Most people, even Genesis fans, would probably describe the band as “weird”. Just from a quick Google Image search you’ll see photos of Peter Gabriel dressed as foxes and STDs – that’s plenty of ammunition to stoke the argument without ever hearing a note.
But even within prog, with its odd time signatures and unconventional song structures, Genesis has always been particularly eccentric. At first, Gabriel used macabre humor and dense wordplay (see: “The Battle of Epping Forest”) – rare qualities in a genre rarely known for its playfulness.
And even as the band evolved into tighter, more radio-friendly songs, they often made moves no one expected. Watch “Who Dunnit?” : It’s a little new wave pop song, built on a hilarious but grating Phil Collins hook – but taken in context, after so many years of epics and ornate arrangements, it’s probably the song the strangest they could have recorded. The list below, much like “Supper’s Ready”, stretches in many directions. Some of these tracks are lyrically strange; some at an objective musical level; some because, well, Genesis has never tried anything else in that vein.
10. “Pigeons” (from 1977 Spot the pigeon)
Genesis has dabbled in classical, hard rock, synth-pop, jazz fusion – all with success. But music hall? Inspired by the lighthearted style of British performer George Formby, the band took a bold swing with what divides Spot the pigeon track, letting Tony Banks’ keyboards bounce around Steve Hackett’s static, banjo-like twang. “The thing about ‘Pigeons’ was that it was possible for the band to play a whole note for a whole thing: ding-ding-ding-ding,” Hackett noted in 2009. Not exactly hit material !
9. “Harold the Barrel” (from 1971 Nursery Crimea)
It’s bright but dark, hyperactive and horrifying, dark with a smile – there’s only one “Harold the Barrel”. If you remove the vocals, it sounds like some sort of mutant pop song, with Banks’ piano and Mike Rutherford’s slick bass favoring the upper octaves. But singing changes everything. In a cartoonish unison delivery, Gabriel and Collins detail the tragic story of the titular Harold: he disappears, climbs onto a high windowsill, and “jumps running”, ultimately ignoring pleas from his reunited family.
8. “Down and Out” (from 1978 … And then there were three … )
The beat is crazy and Collins attacks his drums with rare ferocity – before your ears adjust, you might mistake those rapid snare rolls for record skipping. “Down and Out” is an outlier on Genesis’ ninth LP, the most unabashed old school prog moment of their entire trio era. And they struggled to recreate that complexity on stage, playing the song only 38 times.
7. “The Musical Box” (from 1971 Nursery Crimea)
“Having done ‘Stagnation’ [from 1970’s Trespass]that had been through different different moods, we wanted to do something along those lines, but maybe with a bit more meat,” Banks told filmmaker Joel Edginton in 2014. The result of that ambition was “The Musical Box,” the band’s first full-fledged progressive epic – and first tangible step into the weird.The music shifts from boyish 12-string chimes to pseudo-classic thunder, a quiet, raucous dynamic they’d more brazenly explore down the line. But Gabriel’s words put that in the quirky category, presenting a twisted Victorian fairy tale filled with rapid aging, croquet violence and creepy sexual advances.
6. “Watcher of the Skies” (from 1972 Foxtrot)
It takes a lot of weirdness to raise Geddy Lee’s eyebrows, but this mellotron-powered epic did the trick. “The music wasn’t about bringing people out and doing bluesy solos,” the Rush vocalist and bassist said. guitar world in 2009. “They were taking a high level of musicality and weaving it into the bowels of the song, playing with layers of melody, weird time signatures and weird guitar riffs. What fascinated me was the way these complex parts all supported each other – and the song.” In the hands of a less demanding band, “Watcher of the Skies” could have been an overworked disaster – it’s a wonder Gabriel managed to sing smoothly against Rutherford’s choppy lead beat. But this sci-fi tale, with all its myriad twists, has somehow been consistent with an early Genesis classic.
5. “The return of the giant hogweed” (from 1971 Nursery Crimea)
“The botanical creature is restless, seeking revenge!” In what sounds like the plot of a sci-fi movie So Bad It’s Okay, this heavy, gnarly number follows the titular plant (properly known as Heracleum mantegazzianum) as it attempts to destroy the human race. The music is also quite eerie, particularly when Gabriel turns his voice into an aggressive growl.
4. “The Battle of Epping Forest” (from 1973 Sell England by the pound)
“The Battle of Epping Forest” Drinking Game: Take a shot every time Gabriel sings a goofy character name or uses a ridiculous accent. (You’ll be drunk halfway through.) This 12-minute song is easily the “love it or hate it” moment on Sell England by the pound, limiting elite-level prog craftsmanship with one of the singer’s most tiresome lyrics. Gabriel was inspired by a report on rival London gangs, and its breathless delivery – which includes introducing the likes of Mick the Prick, Harold Demure and Liquid Len – makes “Epping Forest” feel more like the stoned oblivion of an epic war story.
3. “The Waiting Room” (from 1974 The Lamb Lays Down on Broadway)
There are several instrumental links on The Lamb Lays Down on Broadway, but “The Waiting Room” sounds more substantial than that description suggests. Although it’s an improvised studio jam, opening in a haze of glistening guitar and synth effects, the song feels fully fleshed out in concept – capturing the band’s goal of “the darkness to light”. It’s the sound of walking through a legitimately haunted house, only to emerge into a field of sunflowers. “I only think [the Lamb instrumentals] displaying a side of Genesis that everyone forgets except the ardent fan – they either forget or have never heard,” Collins said on the album’s reissue DVD. “It would be nice if people remembered this facet. It’s the same band… playing “Hold on My Heart”. It’s the same band that plays the songs they say we sold [with]. It’s the same group. It’s the same mentality.”
2. “The Slipperman Colony” (from 1974 The Lamb Lays Down on Broadway)
“The Colony of Slippermen” is best known for its staging, where Gabriel dressed in a grotesque costume covered in bumps. (“The worst was the Slipperman, where he came in through this inflatable dick, dressed in this awful outfit, which sometimes got a little stuck on the way out,” Collins recalled in the Lamb DVD commentary.) The song is also the weirdest moment on this cryptic concept album, evolving from moody into a jagged prog-funk groove, squeaky synth solo, and various other fragmented but fascinating ideas. That’s before you even consider the lyrics, which twist through a maze of nightmarish settings and characters (you gotta love those “slubberdegullions”).
1. “Supper’s Ready” (from 1972 Foxtrot)
Not everything of its 23 minutes are so eerie: the song’s opening section, “Lover’s Leap,” is a dramatic cascade of 12-string arpeggios and soft vocals—quite tame by Genesis standards. But “Supper’s Ready,” a “dream journey” dubbed Gabriel full of surreal religious imagery, is our obvious top pick – mostly because of its structure, with seven musical sections grafted together into a confusing puzzle. The back half of “Willow Farm,” with its upbeat piano and vocal delivery, comes just before the penultimate “Apocalypse in 9/8,” one of the darkest and most progressive moments in history. of Genesis.
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