The Over/Under: Genesis


The Over/Under isn’t about the best and worst of Genesis. It’s the most overrated and underrated Genesis tracks, and the main theme here is that not everything from the Peter Gabriel era is genius and not everything from the Phil Collins era is crap. In fact, three of our five overrated songs date back to the Gabriel era, while four of the five underrated tracks are from the Collins era. And the one underrated track from the Gabriel era features Collins on vocals. So here we go with the most overrated and underrated songs in the vast Genesis catalog, as chosen by MAGNET’s Roob. Cue synth solo in 7/4.

Preface: If this were “the best and worst Genesis songs ever,” the lists would look completely different than these. The best? Come on, easy. From the Gabriel era, we’d pick “Musical Box,” “Cinema Show,” “Supper’s Ready,” “Return Of The Giants Hogweed,” “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight” and “Firth Of Fifth.” And with Collins on vox, “Dance On A Volcano,” “Trick Of The Tail,” “Home By The Sea,” “Mad Man Moon,” “Behind The Lines” and “Ripples.” The worst? Just as easy. “Illegal Alien,” “Ballad Of Big,” “Misunderstanding,” “Man On The Corner,” “Tonight Tonight Tonight,” “Invisible Freaking Touch,” “I Can’t Dance,” “Congo” and, of course, the hilariously wretched “Who Dunnit?” Going from “Supper’s Ready” to “Who Dunnit?” in nine years is like Bach releasing the “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone” EP nine years after the Brandenburg Concertos.

The Five Most Overrated Genesis Songs
1. “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” (1973)

“It’s one o’clock and time to be bored out of your mind.” How the meandering “I Know What I Like” evolved into one of Genesis’ signature tracks is a mystery. It’s a hopelessly mundane song with none of the ambition, none of the flash, none of the lyrical depth and none of the musical sense of adventure that makes the rest of Selling England By The Pound so powerful. But not only was it a staple of the Genesis live show long after Gabriel left the band, it often showed up as the encore. Imagine sitting there at a Genesis show hoping for ”Hogweed “ or “The Knife” or “Musical Box” or “Congo” for an encore and then having to sit through this painfully dull track about a lawnmower that wouldn’t be worthy of a Fairport Convention rarities boxed set. “I Know What I Like”? I know what I don’t like.

2. The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (the album, not the song; 1974)
The final record with Gabriel is widely perceived as a classic, but it’s really not. It’s stuffed with too much filler, too many overly long tracks that start out with promise but go nowhere except into aimless wankerous synth territory, especially on side two. Don’t get me wrong, there are some tremendous moments on Lamb. The title track, the brilliant “Carpet Crawlers” and the whimsical “Counting Out Time” are terrific. “Riding The Scree” and “In The Cage” give keyboard whiz (and underrated songwriter) Tony Banks a chance to dazzle with his signature impossibly fast synth solos that change time signature every measure. The middle bit of “Colony Of Slipperman” rocks out. But this could so easily have been a great single album. By the middle of side two, the melodies and hooks have dried up, the story that seemed so fascinating now seems ridiculous, and you’re going bonkers waiting for the thing to end. Good record with some great bits. Not a great record.

“The Chamber Of 32 Doors”:

3. “Squonk” (1976)
“Squonk,” a Trick Of The Tail track and another hugely popular staple of the Genesis live show circa Collins, comes across as the band trying way too hard to incorporate some old-time Genesis elements into a non-Gabriel track. This was the first record without Gabriel, and although it’s mostly brilliant, “Squonk” (a tale of some poor ugly mythical creature that cries constantly, thus becoming easy prey for hunters who follow its trail of tears) just doesn’t work. It’s trite lyrically, with embarrassing lines like “Hasn’t a friend to play with, the ugly duckling,” “Mirror mirror on the wall” and “All the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men.” And it’s too long, with no real payoff. “Squonk” has some great drumming, but it otherwise sounds more like a new band trying to find its way without its singer than anything else.

4. “Watcher Of The Skies” (1972)
The Mellotron opening to “Watcher Of The Skies” is one of the most moving passages in prog. It can reduce even the most hardened Spock’s Beard fan to tears. (For those of you with a Mellotron in the house, play this: Bmaj7/F# C#/F# Bmaj7/F# C#/F# Bmaj7/F# C#/F# A# E#m C#/A# G C F# Amaj13sus4 C/E A#o G#m, and then find yourself a box of Kleenex. You’ll be sobbing in moments). The problem with “Watcher Of The Skies” is the rest of the song. Once you get past the brilliant opening, it really doesn’t go anywhere. There are some interesting instrumental passages and some decent Gabriel vocals, but nothing in the last seven minutes approaches the dramatic impact of that 40-second opening.

5. “Your Own Special Way” (1976)
How about your own special hell? With “Your Own Special Way,” an ill-advised attempt at a hit from Wind & Wuthering, bass player Mike Rutherford managed to create a song so boring and so utterly aimless that at times it actually ceases to be music and turns into a Sears Roebuck catalog in front of our eyes at about the 2:28 mark. As big a steaming pile of bat guano as the song is, the arrangement is even worse. Hard to believe that whiny synth that winds its way through the song like a toothache is the work of the genius who conjured up the “Supper’s Ready” organ solo in 9/8. “Your Own Special Way” is a song so treacly even Collins would be embarrassed to put it on one of his solo records. Then again, it was written by the guy who years later would have a solo hit with “Living Years,” one of the worst songs ever written. “Your Own Special Way” is so achingly dull you can actually hear the band sound bored while it plays it. Hell. I’m bored just writing about it. Don’t ever let go!

The Five Most Underrated Genesis Songs
1. “You Might Recall” (1981)

Sadly, Genesis itself underrated “You Might Recall” and inexplicably omitted it from Abacab, even though it’s far superior to just about everything on the actual record. “You Might Recall,” initially available only on the obscure “Paperlate” 45, is one of the few Phil Collins ballads (co-written with Rutherford and Banks) that isn’t sappy and actually has some life to it. It’s a wistfully melodic midtempo track, one of the few completely non-proggy moments in the Genesis catalog that doesn’t sound like the band was desperately trying for a hit. A great song.

2. “Inside And Out” (1977)
The Spot The Pigeon EP, never released in the U.S., actually includes three underrated tracks, all left off Wind & Wuthering. There’s “Pigeons,” which on one level is a catchy novelty song about pigeons sending poop missiles down on unsuspecting pedestrians; on another level, it’s a some sort of jab at British politics, but it’s most notable for having a Bb go through every chord in the song, whether it’s a Cbmaj7, a Db6, a Gm … a very cool device. And there’s the soccer-themed “Match Of The Day,” which the band hated so much it refused to include it on 2000’s Archive 2 boxed set. And finally, there’s “Inside And Out,” not to be confused with the similarly titled but completely different 1985 song Collins solo song, “Inside Out.” The Genesis track starts out as a quiet, acoustic tale of a prisoner about to be released, then turns into a completely different song, marked by the last great wild synth solo Banks recorded with Genesis and a signature Steve Hackett guitar solo. When the rest of the band decided to place Rutherford’s mushpile “Your Own Special Way” on Wind & Wuthering instead of “Inside And Out,” Hackett quit the band, beginning the gradual decline that ultimately led to some of the worst music in the history of the universe.

3. “Heathaze” (1980)
Duke was the last record in which Genesis still clung—albeit tenuously—to its progressive roots. By Abacab a year later, all vestiges of the “Supper’s Ready” band were gone, and Genesis had turned completely into a Collins turdball hitmaking machine. The direction Genesis was heading was obvious. The bouncy “Turn It On Again” off Duke was exactly the kind of track that left Genesis progheads feeling personally betrayed, as if Banks was Brutus and they were Caesar. But “Heathaze,” with some vintage Genesis dynamics, a juicy Banks electric piano and a powerful Collins vocal, managed to be that rarity: a song that appealed equally to the aging old-time prog fans who wore torn Starcastle T-shirts to their own wedding and the buttoned-down new-age Genesis followers who would soon turn this once cutting-edge band into champions of the banal.

4. “Afterglow” (1976)
It’s easy to dismiss “Afterglow,” the closer on Wind & Wuthering, as just another flimsy ballad, another precursor to the dreadful latter-day platinum-selling Genesis that bore no resemblance to the art-rock adventurers of another generation. It’s anything but. “Afterglow,” a Banks composition, is a mighty track with a simple-yet-powerful melody, a powerful chord progression and a strong spiritual feel. It’s right in Collins’ vocal wheelhouse, probably the strongest vocal of his life. And as good as the stu-stu-dio version is, “Afterglow” was monstrous live, with Chester Thompson’s powerhouse drumming in the coda turning a song about death into something thunderous, hopeful and uplifting.

5. “More Fool Me” (1973)
Years before anybody had any clue Collins was, his Genesis mates let the drummer sing vocals on one track on Selling England By The Pound. This was 13 years before Collins quit the band to find fame and fortune with a parade of lifeless AOR solo hits. He became an international superstar in the late ’80s/early ’90s with tripe like “Don’t Lose My Number,” “Take Me Home” and “One More Night,” but for a while there, Collins could really sing. And this lilting folky number, with its 12-string guitars, Strawbs-ish chorus and delicate lutes and lyres sound, remains one of Collins’ finest vocal performances. He wasn’t trying to sound like Gabriel, he wasn’t trying to sound like a hit single. He was just singing. And when the material was good enough, that was a pretty damn good thing.

32 replies on “The Over/Under: Genesis”

Squonk is in fact on Trick Of The Tail and it is not the second post Gabriel album but in fact the first.

Thanks for pointing it out to us. As mentioned earlier, we corrected this mistake when Shawn brought it up.

Agree completely about Afterglow. Gorgeous atmospheric and layered keyboards and Phil’s voice never did sound stronger. In fact, while I love the live versions, his voice pales in those considerably when compared to the studio version. Still my favorite song by Genesis.

No mention of “Cuckoo Cocoon?” That’s a fantastic track. Though, I do tend to agree that TLLDOB is overrated. That said, I really only listen to the live version from the Genesis Archives, Vol.1: 1967-1975 which I think is far superior to the studio renderings.

I think “Watcher of the Skies,” “Wardrobe” and “Squonk” are classics, but what do I know. The rhythm tracks on the first two alone are brilliant, managing to be catchy and “prog” at the same time.

This might be the most accurate over/under I’ve read yet. I do have a soft spot in my heart for “Squonk”, though. Without “Squonk” who knows if “Los Endos” would have ended up so good?

On the underrated front, I think I have to throw my hat in the ring for “Can-Utility & The Coastliners.” Though I may be a bit biased for (almost) all things “Foxtrot.” The groom’s cake at my wedding was a vinyl copy of “Foxtrot!”

Nit picking aside, this was a great post.

I quite liked “The Brazilian” from Invisible Touch, an otherwise unlistenable album.

Thanks for giving Genesis some attention – something most online mags are far too full of themselves to do. I do have an issue with calling the entire album of “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.” It’s a bit of a cop-out in that you yourself point out that there are some great songs on the album. I completely agree it should have been a single album, but then again, most single albums might make better EPs. Choosing an entire album as overrated detracts from the great songs on it and is a bit lazy in my opinion. As for some underrated tracks, how about “Between the Sour and the Sweet” from their first album, “From Genesis to Revelation” which is notoriously hard to find, or “The Knife” which predates both Collins and Hackett on the “Trespass” album. As for overrated, I agree on your number one choice, although I might include “Supper’s Ready” would easily fit on that list; as sacriligeous as it may be, the track is far too long and is not the masterpiece many fans think it is. That doesn’t mean it isn’t terrific, just overregarded and isn’t that what the criteria should be?

Good pull on “You Might Recall.” I still think it’ s one of their most moving songs from that era and trumps anything Collins did as a solo artist.

Bill B, I’m right there with you with “Coastliners”! It’s like a five-song epic in 3 minutes, and plenty of goosebump chords and powerful drumming. I’d also like to mention the haunting “Me and Sarah Jane” off of Abacab, which uses the drum machine they were known for effectively by layering several different feels over the whole song and has a raw and other times sublime Phil vocal. Also I feel were overlooked (and even more underrated): Man Of Our Times, One For The Vine, much of the “And Then There Were Three” and “Tresspass” albums, and the BRILLIANT “Twilight Alehouse. Left off Overrated: Most of the Abacab album (with exception mentioned previously) , and The Cinema Show (the album version – it’s esentially an excuse for an odd-meter keyboard solo).

“Your Own Special Way”? – Overrated??!! – There couldn’t be a more beautiful song if you tried!! (Apart from Entangled of course!)

it’s weird how you could say “home by the sea” is one of the absolute best of the non-gabriel era, and elsewhere say about the same album “Genesis had turned completely into a Collins turdball hitmaking machine”. I guess “home by the sea” is a delightful turdball.

Anyway. Watcher of the skies is rad, not just the intro. and Wardrobe is a bore.

Re: Lamb Lies Down: I might agree with your entry if you said “the 2nd half of” rather than “all of”. I find myself playing disc 1 much more often than disc 2. Disc 1 is awesome. I start to get antsy around “The Lamia”.

Thanks for a prog blurb. Often my indie rock friends’ eyes glaze over when I mention being into prog. Like it’s not okay to like Death Cab for Cutie and King Crimson?

I also dislike the pop stuff that started really springing up in the ’80s, but the ’70s had their share of kinda slow-paced melodic stuff like “follow you follow me” (with its unbearable falsetto “la la la”s at the end), not mentioned here. being at a couple of genesis shows in the ’80s was a strange thing, with completely different types of cheers springing up for the “old stuff” vs. “illegal alien” or whatever.

Sweet, limping jeezuz…Genesis?!?! Magnet?? Not only is this Rolling Stone territory, this has gotta be the most laughably pretentious, clunky, horse-@#$! band of all time. My comments give them more credit than they deserve merely by reminding people that they exist. Next to them the Moody Blues ROCK and the Grateful Dead are the epitome of tight song writing and musical restraint.

In all honesty, Genesis with Peter Gabriel, the talent of each individual member, as well as the classic albums the band has made are totally sleeping classics. If you mention The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway or Selling England by the Pound (my all time favorite album) to your average joe, he will more than likely tell you that he has never heard of the albums, but surely has heard of how good Gabriel was with the band and then laugh about “I Can’t Dance”. Kinda on the same boat as the Peter Green era of Fleetwood Mac.

Also, Phil Collins is too damn good of a musician to have his music laughed at which I know that most people who make fun of him as well as his era in Genesis know that he is an excellent singer and songwriter just don’t want to admit to their guilty pleasure. His drumming is by far overlooked as well. Fantastic drummer who does not get the attention he deserves.

One last thing…. any one who has not heard the first 3 Peter Gabriel self titled albums are also missing out!

“the most laughably pretentious, clunky, horse-@#$! band of all time.” Man, it’s like Genesis slept with his sister or something. For me, at least, I’m glad Magnet doesn’t narrow their focus so much that all they see is their own nose, like this dude. There’s probably hundreds of pretentious indie rock bands that would be in his acceptable domain for what Magnet should be allowed to write about, anyway. The obvious would be Decemberists, right? Would Mars Volta count? Or Antony?

nice one on You Might Recall – always liked that song. I thought Like It Or Not from Abacab was pretty good too.

But I also have to take exception with your call on The Lamb – that record gets better and better for me over time! I might be a nerd but I would have loved to have seen that tour.

Totally agree on I Know What I Like and Squonk being overrated. However, Watcher is great and while the second half of Lamb is a bit unfocused, it’s still pretty clearly the best prog rock concept album ever.

As for underrated, I would cite “Just a Job to Do” and “Abacab” (even though I think they were both singles) along with pretty much all of the “And Then There Were Three…” album (particularly Undertow and Snowblind).

Okay. This list is just intended to be stupid.

Congratulations. Mission accomplished.

Thanks for this list! The band lost me after Abacab. It’s like the band turned their backs on everthing that made them awe-inspiring. “Can-Utility”, yes! Yes, the “Watcher” intro is unbelievable, but so is the rest of it — 6/4, I believe? For those who think they had no power, listen to the first live album. Espcially “Musical Box” and “Hogweed”. Spot on with most of the list, though. I wouldn’t consider “More Fool Me” underrated — I just wouldn’t consider it. Not moved one way or the other by it. I’d take “Harlequin” over it. I too like bits of “..and Then There Were Three”, as it really stands apart from everything else they’ve done.

Phil didn’t quit Genesis till 1996. That’s a bit more than 13 years after 1973.

There are some VERY underrated songs on Calling All Stations that you’ve completely overlooked, giving only small jabs at Congo and not discussing anything else, even Ray Wilson’s involvement.

Good call here for ‘You Might Recall’ and ‘Me & Sarah Jane’ and let’s not forget the sublime ‘One Man’s Fool’ as a brilliant album (career?) closer. You’ve obviously never felt the majesty of ‘Your Own Special Way’ played live…more fool you as it is absolutely wonderful. I know what you mean about I Know What I Like…but then again check out the ‘Seconds Out’ version for the way it actually works when played live will Collins on vocals and Chester holding it all together freestyle. Crime of the Century here: no mention of ‘Stagnation’ from the Trespass album: so underrated and so under-played live, it truly hurts. Neil at

The Lamb contains synth-wank what? Genesis, supreme song-writers, arrangers and performers have never entered that kind of territory, but I guess if you miss the point of something like The Waiting Room, then you’ll just dismiss it.

Squonk: a classic, sorry.

On the positive, good call for Heathaze, a much overlooked track.

However, as for Afterglow being amongst the under-rated tracks, I really think someone with some knowledge of the band should’ve compiled this list. Afterglow is/was a stage classic and much loved by the vast majority of fans.

Really guys, these reviews are bizarre to be honest..

Totally agree with Sarah Jane, U might recall, Can-Utility, Hogweed, and a lot of the others. I happen to think though, that the 2nd half of Lamb is not that bad…I love Lamia!!! Am I the only one???? And yes, Twilight Alehouse!!!
Cinema show and Supper overrated????/….sacrilege indeed! I also think Like it or not is 1 of Rutherford’s best…I also like Dodo/Lurker, but my fave is The Lamb, followed closely by Nursery Cryme….Musical Box is so damn moving!!!!

How in the world could you put Squonk in the overrated section? Squonk is certainly one of the most powerful Genesis songs to date. It is the backbone that really holds A Trick of the Tail together.

Speaking of that album, where is a mention of Entangled (probably the most underrated Genesis song of all!). It is a brilliant piece with luscious harmonies and poignant melodies, and Banks add the icing of the cake with his eery mellotron tones that do well on top of a massive MOOG bass synth. Easily one of the best Genesis songs that didn’t quite get a lot of play live.

Also, why not add “Driving the Last Spike” on the underrated song list? That is a great Prog Rock song for post-Duke Genesis!

i love everything genesis and all connected have ever done, apart from pigeons which you seem to like and submarine, how you can say the living years is one of the worst songs ever written is beyond belief, tell me something my friend, how many hit songs have you wrote, or even succesfull ones

Agree on Lamb.

Disagree on Hogweed, which always seemed too quirky and wordy for its own good (like Get Em Out By Friday).

Collins was a fantastic player and wrote some very catchy stuff, though the band lost me after Abacab, or maybe Duke.

Some props to Harlequin?

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