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For the song, see Abacab (song).
Studio album by Genesis
Released 14 September 1981
Recorded May – June 1981
Studio The Farm, Surrey
Genre Art rock, new wave, progressive rock, electronic rock
Length 47:10
Label Charisma (UK)
Atlantic (USA)
Vertigo (South America)
Producer Genesis
Genesis chronology
Singles from Abacab
  1. "Abacab"
    Released: 14 August 1981
  2. "No Reply at All"
    Released: 9 September 1981
  3. "Keep It Dark"
    Released: 23 October 1981
  4. "Man on the Corner"
    Released: 5 March 1982

Abacab is the 11th studio album by British band Genesis. Released in September 1981, it reached the top of the UK album charts, remaining in the charts for 27 weeks. In the U.S., the album sold over two million copies, and was certified double platinum by the RIAA.[citation needed]

The sound is more synth-oriented but sparingly arranged, with less of a dense texture than previous albums. The result has been called art rock.[1][2]

Background and recording[edit]

Genesis 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.[3]

The album continued the band's stylistic shift toward a radio-friendly pop music sound. Influences of Brian Eno (Phil Collins had played on his albums frequently), Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel's solo material are evident. "No Reply at All" features the Earth, Wind & Fire horn section (as did Collins' solo album Face Value earlier in 1981).

Genesis produced Abacab 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 U.S. 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 3X3 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).

"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.[4]


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]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Q 2/5 stars[5]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[6]

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."[1]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Abacab"   Banks/Collins/Rutherford 7:02
2. "No Reply at All"   Banks/Collins/Rutherford 4:41
3. "Me and Sarah Jane"   Banks 6:00
4. "Keep It Dark"   Banks/Collins/Rutherford 4:34
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Dodo/Lurker"   Banks/Collins/Rutherford 7:30
2. "Who Dunnit?"   Banks/Collins/Rutherford 3:22
3. "Man on the Corner"   Collins 4:27
4. "Like It or Not"   Rutherford 4:58
5. "Another Record"   Banks/Collins/Rutherford 4:30

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.

  • Disc 1, in the European and Japanese releases, is a hybrid SACD/CD. The stereo layer includes the remixed tracks, and the SACD layer is a multichannel surround sound remix.[7]
  • Disc 1, in the Canadian and US releases, is a standard CD, containing the stereo remixes. No SACD layer is included.[8]
  • Disc 2, in all releases, is a DVD-Video disk containing both audio and video tracks. This DVD includes three audio mixes of the album: DTS 5.1 surround sound, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, and Dolby Digital stereo.[9] The DTS surround sound is a slightly compressed version of the surround sound on the SACD,[8] and the Dolby surround sound is of slightly inferior quality to the DTS.[10]
  • Disk 2 includes the following 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]

  • In 1993, when the video game Mortal Kombat was ported to the Sega Genesis, the development team made a secret code in the game that spelled out "Abacabb" (with two "B"s) on the controller pad. When activated, it would enable uncensored blood (Game Informer No. 230 Dan Ryckert p.98). This was a deliberate reference to Genesis, one of Ed Boon's favourite bands, which happened to share its name with the console to which the code was exclusive.
  • Another Sega Genesis video game has a cheat code that shares the title. 1994's Shadowrun has a secret code entered at the title screen to unlock an in-game cheat menu. The code is "Abbacab".[11]
  • In the Kimagure Orange Road manga and anime, the restaurant ABCB was named in homage to the album. (The intended pronunciation of the letters in Japanese is similar in pronunciation to "Abacab".)
  • During an on-air discussion about the song, Artie Lange of The Howard Stern Show stated that when he was in high school he would sometimes use "A,B,A,C,A,B" to select answers on multiple choice exams. He claims to have usually got "about half of them right" by using this method.

Working titles[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):

  • "Abacab" 6:56
  • "Jangley" ("You Might Recall") 5:36 (released on 3X3 EP in UK, Three Sides Live in U.S.)
  • "Nationwide" ("No Reply at All") 4:47
  • "German I & II" ("Dodo/Lurker") 7:28
  • "Sub" ("Submarine") 4:21 (cut from album, released as a B-Side to "Man on the Corner", instrumental)
  • "Vocal 3/4" ("Naminanu") 3:55 (cut from album, released as a B-Side to "Keep It Dark", instrumental)
  • "Chunky" ("Me & Virgil") 6:24 (released on 3X3 EP in UK, Three Sides Live in U.S.)
  • "Odd" ("Keep It Dark") 4:36
  • "Spike" ("Me and Sarah Jane") 6:02
  • "Westside ("Another Record") 4:42
  • "Weirdsynth" ("Who Dunnit?") 3:41
  • "Lonely Man" ("Man on the Corner") 4:30
  • "Don" ("Like It Or Not") 5:00
  • "Paperlate" 3:39 (released on 3X3 EP in UK, Three Sides Live in U.S.)


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)"


  • Tony Banks – keyboards, backing vocals
  • Phil Collins – lead vocals, drums, percussion
  • Mike Rutherford – electric six string guitars, bass guitar, bass pedals, backing vocals, drums on "Who Dunnit?"


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. ^ a b c Abacab Genesis Allmusic.com, Stephen Thomas Erlewine
  2. ^ http://www.avclub.com/article/genesis-iabacabi-is-art-rock-for-pop-people-103246
  3. ^ Neer, Dan (1985). Mike on Mike [interview LP], Atlantic Recording Corporation.
  4. ^ "Phish - No Reply (Genesis cover)". YouTube. 1973-12-20. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  5. ^ Andy Fyfe Q, May 2007, Issue 250.
  6. ^ a b Fricke, David (26 November 1981). Abacab review, Rolling Stone.
  7. ^ Formats described at Genesis-news.com
  8. ^ a b Explained in interview with producer and remixer Nick Davis, at Genesis-news.com
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ Shadowrun Cheats, Codes, and Secrets for Genesis. GameFAQs. Retrieved on 11 August 2011.

External links[edit]