Turn It On Again

Album: Duke (1980)
Charted: 8 58
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • The three Genesis band members - Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford - wrote the music to this song, and Rutherford wrote the lyrics. The Duke album was the first where the band wrote the songs together, typically by working up the tracks in improvised jams. Once an arrangement emerged, one member of the band would then take on the lyrics. Rutherford, whose other lyrical contributions with Genesis include "Follow You, Follow Me" and "Land Of Confusion," says that he writes the "simple" songs for the band, although fans may disagree.

    "Turn It On Again" begins, "All I need is a TV show," and then talks about the familiar characters on television that give the singer comfort. Rutherford might find the lyrics simple, but they explore an interesting theme: how we can work up imaginary relationships with the folks with see on TV while putting aside our real friends and family.
  • This continued Genesis' transformation from theatrical, progressive rock to radio-friendly pop. Many of their core fans felt they were selling out, but they had huge commercial success as a result.
  • Originally, this was going to be part of the bits and bobs that make up the end of the Duke album, but they decided it was good enough to expand into a full song. Notice that the first verse is repeated as the third. "We just doubled it," Tony Banks said. "We thought, we'll go around it twice and see what happens."
  • In England, where the band was much more popular, this was released as a single before the album. In the US the single, which did not chart, came out six months after the album was released.
  • The Duke album was the first where the band used a drum machine. This helped Phil Collins focus on singing and songwriting.
  • Despite the strident pop appeal of this song, it does incorporate a very unusual time signature, which depending on who you ask, is either 13/8 or alternating between 6/4 and 7/4.
  • Tony Banks explained in the Way We Walk DVD: "Musically, it's quite a complicated piece. For starters, it's in a funny time signature, 13/8 or something. Not that you'd really notice that - it seemed more natural to do that than it was to make it 12, which would have been the more normal. Chord-wise, it goes through loads and loads of chords. It's a very unlikely single in a way. The reason I think it works is because it sounds simple even though it isn't. I've always quite liked that. The Beach Boys were good at that - things that sound deceptively simple but when you actually look at them, they're really quite complicated."
  • Genesis recorded this at Polar Studios in Sweden, which is owned by Abba.
  • When this song was released, it was TV screens that were drawing people in, replacing real-life friendships for virtual ones. Years later, it was smartphones and social media that became barriers to meaningful face-to-face contact. In a 2017 Songfacts interview with Mike Rutherford, he said, "I have a slight problem with it and a complaint is that at the moment no one lives in the now. They're all somewhere else on their screen talking to someone else, doing something else. There's a big lack of just being where you are, enjoying the moment, blue sky, people you're talking to.

    The screen means they're somewhere else, they're mentally not near, and that's a shame I think. I see families round the table who are on the phone, on the screen. I never allow that in my household. My kids are big now, but the danger is that everyone is somewhere else mentally."
  • "Turn It On Again" is the title to Genesis' 1999 Greatest Hits album. This is the first track.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 15

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1980 {September 12th} Genesis performed "Turn It On Again" on the NBC-TV late-night musical variety program, 'The Midnight Special'...
    The week before it entered Billboard's Top 100 chart at position #84, four weeks later it would peak at #58 {for 1 week} and it spent eight weeks on the Top 100...
    As noted above, it reached #8 on the United Kingdom's Singles chart...
    And on the same 'MS' show they also performed "Misunderstanding", four weeks earlier it had peaked at #14 {for 2 weeks} and it stayed on the Top 100 for eighteen weeks...
    Between 1980 and 1992 the Godalming, Surrey, England group had twenty two records on the Top 100 chart, seven made the Top 10 with one reaching #1, "Invisible Touch", for 1 week in 1986...
    They never had a record peak at #2, but did they did have two reached #3, "In Too Deep" {1986} and "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" {1987}...
  • Kayla from EnglandI know the meaning of the song, obviously but it has always reminded me of and will always remind me of my sweet boyfriend! Whenever I listen to the song (which is pretty much everyday) and I sing along I always say "I, I get so lonely when he's not there" because I DO get so lonely when my sweetie isn't with me! Thanks Genesis for such an AMAZING song, one of my favourite songs of all time! LOVE IT! <3
  • Laurie from Elmont, NyNah, I hate that song, "Turn It On Again" by Genesis because of that strange, awkward rhythm that doesn't appeal to me. Larry Santos's 1975 inspirational pop ballad, "Early In The Morning" which has the right rhythm that appeals to me might have been better than that song and here is the link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcC1cLrh4ds
  • Steve from New York, NyThis was part of a 6 song suite, the story of Albert, about whom the song is written. See the song "Duchess" for more info.
  • Liz from Wilton, NhI always liked this song, so maybe I'll pick up 'Duke' after all. Great live song too.

    ... and play it for MY HUSBAND who does nothing but watch TV!

    The character watches so much TV, it replaces reality. (This was before 'reality TV')
    most of us realize that TV characters are played by actors, but this guy doesn't quite get it. He holds onto the fantasy of meeting them, while not being able to relate to actual people.
  • Joe from Atlanta, GaI always heard that Mike Rutherford wrote the lyrics. According to Mike, the lyrics deal with a man who does nothing more than watch his television, so much that he becomes obsessed with the people he watches on it, believing them to be his friends.
  • Mike from Nashville, TnWhile Chester Thompson ultimately became Genesis' touring drummer, he was not the first choice. Bill Bruford actually played with the band on their first tours once Collins assumed the lead singers role. He can be heard on some cuts on " Seconds Out".
  • Colin from Ayr, ScotlandRe: Alan Partridge - This character did not appear until 1991, so it is unlikely he could have been the inspiration for a song written in 1980!
  • Zach from Buffalo, NyWill no one mention that most of this song is in 13/4, subdivided in 4/4, 4/4, 5/4!?? Pretty unusual for a big hit!!!
  • Pete from Leeds, EnglandRob, Collins often uses a drum machine firstly because once he took on singing duties, he could sing and drum but it would become monotonous for the audience live. Genesis first recruited Chester thompson as a back up drummer for their live shows. genesis were always first to new instruments tho (Mike Rutherford was the first person to record using a Mellotron) and any drummer would be interested in Drum Machines. Collins then discovered that the Drum Machines could be used in completely different ways to normal drums and even overlay them as is used to incredible effect on In The Air Tonight. He was probably the first person to approach the technology in this way. Also Collins is more than just a competent Drummer, he is one of the greatest drummers alive following on from such greats as Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. He approaches it as an instrument rather than a way to make a rhythm.
  • Steve from Torrance, CaThe songfact above specifically states that a drum machine was used for the first time on a Genesis ALBUM, not this song. The only prominent appearance of a drum machine on the "Duke" album is on the long, slow intro to "Duchess", which adds to that song's magical atmosphere. Collins' drums and percussion are particularly magnificent on this album, especially on "Man of our Times" and "Duke's Travels/Duke's End".
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaWhy would a competent drummer like Collins use a drum machine?
  • David from West Palm Beach, FlAlso, the comment about them using a "drum machine" on this track is perposterous. Any drummer can easily hear the authenticity of the traditional drums laid down on this track. Sure, its got a funky beat (as did Keep It Dark), but that doesn't mean its programmed. Also, keep in mind that 1980's technology hadn't yet developed to the point where such an authentic simulation could have been made... the sound is too rich in harmonics to have been generated, so it would need to have been sampled, however the timing and signature of each drum and cymbal hit varies too much, so using that many unique samples would have been impractical and probably impossible with 1980's-style memory and processors. Give it a second listen.
  • Marc from Brooklyn, NyAlso, the US single did chart. It reached #58 on the Hot 100/Pop Singles chart. It's still a big classic rock hit today. Check your info.
  • Mark from London, EnglandTjh's comment about Alan Partridge is utter rubbish!

    This song first appeared on the 1980 album Duke, when Steve Coogan was 14.

    The character of Alan Partridge didn't appear till the 1990s.
see more comments

Dick Wagner (Alice Cooper/Lou Reed)Songwriter Interviews

The co-writer/guitarist on many Alice Cooper hits, Dick was also Lou Reed's axeman on the Rock n' Roll Animal album.

Daryl HallSongwriter Interviews

Daryl Hall's TV show is a hit, and he's been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - only one of these developments excites him.

Tom Keifer of CinderellaSongwriter Interviews

Tom talks about the evolution of Cinderella's songs through their first three albums, and how he writes as a solo artist.

Intentionally AtrociousSong Writing

A selection of songs made to be terrible - some clearly achieved that goal.

Tony Joe WhiteSongwriter Interviews

The writer of "Rainy Night in Georgia" and "Polk Salad Annie" explains how he cooks up his Louisiana swamp rock.

KissFact or Fiction

Kiss is the subject of many outlandish rumors - some of which happen to be true. See if you can spot the fakes.