No Son of Mine

Album: We Can't Dance (1991)
Charted: 6 12
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Songfacts®:

  • This song deals with an abusive father. The lyrics came from Phil Collins, who explained on the radio show Rockline: "The chorus of the song came from improvisation while we were writing the music. I took the notion of my lyrical idea and just wrote a story around it. The story is sort of self-explanatory. It's a household of abuse. The father is being sort of the monster of the family - he's either abusing the son or the mother. I'm not quite sure who, and that's deliberately left open. But it's happening everywhere behind closed doors, and a lot of people I've found that have heard the song have sort of reacted as if it was written for them. It's extraordinary, you just write something that comes about by accident, but in fact it all ends up being something that reaches a lot of people."
  • This was the first single off We Can't Dance, the last Genesis studio album with Phil Collins.
  • Tony Banks built the track for this song using a device called an emulator, which allowed him to sample a guitar part Mike Rutherford played. Slowing down the sample, Banks got a sound he related to the trumpeting of an elephant. Rutherford didn't know he was being recorded when Banks grabbed the sample: He would record random bits of what was going on in the studio and see what he could do with them.
  • Genesis videos went over very well thanks to the cinematic sensibilities of director Jim Yukich and the acting talents of Phil Collins. For a song like this one that tells a story that can be hashed out on film, they typically offered a literal portrayal. In the "No Son of Mine" video, we see the child enduring the abuse doled out by his father.
  • The song opens with the sound of metronome. "It was not originally part of the song," Tony Banks explained. "We needed a tempo thing to happen there, and one time Phil did this thing with two drumsticks. It sounded great and gave it part of the atmosphere."
  • After Genesis reunited for the Turn It On Again Tour in 2007, there was no further band activity for 13 years. Following the long hiatus, Collins, Banks and Rutherford reunited for two-and-a-half weeks of rehearsals in New York in January 2020 accompanied by Collins' son Nick Collins and the group's long-serving touring guitarist Daryl Stuermer.

    Banks recalled to Mojo, "The first songs we played were 'No Son of Mine' and 'Land of Confusion.' Mainly because they are the two easiest."

Comments: 2

  • Eamon from Motherwell, ScotlandMy girlfriend, Madge adores this song and rightly so, it is a tremendously musical extravaganza.
    I gently converted her to Genesis and was delighted to attend Old Trafford in Manchester to see the group with Jimbo,Linda, Paul & Trish.
    We also went to Rome and went to Circus maximus to see the remnants of the 500,000 fans the day after the concert.
    The song reflects the problem of child/wife abuse in England and although the sad lyrics reflect this desperate situation, the music achieves acclaim and sends the message out.
    Eamon, Motherwell.
  • Steve from Torrance, CaIn the studio, the working title of this song was "Elephant". The elephant's trumpet sound heard throughout the song is actually a heavily distorted guitar. The sound also appears on the song "On the Shoreline", which is the non-album b-side to "I can't dance".
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