The album that’s seen by many fans of the classic 1970s Genesis line-up as their finest hour — or hour and a half, to be precise — is 40 years old today. ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’ was released as a double LP on November 18, 1974 and played a huge part in making the group the progressive rock legends they became.
With only six weeks on the UK chart and a No. 10 peak, ‘The Lamb,’ as admirers everywhere know it, was rather short-lived in strictly commercial terms. But it’s the earliest album in the Genesis catalogue that’s certified gold in the UK, and gave them their highest-charting release to that point at No. 41 in America, adding to the band’s growing reputation there. By early in ’75, it was also in the top ten in Italy.
The golden days of record promotion: from the pages of Billboard magazine in November 1975, famed promo man Steve Leeds plugs 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway' — how else? — with lambs, on Broadway
With its complex tale of redemption focused on the subterranean character Rael, widely seen as the alter ego of frontman Peter Gabriel, the album established itself as one of the key concept albums of the initial “prog” heyday — even if devotees, to this day, continue to debate its possible meanings.
In making such an ambitious piece, Gabriel himself knew that Genesis were opening themselves up for vilification from the music press. “We're easy to put down,” he admitted to the NME soon after the album’s release. You can say the characters are farfetched, the music over ornate, that we're' riding on my costume success. There – I've done it for you.
“However,” Gabriel went on, “in maybe ten years a group will emerge to take what we do a lot further. I look upon us as an early, clumsy prototype."
Mike Rutherford, talking about ‘The Lamb’ later in Hugh Fielder’s ‘The Book Of Genesis,’ was quite matter-of-fact. “It was about a greasy Puerto Rican kid!” he said. “For once, we were writing about subject matter which was neither airy-fairy, nor romantic. We finally managed to get away from writing about unearthly things, which I think helped the album.”