Album: Abacab (1981)
Charted: 9 26


  • The title refers to the song structure as it was originally written: "A", "B", and "C" refer to different sections of the song:

    A = Verse
    B = Chorus
    C = Bridge

    So the song went verse, chorus, verse, bridge, verse, chorus, but it ended up having a different structure - "ABACAB" was just a way for them to remember how it was formed when they started working on it.

    When it came time to title the song and the album, they wanted something a bit abstract, and "Abacab" worked because it had no meaning. The album art was created to look like an abstract painting to go with this theme, which indicated that this would not be typical of Genesis' previous work. "It wasn't going to be goblins and fairies," Mike Rutherford said.
  • Collins said that Abacab was the first album where the three members of the band really talked to each other and worked as a team. The band bought a place in Surrey, England that they turned into a recording studio, which they called The Farm. This song was written in the living room of the house. On this song and the others on the album, the drums were a lot more pronounced than on previous Genesis recordings, and the keyboards far less prominent.
  • This was the second US single from the album, following "No Reply At All." Like many British bands, they had been making music videos for some of their songs, and "Abacab" got one as well. It was just a basic clip of the band performing on an empty stage, but MTV didn't have much to choose from and welcomed any new material they could find from established rock acts like Genesis.

    Genesis was especially ill-suited for this kind of video because their lead singer was trapped behind a drum kit and their look was pretty generic (rugby shirts!), but it got the job done, helping the song reach #26 in the US in February 1982 and introducing them to a younger audience. They quickly adapted to MTV, delivering well-produced concept videos for many of their next singles.
  • Before a reunited Genesis set out for their 2007 tour, Rolling Stone magazine asked Collins if any songs didn't make it past rehearsal. His reply: "That happened with 'Abacab,' which I'm sure everyone expects us to do. Halfway through the first verse, I said, 'I don't really want to sing this. I don't know what it's about.'"
  • In a Songfacts interview with Tony Banks, he said: "On that particular record, we were trying to get away from what was, at that point, traditionally Genesis, which was quite flowery and fantasy, and to go to something that was much more stark and abstract. That's why we went for an abstract art painting on the front and gave it this abstract title, Abacab, so, that it didn't conjure up any particular emotion at all. We started with a kind of blank canvas. It worked well as both a song and an album title, I think."

Comments: 22

  • Smackiepipe from Western North CarolinaLove this song, but can't believe there's still butt-hurt about Gabriel leaving in the comments. This was the SIXTH album produced after he left the band. Move on.
  • Jim from UsaThe instrumentation on this track goes well with Dodo/Lurker, one of my other favorites.
  • Chad from LcitySo many uninformed comments. Look, the song is not in the key of A and it doesn't end in the key of B. Most of the "A" section of the song modulates between the I and V.

    It starts in C major and ends in C Dorian, which is a mode of B-flat-major. It would simply be C-minor except that it uses the raised 6th (A) instead of A-flat.

    I always assumed (and it appears rightly) that "ABACAB" referred to the song structure, whether or not it actually applied to the actual song.
  • Westal from Dallas, TxI've always thought of a Clark Kent / Superman reference in some parts of the lyrics:

    (When they do it) you're never there ... Kent is never around when Superman does his thing
    (When they show it) just stop and stare ... Kent reappears and tries to look like any other astonished witness
    (Abacab) ease in anywhere ... Kent reappearing with stealth
    (Abacab) doesn't really care ... Kent knows who he really is


    When they turn on the pillow ... how subtle answers/solutions come to you in dreams, or on fringes of sleep
    Even when they answer the telephone ... voice-only gives him away
    Don't you think they'll find out?
  • Westal from Dallas, TxThe scheme A-B-A-C-A-B does exactly fit the main verse of the song - the instrumental parts behind the vocals:
    A - Mike's 3 chord guitar riff (actually 2 chords - 1 sliding up into the 2nd, and repeat of 2nd)
    B - Tony's 2 note keyboard part
    A - exact repeat of Mike's guitar
    C - 2 notes from Tony, but different than "B"
    A - exact repeat of Mike's guitar
    B - exact repeat of Tony's first 2 note part.
  • Joe from Grants Pass, OrTHEN you realise the blend of Gabriel and Collins
  • Tim from Springfield, MaA Trick of the Tail remains one of my favorite Genesis albums. They're great with or without Gabriel.
  • Brad from Creston, BcIt is the note progression of the song.
  • Abacab from Outhere, FlIf you read and follow the lyrics it's almost as if the song was initially formulated by the band as just some non - sensical rhyme. In fact though it is more about a ficticious scapegoat. I do believe the chord progression theory about the title. My brother in-law was a keyboardist and he had heard that rumor about the title and confirmed that the chords that make up the song comprise it. As for the order not matching the title I've heard that they were strapped for a title and merely rearranged order of the chords into a "catchy title". Even if it wasn't the band members themselves some music producer with enough basic knowledge of music could've easily improvised the title with that idea.
  • Anthony from Albuquerque, Nmthis is a total lie genesis got you to buy into. I can show you the proof but an open mind is required and no, i'm not a looney tune. just email me at salasanthony@juno.com and I will show you the meaning of this song.
  • Ryan from Lesueur, MnWhat I heard was that ABACAB is the key changes the song goes through. It starts in A and ends in the key of B
  • J_bryon from Milladore/monroe, WiI saw Genesis at Camp Randle in Madison, Wi in 1992. To this day that concert has been the best show I have ever attended.
  • Jim from Chicago, IlWhatever!!! Genesis ceased to be once Gabriel left. Period
  • Goran from Monterey, CaABACAB is yet another proof that this band was worthless and dull after Gabriel dumped them, yet it's still better than Congo - the stupidest pile of junk ever written. I'm scared to even think of the garbage they'll come up with after their 2006/2007 reunion. Britney Spears, please help those old dorks do something half-decent!
  • Robby from Commerce, TxI learned about song structure in grammar school music class, and wondered if that had something to do with this song. If you call the verse the "A" section, the chorus the "B" section, and the bridge the "C" section, the song is assembled: (intro), verse 1, chorus, verse 2, chorus, bridge, verse 3, chorus, OR ABABCAB. Not quite exactly the final title, but as someone else stated, probably the easiest to pronounce. I just knew my music lessons would come in handy one day!
  • Pat from Brampton, CanadaCorrection to the 3rd "Songfacts": This was not Genesis's first top 10 US hit. As indicated, it peaked at #26. Their first top ten was "That's All" about two years later.
  • Jay from St. Louis, MoStu and Will are correct - this refers to the positioning of the different sections of the song, not the note or chord progression.
  • Kent Lyle from Palo Alto, CaThis is essentially an instrumental; the vocals were really just used as an additional instrument. I doubt the lyrics have a great deal of significance.
  • Will from Long Island, NyThe letters do not stand for chords or notes. They stand for different sections of the tune. The 'A' section, 'B' section and 'C' section. While putting the song together, they tried different combinations, like 'ABBCBA' or 'AACBAB' and so forth. Though the final version heard today is not actually in the 'ABACAB' form, it was the easiest to pronounce!
  • Si from London, EnglandMy god they were inventive at that stage weren't they? "What shall we call this one?" "Oh, doesn't matter, some loser will buy it, just name it after the chord progression".

    And this was the first top 10 hit for them in the US!! There must have been a massive appetite for uninspired unoriginal crap that year.
  • Sled from St. Louis, NeABACAB refers to the song's chord progession.
  • Raja from Austin, TxI thought that this song was named after the chord structure of the song? The note progression at the start of the song is is A B A C A B. Could have swore I heard Banks say that.
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