The Song Genesis Stopped Playing Live in 1987 and Retired During Their 2007 Reunion Tour

After Genesis toured supporting their tenth album Duke in 1980, the band regrouped soon after to work on Abacab. Before recording, the band purchased the 80-acre Fisher Lane Farm in Surrey, England in 1980 and transformed its farmhouse into a studio. The farm would serve as the recording space for every Genesis album from Abacab through their final Calling All Stations in 1997.

At the time Phil Collins was having success with his ’81 solo debut Face Value, and as the band recorded Abacab, they wanted to explore a different sound, something atypical of previous Genesis.

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Abacab refers to the structure of a song: A for the Verse; B for the Chorus; and C for the Bridge. Since the song moved as verse, chorus, verse, bridge, verse, and chorus, the band referenced the title track, written by Rutherford, as “ABACAB” to remember its format when recording. By the end of the recording, the song structure became unpronounceable, so the band stuck with Abacab.

As the title, Abacab worked since it didn’t have any particular meaning. “It [‘Abacab’] was the most unromantic thing we had done,” said Rutherford. “Whereas ‘Wind & Wuthering’ and the three albums before [were] much more romantic, this was much less romantic. On all three albums, the tracks were very stark and had a much more straightforward approach.”


The album was visualized with its abstract cover illustration commissioned by artist Bill Smith. At first, the band couldn’t decide on Smith’s prints before Mike Rutherford came across the artist’s different-colored Pantone swatches pieced together in his sketchbook.

“Mike Rutherford picked up what I laughingly called my sketchbook, leafing through he stopped at a page and almost shouted ‘Eureka—love this. Look everyone,'” recalled Smith. “It was a small collage of torn pieces of colored Pantone swatches, with a couple of black ink squiggles around them. Everyone agreed it would be the cover.” Smith continued, “So, my little 25-mm square collage became the cover for an album that sold two million copies worldwide, and inch for inch became my best-paid job ever.”

The band liked the idea of displaying four, differing color-blocked album covers using various, mixed colors and hues. Intially three of the four different album covers were initially available as a limited edition, while the original design remained in stock.

[RELATED: The Genesis Song That Made Phil Collins Want to Leave the Band]

“On that particular record, we were trying to get away from what was, at that point, traditionally Genesis, which was quite flowery and fantasy, and to go to something that was much more stark and abstract,” said keyboardist Tony Banks in 2018. “That’s why we went for an abstract art painting on the front and gave it this abstract title, Abacab, so, that it didn’t conjure up any particular emotion at all. We started with a kind of blank canvas. It worked well as both a song and an album title, I think.”

Once released Abacab became one of Genesis’ most successful albums, reaching No. 1 on the UK Albums chart and peaking at No. 7 on the Billboard 200.

TORONTO, ON – SEPTEMBER 05: (L-R) Musicians Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins and Tony Banks pose before talking about their band Genesis during a press conference before the dress rehearsal of the 20-city North American leg of their “Turn It On Again” tour at the Air Canada Centre on September 5, 2007 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Darryl James/Getty Images)

Turn It On Again: “Abacab”

The title track peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and remained in the top 40 for six weeks. The band continued to perform “Abacab” through 1987, but it was eventually pulled from their future setlists.

When Genesis regrouped in 2006 for their Turn It On Again: The Tour in 2007, the band revised “Abacab” but it never made it onto the setlist.

When asked what songs didn’t make it past rehearsals for the tour, Collins revealed the 1981 track.
“That happened with ‘Abacab,’ which I’m sure everyone expects us to do,” said Collins. “Halfway through the first verse, I said, ‘I don’t really want to sing this. I don’t know what it’s about.'”

Photo: Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

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