Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

The following notes are from the original souvenir program of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway Tour in 1974, which began in November at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago and ran through May of the next year, closing with The Palais de Sports in Besançon, France (with a final cancelled show in Toulous). (I was fortunate enough to see the show at the Shrine Auditorium in L. A. in January 1975.) Like The Beatles (The White Album), a double album of similar stature, I first thought The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway was too scattered and inconsistent, especially after Selling England by the Pound. These days, I enjoy it because of its variance in sound: there is simply no denying the spectacular melodies present here throughout, even if the album drags a bit here and there. The first half of the album is nearly flawless, and while there are moments of doubt in the second half, it remains an essential piece of the classic-era progressive rock Genesis.

PETER: Several ideas for the album were presented in order for the band to exercise a democratic vote. I knew mine was the strongest and I knew it would win - or, I knew that I could get it to win. The only other idea that was seriously considered was The Little Prince which Mike was in favour of - a kid’s story. I thought that was too twee. This was 1974; it was pre-punk but I still thought we needed to base the story around a contemporary figure rather than a fantasy creation. We were beginning to get into the era of the big, fat supergroups of the seventies and I thought, “I don’t want to go down with this Titanic”. Once the story idea had been accepted we had all these heavy arguments about writing the lyrics. My argument was that there aren’t many novels which are written by a committee. I said, “I think this is something that only I’m going to be able to get into, in terms of understanding the characters and the situations”. I wrote indirectly about lots of my emotional experiences in The Lamb and so I didn’t want other people coloring it. In fact there are parts of it which are almost indecipherable and very difficult which I don’t think are very successful. In some ways it was quite a traditional concept album - it was a type of Pilgrim’s Progress but with this street character in leather jacket and jeans. Rael would have been called a punk at that time without all the post-‘76 connotations. The Ramones hadn’t started then, although the New York Dolls had, but they were more glam-punk. The Lamb was looking towards West Side Story as a starting point.

MIKE: It was about a greasy Puerto Rican kid! For once we were writing about subject matter which was neither airy-fairy, nor romantic. We finally managed to get away from writing about unearthly things which I think helped the album.

TONY: All the lyrics were written by Peter, apart from one or two tracks, because he’d thought up the story line. He didn’t really want anyone else to do it. We also had a lot of work to do, because we had decided by that time that we were going to make a double album. This meant there was a division as Pete went off and wrote the lyrics, and everyone else wrote the music. By the time Pete had finished the lyrics, there were about two or three holes where there wasn’t a song, and we needed to write something. “Carpet Crawlers” was one and “The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging” was another.

PHIL: We were living at Headley Grange - this house that Led Zeppelin, Bad Company and the Pretty Things had lived in. it was a bit of a shambles - in fact they’d ripped the shit out of it. We were all living together and writing together and it went very well to start with. Pete had said he wanted to do all the words so Mike and Tony had backed off and we were merrily churning out this music. Every time we sat down and played, something good came out.

PETER: Around the time we started work on The Lamb I had this call from Hollywood by William Friedkin who’d seen the story I’d written on the back of the live album and he thought it indicated a weird, visual mind. He was trying to put together a sci-fi film and he wanted to get a writer who’d never been involved with Hollywood before. We were working at Headley Grange which I felt was partly haunted by Jimmy Page’s black magic experiments, and was full of rock and roll legend. I would go bicycle to the phone box down the hill and dial Friedkin in California with pockets stuffed full of 10p pieces.

PHIL: Suddenly Peter came up and said, “Do you mind if we stop for a bit”, and we all said, “No. Of course we don’t want to stop.” It was a matter of principle more than anything else. So he said, “OK, I want to do the film, so I’m leaving.” I remember we were sitting in the garden by the porch saying “What are we going to do? We’ll carry on. We’ll have an instrumental group”, which for about five seconds was a serious idea because we had a lot of music written.

TONY: We were just going to carry on. We were going to write another story line. Not that I wanted Pete to leave because he was a very strong contributor and I really enjoyed working with him. I felt that the group needed all the energy we could possibly put into it because we still have a long way to go career-wise, and I thought musically it was still very interesting. If you are going to do it properly there’s no way that one person can suddenly go off like that leaving the rest to hang about for three months. We made that very clear and that’s why he left. It was all getting a little tedious, because the group was very much the main thing in our lives at that particular time. Peter kept saying if this William Friedkin offer came, he would do that in preference to working with us. And I thought, “This is absurd”. There came a point when he decided to write a screen play, so he left for a bit. Anyhow, higher authorities stepped in - I think it was Strat - to try and keep us together. So Peter made a definite commitment to finish the album before he did anything else. But I think it made all of us feel that he was getting fed up and it was only a matter of time before he left.