"The Story of… Abacab" - Continuing TWR's trawl through the archives, here is a look back at yet another important album in the band's story through radio interviews and other material.
In the last edition we took a look back at the Duke album, the last of the "traditional" Genesis albums in so many ways. For this feature we look at its sequel, the Abacab album, an album that was almost as divisive as its earlier counterpart: The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. This is where my fascination with the band really began to go into overdrive. No complaints from me about missed gigs this time round! The release of the Abacab album also coincided with the start of my second year in university and in fact my tickets for the band's show at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham arrived on the morning of my first term. Having already given the album the "frisbee treatment" I was seriously wondering if the forthcoming shows would be similarly disappointing but more about that elsewhere in this feature! Once again, this feature will take in the words of the band themselves from promotional radio interviews about the album and tour, and the fans with concert reviews from the Abacab tour and a look at some of the bootleg recordings from the period. But first….
Abacab - Track by track.
Duke was the album which laid to rest the band's obsession with chord progressions and flamboyant gestures. The need to be genuinely "Progressive" was now to take the band in directions which many fans would find impossible to stomach and yet at the same time, Abacab was to open the doors to even more fans. Genesis had always challenged
themselves in their writing and their fans definitely found themselves challenged by this album in many ways.
Opening with the title track; Abacab is perhaps the most blatant ROCK track that Genesis had penned up to this point in time. A bona fide rocker that found itself equally at home on the various Heavy Metal radio stations and yet was also a favourite at discos… yes, yours truly has been known to "cut a rug" to the track himself! Abacab took all the preconceptions about the band by the scruff of the neck and lashed them out of the window, but if that was not enough, there were many more surprises (and shocks) to be found on the rest of the album…
Fans reeling from the rock onslaught of Abacab were given an even greater shock by No Reply At All. A simple enough track about love gone wrong but augmented by: A HORN SECTION! Oh, the horror! Another challenge to the preconceived ideas of what Genesis were all about. Catchy, and a favourite with many people who had not even given Genesis a listening, this was another example of exactly what had kept Genesis at the top of their game for so many years: a willingness to be different (Gabriel had done it with his bizarre costumes and stories after all) and now the trio were challenging us again by trying to think outside of the Genesis " musical box".
Me And Sarah Jane however, is a delightfully classic Genesis track. Wonderful chord progressions from Tony augmented by a fine vocal delivery from Phil and hard rocking guitar from Mike - a gem of a track!
I remember being in the minority apparently when Abacab was released because I immediately loved Keep It Dark. This wonderful number in its uniquely awkward time signature and another wonderful example of Genesis story telling with their tongues firmly in their cheeks, this one still gets the most plays from the album in the Hewitt household!
Dodo/Lurker too is another firm favourite and deservedly so. I still haven't got a clue what the tracks are actually about even after all these years but hey, so what! Musically this is another great example of proof that Genesis are a ROCK band and as part of the subsequent live show this track became a bona fide favourite.
Personally, I have yet to find a Genesis fan who admits to liking the next track: Who-Dunnit? Without doubt, the band took taking the piss a bit too far with this one. There is nothing endearing about the track at all and yet perversely, in the live context it managed to take on a life of its own but definitely the one Genesis track that I personally could live without!
Man On The Corner is innocuous enough, one of Phil's straight ahead stories which he does so well and which might have fitted even better into the framework of either Face Value or Duke but which works well enough here too.
Like It Or Not and Another Record have never really fitted so well on this album to my liking. I have always thought that the former should have been re-worked by Mike & The Mechanics and that the latter would have been better as a B Side but there you have it.
Once again, the standard of a Genesis album can often be judged by the quality of the tracks which are omitted and just as was the case with Duke, we have several tracks which appeared as B Sides or as the later "3 X 3" EP. Naminanu and Submarine are both something of a rarity being the only two instrumental tracks to have been released on singles to that point and both of which deserve more attention than they have hitherto been given.
The subsequent EP containing Paperlate, You Might Recall and Me And Virgil are also a mixed bag. Paperlate itself easily fits into the new look which Genesis were trying to convey with the album. Bright, catchy and wonderfully augmented by the horn section again. Both You Might Recall and Me And Virgil fall somewhere between two stools, the latter in particular owing more to The Lady Lies than to Genesis 1981!
Abacab probably caused more howls of protest than any other Genesis album. The critics who stood poised to write the band off as old farts were left open-mouthed by their bold and innovative approach and above all their sense of humour. Fans who were weaned on the lush Genesis sound of old frequently found the more direct approach of their new music a step too far and left for pastures "old". That did not stop the band's inexorable rise from major cult band to stadium filling phenomenon. I admit that I struggled with the album when I first heard it - in fact it was the original "Hewitt frisbee" but once again, common sense prevailed and seen in the context of its time and the band's development, Abacab is on a par with The Lamb… in terms of challenging both musicians and fans and, as anyone who saw the band's shows in support of the album in 1981 or 1982, there was no skimping in terms of performance - but that's another part of our story!