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 GabrielTony 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.


 [hide*1 Album history

Album history[edit]Edit

Although not a success at home upon its release 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. 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 (from King Crimson).[2] 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".


Though credited solely to Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford, "The Musical Box" began as an instrumental piece written by Anthony Phillips[3] called "F#", which was later re-recorded as "Manipulation" on the Jackson Tapes [4] and released on the Box Set remaster. 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. Dramatic lighting would be used each time he shouted "NOW!" "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.

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 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.

"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, which is mirrored in the lyrics where Peter Gabriel sings "We shall be joined as one." Pete Lazonby used a sample of the song for the 1994 trance track Sacred Cycles.

"Harold the Barrel" 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.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic [5]
Robert Christgau C−[6]
Rolling Stone (mixed)[7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide [8]

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.[7]

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."[9] 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."[5] Robert Christgau's brief review consisted entirely of sarcastic exclamations.[6] Geddy Lee of Rush included this album among his favourites in a list from an interview with The Quietus.[10]

Track listing[edit]Edit

All songs written by Tony BanksPhil CollinsPeter GabrielSteve Hackett and Mike Rutherford, with minimal early contribution from ex-member Anthony Phillips.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "The Musical Box"   10:24
2. "For Absent Friends"   1:44
3. "The Return of the Giant Hogweed"   8:09
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Seven Stones"   5:08
2. "Harold the Barrel"   2:59
3. "Harlequin"   2:53
4. "The Fountain of Salmacis"   7:54



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 andFoxtrot.

Release history[edit]Edit

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

US LP releases[edit]Edit

  • Charisma Records CAS-1052 (1971): 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
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