Home By The Sea

Album: Genesis (1983)
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  • This is about some people moving into their new "Home by the Sea" where they encounter some ghosts. The ghosts start to tell their story and in doing so they condemn the new tenants to an existence as prisoners in their own home.
  • A group composition, Phil Collins came up with the title, which to Tony Banks conjured up an image of a haunted house on top of a cliff. "I had the idea of this burglar going into this house and suddenly finding out it was haunted, which I thought was quite funny," he said in the Way We Walk DVD. "I took that idea further and made it one of those songs about looking back over people's lives who are trapped in the past, but there's nothing they can do about it."
  • This song was particularly popular in Eastern Asia, because of its use of the pentatonic scale, which contains five notes per octave and is the basic scale of Chinese music.
  • Phil Collins in an 1986 interview: "What we did on a song like 'Home by the Sea' was to record with a programmed drum machine. Tony (Banks) would play a guide keyboard part, Mike (Rutherford) would play a guide guitar part, and I'd sing a guide vocal. These 'guide parts' enabled us to settle on the format for the songs. If we liked what we got, we would then go in and record. Tony would go in and record his keyboard parts, Mike would record his guitar and bass parts, I'd replace the Linn drums with my drums, and after all of that I'd go in and rerecord my vocal." (courtesy: philcollins.co.uk.)
  • Talking about the composition of this song, Tony Banks said, "Lyrically it's one of my songs. The second half of that was a real experiment in terms of band writing - we just improvised. Phil had this drum rhythm and Mike and I just played. We got two or three hours worth of jamming on tape. A lot of it sounded quite good but we couldn't tie it down, so we listened to it, selected good moments of the jam, then Mike and I re-learned exactly what we played. I think it produced a great result. It's one of my favorites."
  • This was the first part of a two-song suite. The second part, the nearly all instrumental "Second Home by the Sea," ends with the main theme of "Home By The Sea."

Comments: 25

  • Swine from Ohio, UsaYes, Jumper! This is absolutely dead-on about the giants from Stephan R Donaldson’s The Wounded Land.
  • Archie from Bristol, Ri I have to agree with John from Orlando. What makes a well written song is how we can interpret it in so many different ways and all be right. This is rock n roll ladies and gentleman.
  • Fer from Buenos AiresSo much imagination from you folks :

    The lyrics belong to Tony Banks, and that's a fact...

    So listen to what this talented guy says : It's about a thief breaking into a haunted house ... Ciao!!
  • Mark H from UkIt's about the elderly living in a retirement home by the sea. In the UK many old folk move to the seaside because of the slightly milder climate to live out the rest of their years. It's a sad look at a life's end - Dreaming of the time we are free. Until then, reliving lives with photographs and memories.
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenJack Trout, your interpretation sounds pretty fishy to me.
  • Gorn from Santa BarbaraSound's more like a thief in the night, got caught in the vortex. "Creeping up the blind side
    Shinning up the wall
    Stealing through the dark of night
    Climbing through a window
    Stepping to the floor
    Checking to the left and the right
    Picking up the pieces
    Putting them away
    Something doesn't feel quite right"

    See? Doesn't sound like new tenants.
  • Jay Wilson from New Hampshire, UsaJust noticed the melody in parts is borrowed from "Heathaze" from their 1980 album Duke.
  • Jack Trout from Mount ShastaThis song is about the cruelty to whales and dolphins explained metaphors only Phi Collins knows o to do. thank you, jack trout.
  • Chris Merchant from New EnglandNo. I totally disagree with almost all attempts to interpret this song. This is not about ghosts, and has nothing to do with the occult. Trust me, and hear me out for a moment, because I'm nearly certain that if you keep these thoughts in mind while either reading the lyrics or listening to the song itself, that you will agree with me.

    The first verse is not about someone "moving in." I mean just listen to it! It's about some kids seeking in to the place. That seems pretty obvious to me. The second verse is about a bunch of very lonely old people glad to see these kids, and wanting to share their life stories with them because they never get any visitors. Get it yet? It's a retirement home!

    Later in the song, the same kids are not kids anymore, but aged themselves and placed there by their on children.

    Keep these thoughts in mind and read or listen to it again, then let me know what you think. The first time this occurred to me, which was tonight, it was a head smacking moment, because I've been listening to this song since the day it was released, and until now, I believe I've had the wrong impression of its meaning all along.
  • Andy from AustraliaI love this song, my first car had a tape player and the 1 tape I had was this album, with Roger Waters live in Stockholm on the other side.
    I have always thought it was about an old persons home - scenes of unimportance, photos in a frame : all some have left of their possessions is a few photos of family or deceased wives or husbands etc. Also - sit down, sit down, no you won't get away, no with us you will stay, for the rest of your days, sit down : picture all the residents of the old persons home sat in chairs in a circle in the "day room" waiting to die.
  • John from Orlando, FloridaI have to laugh at all the commenters calling others wrong about their interpretation of a song. The fact that a million people can listen to the same song and interpret it a million different ways is one of the most awesome things about music!
  • Kyle from Sydney, AustraliaTwo points. Firstly, all the comments here about Phil Collins are irrelevant - Tony Banks wrote this lyric. Secondly, Tony has explicitly stated that 'Home By The Sea' is about a thief breaking into a haunted house - it's no more complicated than that.
  • Jumper from Ottawa, OnSo sorry, folks, but the answer is this - the song comes directly from Steven R. Donaldson's book, "The Wounded Land", printed in 1980, describing the curse of Lord Foul laid upon the Giants of Seareach. They were known as the Unhomed, and lived in the Coecri, or, Home by the Sea. Read it and you'll see it's an exact match.
  • Maggie from Small Town Outside Bobcaygeon, Oncon't: sorting thru their memory, putting them away; something doesn't fit; my mother had alzheimer;s and that's a very apt way of describing the confusion and disorientation she experienced; there are all kinds of possibilities; a lot of different ways to interpret it, use your imagination; as a creative person, i don't feel i have to have a literal simplistic explanation to enjoy the song
  • Maggie from Small Town Outside Bobcaygeon, Onthe comments posted remind me of a conversation with a friend i once had; who took the lyrics of a song way too literally and i tried to explain, they're basically all metaphors; heaven's gate wont' open, prison gates won't open, four walls closing in; etc. and the singer is asking the one he loves to save him; but she just didn't get that; I am a writer and metaphor is a great method for describing how one feels, when your character is dealing with something very painful; yes, the first two verses creeping up the blind side and shinnying up the wall implies a thief or intrusion of some kind, but that can represent a lot of things; madness, as some have said, recollections of youth or a happier time, death, maybe; we portray death as an actual being: the grim reaper and most of us don't exactly welcome it with open arms...picking up the pieces...that could refer to someone sorting through their memory
  • Lisa from Melrose, WiMark-you are right-Redstar-It is about something as stupid as robbers in a haunted house- how deep do you think Phil Collins is now? Great song, but check wikkipedia for the meaning.
  • Melissa from Spokane, WaI always associated this song with Alcatraz and it starts with the person breaking into someone's house through a window and checking to see if anyone is there. Soon it becomes a story about him in Alcatraz (the "Home by the Sea") and he is being told "Welcome to the Home by the Sea" especially when he says "No you won't get away. No with us you will stay for the rest of your days" and so on. It is in reference to how nobody could ever escape from Alcatraz.
  • Redstar from Redding, CtI think it is a confused old person coming to realize he has been put in a retirement home and will never get out. "Welcome to the home by the Sea" is what they said to him when he checked in and he is marking his freedom to the time "before we first heard welcome to 'The Home By The Sea'" (It is capitalized like that in the lyric sheet, clearly showing it is a proper name.) I think the images of haunted people and shadowy figures is the elderly people inside wasting away to their deaths, mere shadow figures of their former self. The first two verses are indeed tough to reconcile, but may be really obtuse references to being secretly put in the home and the sort of dreamy confusion of senility. Collins is not the "deepest" of songwriters, but I can't imagine it is about something as stupid as robbers trapped in a haunted house.
  • John from Goleta, CaI thought it could be a rest home / retirement home. That would explain them hearing "welcome", the lack of freedom, and need to talk. But the first verse doesn't fit.
  • Becky from Box Springs, GaChristian, I agree with you.....ever since hearing this song, I have always believed it to be about Alcatraz.....it fits with the song perfectly
  • Christian from Kansas City, MoMy partner at work REALLY digs this song...and his theory seems the best. It's a caught burglar doin time in Alcatraz... As rockman said: "Creeping up the blind side, shinning up the wall Stealing thru the dark of night Climbing thru a window, stepping to the floor Checking to the left and the right Picking up the pieces, putting them away..."

    Get me outta here!
    Welcome to the Home By The Sea...Alcatraz.
  • Matt from New Castle, NhWhen I listen to this song, I don't imagine ghosts as much as I do a bunch of crazy people in an institution. "Adrift without direction, eyes that hold despair. Then as one they sigh and moan." Even the term 'home by the sea,' although ad-libbed during a jam sess, as Collins claims, sounds to me like a polite way of saying totally nuts. Far away from the rest of civilization. Someone let us out of here!
  • Tony from Toledo, OhWhen I was very miserable in grad school in 1985 and I felt trapped there by circumstances, I would listen to HOME BY THE SEA, and sing along with my stereo, especially the lyric SOMEONE LET ME OUT OF HERE!
  • Mark from Austin, TxI think what I had heard was that it was a thief in a haunted house. He encounters the ghosts who then hold him prisoner there. Seems like I heard that in an interview with Phil at some point. Don't remember where or when.
  • Rockman from Atlanta, Gayour first fact is wrong the first lines of the song speak of "Creeping up the blind side, shinning up the wall
    Stealing thru the dark of night
    Climbing thru a window, stepping to the floor
    Checking to the left and the right
    Picking up the pieces, putting them away" this is a thief DUDE.
    It is sugestive at least to me of someone flirting with addictive behavior and then becoming addicted.
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