posted on June 26, 2010 at 10:33 am

the lamb lies down on broadway … by genesis
a rock opera about a modern odysseus
his name is rael hes a graffiti artist from puerto rico
but the story takes place in new york
this album was genesis’ full flowering and their final masterpiece
before peter gabriel left
rael is trapped in some mystical nightmare/quest
after many adventures he comes to a strange chamber
waiting for him are the lamia
creatures straight out of greek mythology
the bodies of snakes , the faces of women
the music is superb
by this stage of the game
the interplay between tony banks on keys
and steve hacket on guitar is unique and almost classical
in its ambitions and proportions…..
banks the master of the constant arpeggio
hacket using his guitar like trumpets and french horns
as far away from yer usual hamfisted rock fodder as you can get
gabriels lyrics are pure poetry
his voice is mysterious powerful earthy and pure
lost in some 5th dimensional labyrinth
our hero rael comes along a hall and finds
the chamber and a pool containing the lamia
a beautiful lilting piano sets the scene
occasionally punctuated
in small instrumental sequences by gabriels flute
“inside a long rosewater pool is shrouded by fine mist”
“but ripples on the sweeping water reveal some company unthought of”
“3 vermilion snakes with female face the smallest motion filled with grace”
they greet him
“rael welcome we are the lamia of the pool
we have been waiting for our waters to bring you cool”
the music is spine tingling and gorgeous
everything just perfect
building to a wagnerian like crescendo
the guitar darting in and out of the grandiose mellotron
then back down to a lonely piano figure
like something out of rachmaninoff
rael decides to join them
“he slips into the nectar leaving his shredded clothes behind”
“with their tongues they test taste and judge all that is mine”
gabriel now switches into the first person as he does throughout
the whole of the lamb
he is rael and he is also the narrator
“they move in a series of caresses that glide up n down my spine”
the lamia begin to eat rael
as the lamia in greek myth devours its own children
“as they nibble the fruit of my flesh i feel no pain
only a magic that a name would stain”
(what a beautiful line!)
but something is amiss
the unlucky rael is too profane for these creatures…
“with the 1st drop of my blood in my veins
their faces are convulsed in mortal pain
the fairest cries
” we all have loved you rael!””
“each empty snake like body floats
silent sorrow in empty boats
a sickly sourness fills the room
the bitter harvest of a dying bloom”
rael decides to eat their bodies
” oh lamia your flesh that remains i will take as my food”
then a very strange line
“it is the scent of garlic which lingers on my chocolate fingers”
then an instrumental interlude
the piano and portamento synth intertwine
then a stately organ appears like bach or something
rael says
“looking behind me
the waters turn icy blue
the lights are dimmed
and once again
the stage is set for you”
then flute guitar and mellotron go out in a magnificent coda
the meaning of all this?
the esoteric symbolism
the beauty sadness and triumph
and yet
its a fantastic example of how arcane and spiritual rock can be
the opposite of ac/dc or their meatheaded ilk
this music this song is loaded with inspiration for thought
you can listen to it for 36 years like me
and still get that hit of the wonderful unknown
the hairs on yer neck will stand to attention everytime
an eldritch thrill
the sexual cannibalistic myth of the lamia
the fucking lovely music
gabriels perfect singing
go on
you better get this one now and prepare to start digging it

18 Responses to “sacred songs : the lamia”

  1. avatar
    Damien | 26 June 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    Hi, Steve

    Funny you should write about Genesis today, as I've only just started getting into their Gabriel-era stuff and I'm really enjoying it. The music is quite astonishing at times, isn't it? Tony Banks is a phenomenal player!

  2. avatar
    Freddie | 26 June 2010 at 2:15 pm #

    Wow….yeah, I wanna hear this one!

  3. avatar
    Broken Toys and Heros | 26 June 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    SPOT ON !!!!

    Genesis was never the same after Peter left. Collins did manage to ensure their mark in history as a money making machine- and they really reaped in those benefits. But, at what cost- artistry ???


  4. avatar
    ed in fl | 26 June 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    Your album and song analysis are your greatest postings – you have a real gift for critique. Your Suzanne post is my favorite. Thanks for the continued enlightenment!

    Ed in fl

  5. avatar
    Anonymous | 26 June 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    Totally agree! Genesis`masterpiece. Saw them perform this live when it first came out.
    Although I must admit to liking "Trick of the Tail" a lot too. Another type of masterpiece. Genesis returning to the whimsical fairylike parallell universe they know so well, with dreamy landscapes and strange tales told.

  6. avatar
    Brien Comerford | 26 June 2010 at 8:17 pm #

    Incredible blog by Sk. Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is in the same pantheon as Sgt Peppers, Dark Side Of The Moon and Forget Yoursel. Gabriel's best album ever. A great album for Banks too. Genesis's vintage quality of music collapsed after Hackett left the Band. I do not like Gabriel's solo albums with the exception of his wonderful and exotic Soundtrack for the last tempation of Christ (Passion)

  7. avatar
    davem | 26 June 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    You're preaching to the converted here.
    Gabriel era Genesis are second in my affections only to The Church……Andy won't agree though!!! They evoke a similar mood albeit via a different route.
    BTW Thomas – I am enjoying the John Grant album but I'm not sure the material is as strong as the voice.

  8. avatar
    fantasticandy | 27 June 2010 at 12:00 am #

    no dave……
    andy WILL agree!
    although i think quite a lot of gabriel/genesis stuff is a bit overrated,
    they were nonetheless, a fine band!
    i just can't help feeling that their overlooked labelmates were braver, bolder and even better!
    having said that….
    'twilight alehouse' is one of my favourite songs anyone.
    in hindsight i think it's amazing that one small indie label could have two of the very greatest bands of all time on the books
    tony stratton-smith was a bloody genius.
    tasty tracks your'e re-examining here sk……
    has that ruddy album arrived yet?

  9. avatar
    princey | 27 June 2010 at 12:47 am #

    I tried listening to this on youtube, but they were all live versions and I couldnt really "grok" it. Hoping there's a few more sacred songs to come tho!

    It's a sunny Sunday here too for a change, enjoy your day sk and hope to hear from you soon:)
    Love Mandy

  10. avatar
    Hellbound Heart | 27 June 2010 at 7:37 am #

    i have a lot of time for peter gabriel….LOVE his soundtrack for the last temptation of christ…..

    love always….

  11. avatar
    Darko Flagg | 27 June 2010 at 7:40 am #

    If you like that, there are certain Steve Hackett albums, such as his first 'Voyage Of The Acolyte' a great mood also.. well it is Genesis without Gabriel singing, musically ie mood wise its right up there…around 1990 I was listening to Peter Hammill and Genesis and all this stuff and my girlfriend at the time was pumping in Remindlessness and loads of early Enz. We were just sitting around gobsmacked at the intensity of it all. I also received a kind word from Steve from a cheap little demo I did back then..that kept me going!

  12. avatar
    Jasperina | 27 June 2010 at 7:46 am #

    I agree with Ed the critiques are wonderful. The one you wrote about Cohen's Suzanne has also remained in my memory. Poetry on poetry.

  13. avatar
    Thomas Thomsen, Denmark | 27 June 2010 at 8:34 am #

    Davem, it's a bit of a slowburner. Some of the lyrics may come off as rather awkward at times, but if you know John Grant's story/background they're quite interesting. Admittedly, the tunes themselves aren't catchy in a conventional sense, but they've won me over.

    You should ckeck out their last official album "Goodbye", which I think has stronger tunes in terms of sheer melody.

  14. avatar
    Anonymous | 27 June 2010 at 9:46 am #

    The magnificent Steve Hackett… I'm thinking about escaping to Lisbon to see him performing. He's one of the best rock guitarists ever and he's amazing playing classical guitar. Great song "The Lamia" and great Phil Collins' drumming too.

  15. avatar
    Anonymous | 27 June 2010 at 6:29 pm #

    s. hackett trio …coming live to sellersville the best and only place for the church in pa …..peace ….nylon burning

  16. avatar
    Anonymous | 27 June 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    Surprised Marty hasn't chimed in here 🙂 He LOVES himself some 70's era Genesis…

  17. avatar
    Anonymous | 28 June 2010 at 2:56 am #

    How do i find the blog about Suzanne?

  18. avatar
    Robert | 10 July 2010 at 5:16 am #

    Hi Steve,
    Just catching up on these older blogs. How odd that we talked about John Barry, Neil Young, Scott Walker, but we never discussed Genesis–surely my favorite band next to the Beatles n the Church. I have driven Harper crazy going on and on about "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway," and now I have your blog as my vindication. As in–"You see? It's not just me!" Another song I really like of The Lamb is "Anyway" (more great Banks stuff). Not sure exactly what Gabriel was exploring at this point but it seems like he was steeped in what you might call the "mystery tradition." Great stuff, and mind-blowing to listen to in the surround-sound mix. How geeky is that? Much love, etc.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.