Genesis: Fading Lights

Live 1992. From the album We Can’t Dance (1991).

I have a strong memory of the first time I heard this song from the mediocre We Can’t Dance album, when it was released in the early 90s. It is the last song on this double album, so by the time I reached it, I was very much depressed by having heard almost four vinyl sides of so much mediocrity before it.

And here, it seemed, was yet another simple, banal, sentimental Collins pop thing of the kind with which he had ruined Genesis and built a parallel solo career ever since the late 70s. I was half asleep, Genesis were indeed fading lights, or rather, they were already long extinct. Almost the whole of the 80s, when they became really “big”, had been a catastrophe.

But then, something happened. I was just waiting, and had been waiting since side one, for it all to end, to be over, when something suddenly happened. The old dinosaur began to move.

“Dinosaurs” was one of the things that the calamitous “rock purist” critics, as they have been called, in the second half of the 70s called the great, advanced prog groups that were well on the way towards transcending rock altogether, but which must by then, according to these critics, be regarded as dead. Their size and weight and artistic aspirations were supposed to have killed them. They had been supplanted by – punk.

I too thought that at least Genesis were long dead, although for very different reasons. But now, after more than ten years, this very big and heavy dinosaur started to move. It was hard to believe.

It cannot be said that Banks and Rutherford take over, since Collins remains in the centre, in returning (live) or keeping to the drums where he really belonged (although his singing was impressive in its own way on the albums of the second half of the 70s, after Gabriel and before the real decline set in).  But they step forward, as it were. Representing the original, real musical spirit and Charterhouse quality of Genesis (especially Banks of course), they now take centre stage along with him.

It was astonishing, shocking even. It happens at 4.02 in the in every respect impressive live performance from 1992 above. I immediately woke up. And not just to my ordinary waking consciousness. Some of the depths of my soul were stirred. Even the Collins beginning now seemed almost fitting, in place.

For a short while, the lights were shining again. This song gave to the Genesis story a worthy end, after all. One was deeply moved. One silently cried a little. One was reminded that, after all, this was once the second greatest prog band. One realized that, despite the 80s, they remained the second greatest prog band of all time. They still do.

But what is most important about this, as with all prog, is that this is a genre that could and should be developed further. Apart from its value in itself, the legacy it has left is one on the basis of which this music can be taken even further in the direction of a wholly new and still more valuable genre, on the basis of which prog can progress further beyond the ambiguous and basically problematic genre of rock. Part of what one hears, and of what is truly moving and stirring, is what this could become.

2 Responses to “Genesis: Fading Lights”

  1. 1 Non serviam! October 6, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Yes, Genesis really were a great band. Their albums Trespass, Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England by the Pound, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway were all mastrepieces of progressive rock. After Gabriel had left they still managed to produce a couple of good albums, but then it went downhill fast. Gentle Giant were another excellent band. They never broke through commercially the way Genesis did, probably because their music was more complex and experimental.

    • 2 Jan Olof Bengtsson October 17, 2011 at 10:29 am

      I’m delighted you appreciate one of my arts posts too – that’s unusual. We agree completely on Genesis. I hope to find time to say something about Gentle Giant soon.

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"A Self-realized being cannot help benefiting the world. His very existence is the highest good."
Ramana Maharshi