Most people, including Genesis aficionados, would undoubtedly label the band as “strange.” A quick Google Image search yields photographs of Peter Gabriel dolled up as foxes and STDs – plenty of fodder to feed the case without anyone ever hearing a song. We look back at The Weirdest Genesis Songs:
Genesis experimented with classical, hard rock, synth-pop, and jazz fusion, all with success. But what about music hall? Inspired by British comedian George Formby’s playful manner, the band made a daring swing with this disputed Spot the Pigeon track, letting Tony Banks’ keyboards ricochet around Steve Hackett’s static, banjo-like sound. “The thing about ‘Pigeons’ was that the band can play a whole note for a whole thing: ding-ding-ding-ding,” Hackett said in 2009. Not quite a smash hit!
Harold the Barrel
There’s just one “Harold the Barrel,” and it’s bright but gloomy, frenetic and scary, grim with a grin. Without the vocals, it sounds like some kind of mutant pop tune, with Banks’ piano thrashing and Mike Rutherford’s slick bass preferring the upper octaves. However, the singing alters all. Gabriel and Collins tell the terrible story of the eponymous Harold in comical perfect harmony: he vanishes, climbs to a high window sill, and executes a “running jump,” eventually dismissing the pleadings of his assembled family.
Down and Out
Collins assaults his drum kit with uncommon vigor, and just before your ear adapt, you may misinterpret those fast drum rolls for record skips. “Down and Out” stands out on Genesis’ ninth album as being the most unabashedly ancient prog piece from their whole trio period. They notably battled to convey such complexity live, only performing the song 38 times.
The Musical Box
“The Musical Box,” the band’s first full-fledged prog epic — and first concrete move towards strangeness — was the outcome of their desire. The music progresses from playful 12-string chimes to pseudo-classical thunder, a quiet-loud dynamic they’d boldly explore later on. However, Gabriel’s lyrics elevate this to the bizarre, providing a distorted Victorian fairy tale packed with accelerated aging, croquet violence, and strange sexual approaches.
Watcher of the Skies
“Watcher of the Skies” might have been an overwrought catastrophe in the palms of a less discriminating group – it’s a surprise Gabriel succeeded to sing cleanly over Rutherford’s restless primary rhythm. Despite its many unexpected turns, this sci-fi story managed to become an early Genesis classic.
The Return of the Giant Hogweed
This tangled, hefty song follows the eponymous plant (officially known as Heracleum mantegazzianum) as it strives to kill the human species in what sounds like the scenario of a so-bad-it’s-good sci-fi movie. The music is extremely unusual, especially when Gabriel forms his voice into an unpleasant snarl.
The Battle of Epping Forest
Drinking Game for “The Battle of Epping Forest”: Pour one drink for each ludicrous character name or accent Gabriel delivers. This 12-minute track on Selling England by the Pound is unquestionably the “love it or hate it” moment, combining some aristocracy prog artistry with one of the musician’s most tiresome lines.
The Waiting Room
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway contains a number of instrumental linkages, yet “The Waiting Room” feels more substantial than what that description would imply. Even though the song is an impromptu studio session that begins with twinkling guitar and synth effects, it sounds completely developed conceptually and captures the band’s goal of “darkness to brightness.”
The Colony of Slippermen
The song “The Colony of Slippermen,” which progresses from atmospherics into a spiky prog-funk beat, screeching synth solo, and various other dispersed but interesting ideas, is the craziest on this enigmatic concept album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. It is well known for its theatrical presentation, in which Gabriel dresses up in a hideous garment covered in wobbles.
Not much of the track’s 23 minutes are strange: “Lover’s Leap,” the song’s beginning section, is a spectacular avalanche of 12-string arpeggios and sweet belting — pretty mild by Genesis norms. But “Supper’s Ready,” a Gabriel-dubbed “dream journey” packed of strange religious imagery, is our clear favorite — largely due to its arrangement, which consists of seven melodic pieces sewn together into a perplexing riddle. The second part of “Willow Farm,” with its cheery keyboard and vocal style, appears right before the final “Apocalypse in 9/8,” one of Genesis’ deepest and most proggiest songs.