The Knife (song)

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"The Knife"
Single by Genesis
from the album Trespass
ReleasedMay 1971
Genre Progressive rock [1]
Label Charisma/Phonogram (UK and internationally)
ABC Records (US/Canada)
Songwriter(s) Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel, Anthony Phillips, Mike Rutherford
Producer(s) John Anthony
Genesis singles chronology
"Where the Sour Turns to Sweet" / "In Hiding"
"The Knife" / "The Knife (Part 2)"
"Happy the Man" / "Seven Stones"

"The Knife" is a song by progressive rock band Genesis from their second album, Trespass (1970).



The song was unusually aggressive for Genesis at the time, as most of their work consisted of soft, pastoral acoustic textures and poetic lyrics. It features a bouncy, march-like organ riff, heavily distorted guitars and bass, and fast drumming. (Peter Gabriel said he wanted to write something that had the excitement of "Rondo" by the Nice, and the song's working title was "Nice".) In the lyrics of the song, Gabriel, influenced by a book on Gandhi, "wanted to try [to] show how all violent revolutions inevitably end up with a dictator in power". [2] Gabriel's flute solo gave the song a peaceful interlude amid the aggressive rock elements. The song is in the key of A minor, a difficult key on the flute, so in concert Gabriel would pull the two pieces of his flute apart slightly to lower its pitch by a semitone, then transpose the fingering up a semitone to A minor. Tony Banks tried to remind Gabriel to adjust the flute before each performance, but occasionally the flute solo was performed in the wrong key. [3]

The cover artwork for the single features (clockwise from top left) Gabriel, Phil Collins, Rutherford, Banks and Steve Hackett. Collins and Hackett did not perform on the track but joined the group shortly after the album was recorded, replacing John Mayhew and Anthony Phillips, respectively.

It later appeared on the 2004 compilation album Platinum Collection and the single edit is found on the expanded version of Turn It On Again: The Hits , subtitled The Tour Edition. In March 2014, Steve Hackett added the song on the playlist on the extended tour of his Genesis Revisited II album. The song also appears on the R-Kive box set released on 22 September 2014 in the UK and 29 September worldwide.

Live performances

As the final song in their set, the song was performed often in the band's first five years (a live version appears on the Genesis Live album from 1973) and has appeared sporadically in the band's concerts through 1982. The first half of the song was released as a single in May 1971 with the second half as the B-side, but it did not chart. The heavy, progressive rock style of the song was a marked change from previous Genesis songs; it showed the band pioneering a new direction. [4]

The song was the last encore played at the Six of the Best one-off reunion concert in 1982, making this the final song the "classic" line-up of the band ever performed together.


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  1. Murphy, Sean (27 March 2017). "The 100 Best Classic Progressive Rock Songs: Part 2, 80-61". PopMatters . Retrieved 13 October 2019.
  2. Michael Ostrich: "Genesis Frequently Asked Questions List Version 2.6: 5.06 – What was the inspiration that created The Knife?". Archived from the original on 13 March 2009. Retrieved 15 November 2007.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) 31 October 1999 (Internet Archive)
  3. Guy, Rebecca (2017). "Nursery Crymes and Sirens' Cries: Peter Gabriel's Use of the Flute". In Sarah Hill (ed.). Peter Gabriel, From Genesis to Growing Up. Routledge. pp. 159–163. ISBN   9781351554299.
  4. Easlea, Daryl (2018). Without Frontiers: The Life & Music of Peter Gabriel. Omnibus Press. p. 94. ISBN   9781787590823.