‘We’d try little notes that you wouldn’t normally’: Tony Banks on Genesis’ early classic “The Musical Box”

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Tony Banks goes in-depth on “The Musical Box” from 1971’s Nursery Cryme. Credited to each of Genesis’ five members, it remains one of the band’s most layered and satisfying early compositions.

Banks, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, and Peter Gabriel developed the song, the long-time Genesis keyboardist says, out of a theme originally composted by Mike Rutherford. His focus, he says, was on creating as melody that did more than simply mirror the lyrics that Gabriel was composing.

“If you hear the chords, it’s something you could sing — it’s pretty straight forward,” Banks says in this video. “But actually, it goes all sorts of funny places, that melody. And I just think it makes it much more intriguing somehow to do that.”

Soft and then thunderously loud, “The Musical Box” shows where the then-newly added Hackett’s influences would take Genesis, even as it displays the brawny power of Collins’ work at the drums. For Banks, though, the complexity at the song’s bottom remains its biggest asset.

“The basis of it was something that Mike had written a long time before,” Banks says, “and we had used it as an instrumental piece before that. When we came to actually writing the melody, we kind of all chipped into this — with Peter, obviously, singing things. We’d all suggest ideas, and try to put little notes in there that you wouldn’t do normally.”

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