Genesis – Abacab

As I scan the shelves at my local Pet Food Express for Bernie’s canned food, I find myself lost in thought, planning out the rest of my day. Would I have time to complete the myriad of tasks on my to-do list before 3pm? I have finally developed a routine of keeping track of my tasks using the “notes” app on my phone and as soon as I think of something I need to do, buy or remember, I jot it down in a note. Because my brain is like a sieve, I check this list multiple times a day, to make sure I haven’t skipped an essential item. Oh shit! I forgot to get a birthday card for Mom! Well, that doesn’t happen now, because, like Santa Claus, I check my list, way more than twice and really can’t tell the difference between naughty and nice.

But I digress. I am scanning the cans, searching for wild boar and rice (Bernie’s favorite) when all of a sudden I find myself bopping to and fro, caught in a pleasant reverie spiral. I realize it’s due to the music coming from the store’s speakers. The recognizable keyboard chords of Tony Banks, the thumping bass-lines of Mike Rutherford, and, of course, the solid drumming and vocals of Phil Collins, playing the fantastic title song from their 1981 album, Abacab.

Genesis.

I will admit, right here and now, that it wasn’t until Peter Gabriel left Genesis that I became a fan of the band. I just couldn’t connect to the epic 20 minute prog-rock jams of the early to mid 1970s Genesis. I liked some of the prog bands of the day — like Rush and Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer — but it wasn’t until the 80s, when Genesis dwindled down to a trio, and specifically on the song “Turn it On Again” from the Duke album, that I became a real Genesis fan. It was this song that received a lot of radio airplay on KLOS and KMET, the stations I listened to for my rock and roll down in southern California.

I got some shit from my fellow 13-year-old friends for not digging The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, but even as a young teenager I could recognize the greatness of Peter Gabriel, but more from his just released third solo album (we just called it Melty Face) than from his time as vocalist and band-leader of Genesis. It was the best of both worlds: two bands for the price of one. It’s 1980, Peter Gabriel releases his arguably best album, and Genesis, finally finds its new voice as a more pop-oriented, yet still experimental band, with Phil Collins more than handling the reins as vocalist.

But as much as I liked Duke, it was a year later, in 1981, with the release of Abacab, when Genesis really took hold, not just of me, but of the world as a whole. It helped immensely that the album coincided with the birth of MTV, a brand new, 24-hour cable channel featuring non-stop music videos. It wasn’t the six-and-a-half minute title song that MTV added to its rotation though. It was the more upbeat, horn-laden 4-minute track, “No Reply at All.” The video for which, shows the three band members goofing around and having a lovely time. Pretending to play the horns and smiling and, well, let’s just say that a person didn’t need to see that video too many times to instinctively lurch to change the channel when it came on. Don’t get me wrong, “NRAA” is a great song. Deserving of all the attention it received and perhaps still receives today. But that video has left a little bit of scarring, so I tend to have more pleasant connotations with their song “Abacab.” Which I thought was an actual word for many years (OK, 35 – I just learned today that it represents a series of notes somewhere in this –or maybe another–song, but reversed — BACABA.)

To this day, Abacab is the album I put on to play from Genesis whenever I’m in an 80’s Genesis sort of mood. It isn’t necessarily their best album; there are certainly some throwaway songs (“Who Dunnit?” is particularly bad), but, for me, 1981 was such a defining year. It was my first year of high school, MTV debuted, I had a solid base of friends and was feeling hopefully for the first time in a long time. Yeah, Reagan just took office, but to a 13 year old boy, that didn’t have much of an impact. What had a much bigger impact on this teenage boy would come a year and a half later, when the family would decide to move to the San Fernando Valley, the summer after 10th grade. To be continued….

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3 thoughts on “Genesis – Abacab

  1. Good post Fuzzy. I’m a ’70s prog music fan, but as a late bloomer I discovered a lot of that music after enjoying revamped incarnations of those bands during the ’80s. I always thought Yes and Genesis (and King Crimson to a lesser extent) shared an interesting run through the ’80s after reinventing themselves to more pop and less complicated units. Many die-hard fans didn’t care for the new music (and personnel lineups), but I like a lot of the music they created in the ’80s just as much as the ’70s material. It’s certainly different and gives me a different feeling when listening to it. But there is some great playing and songwriting to be found in the later work too, I always liked the album “Genesis” that came after Duke and Abacb, some great tracks on there as well.

  2. That Steve Hackett concert is pretty cool – his guitarwork is still impressive. But the Michael Bolton wannabe vocalist with the Seinfeldian pirate shirt was too much to take. Still didn’t elevate those early albums above those of Yes and Rush for me, but I enjoyed it.

    Andrew – I was going to write about Genesis’ “Genesis” album, which came out in 1984, which I agree is the end to end best album, not a weak link in the bunch (not even “Illegal Alien” could bring this one down – and it’s strangely prescient in these odd days). I think at the time, that album was so overplayed on the radio that I grew sick of it and had moved on to other more punk/new-wave artists by then. But with years of distance, it is clear to me that the songwriting on Genesis showed the band at a peak.

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