Nursery Cryme

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Nursery Cryme
Studio album by Genesis
Released 12 November 1971
Recorded August 1971
Studio Trident Studios, London
Genre Progressive rock
Length 39:29
Label Charisma
Producer John Anthony
Genesis chronology
Nursery Cryme

Nursery Cryme is the third studio album by Genesis and was recorded and released in 1971. It is the band's first album with drummer Phil Collins and guitarist Steve Hackett, who respectively replaced John Mayhew and Anthony Phillips in 1970 and 1971. The five-member line-up of Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Collins and Hackett would remain consistent until the band's 1976 album A Trick of the Tail when Phil Collins replaced Peter Gabriel as lead vocalist, following Gabriel's departure from the band. Nursery Cryme is also the band's shortest studio album, the only to run under forty minutes.


Although not a success upon release in their homeland, Nursery Cryme became an unexpected hit in Italy, reaching No. 4 in the LP charts.[1] This spurred on Genesis' European success, with the album eventually reaching No. 39 on the UK charts for one week in May 1974, and the reissue reaching No. 68 for one week in March 1984.


Like Trespass, the preceding Genesis album, Nursery Cryme was recorded at London's Trident Studios. Trident was one of only a handful of British studios to have 16-track equipment, which was state of the art for the time.

For some time before Hackett's recruitment, Genesis had performed live as a four-piece, with Banks substituting for guitar by playing lead solos on his Hohner "Pianet" electric piano, played through a fuzz box.[citation needed] This technique can be heard on "The Musical Box" and the intro to "The Return of the Giant Hogweed". In addition, the band purchased their own Mellotron Mark II. Banks employed the Mk II "three violins" sound in "The Fountain of Salmacis" and "Seven Stones", while the climax of "The Return of the Giant Hogweed" uses fuzzed Mk. II "combined brass". Rutherford also began using the standalone electronic bass pedal unit Dewtron "Mister Bassman".[citation needed]


Though credited to Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford, "The Musical Box" began as an instrumental piece written by Anthony Phillips[2] called "F#", which was later re-recorded as "Manipulation" on the Jackson Tapes [3] and released on the Box Set remaster. The guitar solo was written by lead guitarist Mick Barnard, who was the initial replacement for Anthony Phillips in the fall of 1970 until Steve Hackett joined in January 1971. The lyrics are based on a mock-Victorian fairy story written by Gabriel about two children in a country house. The girl, Cynthia, kills the boy, Henry, by removing his head with a croquet mallet. She later discovers Henry's musical box. When she opens it, Henry returns as a spirit and begins to age very quickly. This causes him to experience a lifetime's sexual desires in a few moments, and he tries to persuade Cynthia to have sexual intercourse with him. However his nurse arrives and throws the musical box at him, destroying them both. The album cover shows Cynthia holding a croquet mallet, with a few heads lying on the ground.

In live performances, Peter Gabriel would wear an "old man" mask for the final verse and unzip the chest part of his black jumpsuit.[citation needed] Dramatic lighting would be used each time he shouted "Now!"[citation needed] "The Musical Box" was featured in their live repertoire right up to the departure of Phil Collins after the We Can't Dance tour in 1992, albeit with only the closing section being included as part of a medley.[citation needed]

A Genesis tribute band, The Musical Box, is named after the song.

"For Absent Friends" is a song about two widowed individuals going to church and praying for their deceased husbands/wives. This is the first Genesis song to feature Phil Collins as lead vocalist. Progressive death metal band Opeth wrote a short instrumental with the same name, as a tribute to Genesis on their 2002 release, Deliverance. Guitarist Steve Hackett recorded a waltz version of the song for Watcher of the Skies: Genesis Revisited, with vocals by Colin Blunstone.

The lyrics to "The Return of the Giant Hogweed" tell an apocalyptic story about a "regal hogweed" being brought from Russia by a Victorian explorer to the Royal Gardens at Kew. The inspiration for this story is a large, phototoxic weed, Heracleum mantegazzianum, which poses a hazard in the United Kingdom and other countries. The song was a staple of Genesis's live performances.[citation needed]

"Harold the Barrel", written mostly by Gabriel with a few lines by Collins, tells the story of a restaurant owner who commits suicide. The song suddenly dies to a droning whisper at the end, symbolising Harold's sudden leap from a window ledge.

"Harlequin" was written by Mike Rutherford, who was a bit dismissive about it in his autobiography The Living Years, saying that Nursery Cryme was not an easy album to make, blaming it on the departure of his original songwriting partner and lead guitarist Anthony Phillips. The song was his attempt to play both the duo's parts on a single 12-string guitar by tuning the pairs of strings to harmonies.[citation needed] He describes the results as "pretty dodgy", also disliking use of the word "harvest" in the song.[citation needed] The song features three part Crosby, Stills & Nash-styled vocal harmonies of Rutherford, Gabriel and Collins.

"The Fountain of Salmacis" tells the story of the nymph Salmacis, who in Greek mythology attempted to rape Hermaphroditus. In the story Salmacis and Hermaphroditus become conjoined within the same body. Pete Lazonby used a sample of the song for the 1994 trance track Sacred Cycles.


The album's artwork, which depicts scenes from each song, was painted by Paul Whitehead. Whitehead was also responsible for the artwork on the previous and next Genesis albums, Trespass and Foxtrot.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[4]
Robert Christgau C−[5]
Rolling Stone (mixed)[6]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 2/5 stars[7]

Critical response to the album was mixed. Richard Cromelin of Rolling Stone summarised that "Nursery Cryme's main problem lies not in Genesis' concepts, which are, if nothing else, outrageously imaginative and lovably eccentric, nor with their musical structures—long, involved, multi-movemented frameworks on which they hang their narratives—nor even with their playing, which does get pretty lethargic at points. It's the godawful production, a murky, distant stew that at best bubbles quietly when what is desperately needed are the explosions of drums and guitars, the screaming of the organ, the abrasive rasp of vocal cords." He nonetheless took the time to remark positively on some of the songs, and note that he saw promise in the band.[6]

Retrospective reviews have been mildly positive. BBC Music praised the two new members of the band as fundamental to Genesis's artistic success, remarking "Collins' snappy drums were augmented by his uncanny ability to sound not unlike Gabriel[...] Hackett's armoury of tapping and swell techniques really broadened the palette of the band, giving Tony Banks more room for his Delius-lite organ filigrees, not to mention their newly purchased Mellotron", and gushed that "Genesis had virtually invented their own genre, Edwardian rock."[8] Although Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic deemed the album highly uneven, he considered "The Musical Box" and "The Return of the Giant Hogweed" to be "genuine masterpieces", and concluded that even if the rest of the album "isn't quite as compelling or quite as structured, it doesn't quite matter because these are the songs that showed what Genesis could do, and they still stand as pinnacles of what the band could achieve."[4] Robert Christgau's brief review consisted entirely of sarcastic exclamations.[5] Geddy Lee of Rush included this album among his favourites in a list from an interview with The Quietus.[9]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, and Mike Rutherford

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "The Musical Box"   10:27
2. "For Absent Friends"   1:44
3. "The Return of the Giant Hogweed"   8:10
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Seven Stones"   5:08
2. "Harold the Barrel"   2:58
3. "Harlequin"   2:53
4. "The Fountain of Salmacis"   7:47


Release history[edit]

All releases of Nursery Cryme on Charisma Records in the US were distributed by Buddah Records.

US LP releases[edit]

  • Charisma Records CAS-1052 (1972): 1st issue with large "Mad Hatter" label design. Gatefold cover.
  • Charisma Records CAS-1052 (1973): 2nd issue with "pink scroll" label. No gatefold cover.
  • Charisma Records CAS-1052 (1974): 3rd issue with small "Mad Hatter" label. No gatefold cover.
  • Atlantic 80030-1 (1982): Reissue with no gatefold cover, track list and credits on back.


  1. ^ Gallo, A: 'Genesis From One Fan to Another, page 20. Omnibus Press, 1984
  2. ^
  3. ^ For the history of these tracks, see this discussion with Anthony Phillips, and this discussion with Richard MacPhail.
  4. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (2011 [last update]). "Nursery Cryme – Genesis | AllMusic". Retrieved 25 July 2011.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "CG: Genesis". Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Cromelin, Richard (26 October 1972). "Genesis: Nursery Cryme : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 30 April 2008. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  7. ^ Nathan Brackett; Christian David Hoard (2004). The new Rolling Stone album guide. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 327. ISBN 978-0-7432-0169-8. 
  8. ^ Jones, Chris (18 April 2007). "BBC – Music – Review of Genesis – Nursery Cryme". BBC. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  9. ^ "In The Mood: The Favourite Albums Of Rush's Geddy Lee". 29 June 2012. 

External links[edit]