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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, Chiddingfold, Surrey
Genre Art 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 eleventh studio album from the English rock band Genesis, released in September 1981 on Charisma Records in the United Kingdom and Atlantic Records in the United States. The sound is more synth-oriented but sparingly arranged, with less of a dense texture than previous albums.

Abacab became the band's second consecutive UK No. 1 album. It reached No. 7 in the U.S. where it was certified double Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for over 2 million copies sold.

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.[1]

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 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'."[2]

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 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.[3]


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[4]
Q 2/5 stars[6]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[5]

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.[5] 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."[4]


Genesis toured in support of Abacab during September-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, the development of which had been paid for by the band.[citation needed]

2007 reissue[edit]

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.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Tony Banks, Phil Collins, and Mike Rutherford, except where noted.

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


Genesis – production
Additional personnel


  1. ^ Neer, Dan (1985). Mike on Mike [interview LP], Atlantic Recording Corporation.
  2. ^ Genesis In the Studio. YouTube. 2006. 
  3. ^ "Phish - No Reply (Genesis cover)". YouTube. 1973-12-20. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  4. ^ a b Abacab Genesis Allmusic.com, Stephen Thomas Erlewine
  5. ^ a b Fricke, David (26 November 1981). Abacab review, Rolling Stone.
  6. ^ Andy Fyfe Q, May 2007, Issue 250.

External links[edit]

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