No Reply At All

Album: Abacab (1981)
Charted: 29
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • Phil Collins poached the Earth, Wind & Fire horn section (known as The Phenix Horns) for his 1981 solo hit "I Missed Again," so a few months later when he was working with Genesis on the Abacab album, he decided to use them again. "I thought, if we're going to reinvent ourselves, why not have horns on it? This is a song here that sounds like a funky, R&B thing, so let's put horns on it. So we did it, and people hated it."

    The song did turn off some of Genesis' fans who were accustomed to their prog-rock sound. It's one of the Genesis songs that sounds like it could be a Phil Collins solo cut.
  • In the song, Phil Collins sings about being frustrated and feeling ignored by his partner, who he thinks is hiding something from him. Collins poured his heart out on his solo Face Value album and could certainly related to these emotions, but he has never described this as a personal song for him - he was writing in character with a touch of paranoia, but with nowhere near the delusional tone of "Mama."
  • Even after paring down to three members in 1977, Genesis rarely used outside musicians on their recordings. They didn't have have to because Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford could generate just about any sound using guitars, basses, keyboards and an array of samplers and synths. This song is an outlier in their catalog because of the horn section; the last time they used outside musicians was on their first album, From Genesis to Revelation, issued in 1969, which used a string section.
  • In America, where the Earth, Wind & Fire sound was most effective, this was the first single from the album. Released in September 1981, it was the first new Genesis song to land on MTV, which went on the air in August. The video shows the band performing in an empty studio, which was pretty standard at the time. Genesis didn't dress for MTV - they looked more like accountants - but they did put on matching jackets and ham it up to mime the horn parts, which created a memorable visual interlude.

    MTV exposure helped send the song to #29 in November and gave them a new, younger audience who only knew them as a 3-piece pop band. For the rest of their run, they made more complex concept videos, many of which went over very well on MTV and helped grow their new American fanbase.
  • In their native UK, this wasn't released as a single; it was issued in a number of European countries, including Italy and Portugal.
  • The Beatles, who were a huge influence on Genesis, released a song with a similar lyrical sentiment in 1964: "No Reply."

Comments: 8

  • Greg K from Ashland, OrI always thought of this song as about an alien abduction. The aliens show the abductees "a world full of people... with no fear of war" and "thousands of creatures with happier lives."
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 20th 1981, "No Reply At All" by Genesis entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #85; and on November 22nd, 1981 it peaked at #29 {for 2 weeks} and spent 18 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #7 on the Canadian RPM 100 Singles chart...
    Between 1977 and 1992 the British quintet had twenty-two Top 100 records; seven made the Top 10 with one reaching #1, "Invisible Touch" for one week on July 13th, 1986...
    The week "Invisible Touch" was at #1 on the Top 100, the #2 record was "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel, who was a co-founder of Genesis in 1967 and left the group in 1975...
    Peter Gabriel will celebrate his 65th birthday this coming February 13th {2015}.
  • Eva from Selma, AlAnd yes Douglas I agree! The Bass on this one is da bomb!
  • Eva from Selma, AlFor me, this describes my marriage to a T!!! How can one person never have ANYTHING to talk about, do, go places, etc? Phil, U guys r making me wonder why I'm still there,LOLOLOLOL. To me, their best song after In the air tonight! GENESIS ROCKS!
  • Jibri from Muskegon, MiTo me, this song was ahead of its time. A true oldie but goodie. The incredible timing of all the parts(bass, horns, etc.) jelling perfectly together. The quick emphasis of the horns is amazing. Young musicians can learn from quality music like this one.
  • Douglas from Staten Island , NyThe bass playing on this song is unreal!!!
  • Erik from West Des Moines, IaThe Phenix horns are also featured on Phil Collins' "Something Happened On The Way To Heaven." Collins, understandably, is a huge Earth, Wind & Fire fan
  • Joshua from Twin Cities, MnCollins would return the favor a couple of years later by singing with EWF's Philip Bailey in "Easy Lover".
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Spooner Oldham

Spooner OldhamSongwriter Interviews

His keyboard work helped define the Muscle Shoals sound and make him an integral part of many Neil Young recordings. Spooner is also an accomplished songwriter, whose hits include "I'm Your Puppet" and "Cry Like A Baby."

Graham Nash

Graham NashSongwriter Interviews

Graham Nash tells the stories behind some of his famous songs and photos, and is asked about "yacht rock" for the first time.

Paul Stanley of Kiss, Soul Station

Paul Stanley of Kiss, Soul StationSongwriter Interviews

Paul Stanley on his soul music project, the Kiss songs with the biggest soul influence, and the non-make-up era of the band.

David Gray

David GraySongwriter Interviews

David Gray explains the significance of the word "Babylon," and talks about how songs are a form of active imagination, with lyrics that reveal what's inside us.

Mark Arm of Mudhoney

Mark Arm of MudhoneySongwriter Interviews

When he was asked to write a song for the Singles soundtrack, Mark thought the Seattle grunge scene was already overblown, so that's what he wrote about.

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum

Dave Pirner of Soul AsylumSongwriter Interviews

Dave explains how the video appropriated the meaning of "Runaway Train," and what he thought of getting parodied by Weird Al.