The Musical Box

When I was nine years old, Peter Gabriel left Genesis. Phil Collins took over as the lead singer, and I was devastated. OK, that may be a slight exaggeration. Truth be told, I was completely oblivious.

That's because I didn't know who Genesis was. Ditto Gentle Giant, Rush, King Crimson, UK and ELP. I was listening to McCartney and Wings singing silly love songs, Wild Cherry playing that funky music (for their one and only hit,) and learning 50 ways to leave your lover from Paul Simon. Sara Smile, Afternoon Delight and Gary Wright were my thing, and Casey Kasem's top 40 didn't have room for a song called "Squonk" or any other song from A Trick of the Tail for that matter. At that point in my life, if it wasn't music from one of my mom's old 45's or on AM radio, I didn't know it existed.

Fast-forward 9 years. A band-mate friend of mine handed me a cassette tape and said, "The first time you listen to this, you'll think it's weird and you probably won't like it. The tenth time you listen to it, you're going to think it's a masterpiece. Promise me you'll listen to it at least ten times."

I promised, and he was right. That cassette was "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" by Genesis, and to this day it remains one of my favorite recordings. By the time I was a full-blown Genesis freak, Duke had come out, and Genesis was on their way to becoming a household name. I was disappointed that I never got to see Genesis with Peter Gabriel, but still, I burrowed deep into their back catalog, and within no time I owned all the Genesis there was. I then expanded into other areas of prog music, and became a huge fan of Marillion, Spock's Beard, ELP and Rush.

Which brings me to this past weekend. Yort, my wife and I went and saw this show:

It was fantastic, and I highly recommend it. Two years ago, I saw the same band play the entire Lamb Lies Down on Broadway Album. I think they do a better job with that line up, but the Phil version isn't shabby at all, especially if you like the Trick of the Tail CD. For that show, we sat far enough away to preserve the illusion, and it was truly like going back in time. They use the same lighting, the same stage props, same slides, same equipment, you name it. And they are top-notch musicians to boot. I guess they'd have to be in order to pull off album-perfect renditions of Genesis tunes.

If you want to feel really old, have a conversation with your friend's 16-year old about the concert you're going to see.

"They're a Genesis tribute band."


"Genesis. You know who Genesis is, right?"

"Uh, no."

"Phil Collins? You HAVE to know who Phil Collins is."

"I think I maybe heard of him."

At that point, since he was clearly lying through his teeth, we just laughed and gave up.

Fame is fleeting, I guess.

I'm going to bed. Old people need their rest.


  1. You know you're getting old when your favorite songs from your teens/20's are played on an 'oldies' station...

  2. Anonymous12:14 AM

    To heck with the "oldies" station, my favorite tunes are now played with a harp in elevators. *sigh*

  3. yes, and yes and yes

  4. The first time I had that experience was when I was about 20 and my adolescent step-brother came in from school all excited about a "new" band he'd discovered. I asked who it was.

    He'd just heard Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen (about the time Wayne's World came out)

    My eight year old looked at me the other day like I was a dinosaur when I told her that the song on the radio (We are Family) which she was singing along with was popular when I was about her age.

    Glad you enjoyed the concert and no spastic fans got in your way.

  5. That sounds like an amazing show. Glad you got a chance to see it.

  6. Anonymous8:00 AM

    You shoukd always bring your wife so no stalker-loud talkers bother you! Glad you enjoyed the show.

  7. Sounds like a good time JV. My husband and I really like Genesis too, but I have no appreciation for them once they reached the Invisible Touch years. But he loves that era of Genesis.
    A couple of years ago, I had a moment like that with a 16 yr old involving Bohemian Rhapsody.
    When the song came on the radio, our conversation went like:
    16 yr old: What the heck kind of song is this?
    Me: Bohemian Rhapsody. You know, Queen? Freddie mercury? You have to know that famous scene from Wayne's World. You have to have seen Wayne's World. They have a roller coaster named after the movie at King Dominion for god's sake.
    16 year- Huh?

  8. I'm blessed. Our 18 year old and her friends, are into all types of music. They came over for her 18th birthday party, brought some "hits of the 70's" type CD. They KNEW the songs and jammed to them! Wife said I should have freaked them out, and showed them the ORIGINAL LP's of those songs (Boston, Warren Zevon, Rush, Styx, Twisted Sister, yeah, Genesis (Three Sides Live!!!)

  9. Ah yes, Genesis! Those were the days -- the days when an "oldies" station (found only on AM) played songs from the 50's and 60's. Now, "oldies" (found on satellite radio) are the 80's. WTF!! But I CAN'T listen to those stations, because then I'm subjected to Michael Jackson and Boy George. Eeewwww!!

  10. I'm worried because most of the tunes I loved listening to are now considered "Classic" rock..

    That's like telling me that I'm driving an antique car, and I've never even realized it..

  11. Anonymous11:26 AM

    I still have that album along with rest of my college collection. Every now and then, "The Carpet Crawlers" gets stuck in my brain. Someday I'll buy a turntable so I can listen to all that again.

  12. You probably could have helped the kid out by telling him that Phil Collins is the guy who sings one of the songs in the Lion King...but that probably would have undermined any street cred that you previously held with the ill informed young man.

  13. One of my friends tutors kids at the learning center at our local private university.

    One of the kids she was tutoring last week had never even heard of Pulp Fiction. PULP FICTION.

    I guess it's a classic?

  14. Marillion? I haven't heard that name since high school. Somewhere I have either a concert poster or album cover-it's sad I know that isn't it?

    I'm lucky- my 4 yr old love SRV and not barney!

  15. geddy lee is the ugliest man in rock and roll... and now i'm gonna have 'tom sawyer' stuck in my head all night. dammit.

  16. Anonymous7:14 PM

    Hi Johnny,
    Thanks for the walk down memory lane. Have you ever taken the old albums out to show the kids, and you find some old stems and seeds in the fold of the double album? Ahh, good times....

  17. Anonymous7:22 PM

    RUSH Rules!

  18. I got to you through Marni from Pug's Life on your Disney post. It had me cracking up. Now, I see that I had good reason -- I'm a serious, dyed-in-the-wool Marillion groupie. More old-era than recent stuff, though. Have you listened to much of Fish's new stuff? A lot of it is very Genesis-reminiscent.

    My dad once had the same sort of conversation with a sweet young thang who said to him, in utter astonishment -- "Did you know Paul McCartney was in a band BEFORE Wings?!" Honsetly, the mind boggles.

  19. Anonymous10:48 PM

    Dude. Your musical journey is almost identical to mine.

  20. Anonymous10:56 PM

    now i feel sadly young. i'd never heard of most of the bands you mentioned in this post......sorry
    but i'm not a huge music geek so i'll use that as an excuse
    glad you had a concert w/out horror stories

  21. Annonymous,

    Yes! I had stems and seeds in my old Pat Metheny "80/81" double album. Took it to a vintage LP broker. He openned it up and the stuff just fell out. He just looked at me, smiled, and said, "It's probably stale by now."

    For me, my kids turn ME on to their music. The other nice thing about the years that I was too busy for music is that I don't have to wait for the next Pixies CD to come out. There are all these great undiscovered bands that I can just buy for a song and a dance.

  22. bobbie,

    You know you are getting old when Zeppelin tunes are used to advertise old fart cars like Cadillacs. When they play the "Lemon Song" I will run from GM.

  23. Anonymous1:52 AM

    Dude, Trespass is the ultimate Genesis prog album. And dont forget the King Crimson

  24. Anonymous11:30 AM

    I know the feeling. Last weekend I realized the vans I was wearing were older than my neighbor.
    Small tribute to the quality of vans though.

  25. Anonymous11:31 AM

    That concert sounds amazing. Genesis Invisible Touch was the first concert I ever went to, and the first place I was ever offered drugs. Years later, I saw Rush - now THAT was a show. And even later than that, I saw ELP. They sucked by then, but it's nice to have confirmed that we share musical taste.

  26. Anonymous4:51 PM

    Genesis (or the Phil Collins Doot Doot band or whatever you want to call it these days) can still play the old stuff, and do it well. I guess they usually just don't feel like it. Or something.


  27. Bobbie, I think its when they use the music to sell cars and kitchen appliances.

    Dark, I heard a muzak version of an ozzy song in the supermarket the other day.

    Shea, what's the third yes for? Or are you talking about Jon Anderson Yes?

    Jen, you're right! I had good people luck. Holy crap.

    Nicole, I liked the song Mama, but that's pretty much it.

    Ray, that's cool. The way it should be.

    Anhara, Thriller was awesome. C'mon admit it.

    Jorm, the funny thing is the classic rock stations span 30 years.

    Hat, that's an earworm, to be sure.

    Jillian, what's lion king?

    Mesh, that's just wrong.

    Lori, you can get good money for that on ebay.

    Marianne, that's probably true. But Steve Tyler and Mick Jagger are a close second.

    Anon, um, I can neither confirm nor deny anything like that.

    Anon2, You are correct sir/madam. But vapor trails sounds like shit and here's why..

    KLee, welcome! And yes, I'm a huge Fish fan. I just got his Misplaced Childhood 20 years: dvd and it's fantastic.

    Jeffrey, did you take a detour into British invasion at one point like I did? That would be too weird.

    Anon3, go listen at least ten times. Do it now.

    Hedy, that's cool. Hopefully they're past the Hanna Montana stage.

    Rhymenocerous, you are correct. That one is right up there. I still have the original gatefold LP.

    Alex, I hope they don't smell 20 years old.

    KC, we do!

    Anon4, that was kinda weak. Tony didn't even play the intro to Firth. I think you're right -- their heart's not in it.

  28. Anonymous10:20 PM

    Anon4 again. Fun blog.

    Not at all fun experiment: take all Genesis songs from Duke onward, and all solo Phil songs, randomize and get someone to guess which is which. Weep quietly later.

    Dodo/Lurker is good stuff.

    That Vapor Trails article is great geekery. Try Rush in Rio instead.

  29. JV, this is the type of thing that qualifies you as the 21st century equivalent of a Renaissance Man-- the techno-savvy, geeky, witty, outdoorsy, woodworking, sometimes-sensitive guy with great taste in music and adult beverages.

    That makes so much sense about Vapor Trails, and, methinks, even worse (if that's possible) on Test for Echo. When I've got the iPod shuffling while painting late at night, I'll dive for the docking station, fearing that I'm about to wake the kids. Drives me CRAZY!


    Oh, and Phil Collins did Disney's Tarzan, & Elton John did Lion King. And I don't mean that in the Elton John way that some of you are thinking.

    Finally, catching up on the archives-- thanks for the lead on Head Automatica. Happy music, indeed!

    Sorry about the long comment faux pas.

  30. I love old Genesis. I like "new" Genesis. The trick is realizing they were entirely different bands.

  31. Anonymous3:02 PM

    Hey, dude, where's my pinto?


  32. I'm a little young for Genesis, they were just heading downhill as I entered my teens. But I can't imagine never having heard of a band as big as that. How else could you appreciate that scene from Family Guy where Stewie's in the TV?

  33. See, that's the problem. Stewie was singing a song from Phil's first solo album! Hilarious though. Not quite as great as the Ah-Ha song Chris got stuck in, but classic nonetheless.

  34. Anonymous10:47 PM

    Man, I was reading your post and thinking, "Peter Gabriel was in Genesis?!?" I'd don't know how I missed that one, since I'm 35!

    Love your blog..you always make my day better

  35. Anonymous12:12 PM

    Every time I miss a week here I miss something relevant. Great post. My first concert ever was Hammersmith Odeon, Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Suspect it has caused my nonchalant attitude to live music ever since. I confess to listening to From Genesis to Revelation every month or so just to clear my head. Shine on Johnny.

  36. Colin, I am so jealous of you right now. My first concert was Tavares. There's a post over there on the right called "It only takes a minute" and it's the story of my first show.

  37. I have been on vacation and am catching up on my blog reading. I have seen Genesis twice, once with Peter and once with Phil. Both shows were incredible. "The Lamb" is still one of my all time favorite albums. There are some great progressive groups around now Try Morow.com on itunes. My all time favorite group is Camel and still is. Great post! I don't feel so old now!

  38. Anonymous7:57 PM

    My friend, i am a fan of Genesis since 1974, but never can see one concert of him, it's very difficult, i live in Argentina, but i love this band, and other bands wich Jethro Tull, Camel, Rush, Gentle Giant, Yes, and solo Peter career.Sorry for my bad english, adios amigo.

  39. I love just about everything Genesis have done (with both Peter and Phil leading). Still think that 'Nursery Cryme' and 'Selling England' are the greatest prog rock albums. I've been priviliged enough to see Genesis 8 times (never with Peter though - but we live in hope). First time was in '78 @ Knebworth. Was also the first concert I'd been to. Blew me away and once I'd heard 'The Cinema Show' I was hooked for life - there was never going to be any turning back for me then! Marrillion's 'Script for a Jester's tear' was a great album (reminiscent, for me, of Nursery Cryme) and I had high hopes for them but IMO it all went downhill from there. Led Zep still seem omnipresent and as popular as ever their music seems to be constantly 'cropping up', particularly the awesome 'Kashmir'. Managed to see them twice in 79 at Knebworth. Interestingly, I like all types of music and I recently bought Stevie Wonder's 'Songs in the key of life'. My 17 year old son asked why SW was covering Coolio's 'Ganster's Paradise'. Had to point out to him that SW wrote and recorded it, probably before Coolio was even born! This probably now qualifies me as an old fart!
    Keep on Rocking

  40. Anonymous9:14 AM

    Just FYI, the lead singer is the same for both the Trick of the Tail and the Lamb tours from the Musical Box.

  41. Yeah, I wasn't sure if it was Denis or not....my show flyer said it could be either one, depending upon the date...

  42. I was told that it took exactly 32 listens to "get" Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. It definitely took me more than 10, but I think less than 32.

    You gotta get in to get out!!