For those of you who have been living under a rock when it comes to music news, Phil Collins is unretired, recently released a memoir entitled Not Dead Yet, and is planning a very short European tour this upcoming summer (hopefully, a North American tour follows soon). As for Peter Gabriel, he recently concluded a summer tour with Sting. The commonality between Collins and Gabriel is that both men have been the lead vocalist for the progressive/pop rock group Genesis. Generally, the progressive rock era of Genesis has been associated with Gabriel and the pop rock era has been associated with Collins, although he has been a member of the group during both eras. This has sparked debate on which era of Genesis was better and who the better lead vocalist was. To appease both sides, here are the 10 best Genesis songs (in chronological order) from the Gabriel era and the Collins era.
Peter Gabriel Era
1. The Knife
Released in 1970 on the band's second album Trespass, this nine minute song served as a protest song whose lyrics, according to Gabriel, "...wanted to try and show how all violent revolutions inevitably end up with a dictator in power." Keyboardist Tony Banks plays a march-like organ riff along with distorted guitars played by Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips. "The Knife" was released as a single, but did not chart. Phillips would leave the band shortly after the release of the album mainly due to having bouts of stage fright.
2. The Musical Box
"The Musical Box" is the first Genesis song that introduced guitarist Steve Hackett and drummer Phil Collins. Clocking in at around 10 and a half minutes, the leadoff song from Nursery Cryme is quintessential progressive rock: changes in mood, time signature, and superb playing from each group member. The song would be a live favorite throughout the Gabriel era and the ending section would be a part of "old song" medleys during 1980s and 1990s tours with Collins.
3. Watcher of the Skies
As the first track on the group's 1972 album Foxtrot, "Watcher of the Skies" begins with a hauntingly beautiful Mellotron section played by Tony Banks and shifts to wonderfully executed musicianship by the main ensemble. The song opened many of the band's shows from 1972 to 1974 and Peter Gabriel's theatrics would be in full swing with this song. For "Watcher of the Skies," Gabriel would don a multicolored cape, UV makeup around his eyes, and wear bat wings on the side of his head. This would not be the last of his trademark concert outfits.
4. Supper's Ready
The 23 minute epic "Supper's Ready" consists of seven sections and is considered to be Genesis's magnum opus. As any typical progressive rock suite goes, there are numerous changes in time signature, key, instrumentation, and more importantly, mood. The final two sections, "Apocalypse in 9/8" and "As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs," respectively, highlight the suite. According to Gabriel, the lyrics are about a personal journey which ends up going through scenes in the Book of Revelation. For anyone wanting to try listening to progressive rock, definitely give "Supper's Ready" a listen.
5. I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
From Selling England by the Pound, "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" became the band's first "minor" hit, peaking at 21 on the UK Singles Chart. This four minute song would be a live favorite for Genesis throughout. Upon listening to this song, there is definitely Beatles influence in the guitar playing of Steve Hackett and Phil Collins's drumming. For BBC America enthusiasts, "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" appeared on numerous occasions in Top Gear, much to the chagrin of co-host Richard Hammond, who is not a huge fan of Genesis.
6. Firth of Fifth
"Firth of Fifth" showcases Steve Hackett's guitar playing and Tony Banks's ability as a keyboardist. The song opens with a piano solo by Banks, which would serve as a leitmotif later in the track. Gabriel also played flute while in Genesis and his playing serves as a soothing interlude to a harder rocking middle section highlighted by Steve Hackett's guitar solo. The lyrics are not as spectacular. Banks would later recall them as "one of the worst sets of lyrics [I have] been involved with."
7. The Cinema Show
As the penultimate track on Selling England by the Pound, "The Cinema Show" invokes the characters of Romeo and Juliet as well as the mythological figure Tiresias, who was transformed into a woman for seven years. The songs best known lyrics, referring to Tiresias, are "Once a man like the sea I raged. Once a woman like the earth I gave. But there is in fact more earth than sea." The somewhat subtle hint that the female is the more dominant sex should make the song worth a listen! Either that or the masterpiece that is Tony Banks's keyboard solo towards the end of the song!
8. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
The title track of the group's 1974 concept album begins with fast paced keyboard playing by Tony Banks and transitions into a energy filled opening for the album. Inspired by soul songs recorded during the 1960s, the lyrics even reference the Drifters' 1963 classic "On Broadway." The song also introduces the album's protagonist, Rael, a Puerto Rican living in the heart of New York City. The album takes on brilliant strangeness in future tracks, including the next two songs in this list.
9. In the Cage
"In the Cage" is perhaps the darkest and hardest rocking track of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Great vocals from Peter Gabriel, chaotic drumming and backing vocals from Phil Collins, and the always brilliant keyboards from Tony Banks made this song a live favorite and a driver for medleys performed during the 1980s and the group's reunion tour in 2007.
10. The Carpet Crawlers
Personally, "The Carpet Crawlers" is my favorite Genesis song of the Peter Gabriel era. The melody is beautiful and the keyboards (Tony Banks again...) provide an atmosphere that gives one goosebumps. Gabriel's vocals and Collins's backing vocals gives the song a life of its own. "The Carpet Crawlers" would become a significant piece in Genesis shows throughout and poignantly served as the final song performed by the group on its 2007 reunion tour, perhaps the group's final tour. "The carpet crawlers heed their callers. We've got to get in to get out." Gabriel would then leave Genesis in 1975 after the tour in support of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
Phil Collins Era
After hundreds and hundreds of unimpressive auditions for filling the new lead vocalist role, Phil Collins hesitantly came from behind his drum kit to fill this void. Turned out to be the right decision as the band began work on its 1976 album A Trick of the Tail. Influenced by Led Zeppelin, the third track of the album, "Squonk," contained drum fills comparable to John Bonham and the song told the folk tale of the tune titled creature, who leaves a trail of tears for hunters to follow and would dissolve into a pool of tears when cornered. The song often served as an opening number for Genesis shows during 1977.
2. One for the Vine
Penned by keyboardist Tony Banks, "One for the Vine" was the second track from 1977's Wind and Wuthering. The ten minute song provided commentary about individuals who attract multitudes of followers only to have one person break away and attract many other followers, then repeat. Perhaps a subtle criticism of other faiths having root from breaking away from Catholicism? Definitely a shining moment in the band's songwriting.
Also penned by Tony Banks, "Afterglow" was the final track on Wind and Wuthering following the "Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers.../...In That Quiet Earth" instrumental. The lyrics tell the story of a survivor from a nuclear fallout and his thoughts about possibly being the only person left and his wanting to find his loved ones. Banks said he wrote the song "just about in the time it took to play it." Interestingly, days after writing the song, Banks thought he accidently used the melody of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" as the opening notes of each verse, later coming to the conclusion that he did not. Upon listening to "Afterglow," the beginning of each verse does sound similar to the classic Christmas tune, but are not copycat notes.
4. Follow You Follow Me
Following the departure of guitarist Steve Hackett, Genesis was reduced to a three member band. Appropriately, the group's next album was entitled ...And Then There Were Three... Released in 1978, the album was the band's first attempt at writing shorter songs while maintaining its progressive style. The final track, "Follow You, Follow Me," became the band's first Top 40 American hit peaking at 23.
As the first solely penned Phil Collins song in Genesis's repertoire, "Misunderstanding" became a classic rock hit staple and peaked at 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980. 1980's Duke marked a transition for Genesis from a progressive sound to a more pop rock sound. The song was inspired by Collins's divorce from his first wife and his failed attempt to save his marriage. Interestingly, "Misunderstanding" was among the collection of songs Collins wrote during this difficult time in his life, which included his solo signature hit "In the Air Tonight." Genesis ultimately went with "Misunderstanding" and "Please Don't Ask," passing on "In the Air Tonight." The other Collins penned songs would make up his first solo album, Face Value, released in 1981.
6. Turn It on Again
Arguably pop era Genesis's signature song, "Turn It on Again" contains a memorable riff on both keyboards and guitar, played by Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, respectively. Despite only reaching 58 on the Billboard Hot 100, the song would become a concert staple often serving as the ending number. During the Mama and Invisible Touch tours of the 1980s, "Turn It on Again" would be part of medley that contained covers of 1960s classics such as "In the Midnight Hour," Everybody Needs Somebody to Love," and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."
7. Home by the Sea/Second Home by the Sea
From the group's self-titled album in 1983, "Home by the Sea" and "Second Home by the Sea" returned the group to a progressive rock feel, but with a pop rock sound. "Home by the Sea" contains more vocals and tells the story of a thief who unsuccessfully tries to rob a haunted house located by the ocean. "Second Home by the Sea" is mostly instrumental and primarily driven by Tony Banks's keyboards and superb drumming from Phil Collins. A reprise of the final verse in "Home by the Sea" closes the two song suite.
8. Invisible Touch
The self-titled track from 1986's Invisible Touch became the group's only number one hit, only to be surpassed by former lead vocalist Peter Gabriel's single "Sledgehammer." The upbeat song has always been a live favorite for Genesis and is occasionally played on 1980s hits radio stations.
9. Land of Confusion
"Land of Confusion" served as the third single from Invisible Touch and reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100. The song's lyrics, penned by guitarist Mike Rutherford, commented on the political turmoil felt by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia during the 1980s in regards to nuclear arms. The song is also notable for its music video, consisting of numerous puppets of the band members, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, as well as other notable figures including Saint Pope John Paul II. The video would eventually lose the MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year to Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer," another landmark music video incorporating stop motion animation.
10. No Son of Mine
As the first track from 1991's We Can't Dance, "No Son of Mine" reached number 12 in the United States and number 6 in the UK. The lyrics, written by Phil Collins, discuss a young man's turbulent relationship with his abusive father causing him to run away and then return, only to be rebuked. The song served as a live staple for the group during 1992, 1998, and 2007. We Can't Dance was the last Genesis studio album to have Collins as lead vocalist with his departure from the group in 1996. Collins would return for the band's 2007 reunion tour with Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford.