Nursery Cryme is the third studio album by Genesis that was recorded and released in 1971. It's the band's first album with drummer Phil Collins and guitarist Steve Hackett, who replaced John Mayhew and Anthony Phillips, respectively, in 1970 and 1971. The five-member line-up of Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Collins and Hackett would remain consistent until the band's 1976 album A Trick of the Tail, when Phil Collins replaced Peter Gabriel as lead vocalist following Gabriel's departure from the band. Nursery Cryme is also the band's shortest studio album.
Although not a success upon release in their homeland, Nursery Cryme became an unexpected hit in Italy, reaching #4 in the LP charts. This spurred on Genesis' European success, with the album eventually reaching #39 on the UK charts for one week in May 1974, and the reissue reaching #68 for one week in March 1984. Like Trespass (the preceding Genesis album), Nursery Cryme was recorded at London's famous Trident Studios. Trident was one of only a handful of British studios to have 16-track equipment, which was state of the art for the time. For some time before Hackett's recruitment, Genesis had performed live as a four-piece, with Banks substituting for guitar by playing lead solos on his Hohner Pianet electric piano, played through a fuzz box. This technique can be heard on "The Musical Box" and the intro to "The Return of the Giant Hogweed". In addition, the band purchased their own Mellotron Mark II (from King Crimson). Banks employed the Mk II 'three violins' sound in "The Fountain of Salmacis" and "Seven Stones", while the climax of "The Return of the Giant Hogweed" uses fuzzed Mk II 'combined brass'. Rutherford also began using the standalone electronic bass pedal unit Dewtron Mister Bassman. Though credited solely to Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford, "The Musical Box" began as an instrumental piece written by Anthony Phillips called "F#" (later released as "Manipulation" on the Box Set remaster). The lyrics are based on a Victorian fairy story written by Gabriel, about two children in a country house. The girl, Cynthia, kills the boy, Henry, by removing his head with a croquet mallet. She later discovers Henry's musical box. When she opens it, Henry returns as a spirit, and starts aging very quickly. This causes him to experience a lifetime's sexual desires in a few moments. However, his nurse arrives and throws the musical box at him, destroying them both. In live performances, Peter Gabriel would wear an old man mask for the final verse and unzip the chest part of his black jumpsuit. Dramatic lighting would be used each time he shouted "Now!"
The album cover shows Cynthia holding a croquet mallet, with a few heads lying on the ground. The album's artwork was painted by Paul Whitehead. Whitehead was also responsible for the artwork on the Genesis albums Trespass and Foxtrot.
"For Absent Friends" is a song about two widowed individuals going to church and praying for their deceased husbands/wives. This is the first song to feature Phil Collins as lead vocalist. "The Return of the Giant Hogweed" was a staple of Genesis's live performances. "The Fountain of Salmacis" tells the story of the nymph Salmacis, who in Greek mythology attempted to rape Hermaphroditus. In the story, Salmacis and Hermaphroditus become joined as one, which is mirrored in the lyrics where Peter Gabriel sings "We shall be joined as one."
The Fountain of Salmacis