter Gabriel years; it’s probably the exact opposite, in every way, of “Supper’s Ready.” But for a lot of people, that was appealing.

35. “Duchess,” Duke: A long, portentous intro and fadeout almost makes this song skippable, but the center is quite good, a dramatic number about the rise and fall of a star. Collins opts to sing stridently instead of tenderly, so it’s unclear if we are supposed to sneer at or feel bad for the “duchess” in question, which keeps things interesting.

34. “…In That Quiet Earth,” Wind And Wuthering: A solid instrumental, jockeying from section to section, perhaps the last prog-rock event of the band’s recording career. Hackett gets the solos on the first half and Banks on the second half, building up a head of steam that segues perfectly into the closing “Afterglow.”

33. “Domino,” Invisible Touch: See, every Genesis album has to have a 10-minute multipart epic, even their most pop and least prog album ever. Despite having the slippery synthesizer as the lead instrument, the song is of a piece with prior Genesis story songs, with unsettling lyrics about lost love, war and the effect that people’s actions have on each other. The piece moves through three or four different sections (although only two are noted); one, “The Last Domino,” would become the name of the trio’s final tour in 2022. The song would take on more forceful life onstage, and it remains intriguing, even if it’s hard sometimes to get past the synths and wish for a stronger bassline and some guitar.

32. “Dodo/Lurker,” Abacab: Conceived as part of a suite that would have included “Naminanu” and “Submarine,” these two songs were joined together while the others were shunted to B-sides (sadly). Banks plays an ominous three-note synth riff, Rutherford contributes a slight guitar lick in between and Collins sings (hectors, really) the words, which are a sort of stream-of-consciousness affair that doesn’t make a ton of sense. There’s a riddle at the end, though, which is supposed to be a submarine (it helps when you know the history of the recording, outlined in the first sentence). This was the sort of prog-pop that the guys were doing around this time, and even if it sounded different, it was still original and relevant at a time that the band’s contemporaries (Yes, ELP, Gentle Giant, King Crimson) had either faded away or reinvented themselves.

31. “Robbery, Assault & Battery,” A Trick Of The Tail: Collins really leans into his accent here, giving the song a playful, sprightly vibe in the vein of “I Know What I Like,” but with a Mellotron solo, because reasons. It’s a little too twee, but in a confident way, not a Trespass-like way.

30. “Down And Out,” …and then there were three: A nice dig at an executive, the band’s version of Floyd’s “Have a Cigar.” Banks gets to waste the first minute noodling on his synthesizer, but then the band gallops in to join the fray and the result is a strong album opener; Collins’ drumming is particularly galvanizing here.

29. “Your Own Special Way,” Wind And Wuthering: The first real, simple ballad in the band’s repertoire, portending the direction that future albums would go. But taking away what it signifies and you have a pretty acoustic song, simple and heartfelt, with lyrics that could be to a lover or to a child (since some of the band members had recently become dads); the vocal harmonizing in the final chorus is lovely as well. The song is docked several points for the aimless noodling of the bridge, which extends the song longer than it needs to be.

28. “Naminanu,” B-side: There’s more going on here than you think. Collins reconnects with his jazzy Brand X days and the band creates their own fusion jazz piece, enhanced with the standard Banks synth. There are no real words, just Collins mumbling the title off and on, which adds to the overall sound. I like to point to this song as proof that the band hadn’t lost its adventurous or experimental side by Abacab; they just shunted it to B-sides.

27. “Please Don’t Ask,” Duke: An honest and heartfelt song about divorce, about wanting to reconcile with someone you once loved—possibly the father or mother of your child, who you also love—but knowing you can’t. Ripped directly from Collins’ private life, written after his marriage fell apart despite his moving to Vancouver after the 1978 tour to salvage it. It’s heartbreaking to anyone who has been through it, or watched their parents go through it.

26. “Driving The Last Spike,” We Can’t Dance: By 1993, Genesis had pretty much lost the sound and spark that had made them 20 years prior, so it was a bit of a surprise to see them return to their story-song roots. This 10-minute affair, slow and AOR as it is, nevertheless digs deep to tell the story of a railway worker who left home to build the country’s transportation, and the bad safety conditions, loneliness, hard work and pain that resulted from this lifestyle. Collins writes evocative imagery here of blistered hands and missing one’s children’s faces and—in the center of the song—the tunnel collapse that resulted in the death of several of the men.

25. “Jesus He Knows Me,” We Can’t Dance: Perhaps the funniest song of this era, taken directly from the eminently-mockable televangelists on late-night shows (up to and including Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker). Collins doesn’t mince words here, resulting in this memorable verse: “I believe in the family / With my ever-lovin' wife beside me / But she don't know about my girlfriend / Or the man I met last night.” Surely some Republican politicians bristled at this expose.

24. “Hearts On Fire,” B-side: Easily better than most of I Can’t Dance, this kinetic electric-drum dance track is catchy, memorable and fun.

23. “It’s Yourself,” B-side: Recorded for Trick but left off because of space and because Banks didn’t think it fit the tenor of the album, and so released as the flip of both “Ripples” and “Your Own Special Way.” It’s definitely of a piece with those two albums, Hackett’s guitar driving as Banks plays ethereal keyboard coloring that falls like glitter. The song then fades into a long instrumental section, half of which was later turned into “Los Endos,” and with a snippet of “Mad Man Moon” in there as well. For Genesis history buffs, it’s interesting to hear this alternate timeline of how Trick could have sounded. Note that there are several different versions of this song depending on whether you find it on the Archive set, 1976-1982 set or one of the B-sides, mostly due to the fadeout and an extra verse addition.

22. “Burning Rope,” …and then there were three: Although this album struggled to combine the two halves of Genesis, this track is the best example of this hybrid approach. Part of the song is a Collins ballad and part is a long instrumental break with a great guitar solo, and together it works quite well. If you listen to this first, Duke doesn’t seem like such a surprise.

21. “Follow You Follow Me,” …and then there were three: Sacrilege! How dare I put this so high? It’s when the transition started (well, along with “Your Own Special Way”). It’s as simple a love song as the band ever wrote, their first entry in this canon. It also became a worldwide hit, exposing Genesis to many others, giving them deserved success after being something of a cult band in the preceding decade. But honestly, they were never going to write another album like Lamb or Selling England, with or without Peter Gabriel. They had moved on from the fantasy/literature direction of much of their previous work. And writing a fine love song is a good way to kickstart the second phase of a career. Deal with it.

20. “Misunderstanding,” Duke: During his break in Vancouver attempting to save his marriage, Collins wrote a bunch of songs and lyrics, then brought them back to the band. The ones they passed on were saved for his 1981 debut solo album Face Value, including “In The Air Tonight,” which Banks later regretted not recording as a band. It would have improved Duke, that’s for sure. But “Misunderstanding” is a concise, catchy adult pop song, which in 1980 was starting to become a trend for Genesis. It has an air of melancholy and a decent keyboard riff, and it holds up.

19. “Dance On A Volcano,” A Trick of the Tail: Peter Gabriel departed the group after the tour for Lamb and the band interviewed several replacements; at one point, Phil Collins got out of the swimming pool and decided, hey, let me give these songs a try, after hearing all the other guys. He nailed the role and the band soldiered on as a quartet. Rather than return to the sound of Lamb, the guys backtracked a bit to Selling England as the impetus for the album (musically and lyrically), and the opening track was something of a mini-prog epic. Different sections, several types of keyboards and guitar solos just because, semi-nonsense lyrics, willfully weird, and a sense of triumph pervade the track, and it has become a fan favorite, though I’ve never found it as absorbing as others.

18. “No Son Of Mine,” We Can’t Dance: A six-year hiatus followed after Invisible Touch, so fans were happy when Genesis returned for what would be their final album with Phil in 1993. The sound of the disc was akin to other middle-of-the-road adult AOR/pop acts of the day, polished and dull; gone were the plastic 80s sounds and the frivolity. For the opening track, Collins went right for the jugular with a song about parental abuse and the weight it carries, especially when the abuser blames the abused for leaving (“It’s your fault I acted this way,” and so forth, which is a gut punch). The gravity of the lyrics obscures the fact that this doesn’t really sound like Genesis anymore; it could have been anybody playing behind Phil.

17. “That’s All,” Genesis: A great pop song about staying in a relationship that’s rife with drama and games, and a great palate cleanser between the more serious “Mama” and “Home By The Sea” sections. Side 1 of the shapes album was easily the band’s best since Wind & Wuthering, and this one was in the same vein as “Misunderstanding” and “Follow You Follow Me,” seemingly simple relationship songs with thoughtful, gray undercurrents.

16. “Mad Man Moon,” A Trick Of The Tail: A lovely composition, driven by piano and Mellotron, allegedly based on “Pilgrim’s Progress.” It has that journey sort of feel in the various sections and is a necessary part of the fairy-tale Brit-lit fabric of Trick.

15. “Afterglow,” Wind And Wuthering: Aptly named, a solo Banks composition with imagery about love, loss and redemption, a fine way to end the album and a song that would make its way into the band’s shows for the rest of their career.

14. “Duke’s Travels,” Duke: Intended as the epic 9-minute closer to the Duke Suite, this is an unabashed Genesis instrumental, though it was evident that the synthesizer had become the dominant instrument and guitars had been shunted to the side. Your tolerance for that sound, then, will determine how successful this particular travel is for you. It twists and turns like any other Genesis art-rock piece, and it’s a joy to hear these guys play, but it lacks the gravity (and bass) it needs to truly soar.

13. “Land Of Confusion,” Invisible Touch: The best guitar riff in years led this powerful pop rocker, an out-and-out protest song (with a great MTV video) and singable chorus. More songs like this would have made Invisible Touch loads better.

12. “I Can’t Dance,” We Can’t Dance: Genesis always had a sense of humor, and they were never afraid to laugh at themselves. Phil Collins looked around in 1993, saw grunge and hip-hop and MTV ruling the airwaves, and said “Yeah, we’re pretty uncool middle-aged white British dudes who used to sing about dukes and squonks and mamas, and we can’t really dance, either.” Rutherford contributes a solid guitar riff while the keyboards stay muted save for the occasional squiggly filler sound, and the song became a hit, inspiring a hilariously bad (on purpose) stiff dance on both the video and when playing live. (Collins, Rutherford and Steurmer do it across the stage during the 2007 When In Rome DVD, and it’s as lame as it should be).

11. “Abacab,” Abacab: Sleek prog-pop, completely of its time, with a propulsive beat and economical playing from the guitar and keyboards, and featuring a long instrumental fadeout. The song would be improved on stage with some variation in the bassline that closes said fadeout; the single note played is about the only flaw in this otherwise solid song.

10. “Squonk,” A Trick Of The Tail: There’s a strong sense of folklore and literature that runs through this album and the next one, which keeps these albums interesting all these years later, and not just because Steve Hackett was still around. His riff and Rutherford’s booming bass pedal propel this tale of an ugly creature; it would be used as a concert opener for the tour.

9. “Entangled,” A Trick Of The Tail: Steve Hackett only had three co-writing credits of the eight songs on this album, the start of his decline as being an integral part of the band. Not surprisingly, this number about how hospital care for those with mental health issues is one of the best on the album, a beautiful classically-inspired acoustic number with Collins double tracking his vocals in the chorus, Banks adding Mellotron in the second verse and a general non-pretentious storybook feel that draws the listener in, the way good prog-rock should. The closing section is phenomenal, a duet between Banks’ ghostly keyboards, Rutherford’s bass pedal and Hackett’s classical acoustic guitar, with no percussion. Really makes one miss Steve.

8. “One For The Vine,” Wind And Wuthering: Genesis fans of the old school view this album as the band’s last great one; after this, Hackett would leave and the trio would morph into a pop band that tried to outgrow the song structures and lyrical themes of the Gabriel years. Wind was an important transition sonically to this because it, frankly, left Steve Hackett out in the cold, now that Banks had the ability (and ego, it would seem) to run the show. When Hackett appears on the album, it’s with acoustic parts and in a coloring role only, rarely a leading role (kind of what happened to Rick Wright in Pink Floyd around the same time). But in spite of this, Banks knew how to craft dramatic songs with multiple parts, and “One For The Vine” is one of the best of these, an arresting, gray piece about a military leader who is doomed to fail.

7. “Blood On The Rooftops,” Wind And Wuthering: Some great Spanish guitar work in the introduction leads into a little satire about people who would rather watch TV and the weather than be bothered with any real world issues. Who cares about wars, starving people or religious/political oppression? I’d rather have tea and watch Batman or an Errol Flynn movie or the Weather Channel or a parade! Mind you, this was written 30 years before social media and the Kardashians (hence the dated references), but the sentiment is the same, and the song is a gem on the album.

6. “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight,” Invisible Touch: Like “Mama,” this one is a darker, sinister and very long pop song with seedier undertones; in this case, it’s about a drug addict trying to score. The “monkey” reference is per the cliché of a monkey on one’s back, in case you wondered. Rutherford would later say this was more generally about the nightlife, probably in an effort to get people to sing along at concerts, because otherwise audience participation in feeding a man’s dope addiction is just wrong. The song then segues into an instrumental break, a bridge, a repeat of the chorus and a guitar solo fadeout. Many are familiar with the single version only, but the album version is nine minutes long and is one of the better times the band fused its art-rock past with modern (at the time) sounds without compromising their integrity.

5. “Turn It On Again,” Duke: One thing Genesis rarely did prior to 1980 was write a good, short pop-rock song, so when they did it turned out to be a lasting part of the second phase of their career. The lyrics concern a man whose life revolves around television; it was part of the Duke Suite, played in the middle to break up the seriousness of “Duchess” and “Duke’s Travels,” but later became its own track, then part of a medley, then the title of the 1999 greatest hits collection. The 13/9 time signature gives the song personality, while the persistent riff keeps it in the listener’s head. I noted earlier that it can be just as hard to write a catchy four-minute rock song that millions of people love as it is to write a 10-minute instrumental suite that people admire (hey, you try it!), but Genesis showed they could do both.

4. “Mama,” Genesis: People who judge Phil Collins by his solo career tend to forget that, with Genesis, he helped write some much darker songs. The band was never afraid to touch sex, death, religion, violence or politics, but with a distinctly literate, indirect and British vibe. “Mama” is one of the great examples of this, a sinister-sounding seven-minute piece that relies on wavering ghost-house keyboards and a sparse electronic drum set to carry the track while Phil sings over top. The lyrics are from the point of view of a young man with a mother fixation on a prostitute that he met, and who doesn’t understand why she doesn’t love him back. The best part, one could argue, is Phil’s cackle (inspired by a similar laugh in Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message,” released the year prior, though Phil is malevolent where Melle Mel is world-weary).

3. “Home By The Sea/Second Home By The Sea,” Genesis: The finest example of the “prog-pop” direction that Genesis pursued after Hackett left, and one of their finest offerings of the decade. It’s a classic Genesis story—burglars break into a home, home turns out to be haunted, ghosts hold the burglars captive and tell them their life story—told over 10 minutes and a couple sections. Collins sings forcefully and tenderly as needed in the first part, while the second part is given to a long keyboard solo (with guitar flourishes from Rutherford, later turned into a great Daryl Steurmer solo onstage) over electronic drums. I realize that may sound suspect, but it’s one of Banks’ finest solos in a while, and the whole thing becomes a masterclass in how to update a sound to fit in with modern times without sacrificing what you believe in. The song then closes with a reprise of the opening verse/chorus and fades on a spooky whoosh.

2. “Eleventh Earl Of Mar,” Wind And Wuthering: I used to prefer Trick of the Tail when I was younger, but as I age the literary allusions and melancholy of Wind And Wuthering become more appealing. The album is surely the most romantic (in both senses of the word) and literate the band had been in one setting, with callouts to the Bible, “Wuthering Heights,” children’s stories and historical fiction. The latter tale of a failed Scottish uprising provides the narrative for this song. Our hero is a drunk, overdressed naïve man-child, calling his father “Daddy” and being generally unfit to lead a rebellion. But the balance between acoustic and electric is skillful, with sweeping drama and expansive vocals from Collins.

1. “Ripples,” A Trick Of The Tail: It was gratifying when the band brought this one back for the 2007 tour, as it had been left behind with most of the art-rock era when Hackett left. A metaphor for aging, with the literary references common to this era of the band, “Ripples” morphs from a beautiful classical Victorian guitar section to a full band chorus to a soaring, arresting, immersive instrumental midsection. The entire thing is a wonderful composition, one of the last times that a Genesis song felt composed as opposed to the studio jam session and snippet-building that would come to characterize how the band recorded in the mid-’80s. The song would later make it onto both the Platinum Collection and R-Kive compilations, proof of its staying power.

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