Cinema Show (Live), by Genesis

Bill Bruford is a unique figure in the history of progressive rock. Aside from the excellent drumming throughout his career, he is the only musician who played with three of he best bands on the classic genre’s period: Yes, King Crimson and Genesis. His tenure with Genesis was brief and resulted in one tour, from which one song ended up on the live album Seconds Out. Seconds Out is one of the best live records of all time in my opinion, and while almost all the material on that album was from a 1977 tour after Bruford left and replaced by Chester Thompson, the one song Bruford is playing on is the highlight of this record: Cinema Show.

The song was originally included in the album Selling England by the Pound, when the band still had Peter Gabriel as its front man. However Gabriel was not involved in the songwriting of Cinema Show.

The lyrics were written by Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, and were influenced by the poem The Waste Land by TS Elliot, specifically the third section, The Fire Sermon. Here is a relevant excerpt:

I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,

Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see

At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives

Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,

The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights

Her stove, and lays out food in tins.

Out of the window perilously spread

Her drying combinations touched by the sun’s last rays,

On the divan are piled (at night her bed)

Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.

I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs

Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest—

I too awaited the expected guest.

He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,

A small house agent’s clerk, with one bold stare,

One of the low on whom assurance sits

As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire.

Cinema Show is two pieces of music grouped together. The first is a beautiful acoustic melody that starts with a duet of 12-string guitars played by Rutherford and Banks. That unique sound of the two guitars weaving an acoustic accompaniment was a staple in the groups sound, and can also be heard at the beginning of Supper’s Ready, Musical Box and Stagnation. The second part is a music tour de force in 7/8 that features one of the best keyboard solos in progressive rock, a great example by Tony Banks of how to construct a long instrumental solo that never bores you. Banks played that solo on an ARP Pro Soloist, a small synth that was unique at the time for being portable and deigned to fit on top of heavier keyboard such as a Hammond organ.

It is interesting to hear the ending of the live performance of the song with two drummers who share similar rhythmic sensibilities and phrasing on the drum set. Bruford and Collins have a light touch on the drum set, influenced by their love of jazz. Both of them explored jazz around the time of that recording. Collins joined Brand X for a period of time, and Bruford gradually leaned more towards jazz until he switched to the style completely later in his career. Phil Collins said that playing in a 7/8 meter was very natural to him. Both drummers are so comfortable with that meter that they have no trouble improvising on top of it and playing off each other during the solos.

Home from work our Juliet

Clears her morning meal.

She dabs her skin with pretty smells

Concealing to appeal.

I will make my bed,

She said, but turned to go.

Can she be late for her cinema show?

Romeo locks his basement flat,

And scurries up the stair.

With head held high and floral tie,

A weekend millionaire.

I will make my bed

With her tonight, he cries.

Can he fail armed with his chocolate surprise?

Take a little trip back with father Tiresias,

Listen to the old one speak of all he has lived through.

I have crossed between the poles, for me there’s no mystery.

Once a man, like the sea I raged,

Once a woman, like the earth I gave.

But there is in fact more earth than sea.

Take a little trip back with father Tiresias,

Listen to the old one speak of all he has lived through.

I have crossed between the poles, for me there’s no mystery.

Once a man, like the sea I raged,

Once a woman, like the earth I gave.

But there is in fact more earth than sea.

Categories: Song

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10 replies »

  1. Great stuff This version on Seconds Out is just amazing still make the hair on my arms stand up everytime I hear it. By the way great reading love the blog, Your bits on Bley, Colman, Haden etc. are wonderful bravo..

  2. Thank you. You may also like the recent article here on Bill Bruford. It provides more info on his involvement with Genesis on this tour.

  3. Fabulous timeless piece of music This is the best version of Cinema Show Thank you Phil and Bill for the joy you have put in the world

  4. The 12-string guitar duet was between Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett, not keyboardist Tony Banks as you mention. This was the last album Steve played on.

  5. One of my all-time Genesis favourites: I first heard ‘Cinema Show’ when I was 15. Years later, as an adult, this track appeared in a dream. As you can imagine, I was blown away by the (newly experienced) beauty of the composition which unfolded in 3-D like sound, every section shimmering and flaming in a way that I can only describe as the essence of music. It was truly a gift, and I have wondered many times on how deep that tune had sunk in my mind to resurface like that.
    Thanks for your excellent blog.

  6. One of my favorite songs of all time, by anybody, anywhere. I had the pleasure of seeing Genesis perform Cinema Show live in Dallas several times. The chord structure, melodies, solos, etc. are beyond compare.

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