Squonk. It’s the third track of side one on Genesis’ 1976 release Trick of the Tail. Here is the live version performed in 1980 without Steve Hackett.
It was perhaps my favorite Genesis song for quite some time. I liked many others on the same album–there are so many good songs–and also off Wind and Wuthering, Duke, Then There Were Three and Selling England by the Pound. Today, while I still love Squonk, I think I put other Genesis songs above it such as Dance on a Volcano, Ripples, Firth of Fifth, I Know What I Like, Afterglow and Cinema Show. And the epic Supper’s Ready.
But Squonk is an interesting song. I always figured it was about a creature made up by the members of Genesis in writing the song. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that Squonk is actually a real myth. (That sounds funny–“real myth”.) According to the 1910 book Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, the Squonk is the ugliest creature in the world and has real self-esteem issues. It cries a lot because of it’s place on the ugly chain.
You can read about it in the book here.
This is a picture of the back of the album cover. The Squonk is on the far right crying into a handkerchief. Not really the same ugly thing, though ugly enough in its own right.
The song actually recounts the experience of a hunter that is related in the above mentioned book–a J.P. Wentley who hunts a Squonk and literally bags it–stuffing the creature in his sack. But the sobbing stops and all he finds is a “pool of bubbles and tears.”
Musically, the song has parts that were intentionally meant to sound like Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. This is somewhat ironic to me, as Kashmir is probably my favorite Zep song.
The album was the first Genesis recording after Peter Gabriel left. For some time Genesis searched for a new lead singer. Phil Collins, their drummer, was the acting singer as they put material together and some songs were apparently written for his vocal range and style. But Collins never felt that he would be the long-time lead singer. He ended up singing all the songs on Trick of the Tail and continued on after that. Some people argue that wasn’t up to Gabriel’s quality and some don’t realize he replaced Gabriel. I think both Gabriel and Collins brought a different sound to Genesis, neither of which is inferior to the other–just different. I love Gabriel on Supper’s Ready and throughout Selling England by the Pound. But Collins in a very real way defined the sound of my favorite Genesis with his debut on Trick of the Tail and only got better as albums came out.
So enjoy Squonk and don’t be sad–he’s just a legendary woodlands creature and not for real.