20 April 2009


Invisible Touch
Virgin, 1986

When I was a child, my father wanted me to grow up. One day I came home from school excited after learning about the inner workings of medieval castles and the role of the gongfermor, who had to empty the chamber that the toilets drained into. "Dad, what's the worst job in the world?" I asked, expecting the chance to tell him all about the poor shit-farmers. Instead, he replied: "Burying dead children in Bosnia." He was right, I suppose, but it wasn't exactly what I had in mind. That year for Christmas he bought me a copy of My Hiroshima, a picture book about a young girl who survives the nuclear bomb attack and returns home to sift through the bones of her friends. I had nightmares for months.

Around the same time, I began listening to a cassette of Invisible Touch by Genesis that I found in one of my parents' cupboards. When it was released five or six years earlier, it had spent weeks at the top of the charts and sold millions of copies – but I didn't know any of that. To me it was unusual and secret. I had never heard of the band before, or heard my parents play it on the stereo. I listened to it in my room, on my Walkman, and became fixated on a creepy song on Side B that had lyrics about some sort of futuristic nuclear war with children screaming and blood everywhere. I remember it seemed more like a story than a pop song, and I listened to it over and over even though it scared me.

Today I listened to that song, called 'Domino', for the first time in more than fifteen years. My memory was half-right. It is like a story – at ten minutes long and with more than a dozen verses. In fact, it's even broken into two parts, which were originally included on the flip-sides of the album's singles. Musically, it's not so much creepy as indulgent. It sounds like an '80s pop take on the sort of fantastical epic you'd find in prog-rock. The imagery is just as strong as I remember, though. In the opening verse there is rain running down a window. Four minutes in, the song turns nightmarish and the water is replaced with red. Then it turns into a "beautiful river of blood", where children swim and play before their bodies dissolve into the stream.

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