On November 18, 1974 Genesis released the four-sided concept album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, the band's last album with Peter Gabriel.
The band had moved to rat-infested Headley Grange in rural Wales to write and rehearse the new material. Gabriel wasn't around for much of it. After the difficult birth of his first daughter, Anna-Marie, Gabriel decided to stay at home.
When Gabriel did show up he insisted on writing all the lyrics. Gabriel cites the bizarre Alejandro Jodorosky film , El Topo, as a source of inspiration:
This was a rough, visceral, cowboy spiritual film and it was unique at the time. It had a really strong cult following and that was the blend that I was trying to put together in a way that would allow more people to try to travel with me.
The album follows the adventures of a Puerto Rican punk named Rael who encounters God knows what in an effort to rescue his brother John. People are still pondering the plot lines and deep inner meaning of the lyrics. This recent article in The Quietus features one of the best attempts I've read. There's also this New Yorker effort which dubs Lamb the "Ulysses" of concept albums
Musically, the tunes are mostly memorable and more concise. No side long epics here. The crowd pleaser "In the Cage" is one of two songs that exceed the 8-minute mark. Highlights for me are "Cuckoo Cocoon", "Carpet Crawlers" and "Counting Out Time", but readers know I'm a pop guy. I can't imagine ever knowing this album the way I know the White Album and Quadrophenia, but it would be far more enjoyable than plowing through the double and triple albums of contemporaries like Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer. Again, I'm a pop guy.
Genesis played the entire album 102 times on the subsequent tour which made them stars in the US. Early on, Gabriel let the rest of the band know he'd be leaving Genesis at the end of the tour. Sadly, there's practically no film of the tour which involved lavish costumes like the Slipperman, a naked monster with inflatable genitalia and covered in lumps.
40 years later, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway remains one of the highlights of the progressive rock era. It's made all kind of Top 10 Lists including a Rolling Stone Readers Poll asking What's Your Favorite Prog Rock Album of all Time. The list:
1. Dream Theater Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory ( the band put the poll on their website)
2. Rush 2112
3. Yes Close to the Edge
4. Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon
5. Genesis The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway