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 from the English rock band Genesis, released in November 1971 on Charisma Records. The album is the first with drummer Phil Collins and guitarist Steve Hackett in the band's line-up. It was recorded in August 1971 following their 1970–71 tour supporting their previous album, Trespass.

Nursery Cryme was not a commercial success upon its release. It did not enter the UK chart until 1974 where it peaked at number 39. The band toured for a year to promote the album which included a successful Italian tour in April 1972.


Genesis returned to a five-member formation after the addition of guitarist Steve Hackett in January 1971. For a few months prior, the group performed live as a four piece with singer Peter Gabriel, keyboardist Tony Banks, bassist Mike Rutherford, and drummer Phil Collins who had joined in 1970. As a four-man formation, Banks played guitar and keyboard parts which he credits in improving his keyboard technique as it required him to play two keyboards simultaneously. Genesis toured the UK on their Trespass tour before its conclusion in July 1971 so work on the next album could begin. The band wrote and rehearsed at a country home in Crowborough in East Sussex owned by Tony Stratton-Smith.[1]



Nursery Cryme was recorded in August 1971 at Trident Studios in London with John Anthony as producer.[2]


"The Musical Box" originated as an instrumental written by former Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips[3] called "F#" which was later re-recorded as "Manipulation" on the Jackson Tapes[4] and released on the box set Genesis 1970–1975. The guitar solo was written by lead guitarist Mick Barnard, who replaced Phillips in 1970 prior to Hackett joining the band. The song concerns a mock-Victorian fairy story 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, Henry's nurse arrives and throws the musical box at him, destroying them both. The Genesis tribute band The Musical Box was 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. Hackett recorded a waltz version of the song for Watcher of the Skies: Genesis Revisited.

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 the toxic weed Heracleum mantegazzianum, commonly known as "giant hogweed".

"Seven Stones" tells the story about a smart but extremely vindictive old man. It opens quietly, growing stronger throughout and ending with a dramatic flourish.

"Harold the Barrel" recounts a tale 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.

Sleeve design[edit]

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


Nursery Cryme was released in November 1971. The album would not chart in the UK until May 1974 where it peaked at number 39 and number 68 in March 1984. In Italy, the album reached number 4.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[6]
Robert Christgau C−[7]
Rolling Stone (mixed)[8]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 2/5 stars[9]

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.[8]

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."[10] 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."[6] Robert Christgau's brief review consisted entirely of sarcastic exclamations.[7] Geddy Lee of Rush included this album among his favourites in a list from an interview with The Quietus.[11]


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]

Track listing[edit]

All songs composed, arranged, and performed by Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, and Mike Rutherford.[2]

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




  1. ^ Genesis 2007, p. 105–106.
  2. ^ a b c d Nursery Cryme (Media notes). Charisma Records. 1971. CAS 1052. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ For the history of these tracks, see this discussion with Anthony Phillips, and this discussion with Richard MacPhail.
  5. ^ Gallo, A: 'Genesis From One Fan to Another, page 20. Omnibus Press, 1984
  6. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (2011). "Nursery Cryme – Genesis | AllMusic". Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "CG: Genesis". Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ Nathan Brackett; Christian David Hoard (2004). The new Rolling Stone album guide. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 327. ISBN 978-0-7432-0169-8. 
  10. ^ Jones, Chris (18 April 2007). "BBC – Music – Review of Genesis – Nursery Cryme". BBC. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  11. ^ "In The Mood: The Favourite Albums Of Rush's Geddy Lee". 29 June 2012. 
  • 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. 

External links[edit]