My Top 1000 Songs #413: Stagnation

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

Sunday mornings are when we pull out the old prog records here at the JWG household. And a personal fave is Genesis' 1970 LP Trespass. It's essentially the band's first prog album--discounting their more pop/folk-oriented (and underrated, IMHO) 1969 debut--and predates the glory days when Phil Collins and Steve Hackett cemented the Peter Gabriel-era line-up. 

I find the entire album fascinating, though the centerpiece for me is the extended "Stagnation" suite. While hard-rocking album-closer "The Knife" is more viscerally exciting (if not abrasive) and was the one track to remain in the live repertoire beyond the band's earliest days, "Stagnation" gives the broadest assessment of what I love about the band's adventurous early years. Composed of multiple musical sections, and supposedly telling the tale of the lone survivor of nuclear war (though this is picked up more from Gabriel's on-stage commentary than from anything explicit in the cryptic lyrical imagery), the song ranges from quiet, folky bits (highlighting original guitarist Anthony Phillips' classical style) to a bracing climax, as well as an infectious, melodic coda (the lone piece of the song that would periodically be revived in Collins-era shows). 

Gabriel's vocals are on particular display, moving from enchanting whisper to impassioned wailing; but some of Tony Banks' keyboard lines also leave a mark, ethereal and otherworldly in the earlier segments (kicking in at around 1:40 into the song). There's something about the whole vibe that has always bewitched me in a way that's hard to describe; so I won't even try.

Live 1972 (audio only):

Alas, not much video footage of the band playing it in their early days, but here's a tribute band called Genetics with their faithful interpretation:
Here's another tribute band, The Watch, performing it in the studio: