In May 1977, just in time for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, there was a three-track new release with a song that incited kicking a football referee ‘to death’, a number that contained a four-letter word in its opening lines, and finally, a track alluding to sexual assault. But this wasn’t one of those newfangled punk waxings. It was by none other than Genesis, who seemed to have followed their most autumnal album with a short, sharp, aggressive spring.
The Spot The Pigeon EP marked Steve Hackett’s final studio appearance with the group, and was comprised of the three tracks recorded with David Hentschel at Relight Studios that did not fit with the melancholy sweep of their parent album. The EP is a problematic release in the Genesis catalogue: despite giving them their first Top 20 UK singles chart hit, it’s often entirely disregarded. That is, of course, largely due to its lead track Match Of The Day, a slice of terrace commentary from a band more associated with croquet than soccer. However, despite the band’s dislike of the track, and its at times cringeworthy lyrics, it’s a fabulous time capsule of what Association Football used to be like in the UK.
It came with a video filmed at QPR’s ground at Loftus Road. “We never felt that Match Of The Day was very good, any of us,” Tony Banks sighs. “I quite like the riff in the middle, but the rest I could really live without.”
The simple, shuffling Pigeons that completes the first side is also anachronistic. It opens by positing the question, ‘Who put 50 tons of shit on the foreign office roof?’ Mike Rutherford’s lyrics could be read as an allegory about punks (the pigeons) moving in and the old guard (the civil servants) trying to defend their ground. “It was a lot of fun as it was so different,” Banks says. “The idea of doing a whole song around one note was something that I had wanted to do for a long time, changing the chords underneath it.”
The single’s flipside was rooted in more conventional territory: Inside And Out is the most serious contender for the track that should have been on Wind & Wuthering. With lyrics by Hackett, it concerns “someone who’s wrongfully imprisoned and so, like Blood On The Rooftops, there’s an aspect of social comment”, he says.
The first part (Inside) talks about the protagonist’s conviction. The second (Out) is a wild-blowing jam to symbolise their freedom. Banks liked it too, and it was played on the band’s 1977 tour.
“The first part, I think, is a better song than Your Own Special Way, and the second is an exciting piece of music. Both Steve and I were going quite eccentric with the solos.”
Spot The Pigeon reached No.14 in the UK chart, setting Genesis up for their Top 10 placing the following year with Follow You, Follow Me, yet none of the tracks have ever made it to any of their hits compilations.