One of the only truly inevitable things that happens to a person in life aside from death and taxes is – the breakup. That breakup can be with a friend, a family member and the all time favorite, your spouse. Rock n’ roll is probably fairly evenly divided between girlfriend/boyfriend breakup songs and divorce songs but, you would never know it unless you are really paying attention. You see, it’s just not cool to write about divorce in rock n’ roll so they usually ignore all that marriage stuff and head straight for the breakup.
As we here at WMMCM have been chronicling, there are any number of Tradge-Cheese songs out there detailing some of the worst and most powerful emotions a person can go through. Some songs get you from the first note with the pathos and depression lazily sliding down your speakers into a puddle of misery on your carpet. Other songs take a minute and sneak up on you. You have to listen to the words to know what’s really happening.
Today’s song is one of those ones.
By 1986 Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford could do no wrong musically. After nearly 20 years as a band and over 15 years since Collins had joined first as the drummer and then a few years later becoming the lead singer after Peter Gabriel’s departure, Genesis was about as big a band as one could be that were not called The Beatles.
With the release of Invisible Touch, Genesis had taken progressive rock even further than Yes had in the 1970′s. Yes sold records and in the early 80′s even had hits. Genesis not only had hits but they also sold nearly 9 million albums in 1986 alone. This was something different.
“Throwing it all Away” had instantly become a concert staple of Genesis’ live shows. During that tour I saw them three times myself at the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, California. (That was where all the great concerts of the day were in the Los Angeles area.)
One thing I remember was that when it came time to play “Throwing it all Away,” they wouldn’t just play the thing! Collins and the band insisted on a very annoying call and response routine that consisted of Collins going something like “de, deh day yea yeah” expecting and getting the crowd to do the same thing over and over. I don’t have any problem with the call/response audience bit, it’s usually a high point of a show. But why do that to “Throwing it all Away?”
“Need I say I love you, need I say I care?
Need I say that emotion’s something we don’t share?”
Admittedly “Throwing it all Away” doesn’t start out sounding like a slit your wrist kind of song musically. Rutherford’s guitar riff actually sounds lively and fun heading out the gate. It’s only when Collins starts telling the story that things go downhill rapidly.
“Every time that I look at you, and I can see the future
‘Cause you know I know, babe, that I don’t wanna go.”
As Collins wends his way through Rutherford’s emotionally tortured lyrics he starts out with a slightly lazy delivery. He’s initially rather blasé about the whole thing, almost taunting the subject of his ire. This breakup and all… It’s not too important.
Then he arrives at the chorus.
“Throwing it all away, throwing it all away
Is there nothing that I can say, to make you change your mind?
I watch the world go round and round, and see mine turning upside down.”
Collins is in his absolute prime as a singer. He get’s every last inch of emotion when he finally ramps it up for the chorus while Rutherford and Banks fill in with some elaborate harmonies of their own. Yet, it still doesn’t quite have that killer instinct that a true Traged-Cheese song must have. That’s not to say that Collins isn’t giving it everything he’s got. He is.
We just haven’t fully arrived yet.
“Now, who will light up the darkness? And who will hold your hand?
Who will find you the answers when you don’t understand?
Why should I have to be the one who has to convince you?
‘Cause you know, I know baby, that I don’t wanna go.”
There is the constant reminder that he doesn’t want this breakup to be happening. “‘Cause you know I know baby, that I don’t want to go.” All the while Rutherford’s jangly guitars and Banks’ serious keyboards seem to be missing the point. Collins on the other hand is starting to melt down in despair.
Until, that is; the final verse.
“Someday you’ll be sorry, someday when you’re free
Memories will remind you that our love was meant to be
But late at night when you call my name, the only sound you’ll hear
Is the sound of your voice calling, calling after me.”
It’s at this point that our singer has completely turned the tables. Now he’s not just heartbroken, he’s angry as well and twists everything into the emotional equivalent of the school yard taunt as his last defence from total destruction.
I can only guess as to why the Genesis guys would never actually play the song back in the mid-80′s at the height of their success. Perhaps with their fun and video friendly image of the day they didn’t want to make it a real down point for those in the audience that had paying attention. Or more importantly, to those who had not.
“Throwing it all Away” is a song that is truly heartbreaking if you take the time to listen to it. With all the keyboards, guitars and harmonies, the way Rutherford, Banks and Collins play the song, they seem to almost be trying to distract you from the lyrics. Collins’ vocals don’t quite let them get away with the trick of course and I’m sure they knew that at the time.
They did try though so everything falls down into those last few words. “Late at night when you call my name, the only voice you’ll hear, is the sound of your voice calling. Calling after me.”