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DUKE: Genesis Turn It On Again

In March 1980 Duke became the second album Genesis released as a trio with the line-up consisting of Tony Banks (keyboards), Phil Collins (vocals, drums) and Mike Rutherford (bass, guitar). This album began their development towards more accessible pop and rock music – not without any success: For the first time a Genesis album climbed to the top of the UK charts, and Misunderstanding turned out quite a successful single in the USA.

When the tour with which the promoted their previous album, And Then There Were Three, had ended Genesis took a creative break. Up to that time they had been ceaselessly either recording albums or playing concerts so that this was the first longer pause for the band. The three musicians chose different ways to spend their free time. While Phil tried to save his first marriage and even moved to Canada for a time, Mike and Tony busied themselves recording their first solo albums, Smallcreep’s Day and A Curious Feeling respectively. When he realized that his marriage could not be saved he returned to England and recorded the demos in his house that would later become his successful debut Face Value. To take his mind of things he buried himself in work. In late 1979 he got together with Mike and Tony again.

Large parts of Duke were written at Phil’s. While everybody had brought in songs they had written individually for the band, on Duke they wanted to make the song-writing a group effort. One reason for this was that Mike and Tony had used the songs they had written for their respective solo albums so they came to the new album empty-handed. Phil, on the other hand, had a couple of finished songs and presented Misunderstanding and Please Don’t Ask as his contributions to Duke. The best songs (in the reviewer’s opinion) on Duke were collaborations, though, and the band were very happy with them. Tony has even described Duke as his favourite Genesis album.

In the end they booked studio time at Polar studios in Stockholm, Sweden, from October to December 1979 to record the tenth Genesis album. Their executive producer for the last time was David Hentschel; he also sings backing vocals on some songs.

A closer look at Duke reveals that the album is sort of divided into two parts. First there is the so-called Duke suite consisting of Behind The Lines, Duchess, Guide Vocal, Turn It On Again, Duke’s Travels and Duke’s End. It was written by the whole group. All these songs were supposedly once part of a big longtrack made up in the best tradition of Supper’s Ready of a series of song fragments. However, there does not seem to be a “bigger picture” behind the songs, and it is uncertain whether there ever was an underlying concept. The other group consists of half a dozen songs written by individual members of the band (coincidentally, each brought two songs). As a result the credits are distributed very evenly.

Genesis introduced a new sound hitherto unknown in the band, not least to the instrumentation: Tony Banks frequently restricts himself to the piano and does without weird synthesizer sounds and long solos. It is mainly his Yamaha CP-80 E-piano that puts its stamp on the whole album. Mike Rutherford plays some excellent, clear bass lines and unobtrusive yet effective guitar work.

Phil Collins undergoes his biggest musical development on Duke: Not only is he a composer in his own right but his expressive vocals really come through on Duke. Said Tony: “only on Duke did he become a real singer.” [C&V, S.219]. He particularly excels in emotional ballads, performing songs like Alone Tonight or Please Don’t Ask with a emotion and fragility unheard of before. This may well be connected to his private problems at the time. The drum work is revolutionized, too: The drums move to the fore again, and Collins experiments a lot with very earthy rhythms that are quite close to world music. Plus, Duke is the first album on which Genesis used a drum machine.

Duke leaves a very coherent impression, there is far less patchwork on it than on its predecessor And Then There Were Three. The atmosphere is cool, almost sterile, an effect that is underlined both by the occasionally minimalistic music and the artwork by French artist Lionel Koechlin. It has this Albert character traipsing through a mainly white world that reminds one of The Little Prince. Duke is also a rather thoughtful album; its lyrics cover the rise and fall of careers in the show business, loneliness and missed opportunities.

The analysis - Track by Track

Behind The Lines

length*: 05:31
music: Banks/Collins/Rutherford
lyrics: Banks

The album begins with the fanfare intro that was used as the opener for the Turn It On Again tour in 2007. Powerful drums, big keyboard chords and monotonous bass pedals make the first two minutes the definitive intro in the whole Genesis oeuvre. As Tony explains: “When I listen to it today, the introduction to Behind The Lines had something special. It is so optimistic.” [C&V, p.222] After a couple of nice guitar cues by Mike the song moves into the vocal part from 02:15 onwards and takes a loose, funky direction. Mike’s crisp bass guitar and Tony’s keyboards stand out. Phil sings about how he makes some kind of contact with someone “behind the lines” of a book. Behind The Lines is very self-confident and is merry to a degree not really heard before in Genesis. After a brief guitar solo the music moves on seamlessly into…


length*: 06:25
music: Banks/Collins/Rutherford
lyrics: Banks

Duchess begins after the final chord of Behind The Lines with a flowing monotonous drum machine rhythm and some percussion sounds. Tony plays just a few piano notes while Mike adds guitar bits that resemble the end of Dancing With The Moonlit Knight. The song builds slowly with lots of atmosphere until a little piano tune begins at 01:56. The drums come in shortly after and then, at 02:23, a powerful bass begins alongside Phil’s vocals, turning the whole song into a very compact strong gem. The song itself is about the ups and downs in the careeer of a female rock star called the Duchess. Her career begins hopeful and carefree;

"Times were good
She never thought about the future
She just did what she would
But she really cared about her music
It all seemed so important then"

She can only dream of success and fights through the tough music business. Her dreams of fans cheering her on stage soon becomes true

"But now everytime that she performed
Everybody cried for more
Soon all she had to do was step into the light
For everyone to start to roar
And the people cried, you're the one we've waited for"

But time and too much worrying about what her fans may want from her let the glamour fade, and soon no one wants to listen to her music anymore.

"And then there was the time that she performed
When nobody called for more
And soon everytime she stepped into the light
They really let her know the score"

All that is left is the memory of past glory.
Duchess is often linked to the career of Genesis itself. After many years of hard work and beginning commercial success (Follow You Follow Me) it may have been good for them to reflect on their career so far and to look into the future. Duchess can therefore be read as a warning not to forget where you are coming from and not paying too much attention to the taste of the masses. Perhaps there were some fears in the band at the time that they, too, would sometime sink into irrelevance.
Duchess is very important for Genesis, as Tony Banks explains: “It became one of my favourite Genesis songs. I like the way it comes out of nothing and fades to nothing. […] a very simple little story with very simple emotions.” [C&V, p. 319]. After the stirring vocal part the song calms down again and returns to the drum machine and atmospheric piano notes from the intro.

Guide Vocal

length*: 01:34
music: Banks
lyrics: Banks

Guide Vocal is a brief song with a feeling. It consists only of piano and vocals and follows directly from Duchess as a kind of afterthought or interlude. Phil addresses someone he as the “guiding voice” has to leave. There is apparently no other way out and the person addressed will have to do without him forever. The farewell is backed by gorgeous Banksian harmonies and soft strings. The lyrics of Guide Vocal will make another appearance later in Duke’s Travels.

Man Of Our Times

length*: 05:35
music: Rutherford
lyrics: Rutherford

Man Of Our Times is a powerful Rutherford song. Basically quite a catchy rock number, it stands out because of the odd rhythm and the aggressive and cheeky performance of the verses. Phil’s voice is frequently distorted by different effects. The chorus itself sounds a bit friendlier, even bombastic at times due to the bass pedals and the keyboard chords. Though the stress on the rhythm in this song can be seen as a welcome diversion in the beginning it can, depending on your mood, actually get on your nerves. Man Of Our Times does not really match the other songs on Duke; perhaps it had better been placed on a later album.


length*: 03:15
music: Collins
lyrics: Collins

Misunderstanding is the song with which Genesis made their breakthrough in the USA. The Collins composition with its “uh-huuuhuuuhs” is quite souly for a Genesis song. It could also be called simple, banal. The lovely piano and the airy drumming are certainly not at all bad for a single. The Americans liked it which may also be because of the video that showed three funny gentlemen clad in Hawaii shirts riding through town with a piano on the back of a pickup.


length*: 05:00
music: Banks
lyrics: Banks

After this brief venture into the world of shallower pop music Tony gives us a very special pearl. It begins with a brief piano intro, then Phil adds some gentle vocals. Soon they are joined by a couple of guitar chords. From 01:41 onwards the track becomes really powerful and emotional. Phil’s wistful vocals are deeply moving and lines like “I feel like an alien, a stranger in an alien place” indicate that this song is about loneliness and hopelessness. Note the wonderful light-footed guitarline in the outro (from 04:28) which shows once more how good and tasteful a rhythm guitarist Mike Rutherford is. Heathaze is one of the emotional highlight of the album and pulls the listener into a barren cosmos of self-pity that is expressed by nature imagery.

Turn It On Again

length*: 03:51
music: Banks/Collins/Rutherford
lyrics: Rutherford

The seventh song on the album continues the Duke suite mentioned above. Turn It On Again is one of the Genesis live classics and was played on every show since 1980. A pumping bass pedal rhythm and a perpetually repeated riff by guitar and keyboards underlie the whole song. But it is not as simple as it sounds; the time signature (the song is in 13/8) is prone to catch dancers on the off-beat. The lyrics on the other hand are intentionally kept simple and tell the story of a fan of a TV show and his relationship to “his” star. Turn It On Again became not only the motto for several Genesis compilations and their 2007 tour; the band also used it as the basis for a medley of blues and rock song covers in the 1980s. The song was released as a single and reached #8 in the UK charts.
The band originally intended to use Turn It On Again as a brief interlude in the Duke suite until they realised the quality of the song. Says Tony: “We integrated this bridge called Turn It On Again, but when we listened back to it we thought: This is far too good to be just a link. So we doubled it, stretched the chorus at the end and made a song out of it.” [C&V, p.219]

Alone Tonight

length*: 03:57
music: Rutherford
lyrics Rutherford

The second Rutherford song on the album is a ballad. The first minute is quiet: Phil’s singing is accompanied by a guitar only. In the chorus there is typical Genesis bombast. As the title already indicates this is a heartache, but not as kitschy as one might fear. Phil makes the sorrow about being lonely after a relationship has ended quite credible. Once more his first-hand experience may have helped in rendering this song personal and authentic. Alone Tonight reminds the listener of Your Own Special Way from Wind & Wuthering – that song, too, was penned by Rutherford.


length*: 05:05
music: Banks
lyrics: Banks

Cul-de-Sac is Banks’ second song on Duke, and it shows. There is lots of piano in this song, lots of synthesizer sounds, various harmonies, rhythm changes, and of course the inevitable orchestral bombast. It is about soldiers who follow orders despite the knowledge that certain death awaits. The central message is comprised in poem-like verses:

"After all, you're not what you thought you were at all.
You're just a natural fact, another cul-de-sac
On nature's hard unfeeling trail.
And all those dreams of old will be stories left untold,
Cut off in your prime, extinct until the end of time."

The song ends in a strong finale with a couple of weird chords before it fades in a couple of piano notes. Cul-de-Sac is definitely one of the more progressive songs on Duke, but it cannot really shine in the context of the album and unfortunately was never played live.

Please Don't Ask

length*: 04:02
music: Collins
lyrics: Collins

Please Don’t Ask is a pure Collins ballad about melancholy, sorrow and the pains of a separation. The song seems very personal as Collins sings not only about the divorce from his wife and the pain that brings but also about how he misses his children and hopes they are well.

"'Cos I know the kids are well, yes you're a mother to the world
Oh but I miss my boy
I hope hes good as gold"

Genesis luckily stay on the right side of the kitsch border – there can be little doubt about the reality of the feelings expressed.

Duke's Travels

length*: 08:39
music: Banks/Collins/Rutherford
lyrics: ---

Duke’s Travels is probably the most progressive song on the whole album. It is an instrumental (well, almost) of more than eight minutes duration which in itself is a novelty for Genesis. After an intro with a couple of keyboard sounds, some cymbals and guitar sounds a drum rhythm resembling African drums begins at 01:30 with a real touch of world music. A couple of keyboard solos follow during which the rhythm becomes more sedate. From 04:44 onwards things become hectic again before the part of the number begins that was used as part of the In The Cage medley on their 2007 tour. A couple of sparkling keyboard runs and a guitar solo by Mike Rutherford lead into a brief vocal bit (at 06:10) that has Collins quote the Guide Vocals lyrics minus the line “and you kill what you don’t understand”. In the middle of the vocal bit the hectic gallopping rhythm dissolves into a very harmonic closing section dominated by broad sounds. At the very end something like a barrel organ can be heard. It leads right into …

Duke's End

length*: 02:07
music: Banks/Collins/Rutherford
lyrics: ---

Duke’s End is the fitting end to this album. The motive from the intro to Behind The Lines is used again and reprised in a powerful way. Mike rocks on his guitar and Phil really beats the heck out of his drums. Duke’s End and Behind The Lines are the musical frame that conveys the impression that this album is a very coherent effort. The medley created from both songs that Genesis played on their Turn It On Again tour in 2007 provided the perfect entry into a terrific concert experience.

*) Times are based on the Definitive Edition Remaster.

And all in all?

With their tenth studio album Genesis begin a new era: the equally revered and hated pop era. Genesis sound modern and purified on Duke; on Abacab they would go far down that road. There is, however, lots of music left for friends of the progressive era. Songs like Behind The Lines, Duke’s Travels or Heathaze are equally popular in either camp. The catchy melodies and the high level of musical proficiency make Duke one of the few albums in Genesis’ discography that unites fans of all generations.

Every song on Duke shows that Genesis have adapted to the new situation as a trio. Their first album as a trio, And Then There Were Three, sounded like a loose collection of songs. Duke is more coherent and atmospheric by far.

Duke is not least an important cornerstone on Genesis’ way to the pop olymp generating their first commercial successes. It is also Phil Collins’ breakthrough as a full-fledged band member and songwriter – perhaps that is what encouraged him to embark on his unique solo career.

By Sebastian Wilken

translated by Martin Klinkhardt


New Genesis content

Genesis: Duke

Duke Cover
Veröffentlichung: Mai 1980
Formate: CD, MC, LP
- Remaster CD (1994)
- SACD/DVD (2007)
- CD Rerelease (2007)

Band-Lineup und weitere Musiker

Tony Banks: Keyboards
Phil Collins: Drums, Percussions, Vocals
Mike Rutherford:
Guitars, Bass

Produzent: David Hentschel


Behind The Lines 5:37
Banks / Collins / Rutherford

02 Duchess
Banks / Collins / Rutherford

03 Guide Vocal

04 Man Of Our Times

05 Misunderstanding

06 Heathaze

07 Turn It On Again
Banks / Collins / Rutherford

08 Cul-de-Sac

09 Alone Tonight

10 Please Don't Ask

11 Duke's Travels
Banks / /Collins / Rutherford

12 Duke's End
Banks / /Collins / Rutherford



EX Evidence Of Autumn 5:37
Single Misunderstanding

EX Open Door
Single Duchess

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