attack of the gpms: afterglow (genesis)

bursting into tears in T-3, 2, 1.

jools was worried about me last week. a song came on in the car, and i just burst into tears. i assured him i was okay, nothing was the matter. it was just how a song made me feel.  here’s a secret about me that everyone in my family knows all too well: i’m kind of a boohoo by nature.  to be sure, i have not been a big girl’s blouse who would cry about getting beat up or something like that. i didn’t cry, for example, when a girl named lori started to kick and punch me at north dover school while we nine year olds were hanging out waiting for our brothers’ basketball practice to finish. no, i kicked and punched her back (until another girl, sari, ran and got our dads.) i also don’t cry when most people say rude things about me. generally, such things make me either ignore them or give them the finger and i go my merry way. in truth, the things that make me cry are usually and strangely not the things that make other people cry.

beauty makes me cry.

i have never been able to explain it, really; but some things in the world are simply so exquisite and rare that i can’t find the words to describe them. words fail. and my heart feels full, partially because i have all this emotion in me and i cannot express it. sometimes, there is special meaning to said song and it makes me feel engulfed by memory and feelings. so i do what i can do: i cry.

there are certain pieces of music which hit my soul in such a place that i can’t even sing them. i hear, for example, in my life (as i did in the car last week) and i am a blubbery mess.  border song is another example.

and this, of course, brings us to today’s guilty pleasure. i think genesis keyboardist tony banks said that he wrote afterglow in about the same amount of time the song runs. if that’s the case, i count that among some of the universe’s wacky musical miracles, along with keith richards waking up one night, playing the satisfaction riff into his tape recorder, and then falling back to sleep.  off of wind and wuthering, afterglow is often overshadowed by perennial 1970s prom favorite your own special way, an absolutely gorgeous song in it’s own right.  in fact, i am hard-pressed to think of any obvious love songs by genesis prior to these two on this album. (feel free to correct me in the comments; i might be mistaken.) but where your own special way is this wistful celebration of love and the wonder of holding hands, afterglow is a song of yearning and loss. the singer has been somehow been banished — from home, from the heart of his love, from something central to his existence. he has lost everything. he has nothing.

but what sustains him is the singular hope that maybe, somehow, in some tiny little recess of her heart, his love will accept him again. maybe it’s a vain hope, but it is all he has. he would search everywhere just to hear (her) call: 

And walk upon stranger roads than this one
In a world I used to know before.
For now I’ve lost everything,
I give to you my soul.
The meaning of all that I believed before
Escapes me in this world of none,
I miss you more.

he is consumed by love. he has lost love. he is pretty damned morose. but he hasn’t given up. if you have ever been in the most untenable situation of hoping against hope that love is not lost, this song conveys that and grips you in a way few others can. it’s like the grandma to another song that makes me weep, against all odds, though far more powerful, i think.


pardon me. i need to find my tissues. in the meantime, here’s where i first heard this wondrous song — as part of a medley genesis played in concert for years. probably the pinnacle of every genesis live show for me.


3 thoughts on “attack of the gpms: afterglow (genesis)

  1. Knew you liked Genesis, had no idea the Beatles could make you cry. Let’s just say I respect you even more now.

  2. I rediscovered this track as a result of reading some Harry Potter fanfiction based on “All in a Mouse’s Night”. I played the second side of “Wind and Wuthering” and I too found tears coming when listening to “Afterglow” I was thinking about Sid & Cassie from ‘Skins’ and Neville & Luna from Harry Potter; two couples deeply in love who ended up apart.
    I also read a religious meaning into the words “I, who have lost everything give to you my soul.”

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