TotW 09/01/2018 - 09/07/2018: GENESIS - The Fountain Of Salmacis

    • Official Post

    What do you think about "The Fountain Of Salmacis"? 23

    1. 13 points - very good - (8) 35%
    2. 12 points - good + (6) 26%
    3. 15 points - outstanding! (4) 17%
    4. 14 points - very good (2) 9%
    5. 11 points - good (2) 9%
    6. 10 points - good - (1) 4%
    7. 09 points - satisfactory + (0) 0%
    8. 08 points - satisfactory (0) 0%
    9. 07 points - satisfactory - (0) 0%
    10. 06 points - sufficient + (0) 0%
    11. 05 points - sufficient (0) 0%
    12. 04 points - sufficient - (0) 0%
    13. 03 points - poor + (0) 0%
    14. 02 points - poor (0) 0%
    15. 01 point - poor - (0) 0%
    16. 00 points - abysmal (0) 0%

    GENESIS - The Fountain Of Salmacis

    Year: 1971

    Album: Nursery Cryme [album review]

    Working title: unknown

    Credits: Banks, Collins, Gabriel, Hackett, Rutherford

    Lyrics: Yes

    Length: 8:02

    Musicians: Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford

    Played Live: 1971, 1972, 1978

    mp3 downloads: iTunes

    Cover versions: none

    Notes: A number of songs that are longer than seven minutes are the founding blocks for the cult of "early Genesis". Stagnation and The Knife certainly were cornerstones, but it was mainly the songs from Nursery Cryme that triggered the fan cult of the Progressive Years. This is particularly true for The Musical Box and our current Track Of The week, The Fountain Of Salmacis.

    We invite you to share interesting facts and tidbits about this track. Let's look at the track in the context of the band's / the artist's history, at the music, the songwriting and all other aspects that are relevant for this track. Please do stick to the discussion of the track above. Comparisons to other tracks are okay, but remember that the other track you may be keen to talk about has or will have its own Track Of The Week thread.

    If you spot a mistake or if you can close a gap in the fact sheet above please feel free to contact martinus or Christian about it; we will gladly add and improve!

    • Official Post

    For me - 13 points. One of the highlights of that album, but still not the very top league, also compared to stuff that followed

    By the way - I also like Steve Hackett’s own version a lot - from his first genesis revisited album

  • 13 points from me, too. Great hammond organ riff, mighty mellotron, great vocal arrangement and fabulous guitar work from Steve Hackett. It is the kind of song, which represents everything, that I love Genesis for.

    First we learned to walk on water.

    Then we tried something harder.

    - Red Seven -

  • Like many Gabriel-era tracks this one didn't click with me right away, but now I love it. A strangely emotional finish to one of my favorite early Genesis albums.

    I don't care much for Steve's GENESIS REVISITED version, although I'll admit he does a pretty good job with what sounds like a difficult song to sing.

    I also don't care much for Phil's take on it from "FOUR" SIDES LIVE.

    “When the waitress asked if I wanted my pizza cut into four or eight slices, I said, ‘Four. I don’t think I can eat eight.’” -- Yogi Berra

  • 13 points seem about right. Second best song on the album and a giant leap forward from Trespass. Difficult to get into at first, like the majority of early Genesis songs but once you crack it you realize how catchy it actually is. Probably one of the first tunes where Mike shines as a bass'-player, I suspect Phil had something to d with that? Personally I don't care much for Steve's version and for me Peter's voice is simply the best fit for this song.

  • I’m new to the group but a longtime fan. I gave this track this rating for no other reason other than there are simply way too many tracks forthcoming that could edge this 1 out though I consider the song 1 of their defining sounds from the era. I look forward to interacting with my fellow Genesis fans—miss the band dearly!

  • 13 from me, very good, atmospheric start, great finish, worthy idea for a song, the Steve Hackett GR version of the song is good, but unlike some other tracks on that album, not adding a great deal to the original.


    Putting the old-fashioned Staffordshire plate in the dishwasher!

  • I'm still getting to know this one so I can't rate it higher at the moment. So I gave it 10.

    (This is a great idea by the way. It will be very educational for relative newbies such as myself).

    • Official Post

    A few notes (which will likely brand me a showoff).

    The „Pauly“, an encyclopedia of classical studies, states that the story of the first hermaphrodite goes back beyond Roman and even Greek times. The say that Hermaphroditus is the mythological shape of a very old androgynous deity which was imagined as a (female) Great Goddess with male attributes (e.g. Ishtar-Semiramis in Babylon).

    Mount Ida is a mountain in the Northwest of Asia Minor that rises to 5.800ft. The surrounding area was called Phrygia and was not far from Troy. In fact, the Trojan prince Paris is usually shown with a Phrygian cap. Mount Ida is mentioned in a number of ancient myths, mainly ones that are related to the Trojan war. Mount Ida was where the Judgement of Paris took place, where Aphrodite conceived Aeneas from Anchises and from where the Olympian gods watched the siege of Troy.

    Nymphs are minor female deities that live either in trees or in lakes or brooks. If they live in sweet water they are also called Najads, while salt water nymphs are usually called Nereids. The indiscriminate use of the expressions in the song lyrics obscures the fact that Salmacis is a nymph, too. AAphrodite and Hermes are not really #afraid of their love, but of their tryst or its result being discovered. If that is the case there is very little sense in hiding their child at the popular holiday resort for Olympian gods and goddesses, though.

    Hermaphroditus is never called the hunter in Ovid, but it explains why he appears at the lake just as well as the reason Ovid gives (“just seeing the sights, old boy”). In fact, styling Hermaphroditus as a hunter fits well to the image Ovid draws of him: He describes him as a shy and chaste young man. These are the usual attributes in mythology of a hunter who has devoted his life to Diana, goddess of the hunters. Diana herself is a celibate deity – so celibate, in fact, that she turned Actaeon, who had inadvertently seen her naked, into a stag that was then torn to pieces by his own hunting dogs. Another example for the topic of the chaste hunter is Hippolytus, the sad victim of the sexual desires of his step mother Phaedra (as displayed in Seneca’s tragedy Phaedra).

    Hermaphroditus is a hunter to the degree that his success in hunting (the deer) is described like an erotic conquest. Perhaps this also refers to a pun on heart/hart (see Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, where a courtier tries to cheer up the lovesick prince: "Will you go hunt, my lord?" - "What, Curio?" - "The hart.[gesprochen genauso wie 'the heart'] " - "Why, so I do, the noblest that I have.”)

    Give wisdom to your son. A subtle but very clever pun. Before the advent of maps and satnavs, a traveler who lost his way – like Hermaphroditus – would pray for guidance to the god of the travelers, who is, in fact, Hermes. So the son has to ask the father for directions.

    The Naiad queen is actually Diana who is not a Naiad herself. Perhaps Salmacis is called a queen here to stress that she is female, perhaps also to give the impression of regal beauty.

    Salmacis has been stirred. The stories of Salmacis and the narrator do not match here. Salmacis mentions “a creature” that has been stirred. The narrator states that the naiad herself is stirred or excited.

    The water tasted strangely sweet. Ovid does not record Hermaphroditus drinking from the water. The song lyrics may be deviating from Ovid’s story because the original is rather explicit. The poet uses elegiac vocabulary which is steeped in erotic innuendo (if you choose to read the text like that). A Roman audience would have had no doubt as to what Salmacis does while she is watching Hermaphroditus. The “strangely sweet” water may be quite a different liquid pooling – particularly when a “stirred” Salmacis urges the young man to “drink form my spring”. – Hermaphroditus drinking prepares the later pun “your thirst is not mine”.

    If anybody in this scene is cold-blooded, it is Hermaphroditus. Salmacis is anything but. The irony of these words and the contrast to the ovidian text is biting.

    may share my fate, i.e. they became hermaphrodites. The myth did not deter people from touching the waters of the lake. Ancient writers such as Strabon and Vitruvius report that the water of the fountain of Salmacis was healthy and tasted good.

    A lover’s dream had been fulfilled – It is the proverbial dream of a lover to be united forever with the loved one. Note that in this grammatical case it is the desire of the only one lover (a lover’s dream instead of the lovers’ dream). Hermaphroditus does not share this desire; he is not even a lover which is why he curses the fountain.

    What happens in the story of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis is nothing less than rape, and Roman readers would probably have agreed. One should bear in mind, though, that this is a story of Ovid, the master of the elegiac system. In his Ars Amatoria (a poetic-elegiac handbook on how to find and keep a mistress) he explains that the (male) lover may urge his mistress to sleep with him and that it is acceptable to bring here there even if she is unwilling. The punch line of the story of Salmacis lies in the fact that Ovid switches the roles: The female lover forces the (sexual) union with a young man who does not love her back. That does not make it any better now, does it?

    Literature has frequently inspired Genesis lyrics: Supper’s Ready clearly draws on the Bible. White Mountain borrows from Jack London, The Cinema Show from T.S.Eliot. They musicians openly extended that to their solo careers; just think of Smallcreep’s Day and A Curious Feeling.

    I would love to know how Peter, Mike and Tony did in Latin in Charterhouse. If they were any good I suspect they enjoyed reading poetry from the end of the Roman republic and the early imperial period. Poets like Horace and Catullus wrote for a highly sophisticated audience that enjoyed hearing the overtones in a poem, the careful insinuations, the most delicate innuendo. Poets and their readers played a highly intellectual game of hide and seek. Genesis enjoyed that as well – just examine the names they used in Get ‘Em Out By Friday.

    Of the poets I mentioned Horace was the well-mannered, subtle poet, while Catullus was wilder and more explicit (in a poem written when Julius Caesar was at the peak of his power Catullus famously called him “faggot Romulus”). Horace and Catullus, who wrote mainly poetry of the “small form” (involving mundane things and love and erotica), were followed by an Augustan poet who attempted to bring those subjects into poetry of the “big form”, i.e. into epics. This poet’s name was Ovid. He became famous for three books: Love Elegies (“Amores”), the infamous Ars Amatoria that some think caused him to be exiled to the Black Sea coast, and a collection of tales in which people changed into other things in a period spanning from the creation of the world to the days of the Emperor Augustus. In the fourth volume of this book, the Metamorphoses, you can find the story of Salmacis. Ovid uses the epic form, but retains the vocabulary and the puns of the elegy, which introduces sexual innuendo into the noble genre of the epic. (As an example: When Ovid mentions in a summer poem that “lizards scamper through the bush”, everybody who spent a summer in southern Italy can confirm that this happens. Roman readers would know that the lizard is a phallic symbol – and suddenly there is a subtext.

    Depending on where you come from, Genesis have written a rather dirrrty set of lyrics - or bowdlerized the Ovidian version.

  • Thank you for all the background information!

    14 points from me. This song has always been one of my top favourites right from the start. How is it hard to get into? It is one of the easiest songs to get into compared to Musical Box or Giant Hogweed.

  • I was interested when a while back someone here (I think) mentioned Banks saying the song was very poorly received by audiences at the time, which puzzled him as they tended to love The Musical Box, which he thought inferior.

    Is 78 the only time it was revived post-PG years? (I remember them saying it was resurrected to assure audiences Stuermer knew his stuff)'

    Abandon all reason

    • Official Post

    Here is a translation of Ovid's story of Salmacis. All its flaws are mine ;)

    As I said before, the story of Salmacis is a bit risqué, so I put it behind a spoiler warning.

  • A couple of additional random thoughts on the song:

    (1) The part at the end where the guys go "ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-AAAHHH-ahh!" (after "unearthly calm" and "both had given") is one of my favorite Genesis "backing vocals" moments.

    (2) This is one of the few post-FGTR Genesis songs where I really don't know who wrote the lyrics. On an old message board someone claimed that Mike wrote them, but someone else later said this was not the case.

    “When the waitress asked if I wanted my pizza cut into four or eight slices, I said, ‘Four. I don’t think I can eat eight.’” -- Yogi Berra

    • Official Post

    There will be a new Track Of The Week tomorrow.

    Nevertheless, voting / rating and discussion this track here (Fountain Of Salmacis) will be possible without any time limits!

    • Official Post

    (1) The part at the end where the guys go "ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-AAAHHH-ahh!" (after "unearthly calm" and "both had given") is one of my favorite Genesis "backing vocals" moments.

    For reasons that are unlikely ever to become clear, that point in the some always reminds me of the "stone circle riddle" scene in that very old adventure game Conquest Of Camelot.

    If you ask me what I enjoy about Genesis I have to say it's two things. One, the music. If I did not like the music I wouldn't bother with the rest, obviously.

    The second thing I really love in Genesis is the lyrics, though I must say this applies foremost or only to their output up to and including The Lamb. There is, in my mind, no bigger injustice you could to to the Four Big Albums of the Gabriel era, i.e. Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England and The Lamb, than to call the lyrics trite. I love coming back to those lyrics, reading them over again, listening to them again, and discovering new aspects, new allusions, a quote I had not noticed before...

    With The Fountain Of Salmacis I can enjoy the music and the clever lyrics and my soft spot for classic Roman poetry and storytelling. 13 points from me for this wonderful song.

  • "Working title: unknown"

    We know, from the Jackson Tapes, that the intro to "Fountain" was already in existence by 1969. While there may not have been a working title for "Fountain" per se, I found in an interview with Steve that the intro had previously been part of something called "Ketch." Whether that title preceded or followed the Jackson Tapes, I don't know.

    “When the waitress asked if I wanted my pizza cut into four or eight slices, I said, ‘Four. I don’t think I can eat eight.’” -- Yogi Berra

  • Nothing beats the atmosphere of this song - dank, misty, sinister, ancient. The dynamics on display are outstanding, even if the young Genesis are still a bit rough round the edges.

    I also like the way the first and last tracks on Nursery Cryme are linked by themes of sexuality gone horribly wrong. A psychoanalyst would have had a field day with these repressed public school boys singing about sexually mature man-children, and hideously conjoined lovers!

  • In Steve's version of the song, he follows the line "forever to be joined as one" by singing "one flesh." I always thought that was something he added to the song (along with an acoustic guitar intro and various brief instrumental bits). However, I just noticed last night (some 40 years after first hearing the song) that Peter seems to sing the same thing in the original version! Just not very loudly. Anyone else ever notice this? Am I hearing things?

    (For the record, I have an early CD copy of the album, predating the Definitive Edition Remaster. Maybe the line is more audible on later reissues?)

    “When the waitress asked if I wanted my pizza cut into four or eight slices, I said, ‘Four. I don’t think I can eat eight.’” -- Yogi Berra