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Abacab is the eleventh studio album by English progressive rock band Genesis, released on 18 September 1981 in the United Kingdom by Charisma Records and 24 September 1981 in the United States by Atlantic Records. After their 1980 tour in support of their previous album, Duke (1980), the band took a break before they reconvened in 1981 to write and record a new album. Abacab is the first Genesis album recorded at The Farm, a recording studio bought by the group in Chiddingfold, Surrey. It marked the band's development from their progressive roots into more accessible and pop-oriented songs, and their conscious decision to write songs unlike their previous albums.

Abacab received a mostly positive reception from critics and was a commercial success for the band, reaching number one on the UK Albums Chart and number 7 on the US Billboard 200. Genesis released four singles from the album, the most successful being "Abacab" and "No Reply at All". The album continued to sell, and was certified double platinum in 1988 by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for two million copies sold in the US. Genesis supported the album with their tour of North America and Europe in 1981 which formed most of their live album Three Sides Live (1982).

Background and recording[]


The band's remodelled studio in Chiddingfold, Surrey, known as The Farm, pictured in 2006. Abacab was their first album recorded there.

At the end of their 1980 tour in support of their previous album Duke, the line-up of singer and drummer Phil Collins, keyboardist Tony Banks, and guitarist Mike Rutherford took a break from touring and recording. In November 1980, the band purchased Fisher Lane Farm, a farmhouse with an adjoining cowshed near Chiddingfold, Surrey, as their new rehearsal and recording facility. The building was remodelled into a studio, and the trio settled in March 1981 to write and record new material for Abacab,[1] the first Genesis album recorded in England since A Trick of the Tail.

The new environment had a productive effect on the writing process and the band had written enough for a double album, but they discarded one hour's worth of songs because it sounded too similar to their past albums. Banks said a conscious effort was made by the group to keep melodies as simple as possible, which signalled further changes in their direction.[2] Rutherford pointed out that the clearing of familiar sounding tracks was done in order to avoid Genesis becoming "a caricature of ourselves", so a change in direction was therefore necessary.[3] The shift was also underlined in their production with the departure of David Hentschel, their producer and engineer since 1975, and the arrival of his replacement Hugh Padgham, who was chosen following his work on Collins solo album Face Value, and former Genesis singer Peter Gabriel's third solo album.[4] The band marked Abacab as a departure from their previous albums as it is closer to their natural live sound.[5] For the first time in their history, the production duties were solely credited as Genesis; Padgham is credited as the album's engineer.[6]


Abacab features mostly group-written songs, with only three of its nine tracks written solely by each of the three members; Banks wrote "Me and Sarah Jane", Collins wrote "Man on the Corner", and Rutherford wrote "Like It or Not".[7] "No Reply at All" features the Phenix Horns, the horn section of American band Earth, Wind & Fire.[8]

The album is named after its title track, "Abacab". Rutherford said "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'."[9]

The keyboard sound on "Who Dunnit?" is the result of Banks 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).

Genesis recorded additional songs that were left off the album, including "Paperlate", "You Might Recall", and "Me & Virgil". These were released in the UK as the band's second extended play 3×3 and the North American edition of their third live album Three Sides Live, both released in 1982. Two other songs, "Naminanu" and "Submarine", originally part of a four-song suite with "Dodo/Lurker", were instead released as B-sides on the album's singles.


Abacab was released on 18 September 1981 in the United Kingdom by Charisma Records and 24 September 1981 in the United States by Atlantic Records. It was simultaneously released in four different colour schemes.

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

Critical reception[]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg[10]
Q2/5 starsStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg[12]
Rolling Stone3/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg[11]

In a review for Melody Maker, reporter Paul Colbert thought the album was the band's least consistent and therefore, least predictable in three years. He recognised a "heavy PC [Phil Collins] twist to the sound" on "Man on the Corner" and "No Reply At All", but "he does not have it all his own way". Colbert, however, thought Genesis had produced "a couple of Frankensteins" such as the latter half of "Abacab" which he deemed "unstructured" and "uninspired" compared to their past instrumentals. He named "Keep It Dark" and "Who Dunnit?" as "the most exciting and innovative music" the band had produced for several years, and concluded with the album is "by far more promising" than Duke or ...And Then There Were Three....[13] Ken Kubernik of the Los Angeles Times wondered if the success of Collins' solo album Face Value was an influence on the group, to which he replied, "Yes and no". He praised the album for its "thick, resonant instrumental passages, quaint imagery in the lyrics, and superb production", but "beneath the surface are some new wrinkles in the trademark Genesis sound", noting a reduction in harmonies for more simple vocals and Collins' drum sound replacing Banks's keyboards as their "vortex". Kubernik did however, praise Collins' vocals.[14]

David Fricke of 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.[11] In his retrospective review for AllMusic, critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine 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." He 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, their last album that could bear that tag comfortably."[10]


Genesis toured in support of Abacab from September to December 1981, covering Europe and North America. Shows in New York City and Birmingham, England comprised the Three Sides Live album released the following year. The tour also marked the first appearance of the Vari-Lite automated lighting system, in which Genesis invested.[15]

Track listing[]

All songs arranged and performed by Genesis.[7]



Credits are adapted from the album's sleeve notes.[7]


  • Tony Banks – keyboards
  • Phil Collins – drums, vocals
  • Mike Rutherford – basses, guitars

Additional musicians

  • EWF Horns – horns on "No Reply at All"


  • Genesis – producers
  • Hugh Padgham – engineer
  • Bill Smith – album cover
  • Chris Peyton – sleeve adaptation (for The Redroom)
  • Carol Willis – project co-ordination
  • Tony Smith – manager


Region Award Date
France – SNEP Gold (100,000 units) 1981[16]
Germany – BVMI Gold (250,000 units) 1988[17]
Italy – AFI Gold (50,000 units) 25 October 1981[18]
United Kingdom – BPI Gold (100,000 units) 24 September 1981[19]
United States – RIAA 2x Platinum (2,000,000 units) 11 February 1988[20]


  1. Genesis 2007, p. 238.
  2. Bowler & Dray 1992, p. 170.
  3. Neer, Dan (1985). Mike on Mike [interview LP], Atlantic Recording Corporation.
  4. Flans, Robyn (1 May 2005). "Classic Tracks: Phil Collins' In the Air Tonight". Mix. Archived from the original on 17 March 2007. Retrieved 25 March 2007.
  5. Fielder, Hugh (19 December 1981). "Waisted and hot". Sounds. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  6. Bowler & Dray 1992, p. 171.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Abacab. Charisma Records. 1981. CBR 102.
  8. Bowler & Dray 1992, p. 175.
  9. Genesis In the Studio. YouTube. 2006.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Abacab Genesis, Stephen Thomas Erlewine
  11. 11.0 11.1 Fricke, David (26 November 1981). Abacab review, Rolling Stone.
  12. Andy Fyfe Q, May 2007, Issue 250.
  13. Colbert, Paul (1981). "New values". Melody Maker. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  14. Kubernik, Ken (18 October 1981). "Genesis turns loss into gain". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  15. "Vari-Lite - Philips Entertainment". Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  16. "Les Certifications Officielles des Formats Longs ((33 T. / CD / Albums / Téléchargements depuis 1973)" (in French). Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  17. "Datenbank" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  18. Multiple sources: "TV Sorrisi e Canzoni". News report from 25 October 1981. (Italian); "Musica e Dischi" Publication (#424) October 1981. (Italian).
  19. "Certified Awards". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  20. "Gold & Platinum". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 16 November 2016.

Works cited

  • Banks, Tony; Collins, Phil; Gabriel, Peter; Hackett, Steve; Rutherford, Mike (2007). Dodd, Philipp (ed.). Genesis. Chapter and Verse. Weidenfeld and Nicholson. ISBN 978-0-297-84434-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Bowler, Dave; Dray, Bryan (1992). Genesis – A Biography. Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 978-0-283-06132-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

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