“The Genesis story Part 13 – Abacab” - by Peter Morton. Photos by Mike Ainscoe. Memorabilia: TWR archive.

1981 was certainly a notable year of change for Genesis. Phil Collins had already achieved tremendous success with his first album Face Value and a number two single with In The Air Tonight. With the band’s continued good record sales and sell-out concerts, they decided to put some of this capital into building their own recording studio in Surrey called The farm. This enabled the band to work in a much more relaxed atmosphere and also gave them more understanding of the production side of recording.

During the summer of 1981, the band spent fourteen weeks putting together music that would end up on their new album. The title was certainly unusual and has been the source of much debate as to its origin. Mike Rutherford explained the true story behind it during a radio interview which the band gave at the time of the album’s release…

“The song is made up of three bits - bit A, but B and bit C. When we were putting it together we tried different orders from Abacab to cabba and so on. Abacab wasn’t the order used in the end but it was a nice sounding word so it stuck for the working title. When we came to give it a final title we’d all grown fond and used to the word and so it stayed…”

Enough music was actually written during the sessions that the band were able to release an EP the following year. Hugh Padgham, who had already worked with Phil on Face Value, was an obvious choice for engineer on the album.

1981 saw a much more experimental Genesis. Phil Collins brought in the Earth Wind And Fire horn section to play on No Reply At All - something previously unheard of with Genesis. With the track Who-Dunnit the band presented a song which was just about as far removed from the Genesis “sound” than could have been imagined. “When people heard that song” noted Phil “they tore their hair out because it was almost like Genesis playing Punk - they didn’t like that at all!” However, the old Genesis sound was not completely abandoned and tracks like Dodo/Lurker and Like It Or Not still had that famous Genesis wall of sound.

Abacab, the title track from the album was released as a single in August reaching number 9 in the UK charts and spawned an appearance for the band on Top Of The Pops. Upon the album’s release in September the critics gave the album rather mixed reviews.

A tour to promote the album was planned, starting in Spain in September and running through Europe on to America and culminating in seven sell-out shows in the UK just before Christmas. The live set did vary slightly throughout the tour but basically consisted of the following tracks:

Behind The Lines/Duchess/The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway/Dodo-Lurker/Abacab/ Carpet Crawlers/Me And Sarah Jane/Misunderstanding/No Reply At All/Firth Of Fifth/ Man On The Corner/Who-Dunnit/In the Cage-Cinema Show-Raven-Afterglow/Turn It On Again/Dance On A Volcano/Los Endos/I Know What I Like.

Fans who attended the show at the NEC in Birmingham on 23rd December were treated to an additional encore of The Knife. At the same gig, Genesis party hats were distributed to each member of the audience. Paperlate and Me & Virgil were played at the first couple of shows of the tour in Spain. Like It Or Not was performed at Montreal and Largo and The Knife was played at a couple of shows in America.

The new material was certainly greeted with mixed feelings although the huge majority of the tour proved to be very successful. There was the odd show such as the first of the two nights in Leiden in Holland where the band were actually booed when the new material was played. “At least it was a positive reaction” said Phil when questioned about this particular incident.

The shows in America at the Savoy Theatre in New York and at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island as well as those in Birmingham on 22nd and 23rd December were filmed for a future live album/video release. A proposed tour of Australia, South America and Japan was planned for the beginning of 1982 but had to be postponed due to circumstances beyond the band’s control.

With Abacab, the band’s music had certainly changed and although they lost a number of their older fans, they gained many more newer ones. Phil Collins summed up 1981 when talking to Sounds journalist Hugh Fielder as he expressed his views on certain individuals in the rock press…

“It is frustrating when you’re not something they think you are. You make a conscious effort to change and come up with something different and the reviewer doesn’t even bother to listen to it…”

In Part 14, the band release the Three Sides Live video and album and go on tour to promote it, culminating with an unforgettable reunion show with Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett at a VERY soggy Milton Keynes.