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Studio album by Genesis
Released14 September 1981
RecordedMay – June 1981 at The Farm, Surrey
GenreArt rock, pop rock, progressive rock
LabelCharisma (UK)
Atlantic (USA)
Vertigo (South America)
Genesis chronology
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Studio album by Genesis
Released14 September 1981
RecordedMay – June 1981 at The Farm, Surrey
GenreArt rock, pop rock, progressive rock
LabelCharisma (UK)
Atlantic (USA)
Vertigo (South America)
Genesis chronology

Abacab, released in 1981, is the eleventh studio album by British band Genesis. It reached the top of the UK album charts, remaining in the charts for 27 weeks. In the US, the album sold over two million copies, and thus was certified double platinum by the RIAA.[citation needed]

Background and recording[edit]

The group initially wrote an album's worth of material which they subsequently discarded because they saw themselves as becoming, in Mike Rutherford's words, "a caricature of ourselves". In what he saw as a major turning point for the group, they made a decision to throw out any songs which sounded like anything they had done before.[1]

The album continued the band's sharp stylistic shift, which had begun on the preceding album Duke, towards a radio-friendly pop music sound. "No Reply At All" features the Earth, Wind & Fire horn section (as did Collins' solo album Face Value earlier in 1981).[2]

Genesis produced Abacab solely by themselves. Engineer Hugh Padgham, who had assisted Collins on Face Value, continued to work on Genesis and Collins recordings through the end of the 1980s.[citation needed]

The album takes its name from an early arrangement of the title track. Rutherford said on the US radio show In the Studio with Redbeard (which spotlighted Duke and Abacab in one episode): "There were three bits of music in 'Abacab', and we referred to them as 'section a', 'section b', and 'section c'... and at different times, they were in different order. We'd start with 'section a' and then have 'section c'... and at one point in time, it spelled Abacab. On the final version, it's not that at all, it's like 'Accaabbaac'."[citation needed]

Three songs from the Abacab sessions—"Paperlate", "You Might Recall", and "Me & Virgil"—were issued on the 3 X 3 EP. They were also issued on the non-UK releases of 1982's Three Sides Live. Two other songs from the sessions, "Naminanu" and "Submarine", appeared as B-sides on the "Abacab" singles, but were originally intended to be part of "Dodo/Lurker", where the order would have been "Naminanu/Dodo/Lurker/Submarine".[citation needed]

The keyboard sound on "Who Dunnit?" is the result of Banks constantly changing the presets on his Prophet synthesizer as he plays. Live performances of this song featured the novelty of Rutherford playing drums alongside Chester Thompson (although Collins played drums on the studio version, as usual.)

"No Reply at All" was performed live by Phish as a tribute to Genesis at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 2010 induction ceremony.[3]


The album was released with four different embossed covers simultaneously across the country, all depicting the same collage but with the paper shapes in different colours. The four different cover variants are usually identified by the colour of the largest upper shape adjacent to the title lettering; this shape being coloured navy blue, red, peach, and yellow.[citation needed]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic4.5/5 stars[4]
Q2/5 stars[5]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[6]
Piero Scaruffi(4/10)[7]

Rolling Stone praised the album for shedding the "ivory-tower artistry" of their previous albums, turning to sparse arrangements and "highly rhythmic interplay" and drawing inspiration from popular contemporaries such as XTC and The Police.[6] Allmusic's retrospective review echoed this sentiment with greater emphasis, declaring "Duke showcased a new Genesis... but Abacab was where this new incarnation of the band came into its own." They also argued that although the album is far richer in pop hooks and accessibility than the band's previous works, at its heart Abacab "is truly modern art rock."[4]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Tony Banks, Phil Collins, and Mike Rutherford, except where noted.

Side one
1."Abacab"  7:02
2."No Reply at All"  4:33
3."Me and Sarah Jane" (Banks)6:00
4."Keep It Dark"  4:32
Side two
1."Dodo/Lurker"  7:30
2."Who Dunnit?"  3:23
3."Man on the Corner" (Collins)4:27
4."Like It or Not" (Rutherford)4:57
5."Another Record"  4:39

B-Sides and non-album tracks[edit]

2007 SACD/CD/DVD Release[edit]

A new version of Abacab was released in the UK and Japan on 2 April 2007. It was released in the US and Canada as part of the Genesis 1976-1982 box set on 15 May 2007. This includes the entire album in remixed stereo, the entire album in surround sound, and related video tracks.

  1. Band interview about this album (2006).
  2. Promotional videos: "Abacab"; "Keep It Dark"; "No Reply At All"; and "Man On The Corner".
  3. World Tour program from 1981 tour (15 page gallery).

In popular culture[edit]

Working titles for the album[edit]

Before Abacab was released, many of the songs had working titles. Below is the track listing for the originally planned double album Abacab was going to be and the original song working titles and finalised song titles (in parentheses):


Additional personnel[edit]


Genesis toured in support of the Abacab album between September and December 1981, beginning in Barcelona, Spain. Shows in New York and Birmingham, England comprised the Three Sides Live album released the following year.

The tour also marked the first ever appearance of the Vari-Lite automated lighting system, the development of which had been paid for by the band.[citation needed]

Set list[edit]

  1. Behind the Lines
  2. Duchess
  3. The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
  4. Dodo/Lurker*
  5. Abacab*
  6. The Carpet Crawlers
  7. Me and Sarah Jane*
  8. Misunderstanding
  9. No Reply At All
  10. Firth of Fifth
  11. Man On The Corner*
  12. Who Dunnit?*
  13. In the Cage
  14. The Cinema Show (closing section)/Riding the Scree (teaser)/Slippermen
  15. Afterglow
  16. Turn It On Again
  17. Dance On a Volcano
  18. Drum Duet
  19. Los Endos


  1. "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)"

"Like It Or Not" was played at a few shows on the Northeast US leg. "Me and Virgil" was played at a few shows in Europe. "The Knife" was performed at the last show in Birmingham on 23 December 1981.[citation needed]



Preceded by
Dead Ringer by Meat Loaf
UK Albums Chart number one album
26 September 1981 – 9 October 1981
Succeeded by
Ghost in the Machine by The Police


  1. ^ Neer, Dan (1985). Mike on Mike [interview LP], Atlantic Recording Corporation.
  2. ^ Each album's respective liner notes
  3. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97Uardt7FJk
  4. ^ a b Abacab Genesis Allmusic.com, Stephen Thomas Erlewine
  5. ^ Andy Fyfe Q, May 2007, Issue 250.
  6. ^ a b Fricke, David (26 November 1981). Abacab review, Rolling Stone.
  7. ^ Scaruffi, Piero (1999). "Genesis". pieroscaruffi.com. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  8. ^ Formats described at Genesis-news.com
  9. ^ a b Explained in interview with producer and remixer Nick Davis, at Genesis-news.com
  10. ^ The DVD interface has two audio choices: Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1. If the Dolby 5.1 option is chosen on a system that does not support surround sound, the Dolby stereo mix is played.
  11. ^ Comparison from Sound and Vision magazine article. Retrieved from http://www.soundandvisionmag.com/musicreviews/2285/genesis-in-surround.html Soundandvisionmag.com.
  12. ^ Shadowrun Cheats, Codes, and Secrets for Genesis. GameFAQs. Retrieved on 11 August 2011.

External links[edit]