The Two Faces of Genesis

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I guess it could be considered something of a personality test: Which version of Genesis do you prefer?  No, no.  Not the Bible.  (Although considering yesterday’s post, I can see how you might think that.)  I mean the band.  Do you like the Prog Rock, Peter Gabriel lineup, or are you a hit-machine, Phil Collins era fan?  Both have their defenders, but when you think about how drastic the stylistic change was, it’s not really a fair comparison.

From their formation until the late 1970s, Genesis created the kind of artsy, layered, thematic albums that are hallmarks of Progressive Rock.  In Prog Rock, it didn’t matter if there were suitable singles; that was for the marketing guys at the label to figure out.  The point was to explore the human condition through music coupled with fantastic storytelling.  Songs were carefully linked–literally with musical bridges, and figuratively with recurring themes and characters.  Peter Gabriel has always had a knack for this kind of conceptual songwriting, and Genesis were one of the better acts of this little sub-genre.

While Genesis were quite good at this stuff, it’s not exactly my cup of tea.  I generally prefer the tighter Pop/Rock stylings Genesis favored when they became a trio led by Phil Collins.  Collins had an ear for good rhythm (he was their drummer, after all) and catchy hooks.  The music wasn’t better than what they did before, just different.  And Genesis never really shed their storytelling roots.  They were one of the first bands to take full advantage of music videos, using the medium as mini-movies for which their songs were the soundtrack.

The two different versions of Genesis are really more like two different bands.  One was more successful artistically, the other commercially.  I don’t know what it says about me that I prefer the more commercial band.  Probably nothing.  Which Genesis would you rather listen to?  Or would you just change the station whenever they came on?

 

Repost: The Eyes Have It

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Usually, songs with “eyes” in the title are love songs.  You know, the whole “love at first sight” thing.  (It’s not that I don’t believe in it; I just don’t think it can last.)  There’s also many references to either the dewy look of love in someone’s eyes or the way eyes become cold and hard when love is dead.  And of course there’s a multitude of related references to crying.  It all makes sense, since it’s pretty easy to read someone’s emotions in their eyes.  Unless they’re wearing sunglasses.  Or a professional poker player.

Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face” is one of the eyes gone cold songs, but I’ve always found it to be kind of creepy.  I mean, “Eyes without a face, got no human grace” is kind of spooky.  (Speaking of, one of the creepiest moments in music video history was The Cure’s video for “Boys Don’t Cry,” with the glowing eyes on the silhouettes at the end.  Eek!)  Georgia Satellites had a great line, “watch your pretty blue eyes as they turn on me” (“The Myth of Love”).  Night Ranger had a pretty good pop rock song on their hands with “When You Close Your Eyes.”  Eyes are always one of the musical loci for broken hearts.

And unrequited love.  One of my favorite “eye” songs is Frankie Valli’s “My Eyes Adored You.”  I have a strong affection for cheesy 70s pop, and this is one of the cheesiest.  A boy grows up with a girl, goes off “for city lights, climbed the ladder to fortune and fame,” never forgot the girl.  It’s all very innocent.  Literally. “My eyes adored you, though I never laid a hand on you.”  Supposedly, this guy has been comparing every starlet and groupie he’s encountered since becoming famous to his hometown sweetheart.  Who also apparently never knew he loved her.  (Can anyone say “stalker”?)

The best “eye” song, however is “In Your Eyes.”  Peter Gabriel takes what ought to be the ultimate love song cliché and turns it into what I consider one of the finest love songs ever written.  Of course, that might be because he refuses to pander to the masses and rely on the clichés.  He makes it incredibly personal and passionate.  Gabriel understands clearly that referring to the ostensible windows to the soul is only as meaningful as you make it.  “In Your Eyes” doesn’t just rely on standard abstractions; he uses concrete images.  “I see the doorway to a thousand churches” turns his lover’s eyes into a sanctuary, into peace, something the man in this song needs.  But there’s also “the light, the heat” of passion and love when she looks at him.  There’s a bit of a mirror effect here: “I am complete” is followed shortly in the chorus with the plea “Oh, I want to be that complete.”  This isn’t just about looking into someone’s eyes and seeing love.  This is about struggling to keep that love going in the face of anger, fear, and depression.  This is a song about love overpowering suffering.  “The resolution of the fruitless searches.”  Gabriel takes it a little further in the live version of “In Your Eyes,” and adds forgiveness to the mix, with a prologue/bridge: “Accepting all I’ve done and said, I want to stand and stare again, till there’s nothing left out. Oh, it remains there in your eyes.  Whatever comes and goes, it’s in your eyes.”

A love that sees everything and continues in spite of all the troubles in the world.  That’s the kind of love everyone deserves.

“Solsbury Hill”

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Through the lovely Kina I found dan4kent, and I read this lovely post on his blog.  It got me thinking about things, about who I am and the mistakes I’ve made and the way I still obsess over stuff that happened in the past, some of it over 30 years ago (in case you haven’t noticed, I’m getting up there in years).  I know, have known for a long time, that I need to let things go, but the little hamster wheel that is my brain keeps going round and round and round.  I’m pretty comfortable with myself, although I still get really down on myself once in a while.  But I know there’s still a lot of baggage I need to lose at the airport before I can really take off.  I’m working on it.

When I really need to feel free, when I need to feel like I have managed to learn to let go of everything that weighs me down, I listen to this song.  I always feel like I can do anything when I hear it.  Looking at it from a certain angle, it can be taken as a death song (” grab your things, I’ve come to take you home”), but I view it as a resurrection.  Gabriel wrote it about the same time he left Genesis, so it can be seen as his liberation from the band.  And it is a liberating song.  From the gentle guitar and heartbeat drum that open to the tribal chanting that ends it, “Solsbury Hill” just soars, like an “eagle flew out of the night.”

There really is a Solsbury Hill.  It overlooks Bath in England.  Maybe I’ll go there someday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Today I don’t need a replacement.  I’ll tell them what the smile on my face meant.  My heart going boom boom boom, hey, I said ‘You can keep my things, they’ve come to take me home.'”