A rare political song for Genesis, "Land of Confusion" questions the wisdom of world leaders at a time when the US and Russia were enemies and there was a threat of nuclear war. Phil Collins called it, "A political song about the mess we have landed in."
Mike Rutherford, who wrote the lyric, added: "I've always shied away from doing what I call a preachy song, a protest song, but it seemed to work. Maybe because the music was quite angry it made it work." (From our interview with Rutherford
The very popular video was made using puppets created by Peter Fluck and Roger Law, who had a British TV series called The Spitting Image. The show would often make fun of Genesis, and by hiring their tormentors, the band proved that they could take a joke.
Genesis puppets had been used on the show before, but they made new ones for the video - not very flattering ones either. It was a way for the band to lighten their image from their days as earnest prog rockers. The video could go in the Cold War cultural time capsule: at the end, the Ronald Reagan puppet accidentally launches a nuclear missile.
Mike Rutherford called this "a kind of '80s protest song," adding, "It's about how we live in a very nice world, and what a mess we're making of it. How it should all be so easy and it's all so difficult."
The video won the 1987 Grammy for Best Concept Music Video - it was the only Grammy Genesis ever won, and they weren't even in the clip. At the MTV Video Music Awards, the video was nominated in six categories, but lost them all to Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer
The video was produced by Paul Flattery and directed by Jim Yukich, who teamed up on most of the Genesis and Phil Collins videos of the time.
Yukich, an American, would watch The Spitting Image on his trips to England and loved the show. He got the idea to use the puppets in this video when he saw a Phil Collins parody on the show that made fun of his angst-ridden solo work.
Typical of Genesis during this era, the entire band - Tony Banks
, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford - are the credited songwriters, as they all worked on the track.
By Genesis standards, this is an easy song to play. For this reason, it was used as the opener on their 1992 We Can't Dance tour. Tony Banks explained: "It's a simple song to play, easy to get the mix right, and it sounds good quite easily."
An inside joke in the video is Tony Banks playing a cash register - that was because he was always complaining about how expensive the videos were to make. And "Land Of Confusion" was very expensive - each puppet cost about $10,000.
This song is mentioned in the movie American Psycho. The lead character, Patrick Bateman, played by Christian Bale, calls this album their "Undisputed masterpiece," and praises this for "Questioning authoritative control." He then kills his coworker.
The hard rock group Disturbed covered this in 2006.
Brandon - Peoria, IL
For Mike Rutherford, the video seemed particularly relevant when Donald Trump took office as president of the United States. "Ever since Trump got in I hark back to that video," he told Songfacts in 2017. "The final scene is Reagan looking towards the wall behind his bed and there's two buttons, one saying 'nurse' and one saying 'nuke.' It's just kind of a strange time, isn't it? Some of it seemed very relevant."