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.
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….