The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is one of the quintessential prog rock albums of the 70s and for good reason. It is arguably Genesis at their finest. Although the album does not contain the awe-inspiring Supper’s Ready, the tactically brilliant Musical Box, or beautiful Dancing With the Moonlit Knight, it still manages to equal, if not best, the previous Genesis albums. In terms of sound, there is just too much to talk about. Like all albums in the Gabriel/Hackett era, this album is a musical cacophony.
The listener is bombarded with Genesis’ outstanding musicianship, sonic grace, over-the-top craziness, flawless cohesion, and seemingly limitless musical experimentation. I defy anyone to listen to Hairless Heart and tell me that they weren’t moved. And at the same time, one can’t but help and crack a grin when listening to The Colony of Slippermen. What is truly amazing about the album is general feeling of punk about it, despite it being released in pre-punk 1974. And yet, with that punk undertone, Genesis fail to loose their trademark sound.
There aren’t any notable tracks because the album is so damn good all the way through. This is an amazing feat being that it’s a double album. As far as consistency is concerned, The Lamb far outdoes even the likes of The Wall. Dare I say that? I think I just did.
As a prog fan, I love a good concept album/rock opera. My 3 favourites of these are The Lamb itself, The Wall, and Operation: Mindcrime. The Lamb doesn’t have the best story of these three (largely due to the abstract craziness of it) it is still one of the best concept albums/rock operas out there. I’ll try my best to give a breakdown of the story. A New York punk named Rael (an allegory for Peter Gabriel) emerges from the subway after tagging the walls there and sees a lamb lie down on Broadway. He then finds himself trapped in a cave, then a cucoon, then a cage in his mind. He sees his brother John and calls for help, but his brother does not respond. Then he finds himself in a factory that is producing lifeless packaging and sees John working there.
I kind of loose track of the story here, but when Counting Out Time rolls around, Rael apparently finds a girl and tries having sex with her, but fails. Then he wakes up in a tunnel and follows the Carpet Crawlers to a door. It leads into a chamber of 32 doors filled with people who don’t know how to escape. Rael hears a faint voice and turns to see a blind woman named Liliwhite Lilith. She feels the breeze of the exit and leads him out of the chamber. Again I loose track.
Rael stumbles upon a pool during the song The Lamia. It’s filled with 3 snakes with female faces. He enters the pool and they start to nibble him and he them. Then he turns into a deformed Slipperman and finds himself in their colony. His brother John is there as well. Rael learns that the only way to reverse the effects is to get castrated. He does so and his “number” is put in a tube to hang around his neck for some reason. Just when he thinks his ordeal is over a Raven swoops in and takes his junk.
So he runs off after the bird and leaves John behind. When he catches up to the bird he watches it drop the tube into some rapids. So, he scrambles down the scree towards the rapids, but then he hears a cry for help. Rael spots his brother John drowning in the rapids and opts to save him instead of getting his “number” back. Rael jumps in the water, grabs hold of John, and pulls him to shore. But when Rael looks at John’s face he sees that it’s his own. I have no idea what this means, but it’s one hell of an adventure.
Albums of this calibre are few an far between. There is not a “bad song” on the album. Despite the lack of unity in the band’s song writing on this album, they made it work and work in a very good way. This, along with Operation: Mindcrime is my second favourite album ever after Dark Side. If you like the early Genesis sound, definitely get it. If you are interested, it’s the best album to start with ’cause the songs are shorter than on other albums. And if you aren’t a fan of most Genesis stuff, this still has undeniable songs like The Carpet Crawlers, Hairless Heart, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (song).
Simply, one of the best albums ever made.
There are two basic ways to follow up perfection – one is to continue to milk the style in which said perfect album was done for all it’s worth, the other is to veer in a new direction all together. Genesis, smart band that they were, chose the second route. The result was a double-length rock opera and an album proclaimed by many fans as the absolute pinnacle and culmination of Gabriel-era Genesis. And it is great, don’t get me wrong. But the fact remains that in many, many ways, it is a giant abberration in Genesis’ development, one only tangentially resembling the style in which they had shown the greatest mastery. In other words, choosing this as Genesis’ best album is a lot like choosing Relayer as Yes’ best – I mean, it’s definitely possible, and I would never condemn either statement (not to mention that I adore both albums), but … ehn.
Ok, first things first, I won’t go over the story in too much detail here (except when I have to) – there are plenty of lengthy essays of interpretation and explanation of The Lamb to be found on the net (I would highly recommend going here – my interpretation mostly matches with this one, though I have a few additional insights, like the symbolism behind the hairy heart). Suffice it to say that it rules, both on the surface (as one of the trippiest tales ever told) and deep below (as a powerfully religious modern-day story loosely reminiscient of Dante’s Inferno). And although many have said that Gabriel went overboard with it as far as complexity goes (in fact, all of the lyrics, with the exception of those to The Light Dies Down on Broadway, come from Peter), I’ve never bought that – after a couple of readings through the booklet and one listen to the album, I understood the basic plot just fine, thank you.
But what about the music? Like I said, there is a great amount of distance between the stylistics here and on England. The bulk of the music was written by Tony and Mike, with Steve only helping to arrange it, and as a result there is an enormous dropoff in the fundamental importance of Steve to the sound. It’s not like he’s made invisible or anything, and he does have a few passages where he is more-or-less emphasized, but even then there are very few instances of “vintage Hackett” – he’s playing his slow meticulous passages, but only on a few occasions do they have the power and bite that he had shown on the previous album (the very end of his Supernatural Anaesthetist solo is the most notable one – view the contrast between the last chunk and the rest of the solo). His playing is mostly reduced to texture and atmospherics, and while he does a very good job in these regards, his presence as a featured player is kinda missed.
The main focus of the album, then, is on the Banksynths. But, and this is a big but, for the most part they work. Large chunks of the story are very dark, murky and often take place in sub-earthly realms, and Banks’ keyboards do a mostly impeccable job of scene-setting (I actually thought for a long time this was due to the presence of Brian Eno, who is credited with “Enossification” on the album, but as a reader below points out, the instrumentals have nothing to do with Eno). But regardless of who came up with most of these ideas, although the abundance of keys squeezes out Steve to a far greater extent than had yet happened, it’s hard to complain here when the ominous mellotrons and moody pianos work so well.
Now, as far as the actual songs go, my main problem with the album lies with the instrumentals: there are four of them on this album, and only one of them manages to hold my attention throughout (side 2’s Hairless Heart, which has a sick, perverse beauty glistening off of every note). The thing is, the remaining three all fit in well with the general flow of the story, but I don’t think anybody would want to argue that they couldn’t have each been cut to a minute and a half or so (especially the total cacophony of The Waiting Room, which is supposed to reflect Rael’s paranoia in the dark cave but is probably 4 or 5 times too long). Same goes for the pretty Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats and the ominous, “windy” Ravine. Good plot-setters and mood-setters, to be sure, but not much else.
But the rest, well, the rest is just great. The uber-classic, of course, is the opening title track – from the fabulous opening piano line to the incredible vocal delivery by Peter (dig especially the way he sings “RAEL IMPERIAL AEROSOL KID”) and the catchy melody of the song, it does a terrific job of hooking in the listener right away, preparing him for the arduous journey ahead. The next track, Fly on a Windshield, is also amazing, particularly the way the music actually makes the strange story in the booklet come to life; in particular, I’m referring to the way we have “and I’m hovering like a fly, waiting for the windshield on the freewaaay” … and then *SPLAT* as Phil begins pounding a simple but intense rhythm (driving a jam underpinned with fantastic synth chords and Hackett at his best). And, of course, don’t forget the trippy Broadway Melody of 1974 that follows it, or the cute little ditty Cuckoo Cocoon.
Closing out side one is In The Cage, found ugly by some but just wonderful by me. The opening is quiet and gentle, with Rael (the main character) feeling queazy and unable to move, while the rest of it builds and becomes more menacing (especially after the Thick as a Brick style bassline for a couple of measures that pops up to launch us into the rest of the song) until you have overwhelmingly disturbing and intensely real images of things like his dead brother John slowly turning his head towards him while crying blood. BUT, BUT, the part of the song that I love the most comes at the very end, and maybe I’m just imagining it, because nobody else has ever mentioned it, but here goes anyways. You will recall that the end of this song ends in very quiet instrumental noodling that doesn’t really have anything to do with the rest of the song. Now, when was the last time we had passages specifically like that? Anybody? Anybody? The answer is … From Genesis to Revelation. Now, given that, even if the album wasn’t meant as a real religious metaphor, the band probably would have realized that it would be taken as such, and if so, what a NEAT self-reference (especially since FGTR was their first big religious spiel). Of course, maybe I’m just looking for meta that isn’t there, but whatever – I think it’s cool.
Side two is slightly weaker, but still thoroughly entertaining. The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging is a cute little pop song with a neat chorus hook, while the following Back in NYC (which is Rael watching a “viewing” of his own life) has a bit of ‘ugliness’ to it, but dagnabit, it conveys the hopelessness and ugliness of his former life perfectly (not to mention that the experiences of his life are essential for understanding why he needs to go through what he goes through). And, of course, following Hairless Heart comes the hilarious pop song Counting Out Time, which describes Rael’s preparation for his first sexual encounter by buying a textbook on the subject but still striking out in the end. I mean, how on EARTH can anybody resist a song whose chorus is “erogenous zones I love you, without you what would a poor boy do?” Well, unless you’re as much of a prude as I’m probably supposed to be, but no matter … The melody is catchy as a cold, not to mention that Peter’s vocalizations are beyond hilarious.
Up next is an absolute classic in Carpet Crawlers. The melody is pretty, with a nice soft organ washing underneath it, but what truly makes the song is the harmonies (well, and Steve’s quiet pretty textures weaving in and out). Peter and Phil work in perfect compliment with each other, as Phil hits all sorts of wonderful high notes while Peter’s dark, expressive singing drives the song forward and inevitably brings tears to your eyes, even though the song itself only bears a very small place of importance in the plot. Not so with the last song on the disc, though, The Chamber of 32 Doors. Basically, Rael keeps trying door after door, but each one of them leads him straight back into the chamber, and Peter does an impeccable job of conveying his tearful frustration with the situation, as well as with the fact that everybody is calling out different directions for him to go but that he can’t bring himself to trust any of them. He can’t even bring himself to trust his own parents, which should tell you something.
After the melancholy of 32 Doors, side two opens with a blast thanks to the pop-rocker Lilywhite Lilith. Granted, it’s only great for the first two-thirds of it or so, but HOO what a bunch of hooks! Which is a good thing, because hooks aren’t coming again for a good while. After the agony of The Waiting Room, we come upon Anyway, which is Rael philosophizing about his wretched fate and about waiting for the reaper to show. I disliked this a little at first, but it makes for incredible gloomy atmosphere, and I love it to pieces now. Here Comes The Supernatural Anaesthetist, on the other hand, is at least funny, not to mention that it has some more wonderful backing harmonies from Phil and the aforementioned solo from Steve.
The centerpiece and most beautiful song on this side, however, is The Lamia. The melody is complicated but even more gorgeous than anything on England (just a lot more mellow), while the lyrics, describing Rael’s experiences with these half-women-half-snakes, are sickening in a powerful sort of way. How else can I describe a song in which the women begin to nibble his flesh, shrivel up and die at the first taste of his blood, and then where Rael eats them because he’s hungry??!! Plus, there’s another very nice Steve solo here (at the end).
Following the instrumental Silent Sorrow … we hit The Colony of Slippermen, and the story goes from strange to totally messed up. Essentially, Rael’s pleasure from the Lamia was so intense that his body is going into a horrible withdrawl from its absence, and he has come across a whole colony of people who are suffering the same fate. He learns from one of these people that in order to get his body back to normal, he must remove the source of his problem – his “love rocket.” And so, he and his brother John, whom he has just met again, go to the doctor and get castrated (this part features the beautiful line, “don’t delay, dock the dick! I watch his countdown timer tick …”,) with their shlongs placed in a tube that they can wear for posterity. Alas, a raven comes down and grabs the tube from Rael (with Tony’s keyboards doing a fine job of displaying the chaos surrounding this event). Rael then tries to catch up with the raven, though John declines to help him, only to watch the raven drop his tube into the river far below.
After the instrumental Ravine, we come to The Light Dies Down on Broadway, incorporating melodies from both the title track and The Lamia (so, of course, it just can’t fail to rule). At this point, Rael sees an opening to take him back to his home, but as he runs towards it, he hears John crying for help in the gorge below him. He has to choose at this time to either save his brother’s life or go back home – Rael chooses to save his brother’s life. Which leads us to the funny and jolly Riding The Scree. Tony’s keyboards are terrific here, from the wonderful sparks that fly from his hands in the beginning to the corny-but-better-for-it pseudo-heroic self-mockery at the end. And of course, it has another one of Gabriel’s most memorable vocalizations, “Evil Knievel you got nothing on me” (it should be noted also Knievel was not yet a household name in ’74; this is another impressive sign of cultural awareness on Peter’s part).
And, last but certainly not least, we have the last two tracks on the album. In The Rapids has a beautiful, subdued melody, and even with the purposeful muffling of his vocals, Gabriel does yet another terrific job of moving you deep inside. And, of course, it contains one final and totally strange plot twist – as Rael drags his brother onto the shore, he looks into John’s face … and sees his own. He and his brother then fade away into the mist, into it, which happens to be the name of the last track. Featuring more energy in this one track than can be found on the rest of the disc, it would be difficult to think of a better ending to the album than it, from the great guitar runs to the simple-but-ingenious main riff, and especially the clever allusions to all that which is good and pleasurable in the universe (I especially love the line, “it is chicken, it is eggs, it is in between your legs”).
And that’s it – that wasn’t so complicated was it? Er, maybe it was, as I think I wrote even more for this album than for England. No matter – point is, it’s a really really really great album. But England is better.
Whee, this is one mightily frigged out record. My guess is that Peter Gabriel thought people were still taking him less seriously than necessary, due to all the fox dresses, willow farms and Harold the Barrels. So, one thing he hadn’t still come up with was an extended, pretentious rock opera. As you might have guessed, this is a double album – a double-length rock opera. But ohmigosh, what a rock opera this is. Apparently, after a lot of squibbling one comes to the conclusion that it does have a plot: it’s based on the lifestory and hallucinogenous experiences of a Puerto Rican tramp called Rael, in order to impersonate whom Gabriel even sacrificed his long hair and trippy stage costumes (some of them, of course – over the duration of the live Lamb show Peter still used to change quite a few outfits, including some gigantic monstruous “pods” and other different stuff; but normally, he just put on a ripped T-shirt and that was it). However, not even a supertalented scientist, heck, not even a ‘supernatural anaesthesist’ can decipher what the hell is really going on, be it in reality or in Rael’s stoned mind.
This time Gabriel apparently didn’t leave any modesty in his lyrics. You’ll find everything here, it’s like a ‘Genesis encyclopaedia’: tramps, anaesthesists, hairless hearts, deep caverns and imaginary (and real) cages, colonies of slippermen, obscure Greek mythology outtakes, quotes from hundreds of poets, writers and composers, and, of course, all of the band’s clever and not-so-clever musical tricks. All of this makes for a really terrible first listening experience, you may believe me. Sitting through the entire album was originally a task worthy of a true Hercules. And even after repeated listenings, when one gets used to the music, lyrics and general atmosphere, there is still a nagging thought that pursues me – what’s the meaning of this whole thing. Taken individually, the imagery of certain of these songs is working quite all right; but as a whole, the album is just one gigantic question mark. What’s the sense of Rael pursued by a black cloud over Broadway, waking up in a cage, meeting the “carpet crawlers” and the Slippermen? What’s the sense of him being castrated, and why insert all that scene where his brother John is falling over imaginary rapids and Rael chases after him in order to save him? What’s the “It” that concludes the album? Don’t even try to answer. It’s a put-on. If it weren’t for the form in which Gabriel and Co. dresses all that putrid stuffing, I’d probably leave my former rating of six as it was. Fortunately, on a pure musical level it certainly deserves better – after all, it’s no worse than The Wall.
The main point and accent of the imagery has certainly changed (in fact, the album might be considered an all-out Americano anti-reaction to the purely British Selling England), but the band’s sound is still for the most part the same, although they are slowly moving into the dubious “post-Gabriel progressive” territory, with Banksynths now playing a more prominent role (the main synth riff of ‘It’, for instance, while good in itself, almost coincides with the one used on ‘Robbery, Assault And Battery’ two years later). The sound is also quite energetic, roarin’ and tearin’, but… it doesn’t always work.
Now look here, I’ll be the first to admit that the album does feature a lot of interesting and sometimes even thrilling ideas (I’ll be listing the best of these in a moment), but there’s really too much filler. Sometimes a song starts out just fine and turns into a banal screamfest or into a particularly nasty Banksynth fiesta soon after. Like ‘In A Cage’, for example, the first verse of which is wonderful and the rest of which is… well, decent, although I used to hate it, but still, it’s just a normal rocker, that never lives up to the glorious introduction (‘I got sunshine in my stomach/Like I just rocked my baby to sleep…’).
Among the best stuff on here I’d certainly have to point out the title track which is a golden classic and deservedly so. It really starts the album on a high note, with, once again, Gabriel’s vocal performance (and Tony’s tinkling piano – dump those synths, Tony!) making it stand out. And, like you know, the first disc is not really bad at all. Once again, I draw on comparisons with The Wall: Disc 1 is near-amazing, fresh, exciting, full of good melodies and rich with subtle, “light” atmosphere, but it’s on Disc 2 where hell’s bells finally strike and you have to hack through its jungles with a battleaxe.
Indeed. ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’? Roaring and tearing, kicks the album off with an energy never matched afterwards. ‘Fly On A Windshield’? Excellent atmospherics (gives a great feel of the black cloud slowly and rhythmically advancing on Rael), until suddenly the drums kick in and Tony and Steve play up a thunderstorm while Phil pounds like a mule. ‘Cuckoo Cocoon’? Silly, refreshing “nursery” interlude. ‘In The Cage’? See above. ‘The Grand Parade Of Lifeless Packaging’? Incredibly catchy chorus. ‘Hairless Heart’? Beautiful, beautiful instrumental, one of the most emotional, climactic melodies on here. ‘Counting Out Time’? Ah, there’s a real masterpiece – in between all these heavy progressive epics is etched a jovial pop number, devoted to Rael’s memories of his early days, reading sex manuals before his first date and finding out all the ‘hot spots’ on pages so-and-so. Unfortunately, the manual lets him down in the end. (Here’s another argument in favour of my hypothesis about Pete’s deep sexual complexes, but I guess everybody already knows about that). ‘Carpet Crawlers’? Another beautiful ballad, quiet, melancholic and with a philosophy of its own, not to mention the timeless Gabriel falsetto on ‘you gotta get in… to get OOOOO-UUT!’ ‘The Chamber Of 32 Doors’? How could one forget the immortal lines about ‘I’d better trust a man who works with his hands…’.
In the end I only left out ‘Back In New York City’ which is kinda ugly. But when it comes to Disc 2, I humbly lower my hands and turn off my head. BITS, yes, BITS and PIECES of songs on there are enjoyable, but in general it’s just too plot-heavy and Gabriel is too busy proving his being well-educated and well-read for it to be consistently enjoyable. I don’t want to say that these melodies really suck, but they really go overboard with their complexity, not to mention that musically, you get all the most necessary ideas on Disc 1, while Disc 2 just keeps repeating and recycling the same stylistics over and over until you’re just sick. Besides, it features such minuses as ‘The Waiting Room’ – a load of stupid atonal noises that never trigger any nerve. The only three songs on that disc that I enjoy in their entirety are ‘The Colony Of Slippermen’ (more because of its intriguing theatricality than anything else), ‘The Light Dies Down On Broadway’ (because it’s a reprise of the title track, as you understand) and the closing ‘It’.
That said, I still raise my former rating to an eight (well, I promised it would almost definitely grow), because… well, because this is still a unique and highly intriguing album. I like the general style, too, although my main complaint is that I can hardly hear Mr Hackett at all: he was put very much in the background by Tony, and it becomes very noticeable if you put Lamb on immediately after Selling England. Poor Steve. Nevertheless, like I said, Tony rarely goes overboard with his synth stylings on here, and there’s still quite a lot of piano and different instrumentation to spice up the pie. And out of all double-length progressive albums, Lamb after all these years still turns out to be the most accessible.
Of course, as everybody knows, right after the tour Peter quit Genesis, never to rejoin again except for a single charity concert; as he himself explained it, he was far too afraid to get trapped in a band whose popularity was steadily on the rise and become just your average artificial rock star. Well, supposedly he should have stayed around until 1981 or so – because Genesis didn’t actually become a mass audience icon until the early Eighties. But to each his own ways, and after all, Peter’s solo career easily beat out Genesis’ together career.
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is a difficult album to summarize, and is even more difficult to summarize concisely. I could probably write a novel about this album, or at least a Master’s thesis. But I’ll try to make my comments relatively brief.
At least one critic has described The Lamb as the first postmodern rock album. Despite the fact that “postmodernism” has become for some an excuse to avoid thinking, the idea behind this argument seems fairly secure. The narrative of The Lamb is impossible to judge from a linear standpoint, and only makes sense as a work of multi-layered symbolism. Although a general link between the songs can be found if the listener seeks it out, no single concrete interpretation of any given lyric seems sufficient to encompass its multiplicity of meanings.
(Alternately, of course, the critic who referred to the album as a postmodern work may have been an over-eager literary critic who decided that the “pop culture” references were the most important aspect of the album. They aren’t, though they do have a place in the overall context of the work.)
At the initial release of the album, critics complained that its plot was too convoluted. This criticism has continued, even among some progressive fans who have otherwise defended the merits of the album. Some regard the “concept” as a red herring entirely. I would argue otherwise.
For those who do not already possess The Lamb, it may be necessary to provide a brief outline of those few details of the plot which can be universally agreed upon. The album is a depiction of the life of Rael, a Puerto Rican youth who lives on the streets of New York City. As the work begins, Rael is seen in the Times Square/Broadway area, hiding his spraygun after a late-night “assault” on the values of mainwave society (spraying his name on a subway station). Completely out of nowhere, a lamb suddenly lies down on the Broadway streets; it’s presence is never explained. As Rael turns to leave, a “wall of death” emerges upon him. And then, the deluge.
The remainder of the album is less immediately coherent, but it can be reasonably agreed upon that it involves a turning inward, as Rael moves through a series of memories towards an apparent resolution.
If the listener is to assume that the plot of the album after “Fly On A Windshield” is devoted to Rael’s slow process of moving from this plane unto a separate realm of (non-?)existence (as many Genesis fans have currently accepted as the “unifying theme” of the album, the accusations of thematic ambiguity would seem to be of diminished relevance now). This interpretation would seem to explain the various mental states which Rael finds himself in as the album progresses. My own suspicion is that even this might not be enough to explain the entire album, but it outshines any other theory I’ve yet encountered.
Even if this is to be accepted as the general plot of the album, the question of “how the songs actually fit the theme” could still make for a few valid objections. “Counting Out Time” doesn’t quite seem to fit with the general character development of the album; the position of “The Grand Parade Of Lifeless Packaging” strikes me as being a bit tenuous as well, and “Cuckoo Cocoon” might not be necessary as a link between “Broadway Melody” and “In The Cage”. “The Lamia”, moreover, is problematic — it fits with the general theme of the album, but its position in the narrative (in relation to what comes before it) doesn’t seem quite right.
The accusation that much of the album was “forced to fit” the theme may therefore be valid, but I would still argue that the general theme may still be understood in spite of these problems.
A few other notes first, though. The idea behind this album was, indisputably, the creation of Peter Gabriel. On earlier Genesis albums, Gabriel and Tony Banks had tended to share the lead songwriting duties, generally creating thematic concepts which the band as a whole would work out the music to. On this album, the balance was offset. It’s possible that Tony Banks has never had as little control over any album that bears his presence as The Lamb (perhaps excepting From Genesis To Revelation), as Gabriel’s domination of the project’s “vision” was nearly absolute.
This obviously caused problems with the rest of the group; these problems were not smoothed over by Gabriel’s attempts to create a multimedia version of the album while the recording was still in progress. Gabriel and the rest of Genesis actually broke apart for a time during the making of the album (Phil Collins was later heard to comment that they were considering releasing a double-album of instrumental music), and a reconciliation was only made possible by Gabriel’s eventual willingness to scale back his vision somewhat (granting that his lack of Hollywood connections probably played a considerable role in this as well).
With Gabriel and the rest of the group at swords, the axis of Banks/ Rutherford/Collins began to take greater control over the instrumental aspects of the pieces; according to the Bowler & Dray Genesis book, Gabriel was in the habit of having them write musical accompaniment to his more general themes at this theme, generally abdicating his share of control over such matters (with some exceptions — Gabriel claims the chord progression for “Carpet Crawlers”.) Surely enough, a nucleus of a Genesis lineup without Gabriel was forming.
… but, what about the fifth member of the group? Steve Hackett’s level of contribution to The Lamb has been a matter of some debate. Hackett himself has commented that he believes the album to be “unfinished”, and his compositional role seems to have been the least significant of all of the members involved (to say the least). Hackett’s hand injury late in the recording sessions (severing a tendon after crushing a glass, reportedly as the result of accumulated stress as regards the development of the group) may have contributed to his diminished presence, but it doesn’t explain the entire story. Certainly, there’s little that can justify his virtual absence from the first quarter of the album on such grounds. Although SH’s alienation from the rest of the group did not start with The Lamb, it was certainly most pronounced here.
And Brian Eno’s role? This, too, has been a matter of some debate. Eno himself has never specified his role, claiming only that he helped the group to adjust a few tracks. Frequently suggested possibilities as to the identity of these tracks include: vocal distortions on “The Grand Parade”, keyboard distortions on “Riding The Scree” and “In The Cage”, effects on “The Colony Of Slippermen”, etc. Tony Banks has recently claimed that Eno’s role was actually quite minimal, and that he didn’t really deserve an official credit. Nevertheless, this mystery, too, refuses to die.
Made under extremely difficult circumstances, The Lamb nevertheless deserves recognition as one of the few truly essential albums of the progressive genre. The mysteries involving its plot and creation are interesting enough, but unravelling these matters is not needed for an appreciation of the music included therein.
Some have criticized The Lamb for containing fewer of the “epic” progressive works as the earlier Genesis albums, but this doesn’t really make much sense. Genesis were not, on this album, abandoning longer material in favour of a more commercial output — the songs were shorter, but the material was in some ways more esoteric than before. Some might argue that the expanded backing vocal role of Phil Collins (compared with Foxtrot and Selling England By The Pound) set the stage for future problems, but this assumes far more than could have been known at the time. From a musical standpoint, The Lamb rates at about the same level as the earlier Genesis albums.
From a lyrical standpoint, it may well be the most successful album of the progressive genre.
The album begins with the title track, setting the stage for the plot which is to follow. The keyboard introduction to this track is quite unsettling, appearing as a fleeting, dreamlike piece with more than a bit of a sinister edge to it. Banks dominates the music throughout the song, and Collins and Rutherford are in top form as well, but the narrative is clearly the focal point here. As the street youth are forced from their nightly resting grounds, Rael emerges from the subway area with his spraygun hidden. The lamb appears as an outsider to this scene as daily commuters start their routines. An excellent introduction, all things considered. One minor problem would be Hackett’s seeming absence from most, if not all, of the track; even without him, though, it still works quite well.
[Interpretations: (i) It doesn’t take a great leap in logic to connect the hidden spraygun with a sexual reference, especially given that Peter Gabriel is the author. The reference to Rael “wiping his gun” and “forgetting what he did” in the middle of the song could have any number of meanings, some more sinister than others, (ii) It similarly doesn’t take a great leap in logic to connect the lamb with a emissary from another plane of existence, alerting Rael of the fate which soon awaits him, (iii) It does take a certain degree of interpretive skill to associate the line “cabman’s velvet glove” with the Velvet Underground, as at least one listener has done. Andy Warhol worked as a cab driver at one point, you see. If this is an accurate interpretation, one wonders what exactly Gabriel meant by the line, (iv) I’ve often thought that The Lamb contains certain homoerotic references, matched with heterosexual representations in a somewhat confusing manner. Here, the “Wonder women, you can draw your blind/Don’t look at me, I’m not your kind” line could be seen as verifying this possibility. More on this later.]
The tone of the album becomes more elusive with “Fly On A Windshield”. Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford present a dark, apprehensive melody at the beginning of this track which accurately sums up the mood of the entire album. Over this, Gabriel describes Rael being ensnared by the aforementioned “wall of death”, and phasing out of the New York scene. The inward journey thus begins. For the second half of the song (counted as part of “Broadway Melody Of 1974” for the remastered version; I’m using the old system of division here), the Banks/Rutherford/Collins team creates an impressively dark instrumental piece on par with their best work on earlier albums — Hackett, moreover, is finally audible, playing an emotive solo leading up to the next track.
“Broadway Melody Of 1974” consists of Rael’s vision of a distorted Broadway parade consisting of various deceased (and declining) cultural icons: Howard Hughes, Groucho Marx, Marshall McLuhan and Caryl Chessman all play a role in this procession. The last two are, from the point of the song, the most interesting. McLuhan, of course, is a Canadian communications theorist who presented ideas on “active” and “passive” mediums which are about as dense as The Lamb itself; nevertheless, the “casual viewin'” reference seems to indicate a loss of control over one’s position. Caryl Chessman (to quote the information on “The Lamb Explained”, a very useful web page for those interesting in getting even more information out of these obscure references) was the first American citizen to be executed under the re-instituted death penalty. The connection to Rael’s own situation should be clear.
From a musical standpoint, the piece is primarily an extension of “Fly On A Windshield”, only without a strong presence (if a presence at all) by Hackett. As against this, the guitar passage at the end (a lead-in to “Cuckoo Cocoon”) may very well be him. The key focus of this track, however, is clearly the narrative, a profoundly dark examination of both the sedative role of Broadway life and equally sedative interpretations of an afterlife. The image offered by the depiction is, even on a surface level, far from comforting.
This leads to “Cuckoo Cocoon”, which sees Rael emerging from this “parade” to a new state of existence. The lyrics are sung entirely from a first person perspective, and concern Rael’s uncertainty as the nature of his newfound surroundings. Electric guitars appear under distortion as the track being, against which Gabriel’s stark voice recites the character’s lament (interestingly, it would be Gabriel’s voice that underwent the most distortion in live performances). Banks eventually takes a leading role, playing another disturbingly pleasant accompanying piece. Phil takes a greater backing vocal role, and Gabriel’s flute makes another appearance as well. There’s nothing terribly wrong with this track, but it lacks some of the intensity of the first three numbers — my suspicion is that the album could work without it.
A heartbeat bass tone begins “In The Cage”, a truly disturbing number describing Rael’s general state of internal confusion involving his present condition and his past memories (which are soon to make their appearance). Gabriel’s vocal intensity is nothing short of amazing here, filling the lyrics with the urgency which they deserve. From an instrumental standpoint, Hackett again appears undermixed; he can be heard in the left channel in the first “primary” section of the song, but only faintly in comparison to the other band members (this is actually fairly interesting for the purposes of instrumental texturing, but the fact that it was Hackett who was given the subservient role doesn’t seem accidental). Meanwhile, Rutherford’s bass line is mixed remarkably high, with Collins’s drum line playing off against it in a slightly disjointed manner.
An easy highlight of the song is the instrumental segueway section which appears at about the three-minute mark, presumably consisting of both Hackett and Banks in some harmonized balance. The piece then shifts to a “match to the gallows” section, wherein Rael first encounters his brother John (who refuses to release him from his “cage”). In perfect palindromic sense, the piece then returns to the instrumental section before returning to a reprise of the first full-band theme. The internal diversity in this track is quite impressive, as are the performances throughout. The song ends with Rael being granted liberty from his “cage”, and spinning about into another altered consciousness.
This is the point in which Rael begins the journey through his slightly disjointed memories. We are first presented with “The Grand Parade Of Lifeless Packaging”, an extremely clever number which nevertheless seems slightly problematic in the general context of the album. The song, essentially, describes a factory production of human identities, all of which are smoothly hewn of their distinctive characteristics so as to be made presentable to the world in general. Each individual is reduced to a corporate entity, and each advertises himself/herself as such. Gabriel’s vocals are heavily distorted, and Collins’s staggered drum line seems entirely appropriate. One could argue that the parade represents the sperm/DNA from which Rael was originally conceived; John, being a part of the “parade” would therefore be an aspect of Rael’s own personality — which would make some measure of sense later in the album. One problem with this theory, however, is that is says little to account for the subsequent “leap forward” of 17 years to “Back In NYC”, the next track. Perhaps this leap was Gabriel’s intention, but it’s difficult to argue this with any certainty. One way or the other, though, the track is able to stand up on its own.
With the beginning of the second quarter of the album, the band seemingly becomes a reasonably integrated unit again — Hackett’s presence returns to relatively normal levels, and some of the songs sound as though they could have been written as cohesive links of words and music. This “side” begins with “Back In NYC”, generally regarded as “Rael’s anthem”. Gabriel’s first-person depiction of our protagonist’s violent impulses is both articulate and relatively realistic (it isn’t every upper-middle class British kid who could get away with this, after all). The track begins with a deliberate reprise of the “In The Cage” bass line, but quickly shifts to something rather different. Musically, the track consists of the internal shifts and instrumental variation that Genesis (pre-1978) are best known for — the 17/8 “chorus” is particularly impressive. The final “no time” is probably sung by Phil Collins, creating an eerie “third person” counterpoint to the rest of the song. A success.
[Interpretations: (i) Gabriel acknowledged in concerts on the Lamb tour that the phrase “cuddled the porcupine” refers to masturbation; that this image is juxtaposed directly with descriptions of Rael’s violent impulses is somewhat telling, (ii) re: homoeroticism — one line of the song goes as follows: “I’m a pitcher in a chain gang, we don’t believe in pain”. “Pitcher”, it should be noted, is an American slang for the “active” participant in homosexual encounters, (iii) another lyric of this song goes as follows: “Your progressive hypocrites hand out their trash/But it was mine in the first place, so I burn it to ash” — given Gabriel’s dissatisfied position in Genesis and his desire to leave the progressive rock genre in later works, it seems unlikely that an interpretation of this line can be restricted to the Rael character.]
“Hairless Heart” is the album’s first instrumental track, dominated by Steve Hackett’s harmonizer-based guitar lead (sounding oddly like a violin, actually). Banks and Collins have impressive showings as well. This brief number, entirely satisfying on its own as a piece of music, is used thematically to accompany the ceremonial removal of Rael’s pubic hair (as suggested in the previous track, and as verified in the live show).
This brief number leads to “Counting Out Time”, a novelty track concerning mathematical applications of sexual instruction manuals, which was the first single from the release (it failed to rise in the charts, amusingly enough). Plotwise, the story goes that this piece is meant to correspond to Rael’s first sexual experience — my suspicion is that this was a convenient excuse invented after the fact to give the song a place on the album. Regardless, this track is about as amusing as a pop single of the progressive genre could be expected to be. Hackett’s overbearing guitar lines at the beginning (that is Hackett, right?) work well as an expression of “tension buildup”. The mid-song solo by Hackett is … equally amusing, if not moreso; Tony’s charmingly innocent keyboard lines only add to the overall value of the piece, of course.
[Interpretation: This song is also significant for its emphasis on numerology, which is given a more serious role in the subsequent tracks.]
“The Carpet Crawlers” is easily the highpoint of the album, well integrated with the thematic course of the album, and completely capable of standing on its own as well. Musically, it features one of Tony Banks’s most beautiful performances ever, playing a fairly consistent pattern through a series of impressive chord developments. The bass line, though fairly simple, works extremely well — Collins is excellent on both harmony vocals and drums, while Hackett’s embellishments add to the value of the work as well. The song is open to numerous interpretations, but its primary meaning (to judge by recent alt.music.genesis discussions) is that of conception, with the “Crawlers” signifying the individual sperm attempting to achieve the process of reproduction — numerous metaphors work throughout the track as well. The transference of “biological memory” through DNA seems to be a strong focus too; the “staircase that spirals out of sight” has been taken by some to be a reference to the physical pattern of DNA itself. The lyric also seems to suggest that Rael’s own memories necessarily return to him in this process (hence the alternate metaphor in “my second sight of people”). The echo effects on the keyboards are among the most notable musical creations featured on the album. This easily counts as one of the best songs of the progressive movement, on virtually every level. (As a side note, I might also add that this song occasionally receives airplay on certain FM stations in North America, despite the fact that it, too, had no initial success as a single.) A minor quibble: despite having a role in the theme of the album, this song seems only tangentially connected to the plot development in the second half of the album.
From there, we arrive at “The Chamber Of 32 Doors”, another of the more enigmatic themes here. The track begins on a guitar lead, quickly leading to an extreme expression of grandeur (apparently representing the chamber which the protagonist has found himself in). Collins takes a more prominent role on vocals, again. Lyrically, this song involves Rael’s attempts to interpret his surrounding in this mysterious Chamber, with various cultural archetypes appearing around him. The key to understanding all of this is — qv. the earlier note on numerology — Kabbalism.
In the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, there are 32 paths in total, connecting the various planes of existence. The positioning of man on the Tree is invariably at the lowest condition, regardless of what steps are made in other directions (ie. “But down here, I’m so alone with my fear”). The line “My father to the left of me, my mother to the right” is also a direct reference to the individual’s positioning in this Tree. As such, by wishing to remove himself from the “Chamber”, Rael is presumably expressing a desire to leave the system of temporal life itself.
The song isn’t quite as successful as the rest of the side. After four consecutive works of excellence, this one (whatever its own merits) is a slight letdown — perhaps the narrative had a bit too much control over the music, in this case. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this track, but it doesn’t really stand together as well as the rest of the “side”.
The third quarter of the album begins with “Lilywhite Lilith”, which rates on the same level as “The Chamber” as far as quality goes. This is easily the most rock-oriented track on this “side”, featuring a variation on the musical themes of “Fly On A Windshield/Broadway Melody Of 1974”. Collins shines on drums, and the rest of the band develops the piece rather well; the track simply doesn’t stand on its own as well as the rest of the side. Thematically, the most obvious archetypal development in the album is featured in this track — Lilith, of course, course to a temptress in both Kabbalism and related forms of Christian Gnosticism, ultimately leading her followers unto death. The track ends as “two golden globes” enter the room to which Rael has been led to (and abandoned in), followed by “a blaze of white light”.
This leads to “The Waiting Room”, the track most likely to bewilder anyone who only knows Genesis through their debased ’80s incarnation. This track is, essentially, devoted to the exploration of terror through musical form — the first half consists to numerous chaotic/grotesque sonic elements, on par with the output of some German progressive bands of the era; the second half consists of an instrumental theme (dominated by guitar) which is almost equally frightening, in some respects. It was not without reason that this track was referred to as the “Evil Jam” during the original recording sessions. In live performances, the band would play a slightly extended version of the track as a means of “blowing off stream” from the stress caused by the project. That aside, this is easily one of the more impressive musical moments of the Genesis career.
The narrative of The Lamb continues with “Anyway”, another keyboard-dominated track concerning Rael’s emergence from the near-death experience of the previous track. The middle section of the work is dominated by a guitar spotlight, impressive in its grandeur (as befits the piece). The track, recited from the first person, consists of Rael’s surprisingly literary and articulate musings on death (I have a hard time believing that “Different orbits for my bones/Not me, just quietly buried in stones” isn’t related to Kabbalism as well, by the way). The character of Death makes a belated appearance as the track ends.
“The Supernatural Anaesthetist”, a brief vocal duet track between Peter and Phil, concerns the attempt of the Death character to ensnare Rael’s soul with the use of his poisonous gas (which Rael miraculously escapes — this isn’t explained in the lyrics, and one must rely on statements made by Gabriel in live performances to attain this particular meaning). Most of the song is instrumental, featuring another excellent guitar solo by Hackett (instrumentals tend to become more frequent at this stage, with the narrative having been concluded in a somewhat hasty manner.)
Following this comes another shift in the linear development of the story with “The Lamia”, which begins with a mysterious piano line accompanying Keats-inspired lyrics (Keats is thanked in the liner notes, by the way). The focal point of the song is again the narrative, which goes roughly as follows: Rael enters a strange room, enters (believing himself “quite alone”), encounters three lamia creatures (ie. half-woman, half-snake) who sensually assault him, and joins the lamia creatures in their pool — on their first exposure to Rael’s blood, however, the lamia shrivel and die. Following this, Rael consumes the remainder of the lamia flesh (the consequences of which are elaborated on in a subsequent track) and departs the area.
The listener will be forgiven for wondering if all of this is really relevant to the plot at hand, but, anyway. One of my theories is that the “intruder” element of the song could suggest that the “poetic” descriptions were actually invented by Rael to disguise his role in an act of sexual violation (this is, of course, only a theory). Gabriel has certainly explored similar themes in subsequent tracks of his solo career (ie. “Intruder”), and I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility here. Alternately, it could simply be a reference to an encounter with a mysterious prostitute. The room for interpretation is rather open.
Returning to a discussion of the music, it should be noted that the aforementioned keyboard lead recurs fairly consistently throughout the track (in various settings, though). A few harpsichord effects create a certain element of absurdity in relation to the theme. The song ends with another guitar lead, which develops into an extended outro.
“Silent Sorrow In Empty Boats” is the album’s second instrumental, a quasi-symphonic arrangement on a reasonably basic theme. It takes the form of a lament, and is otherwise notable for displaying the powers of the group to create a work of beauty which has a highly ironic placing in the context of the album.
“The Colony Of Slippermen” is divided into three sections. “The Arrival” begins with an amazing series of sonic effects by the four instrumentalists, creating an extremely disturbing ambience. Following this, the “song proper” begins musically in classic Genesis style — this is another high point of the album. After a paraphrase of Wordsworth, the song describes Rael’s arrival in a land of grotesque, distorted individuals known as the “Slippermen”, who too have undergone the previous encounter with the lamia creatures — Rael discovers that he, too, has assumed their distorted form (side note: if the “intruder” interpretation is to be used for “The Lamia”, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to associate this setting with that of a prison). The other elements of this culture inform him that the only manner in which he can escape his condition is to be castrated by the nefarious Dr. Dyper. And that leads us to …
“A Visit To The Doktor” (part two of “The Colony Of Slippermen”) is a brief section, connected musically to the previous section. Gabriel’s vocal urgency is again quite impressive, as he orders the Doktor to undertake the painful operation (the sound effect which corresponds to the castration effect is quite interesting, by the way). Rael is accompanied by John in this operation, with said brother-figure too having become afflicted with the Slipperman condition.
Then comes the final section of the song, entitled “The Raven”. After the operation (which features an amusing vocal alteration), Rael is given a pouch carrying his castrated member … which is promptly stolen by Raven, a giant black bird that preys on the area. Steve Hackett’s guitar line in the “theft” section is perhaps the ultimate depiction of an anapest rhythm in musical form, by the way. After his, Rael chases after Raven to the edge of a cliff, whereupon Raven drops the castrated unit into a giant lake [note: obvious mythological reference here]. The music is excellent throughout this section, with some very interesting percussive effects (that could possibly be Eno’s creation).
The following songs seem slightly inferior in comparison to the general flow of the album, perhaps due to the time constraints placed upon them. That said, it isn’t really fair to regard “Ravine” as a separate track — consisting entirely of guitar and keyboard effects (probably Banks and Rutherford), the track is almost completely atmospheric. Perhaps it would have made more sense to have this as the last section of “The Colony” … though, in that case (for the conspiracy minded) the number of songs on the album wouldn’t have worked out to a perfect 23. Hmm …
The lyrics to “The Light Dies Down On Broadway” were reportedly written by Banks/Rutherford as a means of clarifying the narrative to some degree, which they do fairly well. Rael here is given the opportunity to return (via a magical portal) to the streets of NYC, but, upon seeing his brother John drowning in the waters below (disturbing metaphors regarding the “fertilization” of the waters by the castrated member are appropriate), decides to risk his own life and attempt a daring rescue. This is a much more “concrete” song than anything else on this side, and has some narrative value as such. The distinction of Banks and Gabriel in terms of lyric-writing is made quite clear here; gone are the sexually-oriented imagery, replaced by Banks’s somewhat abstract descriptions. Musically, it’s very good, if a bit behind the higher points of the album. The flute effects are a nice touch as well.
And that leads to “Riding The Scree”. Primarily an instrumental number, this track begins with an altered keyboard passage which seems to have been guided by Brian Eno in spirit, in not in actually. The guitar and bass lines suggest a funk-oriented motif, oddly enough; and harmonized section in 9/8 is extremely good. Gabriel’s lyrics describe Rael’s endeavours to reach John as he rushes towards the rapids.
That, in turn, not surprisingly leads to “In The Rapids”. I will admit that my rating for this particular song in somewhat higher than I originally suspected that it would be. From a musical standpoint, there is little in the way of virtuosity here — as an atmospheric number, however, its dirgelike qualities work extremely well. The song ultimately succeeds on the basis of Gabriel and Collins, whose vocal and drum contributions and a level of emotive strength that corresponds to the theme of the song extremely well. What pushes the song “over the top”, however, is the concluding section, and the sudden rise in tension as Rael encounters John and realizes that he is actually staring into a double of himself. His consciousness shifts between the two figures, and evaporates from the corporeal sphere entirely.
“It” is the consolidation of the mystery that is the album — seemingly a self-contained unit, it depicts a creative force in a state of abstraction, as applied to various particular situations. The sonic effect of the “shift of consciousness” is nothing short of incredible. Hackett’s guitar effects (seconded by Banks throughout) work amazingly well throughout the number, and Gabriel’s impish puns are the perfect resolution to the theme — once knowledge has been gained by the lead character, it can only be transposed to others via elusive proverbs.
[Interpretations: (i) the number of drug references throughout the song — the words “horse”, “shaken”, “dope”, and “rock” are used in rapid succession — can hardly be coincidental. It’s not quite clear what point Gabriel was trying to make … (ii) re: homoeroticism — I trust that the possibilities presented by two male individuals reaching a state of perfect unity in an area of raging water need not require too much explanation; the line “When you eat right fru it” from “It” might suggest these possibilities as well, albeit expressed in a slightly politically incorrect manner (presumably without malice, of course), (iii) this one is a bit of stretch, but has anyone else considered as a reference to a “single’s bar” on an album steeping in Kabbalistic references could actually refer to the “son of a single entity”, perhaps corresponding to the mental entity created by the merger of the two Rael figures. As I said, this is a bit of a stretch …]
And, of course, the album ends in a cheeky bit of Gnostic humour with the line, “It’s only knock and know-all, but I like it”. What could be more appropriate?
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is a mysterious, beautiful and disturbed work, and is ultimately one of the most essential of English progressive albums.
Given the creation of this album, it’s completely understandable that Gabriel and Genesis were incapable of working together on future projects. Gabriel’s ventures were clearly beyond what the others were willing to endeavour towards — it’s amazing enough that Tony Banks appeared on even one album of this sort, and a second would have been virtually unthinkable. Still, as a “once in a lifetime” experience, the creation of this album is highly important in the history of the progressive genre.
When Genesis finished their Selling England tour with a performance at the Academy Of Music in New York in early May 1974 they had come a long way. In the three years before that date Genesis had been touring almost continuously playing more than 400 shows – that is one gig every three days on average. After releasing not only a studio album called Selling England By The Pound but also a live record the quintet took a break from touring to write and record their next album.
Work on their previous albums had always consisted of picking from all the material they had tried out those bits and pieces they liked best in a more or less democratic process. They often had to put songs to the vote because the record was full already. The vote for/against one song on Selling England had come out a draw; as a consequence all songs ended on the record that did not sound very good anymore because of the technical limitations of the vinyl record [as Tony explains in Chapter & Verse, p. 148].
Genesis drew their own conclusions from that and set out to make the new album a double album right from the start. The decision gave them enough space to extend the songs but it also meant that they had to write almost twice as much material good enough to be published. And this amount of music had to have a corresponding amount of lyrics to go with it. Peter Gabriel demanded that part for himself, which was unprecedented and unlike the way the band used to work before. On the other hand he was, after all, the author of the bizarre stories he would tell between songs during a concert and also of the surreal anecdote about the lady in the tube train that decorated the back of their Live album. There was no doubt that he would bring enough creativity to bear on this job. From the large amount of lyrics written by one person it was just a small step to the idea that these lyrics would tell a continuous story. A double album where all the songs tell one story – suddenly it was not a simple album Genesis were working on anymore, but the hallmark of every prog rock group, the concept album.
The concept album
A concept album is an record on which all songs are linked by a common theme. According to the closer definition the link consists in the songs telling a continuous story; since that is also a criterion for the opera in classical music concept albums, and their live performance in particular, are occasionally and quite aptly labeled “rock operas”.
A record is a concept album in a broader sense when all songs are loosely connected by a common topic or mood; this also applies to the song cycle so the one is difficult to distinguish from the other. Though they are by no means restricted to that type of music concept albums are frequently recorded in the progressive rock genre, perhaps because the presentation of a continuous story fulfills the artist’s demand for intellectual and musical challenge. By the mid-70s concept albums were a new idea anymore. Pet Sounds (1966) by The Beach Boys and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) by The Beatles are usually considered the earliest concept albums.
Now they needed a story for it. They discussed a number of candidates and dismissed them again. In the end Peter’s idea to write a whole new story for the album won over Mike Rutherford’s suggestion to set Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s fairy-tale The Little Prince.
Creating a classic
Right after the end of their Selling England tour Genesis rented Headley Grange, an old mansion and poorhouse in Hampshire southwest of London. The place was not unknown in the history of music: Led Zeppelin had recorded parts of Led Zeppelin IV in it – and curiously enough, Jimmy Page has a supernatural experience there quite similar to the one Peter mentioned as his inspiration for the first part of Supper’s Ready. The band arrived there in mid-May and instantly started – cleaning. The previous tenants had apparently had a rather distanced relationship to cleanliness and hygiene. Tony Banks remembers human feces in a room that was not the bathroom, and Peter Gabriel remembers that all the rats appeared very curious what they new two-legged creatures were up to in their territory.
To speed up the writing of the new album Peter sat in one corner of the house working on the lyrics while the others wrote new music. Before that, however, the general gist of the storyline had to be finished.
“I’ve always thought it amazing that The Lamb, an album with such an urban atmosphere and more ‘American’ sounding than either the predecessor or the successor, was written at an old, rat-infested mansion in rural southern England, and recorded in a remote village in rural Wales. You can’t get further away from Manhattan in many ways.” (a fan)
Its protagonist is a young Puerto Rican in New York who is one morning swallowed by a huge black wall, undergoes a series of surreal experiences and finally rescues from a roaring river his brother – or himself? The story of Rael has many levels on which it can be read and understood, it is full of allusions and puns; it is as open to lots of interpretations as it seems to deny the one definitive interpretation. What makes this story so magical may be precisely the fact that the listener can always decode it afresh and differently. Since its release – which other band, which other album could claim this? – a large and growing community of fans has developed who enjoy discussing interpretations of the album almost as much as the album itself.
Much has been put into it and read out of it: Some claim it is Peter Gabriel’s roman à clef, that he (as Rael) debated leaving Genesis with his alter ego (Brother John). Other read it as a modern-day version of King Lear and point out that Rael spelt backwards reads Lear – every new point of view discloses new facets of a remarkable story.
One adjective is frequently used to describe the story of Rael: Unwieldy – a story hard to get into. There is indeed a rupture between Selling England and The Lamb both in style and content that forces the reader-listener to find their bearings again – in two ways because the changes in style and content are chiastic. While the story of The Lamb became even more fantastic and bizarre than the lyrics on previous records the tone of the narration sobered up. There is therefore some truth to the claim that The Lamb is there most American album to date.
Is it a coincidence that Gabriel sets the story – a story of loss and regain – in New York where the band had played the last two shows of the Selling England tour – and where the final show had to be postponed for a day because someone had stolen their guitars? Probably yes, but who can say for sure with a band who draw inspiration from the Labour Party’s election programme and Ovid’s Metamorphoses alike? The starting point for the mood of the story was Leonard Bernstein’s famous musical West Side Story. Apart from that the story of Rael “indirectly” describes “lots of my emotional experiences”, as Gabriel once explained [Hugh Fielder, The Book Of Genesis, p.90]. Gabriel also drew parallels between Rael’s journey and Pilgrim’s Progress (John Bunyan’s allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress tells the way of the faithful Christian through all of life’s hardships to the heavenly Jerusalem). Whether there are parallels in the context apart from the common theme of both texts cannot be discussed at this point.
While Tony, Mike, Steve and Phil were busy writing music for the new album, Peter was writing the lyrics. Soon the music had progressed further than the lyrics which was because Peter had other things on his mind: His wife Jill had a troubled pregnancy. Gabriel drove to London as often as he could to be with her. His unfinished work caused tensions in the band and made Gabriel pass some of the songs to the others so they could write the lyrics for it.
In the middle of the writing process the project threatened to die. Director William Friedkin wanted to have Peter Gabriel as a creative mind for various projects; his fellow band members did not want to let him go. Gabriel left the band briefly. Differing reasons were given for his return: Friedkin’s desire not to break up the band, a reprimand by Mike “not to be silly” or an insistent intervention by Genesis’ then manager Tony Stratton-Smith.
At the end of July the band’s lease of Headley Grange ran out. The band, however, had not yet recorded a single note and began to look for another place to record the album. They found it in Wales, on a small farm called Glaspant (frequently misspelled Glossplant, 50km NW of Swansea). There they recorded The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
with the Manor Mobile Studio. The album was mixed at Island studios, London, until mid-October, and released on November 29, 1974.
At the same time Genesis prepared for the Lamb Lies Down On Broadway tour which, as the album itself, was hampered by delays: Steve Hackett cut his hand and they played the first Lamb shows in the United States – before the album had even been released there. But the tour is a chapter of its own…
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway was originally released as a double LP. When compact discs appeared in the mid-80s The Lamb was re-released on 2CD; this was the so-called “greybox” or “greyframe” version. It took its name from the grey frame that had been put around a part of the original cover, and, like the whole series, it did not sound too good. Quite an improvement was established by the release of the Definitive Edition Remaster in the late 90s. On both CD versions the cuts between the individual pieces were a bit peculiar: Though the booklets list the full lyrics for the song, The Broadway Melody Of 1974 consists only of the 33 instrumental seconds that form the transition to Cuckoo Cocoon.
These three main CD versions (and most special pressings in individual countries) use the famous Hipgnosis cover of the original LP version; they frequently also use design elements of the original lyrics sheets that came with the records: black and white ornaments and almost cubistic, simplified illustrations (usually in a square format) as well as a single photo. Incidentally, it took the reviewer years to realize that Rael is visible in and behind all those glass shards. Apart from the lyrics the booklets and lyric sheets usually also offer the Story Of Rael, which offers the general gist of the story, confused though it may be, and is actually a narrative treat. It shows just how much fun Gabriel had in placing all the allusions and puns all over story and lyrics.
The swan song of Genesis as the classic quintet begins with a tinkling piano intro from Tony. With a mighty chord the rest of the band joins him, like an image of the softly rippling sea that is suddenly and seamlessly replaced by the concrete towers of Manhattan. The title song rocks steadily ahead while Gabriel tells how Rael stumbles between the other night owls from out of the subway into an awakening New York. Then the noise of the city fades behind the all-devouring wall of death. Fly On A Windshield uses ethereal and acoustic sounds to give an impression of the wind blowing through the urban canyons before it depicts Rael hitting the strange wall at full speed. The Broadway Melody Of 1974 brings back yesterdays stars from Broadway, Hollywood and sundry scandals in a parade-like rhythm. The frequency with which the lyrics allude to certain people or things is evidently at a maximum here; nowhere else than here are they as easily decoded. The pageant of celebrities results from the allusion in the song’s title: In the decade before World War II there were no less than four films called Broadway Melody Of … (1929, 1936, 1938 and 1940) in which more and more stars could be seen.
What the people in charge found evidently much harder was determining the border between Fly On A Windshield and the Broadway Melody Of 1974: Both CD releases differ from each other and probably also from the correct border. The reviewer feels that the Broadway Melody begins right before the line “Echoes of the Broadway Everglades” which at least fits the distribution of lyrics in the booklet. Peter Gabriel sings in all kinds of voices depending on whether he is impersonating film stars of infamous criminals. A quiet intermezzo leads back to the protagonist. The perspective changes for Cuckoo Cocoon – now Rael speaks for himself. It is not just he who wonders “where the hell he is”, the listener, too, has to rely on the words and the soothing sound of the music to decide that it is apparently quite a cozy place. Thrown back onto his own senses Rael has to cope with his place of rest changing and the sudden anxiety of a stone cage. In The Cage everything is about escaping from the place. It does not help him much that everybody or at least most people are stuck in such a cage or that the whole world seems to consist only of these jails – the less so because Rael’s brother John appears who seem to be able to move about without restraints. In The Cage begins with a warm, pulsing rhythm; the melody cools rapidly, though, and becomes more hectic: The warm cocoon turns into a frightening cold cage that confines him ever closer and threatens to crush him. At the last moment the rock dissolves and Rael falls down in a spinning motion – right onto the floor of the Grand Parade Of Lifeless Packaging.
There Rael witnesses how people are paired up with their fate on a long production line and then delivered to life. The assembly line is represented by a simple and regular (work) beat; it is also the place where Rael meets his brother John again. Earlier it was Rael who was in the cage, now it is John who cannot move freely. At the end of the hall where, judging by the music, the production becomes faster and more hectic, the band indulge in a musical joke: While Rael muses that he just needs a fuse Gabriel’s voice becomes deeper and deeper – just like a record player that slowly stops because the power has gone (a blown fuse, perhaps?). The sounds of the Grand Parade were also modified in part by a musician who was not in the band: Brian Eno changed the sound some of the material Genesis had already recorded by playing it back through different devices. These manipulations were credited as “enossification”.
Rael leaves the place and suddenly finds himself back in his hometown, Back In N.Y.C. This time the listener experiences the city from Rael’s point of view: It is a place where only the fittest survive. Just like the image drawn up the music is hard and cold. It is the reversal of the image painted earlier, and this reversal can be taken quite literally: Back In N.Y.C. is the first song on the second side of the record, i.e. exactly backed with The Lamb Lies Down Down On Broadway. This rough song is contrasted by the instrumental that follows it, Hairless Heart. For the first time on the album Genesis sound the way they used to sound on previous albums, e.g. on Firth Of Fifth: A beautiful, warm melody is introduced on a small scale and then repeated with lots of emphasis and a big wall of sound. A new motive comes to the fore in Hairless Heart which already surfaced Back In N.Y.C. and influences the rest of the album, i.e. sexuality. A human heart hardly needs shaving, so one may perhaps think of other parts of the body that may or may not be covered by hair. But hold your horses! Interpretation is not our task here.
Rael remembers his first „erotic“ encounter with the other sex. Counting Out Time is a hilarious song. (Male) Listeners may perhaps suppress a smile – who can claim to have been so accomplished at theirfirst time? – but the idea of having sex “painting by numbers” fashion is delightfully absurd. Counting Out Time runs its course in a regular rhythm, and without the peculiar part in the middle it could almost be a pop song. Many things have been read into the sotto voce line “Put it away Mr Guitar” (Peter asking Steve Hackett not to do something?); if one assumes that Rael has serenaded his partner the riddle dissolves into nothing. At the end of the song Rael is back alone in the production area where he discovers a corridor covered in lamb’s wool. The Carpet Crawlers is, next to Hairless Heart, the coziest song on the first record. With a regular beat it turns out a really catchy song and one to cuddle up with a loved one. And it is actually one of few songs on the album for which Peter Gabriel wrote the main melody, as Gabriel’s first wife Jill points out in Spencer Bright’s book.
Through the door at the end of the corridor he enters a room with 32 doors. Just one of those doors leads out, all others simply lead back into The Chamber Of 32 Doors. Many people assail him with their explanations which door he should take. Overwhelmed by all the suggestions Rael is once more thrown back on himself. With various rhythms and melodic elements The Chamber Of 32 Doors expresses Rael’s difficulty to make a choice – up to the desperate offer to give up all his dreams for a way out. Will he pick the right door?
This cliffhanger ends the first half of the story of Rael. The listener has time to ponder why the album is called The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and not, for example, Rael And His Amazing Technicolor Morning Visions. Gabriel himself seems to have preempted any speculation about the deeper meaning of the animal (after all, the lamb has fixed connotations in the Christian sphere) in the accompanying story: “Meanwhile, from out of the steam, a lamb lies down. This lamb has nothing whatsoever to do with Rael or any other lamb – it just lies down on Broadway.” There is, however, enough room left for interpretation, but they will have to be postponed because by now the listener will have changed the CD or LP and is ready to enter the second half of the album.
The first being he encounters there is Lilywhite Lilith who leads him accompanied by smashing guitars out of the right door and into a large underground room where she leaves him alone. Lilith is actually an old acquaintance from the Genesis oeuvre: The central motive of the song stems from the song The Light from 1970/71 that can unfortunately be found only on a rather mediocre live recording. Rael’s fear grows into near panic in the darkness until two golden globes emitting a glaring light hover into the room. He destroys both with a stone’s throw, upon which the whole cave collapses. The fear and the appearing of the globes are presented marvelously in the instrumental The Waiting Room.
The development of The Waiting Room
Tony: “The best jam we had in the rehearsal room ended up being called The Waiting Room, which we called The Evil Jam. We switched off all the lights and just made noises. And the first time it was really frightening.” – Phil: “The Evil Jam started with Steve inventing noises and Tony messing around on a couple of synthesizers – we were just mucking about with some really nasty sounds. We were all getting very intense; Peter was blowing his oboe reeds into the microphone and playing his flute with the echoplex on when suddenly there was this great clap of thunder and it started raining. […] We were all making these weird noises when the thunderstorm started and it began to pour down. And then we all shifted gear and got into this really melodic mood.” [both quotes: Hugh Fielder, The Book Of Genesis, p. 91/92]
Buried under the rocks Rael sings his farewell song Anyway; it seems clear that he will not escape from that place. The song begins with a very even piano melody that sounds like a remote echo from the beginning of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Rael considers his situation quite sarcastically and mocks himself for being “so profound when everything you are is dying underground”. Strong, big chords by the whole band introduce a brief guitar solo after which Rael narrates how he would have wanted to die. That very moment an (un)expected guest makes his appearance to dancing music: Disguised as the Supernatural Anaesthetist death visits Rael, who is very impressed by death’s ability to dance.
It seems that Rael survives this encounter and escapes from under the rocks. Again his way leads him down a corridor.
Surrounding by sweet fragrance Rael reaches a pool of rose water. After all the strains Rael is only too happy to enter the pool to refresh himself. He is not alone those. The Lamia appear, three snakes with female faces, and caress him, stroke and nibble on him. Their touches become increasingly urgent, and when they finally draw blood they die from it. Rael eats what is left of their bodies. The romantic-erotic episode is illustrated by a gentle piano; only when the Lamia appear so do the other instruments. The Lamia is probably the most romantic song of the whole album. At its end the mood breaks just like the colour changes in the last two verses of The Lamia from warm red tones to a cold blue.
At this point the musical action comes to a halt. Silent Sorrow In Empty Boats is a rather uninspired instrumental; guitar and bass repeat a slow, languorous sequence of notes while Tony Banks pastes broad chords over it on the keyboard that waver somewhere between ambient sounds and a choral.
The fourth side of the album begins with Rael’s arrival in the Colony Of Slippermen. The first part, Arrival, is another aimlessly meandering enossificated instrumental like Silent Sorrow; of course, these ninety seconds were necessary during the live shows to give Gabriel more time to change costumes, but just why the whole thing was included on the album remains the band’s secret. It may be debated whether Genesis permitted themselves the luxury to accommodate the studio album for the necessities of the live show. The Arrival ends and spirited music leads into the Colony Of Slippermen proper.
Idyllic scenes of Wordsworthian origin are immediately foiled by the approach of the Slippermen. They turn out to be Rael’s predecessors who abandoned themselves to the Lamia and therefore have turned into disgusting creatures totally disfigured by their lust. They also seem not to play the guitar; that instrument can hardly be heard on this song. Excellent how Gabriel conveys Rael’s horror at finding out that he himself has turned into a Slipperman, too. Gabriel uses different voices to present the Slippermen, Rael and Dr Dyper, who really sounds notorious. Rael encounters his brother John again. Together they undergo surgery to “make them human again”, i.e. castration. During the Visit To The Doctor the music becomes more and more urgent, driving, eases off briefly and then, like Rael, begins to hunt The Raven who stole the tube in which Rael’s “crown jewels” are stored. John remains behind, once more deserting his brother whose hunt has lead him to the top of a ravine. Ravine illustrates the cold wind that is blowing there and the great height from which Rael looks down at the tube. A very accomplished piece that today would certainly be put in the category of “ambient sounds”. The album could probably progress from The Colony Of Slippermen to The Light Dies Down On Broadway without any big musical loss, but the suspense of the story demands a retardation and Ravine does the trick very well.
From the first notes of The Light Dies Down On Broadway album and story strive inexorably towards the climax. Rael is given the opportunity to return to the “upper world”, back to Broadway. The familiar noises sound very seductive in his ears and in the listener’s ears, too, because the song is a gentler reprise of The Lamia in the verses and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway in the chorus. This reprise had a big advantage when Genesis were writing the song: Gabriel was way behind schedule with the lyrics. He needed a song between The Colony Of Slippermen and Riding The Scree – and lyrics for it. With a reprise the band saved time so that they could focus on the lyrics. For this song it was not Gabriel who penned them but Banks and Rutherford who relieved Peter’s burden a bit.
Amidst the sirens’ call Rael hear his brother John calling for help from within the raging river below. Rael has to make the most difficult decision of his whole life: Should he return to the normal world or save his brother? He picks John. The illusion of Broadway vanishes. The music calms down a bit until Rael jumps down the scree head over heels – or full of bravado? He does compare himself to the famous stuntman Robert C. “Evil” Knievel – into the gorge to rescue his brother from the raging river Tony Banks makes almost visible with his swirling keyboard cascades.
The current quickly takes him to the point of decision: It is In The Rapids that Rael attempts to save John – and himself. It is the moment where Rael exceeds himself: He manages to pull his brother onto dry land, looks into his face – and sees his own. And that is It, then. In the final song the narrator explains what It is exactly. The music sounds light-hearted and lively as if it felt happy to have escaped from subterranean catacombs full of Slippermen, Lamia and dancing Grim Reapers. Those who hope to find out in the last song what this story is about get plenty answers –so many answers, in fact, that he, like Rael in The Chamber Of 32 Doors, is at a loss which one to choose. It is not pretentious but real and Rael at the same time. Peter Gabriel sums it up nicely in the story that accompanies the music: It is up to you.
All in all…
Many things about this album are remarkable. The music, for example, which is ethereal at times and groovy at others, or the very polished lyrics. One thing that is remarkable though less obvious is the careful way the story has been structured and distributed across the four sides of two vinyl records. The first song on each side presents Rael from different points of view: The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway shows him in his natural habitat. Back In N.Y.C. Rael presents himself as he sees himself. Lilywhite Lilith shows him in contact with others and facing his own fears – the very fears he has discarded when he fearlessly undergoes surgery in The Colony Of Slippermen. From the huge number of options Rael has to pick one door at the end of the first record while at the end of the second record the listener is given – count for yourselves! – 32 different descriptions for It.
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is quite a cohesive though quite bizarre story. As a work of music it is less monolithic: Excellent songs like In The Cage, The Chamber Of 32 Doors and The Lamia sit next to less flamboyant quality pieces like Cuckoo Cocoon and In The Rapids. At the other end of the spectrum one finds material like Silent Sorrow In Empty Boats that sticks out from the rest of the album. The reviewer cannot help but think that the band ran out of ideas slighty after the half-way point, so they took some songs to catch their breath before they – say, from The Light Dies Down On Broadway onwards – drew motivation from the prospect of almost being through with the album and wrote another couple of great songs.
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is a massive monolith among the works of Genesis. It is their only studio double album (if you consider the normal playtime of the dominant medium at the time the album in question was released, i.e. LP or CD). It is their only concept album, at the same time the last release with Peter Gabriel and the only album that was played in full on the accompanying tour. One cannot really compare mood and music of The Lamb with the albums that were released before or after it. It has already been mentioned that some describe this album as Genesis’ “most American”; in fact, one is tempted to see Peter Gabriel’s second solo album prefigured in the rather cold sounds. Without any doubt this Genesis album marks far more than the end of the classic five-piece line-up of messieurs Banks, Collins, Gabriel, Hackett and Rutherford: The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is, despite its little flaws, the culmination of the Gabriel years. Is it all just “knock and know-all”? Maybe – but it is nevertheless a masterpiece.
Forty to fifty percent of marriages end in divorce in the US. And even though they didn’t get married in the US, progressive Genesis and pop Genesis got divorced. Pop Genesis got the better deal, getting to Genesis’ “The Lamb Lies Down Broadway” is essentially one of the most complex concept albums ever written, and has been interpreted differently for decades. The story refers to a half-Puerto Rican boy named Rael living in New York City. At the beginning of the story, Rael is described as a “punk,” and a troubled boy to say the least. Throughout the two-disc record, Rael encounters and battles creatures that seem like something out of a fantasy novel. With that said, what appears to be a conventional concept album virtually develops into a mythological and truly intriguing story. Peter Gabriel’s obsession with fanaticism becomes very clear here, and is accentuated not only through Rael’s journey, but also the music. The obscurity and wonder that “The Lamb Lies Down Broadway” provides defines the band with tremendous precision; it’s quirky, strange, beautiful, and terrifying at all different points, with the music and lyrics being a testament to this.
Often with concept albums, a certain member appears to be responsible for the bulk of the record, or the release in its entirety, and this is no different. Like Pete Townsend with “Quadrophenia” and Roger Waters with “The Wall,” “The Lamb Lies Down Broadway” was the vision of frontman Peter Gabriel. With the exception of a few tracks, Gabriel is the lone faciliator of the album’s lyrics, with the rest of the band members delivering the record’s obscure music. In the early 1970’s, Genesis displayed their ability to produce unique and consistently outstanding albums, for “Nursery Cryme” “Foxtrot,” especially “Selling England by the Pound” were critically praised. “The Lamb Lies Down Broadway” is no different in this respect, but is much more ambitious and on a grander scale than any of its predecessors.
The record opens with Rael committing acts of mischief in order to maintain his reputation with his Puerto Rican mob, spray painting his name on the subway walls. Attempting to dodge policemen to avoid getting into any trouble, Rael walks by as if he hasn’t done anything wrong. This is essentially when, the “lamb” lies down on Broadway. The “lamb” is not elaborated on by Gabriel’s lyrics, and is rather open to interpretation like much of the album is. The purpose of the opening track The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is not only to introduce Rael as a character, but to demonstrate that he has done something seriously wrong. Looking past the petty vandalism that is conveyed by Rael’s spray painting of his name, this action is just the pawn of a much more significant issue. This horrific action, is also not revealed, but hints are sprinkled throughout the record. At the conclusion of the title track, the “wall of death” presents itself to Rael, and attacks him. Terrified and confounded, Rael attempts to run from the wall, but cannot escape it and battles both the wall and his perception of reality. This represents the death of reality for Rael, who is now thrown into a purgatory-type of realm in which he must improve as a human being to escape.
Some sort of consciousness is reached in Cuckoo Cocoon, where Rael discovers that he is in some type of place he has never been or heard of before. Like the relaxing feel of the music itself, Rael has found some sort of tranquility in this strange place, and is not afraid to drift off to sleep. Once again however, Rael is completely befuddled on whether or not what he is experiencing is real. In the Cage is where Rael wakes up, no longer in the cocoon, but in a dreary cave. He stumbles upon a series of cages that humans are locked in, and unable to move. As the bars of a cage close on Rael, he catches his first glimpse of “Brother” John, who doesn’t seem to be affected by what is happening to Rael, despite his screams for help. As John walks away, the cage disintegrates, Rael finds himself back in a conventional building in which he believes to be real. Recognizing several people in the building as members of his gang, Rael makes a run to escape the building only to see Brother John once again. He finds the streets of New York once again, but they appear to be modernized and re-done. The sights make Rael think back to his times with the gang, and how he gained the respect of his mob when he was incarcerated.
At a time when a break is needed from all the darkness and obscurity, comes Rael’s first encounter with love. Both musically and lyrically, Counting Out Time is light and beautiful, accentuating his experience perfectly. “Erogenous zones I love you. Without you, what would a poor boy do? Found a girl I wanted to date, Thought I’d better get it straight.” The track even offers a bit of comic relief that is often associated with Genesis, providing what is reminiscent to a kazoo. This bright point in the story is only an introduction to a much more melodic and wondrous piece, The Carpet Crawlers. Considered one of Genesis’ most incredible works, (if not the most incredible) The Carpet Crawlers utilizes a harp-like synthesizer and very serene lead guitar. “Carpet Crawlers” refer to people that cannot make it up a spiral staircase, where at the top is their escape from this purgatory-type circumstance. “Mild mannered supermen are held in kryptonite.” This draws a direct parallel with the situation that Rael is in, for he cannot escape this strange and fictional (what he believes to be) world. Rael does make it up the stairs however, but is faced with a choice of 32 doors and the obstacle of many others who are attempting to get out. Not wanting to face this crowd, Rael begs, “This chamber of so many doors; I’ve nowhere to hide. I’d give you all of my dreams, if you’d help me, Find a door That doesn’t lead me back again, take me away.”
Within the chaos that Rael encounters with the 32 doors, he meets a woman, “Lilywhite Lilith,” in which guides him to what he believes will be the light. Rael is deceived however, because he is left in darkness and hears a terrifying noise approaching. Rael’s wait in fear is represented by The Waiting Room which is the record’s most obscure track. The noise of the creature approaching is developed tremendously with enough bizzare musical sounds to make the Flaming Lips’ creativity pale in comparison. Developing into a somewhat usual instrumental, The Waiting Room is the segue into musical masterpiece Anyway. Beginning harmlessly, the piano builds to a foreboding and terrifying level as Rael throws a rock at his unknown target, which is enough to destroy the cave entirely. Now cornered with nowhere to go, Rael faces death once again. Gabriel personifies death in his instance, and refers to it as “The Supernatural Anaesthetist.” Rael finds him to be a fine and decent person, who left nothing but a memorable appearance in this short encounter.
Considering what had just happened to Rael, he discovers that he is still very alive. In the rubble he is lying in, Rael smells a sort of perfume and makes his way towards it. Eventually coming upon a pool of water, he all of a sudden is faced with three serpents in which look as though they will attack. The serpents deceive him however, because each give off a pleasant and sensual appearance with female breasts. Although unclear, this encounter could very well be an allusion to Rael’s crime at the very beginning of the story. The crime is believed to be of a sexual nature, and the breasts on the serpents is a test to see if Rael can overcome his sexual urges. The serpents do succeed in seducing Rael, and begin to devour his body. They become the victims however, for Rael’s blood is poisonous to them. Finally leaving the pool, Rael discovers a group of homely looking individuals in which inform him that the same incident with the serpents has happened to all of them. Their bodies are mutilated due to this occurrence, and the same happens with Rael. Among these individuals is Brother John, who seems to be going through everything that Raels has gone through. John explains to Rael that, in order to look normal again, they must visit Dokter Dyper, who will castrate them. After the operation takes place, both of the boys are given their testicles in a tube. A black raven steals Rael’s tube, and John refuses to run after it. He says, “Now can’t you see Where the raven flies there’s jeopardy.” To Rael’s horror, the raven drops the tube into a waterfall, never to be seen again.
The Light Lies Down Broadway while having a great deal of musical similarities to the first disc opener, is another turning point in the record. Reality begins to set in for Rael once again, although this time he discovers John drowning in rushing waters. The ultimate theme of the concept becomes clear, for Rael must rescue John in order to experience complete reality again. Throughout the course of the final three tracks, Rael is diving in the water, and dragging the nearly dead John to safety. When he reaches the comfort of dry land, John appears to be dead and Rael helplessly tries to bring him back. Rael comes to the realization that he is John; an alternate personality.
“When you eat right fruit you see everything alive, it is inside spirit, with enough grit to survive If you think that it’s pretentious, you’ve been taken for a ride.”
Genesis’ “The Lamb Lies Down Broadway” is an absolutely breathtaking journey, a concept record that the world may never see the likes of again. Not only is the story brilliant and intriguing, but the music fits the concept perfectly. This is Gabriel’s final stand as a member of Genesis, and a damn incredible one at that. Everything from his lyricism to his vocals are outstanding. His usage of his voice is both innovative and versatile; delivering passion and creativity on songs such as the title track. None of the other members deserve to be overlooked either, for the synthesizers are a tremendous factor in the success of the album, as is Phil Collins’ drumming and Steve Hackett’s guitar work. “The Lamb Lies Down Broadway” is a masterpiece that may be overlooked by other concept records such as Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and The Who’s “Quadrophenia,” and maybe even its predecessor, “Selling England by the Pound.” When it comes down to all of the factors; the musicianship, the storyline, the lyrics, and the atmosphere, “The Lamb Lies Down Broadway” is as damn near perfect as it gets.