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20 Insanely Great Genesis Songs Only Hardcore Fans Know

A journey through the hidden corners of the band’s discography – from high-concept prog gems to forgotten pop-rock B-sides

Genesis

Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford of Genesis, circa 1991.

Rob Verhorst/Redferns/Getty

The question "Do you like Genesis?" brings an inevitable follow-up: "Which one?" The band's early work, recorded under the idiosyncratic Batwing of frontman Peter Gabriel, is the Holy Grail of progressive rock – exemplified by sprawling masterpieces like the 1974 double-LP The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. But after Gabriel left the band in '75, Genesis carried on with drummer Phil Collins as their de-facto frontman, transitioning from complex, symphonic epics ("Eleventh Earl of Mar") to concise, polished pop ("Invisible Touch)." For many diehard prog buffs, the Collins era is a travesty; for many pop-rock aficionados, the Gabriel era is, as serial killer Patrick Bateman put it in the 2000 thriller American Psycho, "too artsy, too intellectual." 

The truth, of course, is that Genesis made incredible music in every one of their distinct eras – from the long-form insanity of "Supper's Ready" to the savvy yacht-pop of "Hold on My Heart." What other band has covered so much sonic territory?

It's been a big year for Genesis. The five members of the classic quintet (Gabriel, Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett) recently reunited for the upcoming BBC/Showtime documentary, Genesis – Sum of the Parts, and a career-spanning, three-disc box set, R-Kive, arrived last month. To celebrate, let's take a look at 20 of the band's buried treasures. 

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“The Carpet Crawlers 1999”

"The Carpet Crawlers" first appeared as the emotional centerpiece of Genesis' 1974 double-LP, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. It's the album's most visually vivid piece (with frontman Peter Gabriel layering imagery of massive wooden doors and spiraling staircases), a true sing-along moment surrounded by ambitious experimentation. It's also one of Gabriel's favorite Genesis songs – but since he left the band after the Lamb tour, Phil Collins wound performing it hundreds of times himself. 

This updated version – recorded in 1995 but shelved until the release of 1999's Turn It On Again: The Hits – brings that story full circle, allowing Gabriel and Collins to intertwine their soulful voices in a contemporary arrangement. Producer Trevor Horn frames their vocals with subtle electronic programming, and little else – it almost functions like a Gabriel-Collins collaboration instead of a Genesis track. (Steve Hackett has infamously expressed disappointment that his guitar parts were under-utilized.) Quibbles aside, "The Carpet Crawlers 1999" remains a profound coda to one of rock's most singular arcs.

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“Looking for Someone”

Trespass, the second Genesis album, is defined by its reflective 12-string textures – but it's also bookended by two longform rock epics. With its heroic organ pattern, fan-favorite closer "The Knife" gets all the glory, but opener "Looking for Someone" is the more musically varied of the two, building from a soulful whisper to a thunderous roar. It's a creative rebirth in seven seamless minutes. 

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“Am I Very Wrong?”

The Genesis presented on From Genesis to Revelation isn't really the band fans grew to love. They were all teenagers when they recorded their debut LP: very much in their formatives stages as musicians, operating under the smothering pop shadow of producer Jonathan King. But Revelations remains fascinating as a historical document, planting subtle seeds of the folk-prog sound that would bloom on the following year's Trespass. Look no further than "Am I Very Wrong?," a gently melodic ballad laced with lush Tony Banks piano and Anthony Phillips' pastoral 12-string guitar passages. The adorably dated lyrics ("The happiness machine is trying hard to sing my song") make this a true period piece, but that doesn't diminish the song's naive charm.  

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“On the Shoreline”

No Genesis song is more divisive than 1991's "I Can't Dance," a kitschy, Grammy-nominated belter with a blues-rock riff and a vibe tailored for a Pepsi commercial. But like the rest of the corresponding LP, We Can't Dance, airy B-side "On the Shoreline" is enjoyable in an un-ironic way. Here, as usual, Phil Collins sounds most comfortable at the raspy apex of his vocal range, pushing his voice to the breaking point as Tony Banks' synths drift through like mists.

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“The Lady Lies”

…And Then There Were Three is the black sheep of the Genesis discography, sandwiched awkwardly between the band's prog heyday and their reign as stadium pop superstars. The album did launch their breakthrough American hit, "Follow You Follow Me" – but that track's seductive gloss overshadowed the artier leanings of tracks like "The Lady Lies," a jazz-prog tale of an over-eager warrior and his demon-in-disguise maiden. Genesis became a trio in 1978 – but also a power trio. Here's the definitive proof. 

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“Twilight Alehouse”

"I will now receive my comfort," sings an enraptured Peter Gabriel on this brooding powerhouse, "conjured by the magic power of wine!" A staple of the early Genesis set lists, "Twilight Alehouse" was recorded during the Foxtrot sessions but cut for space concerns, eventually slipping through the cracks as the B-side for their breakthrough single, 1973's "I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe)." The studio version is essential listening, but it's also worth exploring this in-studio live take filmed for Belgian TV. (Early Seventies Steve Hackett carries the aura of a true prog-rock wizard.)

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“Feeding the Fire”

This B-side for Invisible Touch hit "Land of Confusion" is even more engaging than the single, packing an alluringly dark atmosphere and a robust chorus – with Collins belting his heart out, "Mama" style. The rub with Invisible Touch is that it leans heavily on neon-powered pop; replacing one of the lighter-weight tracks ("In Too Deep") with "Feeding the Fire" would have offered the album a broader scope. 

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“The Dividing Line”

Let's be honest: Genesis should have called it quits after 1991's We Can't Dance, their true swan song. Instead, Banks and Rutherford regrouped after Collins' departure, recruited Scottish alt-rock singer Ray Wilson to fill his enormous shoes (or at least the one that controlled his bass drum) and released 1997's Calling All Stations. The album was widely panned for its ponderous art-rock style, and the reviews weren't far off the money. But now that the critical dust has settled, it's easier to bask in the album's widescreen textural drift: "The Dividing Line" is the musical centerpiece, powered by Banks' buoyant synthesizers and Nir Zidkyahu's Collins-styled tom-tom flourishes. 

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“Going Out to Get You”

Bluesy rocker "Going Out to Get You" was written during the Trespass era and became a highlight of the band's early setlists, but it was left off that album in favor of the similarly hard-hitting "The Knife." The only known studio version is a slower, groovier demo recorded at London's Regent Sound Studio in August of 1969 (and featured the 1998 box set Genesis Archive 1967-75). It's a deviation from the classic Genesis style – the fascinating sound of a band in flux. 

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“The Fountain of Salmacis”

Phil Collins and Steve Hackett made their Genesis debuts on 1971's Nursery Cryme – but in spite of its historical significance, the album suffers from a flat mix and a tracklist padded with filler. Regardless, the LP's highlights are unimpeachable, especially the oft-overlooked closer "The Fountain of Salmacis." Co-composed by the entire early quintet, this triumphant epic delves into Greek mythology and stretches into jazzy atmospherics. But the biggest goosebump moment is Tony Banks' opening mellotron swirl – a definitive souvenir for the prog-rock time-capsule. 

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“The Cinema Show” (‘Seconds Out’ Live Version)

Percussion master Bill Bruford is the only human being to serve time in each of the Prog Big Three: Yes, King Crimson and Genesis. And the latter gig came about almost as an afterthought. In 1976, fresh from recording his debut lead vocals on Genesis' A Trick of the Trail, Phil Collins invited Bruford to sit in with jazz-fusion side-group Brand X; after mentioning he needed to find a replacement live drummer for Genesis, Bruford casually offered his services for their upcoming tour.

Bruford only stuck around for one tour, replaced in '77 by former Frank Zappa drummer Chester Thompson. But his experimental style breathed new life into the band's setlist, as evidenced on their 1977 live LP, Seconds Out. The album's centerpiece is a dizzying version of "The Cinema Show" (recorded at the Pavillion de Paris on June 23rd, 1976), which is anchored by the journeyman's percussive whiplash. 

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“Keep It Dark”

Abacab oddity "Keep It Dark" cracked the U.K. charts in 1981, but the single was shelved in America. (An understandable decision since it's set in a fidgety time-signature and lacks a clear chorus hook.) But the track, composed by Tony Banks, still burrows under your skin, as Phil Collins scrapes the upper limits of his falsetto over a nagging guitar riff and drum loop. Banks has always been protective of "Keep It Dark," specifically its lyrics – which tell the story of a man abducted by aliens and taken to a peaceful world, only to be dumped back on Earth with a lunatic secret. 

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“Get ‘Em Out by Friday”

It's easy to spot which Genesis lyrics were written by Peter Gabriel. Most of the frontman's contributions are conceptually outlandish, often prodding the words-per-minute boundaries of rock singing. "Get 'Em Out By Friday," from 1972's Foxtrot, tells the whimsical sci-fi tale of Genetic Control, a group regulating "humanoid height" in order to fit more people into apartment complexes. But, as usual with prog-era Genesis, the words aren't too important. The track's true strength is its dynamic ensemble playing: Gabriel's throaty roar, Tony Banks' searing organ, Mike Rutherford's galloping bass guitar. 

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“One for the Vine”

Tony Banks has always considered Wind & Wuthering one of his favorite Genesis albums, which is understandable since it's dominated by keyboard-heavy pieces. The 10-minute "One for the Vine" became a live powerhouse, played frequently during the band's tours between 1977 and 1980 (and even showing up on Three Sides Live), but the original version is the most essential. Banks leads the band through endless musical shifts, from a Romantic piano ballad opening to a bizarre percussive breakdown to a borderline-disco groove. It's the most ambitious Genesis song from the post-Gabriel era. 

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“Driving the Last Spike”

By 1991, Phil Collins was splitting time between Genesis and his hugely successful solo career. That recipe worked on a creative and personal level – it also gave the other two members the chance to work on other projects (Mike Rutherford with Mike + the Mechanics, Tony Banks with his obscure solo albums) and re-enter the band with a clean slate. We Can't Dance is the last album Genesis recorded with the trio lineup, and it's easily their most underrated collection of songs.

Though it's often remembered for the hits (the religious satire "Jesus He Knows Me," the goofy blues-rock aberration "I Can't Dance"), the LP also features a handful of extended art-rock epics, including the 10-minute "Driving the Last Spike." The lyrics, written by Collins, tell the tragic and triumphant story of Britain's railway workers of the 1800s. But the frontman also dominates in other areas, delivering one of his most aggressive vocals and beating his drums to a bloody pulp. 

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“The Brazilian”

Perhaps the biggest Eighties TV crime is that this off-kilter, Grammy-nominated instrumental didn't serve as the title credit score for a detective drama. "The Brazilian," with its blaring synthesizer lines and mechanical tom-tom pummel, is a strange way to end Genesis' most radio-friendly LP, 1986's Invisible Touch – some critics considered it a concession to the band's die-hard prog fans, a taste of art-rock mysticism to offset the slick sensitivity of ballads like "In Too Deep." As a result, a lot of fans write off this hidden gem without giving it a fair shake. 

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“Naminanu”

The most naggingly catchy gibberish in the Genesis discography, the instrumental "Naminanu" was recorded for Abacab but left off the final track list, showing up as the B-side for "Keep It Dark." But the band initially had big plans for the track, planning it as the opening piece of a "Dodo/Lurker" suite (which would have also included the discarded "Submarine"). Since Genesis were already moving away from long-form epics, it made stylistic sense to leave this one on the cutting room floor. Plus, with its neon-bright synth stabs and babbling hook, "Naminanu" sounds great on its own.

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“Happy the Man”

"Happy the Man" is one of the true oddities in the Genesis catalog. This simple, flute-driven folk-pop ditty came out in 1972 – the same year as Foxtrot, one of their most ambitious prog-rock albums. The song's origins are a bit fuzzy: Some Genesis historians claim it was written and performed live during the Trespass era, when original guitarist Anthony Phillips was still in the band. Regardless, it's been mostly forgotten about in the 21st century, despite its charming sing-along vibe.  

Fun fact: Obscure late Seventies prog band Happy the Man didn't name themselves after the song, despite being huge Genesis fans (and even including a "Watcher of the Skies" cover in their early live repertoire). The group even helped Gabriel demo some rough ideas for his first solo album, though he eventually decided to use other musicians. 

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“Evidence of Autumn”

Guitarist Steve Hackett left Genesis in 1977, following their Wind & Wuthering tour, and the remaining trio (Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks) struggled to find their creative footing on the next year's lukewarm …And Then There Were Three. But they rebounded in a major way with 1980's Duke, a more cohesive set of songs that balanced virtuosity with accessibility. "Evidence of Autumn," a starry-eyed ballad driven by Banks' lush keyboards, was recorded during the sessions but pushed aside – winding up as the B-side to pop staple "Misunderstanding" and rounding out the original studio section of 1982's Three Sides Live. It's a classic Banks composition, built on a deceptively complex chord structure and a winding, winsome vocal melody. 

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“You Might Recall”

A leftover from the fertile Abacab sessions, this underrated tune finds Phil Collins belting about lost love over an agile, propulsive groove. "You Might Recall" appeared on two 1982 releases, the Three Sides Live album and the 3×3 EP, but it's hard to fathom why it didn't make the final cut on Abacab – it's one of the most musically distinctive tracks from that era, dominated by Mike Rutherford's funky bass playing and an emotive vocal performance that likely left Collins' voice raw in the recording booth. 

In This Article: Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins

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