I stumbled across this relatively obscure Genesis b-side the other day. It dates from 1975, and The Trick of the Tail sessions, the first album they recorded after Peter Gabriel departed. The song appears to be three separate sections stitched together, with the middle section forming part of the closing ‘Los Endos’ on The Trick of the Tail.
It’s an interesting historical piece. The transition from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway – their previous album – to this, is startling. The structure of the song retains prog. leanings, but the tune itself is pretty much a straight ahead dirge. It does sound good. Collins already seems comfortable in his new role as lead vocalist, while Hackett’s/Banks’s expert arpeggios and Mike Rutherford’s shuddering bass pedals create an assured, embalming atmosphere. Lyrically, it’s all change too. Hogweeds, Lamias and unifauns are replaced by a maudlin lament to a love lost.
The abrupt shift in the middle of the song self-consciously reasserts their prog. credentials. But it’s the closing coda that really caught my attention. Here, the band essentially reprises the intro. before heading off into generic, off-the-shelf, woozy psychedelia. Guitar’s chime at stoner pace before – wait for it – the arrival of backwards vocals! I couldn’t detect any sitars, but they are surely buried somewhere in the mix. Anyone vaguely familiar with the Genesis back catalogue will know that Genesis do not do woozy psychedelia. I can think of some attempts at scary sound collages on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. But psychedelia? No.
‘It’s Yourself’ wasn’t released until 1977, sneaking onto the b-side of single ‘Your Own Special Way’, which makes you think that the band were never that happy with the song. Personally, I could listen to meandering twelve string guitars all day, and I would have been happy for them to move more in that direction. But bands can spend a long time honing their sound, creating their own unique identity. It can be crucial to their continued success. Venture too far off-piste and you can guarantee that some band members will get nose bleeds.
Of course, the irony is that the band completely re-invented their sound once Hackett left, working from a completely new template. Still, I think ‘It’s Yourself’, remains an intriguing snapshot of alternative realties in the story of Genesis.