“Turn it on again… and again… and again” - John Myhill examines the phenomenon of the amazing returning lyric.
With the enormous number of songs written and recorded by Genesis, there are bound to be the occasional coincidentally repeated phrases in their lyrics. And, on close inspection, lo and behold, there ARE occasional coincidentally repeated phrases - lots of them.
Some are fairly minor repetitions such as “I’m back again” appearing in Looking For Someone and Apocalypse in 9/8 or “take me away” in In Limbo and The Chamber Of 32 Doors. Others are more unusual. “The ice is moving” is hardly a common phrase but it appears in both Visions Of Angels and Me And Sarah Jane. A line from the latter reappears almost whole in Way Of The World - “when the city lights dim/go out one by one”. Another distinctive line “keep outside the night” is sung in Stagnation and In The Glow Of The Night.
Several other songs on Invisible Touch feature lyrical “returns” from earlier songs, possibly because of the largely improvised song writing. The second part of Domino features the striking line “blood on the windows” and talks of violence on TV. Sound familiar? Blood On The Rooftops anyone? More obvious is the resurrection of the Man Of Our Times “tonight, tonight” lyric given an extra “tonight” as ( surprise, surprise) Tonight, Tonight, Tonight. Surprisingly an original line from The Last Domino is itself repeated when “all of my life” becomes the key phrase in Dreaming While You Sleep on the We Can’t Dance album. As with all the lyrics mentioned here, this does not detract from the power of the song, and the lines send a shiver down my spine whichever song I hear them in.
As well as similar lines, there are also repeated themes. Faces change for example in Supper’s Ready, In The Rapids and The Last Domino, and both Peter and Phil share the desire to be “let out” from In The Cage or from “here” in Home By The Sea and Tonight, Tonight Tonight. There is also a lot of going round and round in Genesis songs, from In the Cage through Me & Sarah Jane and Another Record to Tonight, Tonight, Tonight (again!) most recently appearing in way Of The World. Phil has also got a lot “on his back” - a “load” in (you guessed it!) Tonight, Tonight, Tonight, a “monkey” in Man On The Corner and twice a “pack” in Dance On A Volcano and Me & Sarah Jane.
Lastly, two for you to find yourselves. Firstly a voice in the crowd on the Selling England By The Pound album cries the title of a later song - and it’s not “old man dies!” Secondly a gun goes off with a “bang, bang, bang” in two different songs, one “fired” by Peter and the other by Phil. Have fun finding them - but don’t ’phone, it’s just for fun, as they say (that’s quite enough reference to The Big Breakfast - JD) And please be sure, however many repetitions there are, I love Genesis lyrics. That’s why I paid close enough attention to notice these things in the first place!