It’s time to name your number 7
#7. ‘Mad Man Moon’ from A Trick of the Tail (1976) SILVER
A couple of weeks ago this track wasn’t even in my top 10 but then, like all Genesis tracks, it suddenly opened like a flower for me. It’s another beautiful Tony Banks ballad and one which uncharacteristically avoids the lame lyricism that dogs most of his compositions. This time he goes to the opposite extreme, yet, despite their obscure surrealism, the lyrics still manage to exude a poetic imagery that he drapes over the melody in sad, tender colours. This track bears some classic Genesis hallmarks; principally a beautiful piano interlude at 2.39 which swirls in intensity before the cymbals crash in at 4.59 to mark the bridge with the breaking wave of ‘Hey man, I’m the sandman’, before it ebbs away to peaceful nothingness at 5.25 with the gentle repetition of the line ‘Sun and sand.’ The delicate opening of the ensuing verse marks a particularly poignant moment.
I am aware that this is a contentious choice. “Mad Man Moon" is a song that either makes fans swoon or yawn with indifference but that’s not surprising considering that this was the bridge album created in the aftermath of Gabriel’s shock departure from the band. This album attempts to hold onto their old prog rock fans whilst pulling in new fans looking for more readily digestible tracks. Personally, I would have LOVED an entire album of material like this. As it is, I find the album is badly let down by half of its content. Firstly, the jarring time signature of Volcano, that once appealed so much to my teenage ear, I now find grates on me. Also, where ‘Harold the Barrel’ was quaint and excusable in ‘71, the cheeky chappie, ‘Battery’, simply sounds hackneyed by ‘76: likewise, ‘Trick’ is a whimsical sing-a-long ditty that belongs back in the 1960s when it was first penned and the much admired, Los Endos, is simply a medley, re-hashing bits of what has gone before. Yet the album remains one of their most popular and not just with the vast legions of new fans eager for a more consumable product. I can only assume that the band, still heavily in debt (£1.25 million in today’s money) and with their charismatic leader gone, seized their chance to achieve a balance between artistic license and commercialism. This ‘something for everyone’ approach obviously worked. They did finally clear their debts and I’ll admit, I do massively enjoy the other 3 tracks not mentioned here. However, in my opinion, they produced far more inspiring albums than this for those who are prepared to forego swaying along to the iconic ‘Ripples’ with a cigarette lighter held high in the air.