Staying in 1980, the Rockin’ Review series continues with a more in depth look at Genesis’ ‘Duke’ album. By the time the ’80s rolled around, Genesis were in survival mode. They had survived the exits of singer Peter Gabriel and guitarist Steve Hackett, but were down to three members and in need of a break. The pressure to keep things going as a trio led the band to tour heavily in support of their prior release and it began to take a toll on Phil Collins’ marriage, so the group took some time off before reconvening in early 1979 to begin work on new music.
The History: Having been more of an art-rock act in their early days, the trio of Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks started to move in a more commercial direction. The time away led to side projects and while Collins attempted to work things out with his wife, ultimately they split. Collins had a wealth of material when they reconvened, but wasn’t sure it fit the Genesis sound so it was suggested that each member offer up two songs apiece to work on, and the rest came together during their sessions.
The Song(s) You Know: “Misunderstanding” went on to become one of Genesis’ bigger hits, reaching No. 14 in the U.S. The song, brought to the band by Collins, featured a distinctive piano beat as the vocalist croons about a rendezvous gone wrong. The band also earned solid radio play out of the Mike Rutherford-penned track “Turn It On Again,” which centered on a man vicariously living life through his television. The song actually was borne out of pieces of song sections brought by each band member.
The Song(s) You Should Get to Know: At one point in recording, Genesis were plotting out a master suite with multiple parts. “Turn It On Again” was initially part of that suite, along with “Duchess” and “Behind the Lines,” helping to tell the story of a diva’s rise and fall from stardom. “Duchess” proved to be a more slow building portion, while “Behind the Lines” offered a dynamic synth-led opening, before it scaled back to a more rhythmic vibe in the chorus. Add in “Duke’s Travels” and “Duke’s End” and you have the makings of a thematic through line really serve as the album’s strongest moments.
The Conclusion: In many ways, ‘Duke’ was a transformative album for Genesis. It pushed the band further from their early leanings and the tracks “Misunderstanding” and “Turn It On Again” showed that the band’s commercial appeal was just starting to take shape. Though not their best album, there’s a lot to love from the ‘Duke’ disc and it shows a band finding its footing after a few tough years.
If you want to pick up Genesis’ ‘Duke’ album, you can do so here.