"The Musical Box" as written by Peter Gabriel, Anthony Banks, Phil Collins, Steven Hackett and Michael Rutherford....
Play me Old King Cole
That I may join with you,
All your hearts now seem so far from me
It hardly seems to matter now.

And the nurse will tell you lies
Of a kingdom beyond the skies.
But I am lost within this half-world,
It hardly seems to matter now.

Play me my song.
Here it comes again.
Play me my song.
Here it comes again.

Just a little bit,
Just a little bit more time,
Time left to live out my life.

Play me my song.
Here it comes again.
Play me my song.
Here it comes again.

Old King Cole was a merry old soul,
And a merry old soul was he.
So he called for his pipe,
And he called for his bowl,
And he called for his fiddlers three.

But the clock, tick-tock,
On the mantlepiece -
And I want, and I feel, and I know, and I touch,
THE WALL!

She's a lady, she's got time,
Brush back your hair, and let me get to know your face.
She's a lady, she is mine.
Brush back your hair, and let me get to know your flesh.

I've been waiting here for so long
And all this time has passed me by
It doesn't seem to matter now
You stand there with your fixed expression
Casting doubt on all I have to say.
Why don't you touch me, touch me,
Why don't you touch me, touch me,
Touch me now, now, now, now, now


Lyrics submitted by Demau Senae

"The Musical Box" as written by Michael Rutherford Anthony Banks

Lyrics © CARLIN AMERICA INC, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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The Musical Box song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentIn Victorian England, the nursery was usually situated at the top of the house, reached by several flights of stairs. A little wicket gate across the landing prevented small children tumbling downstairs, and a solid wooden door muffled noises from the rest of the house. Here the nursemaid spent much of her time washing, dressing and undressing the children. This task was made all the more time consuming by the sheer volume of clothing considered proper for a baby. The coal fire was kept alight on all but the hottest days, as the top rail of the guard was used for airing the children’s clothes.

    Once the children were washed and dressed, breakfast was sent up from the kitchen. During the morning there would be lessons, followed by lunch, which was usually eaten in the nursery. After a short sleep in the afternoon, followed by a walk in the park, the children were washed and changed and taken down to the parlour to spend an hour with Mama. Here they talked politely, sang or recited to visitors, or listened to music before returning to the nursery for tea. After tea there was time to play with their toys and games for a while before they were washed and put to bed.

    One of the day games would be Croquet, a game who's origins are not quite clear, though it may have come from French Lawn Billiards. It seems to be undisputed, however, that a game called Crookey was played in Ireland from the 1830's and that, in 1852, it was brought to England where it quickly became popular. It was particularly popular with women because it was the first outdoor sport which could be played by both sexes on an equal footing. A well established image brought to mind is the playing of Croquet using flamingoes as mallets in Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland. Paul Whitehead's cover for Nursery Cryme alludes to Alice's adventures and brings to mind a simple visual pun: Head Games.

    Perhaps the most important difference between the Alice books and more conventional children’s stories of mid-Victorian Britain is a difference in the author’s attitude towards his audience. For a middle and upper class child, growing up in Victorian times may have been something less than a happy experience. It was an age of the nanny and the governess; children were shunted off to the nursery, brought out to spend an hour with their mothers in the late afternoon, and then whisked off again. When they reached school age, they were packed off to preparatory and then public schools, where they learned to fear schoolmasters and mistresses, and even more, one another. School was too often the arena of the bully: violence was rampant. To survive at the English boarding school, one had to be strong and resourceful enough to outwit one’s classmates. Lewis Carol seemed to remain aware of how children growing up in his time would feel when writing his nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

    "In Britain", says one British citizen, "people grew up with these stories like 'Don't go into certain moors', and you'd hear horror stories about psychopaths and whatever, and nursery rhymes fulfilled this function, they were a warning not to do certain things, advice for life in some ways."
    As the 20th century progressed, fairy tales were pushed further and further into the nursery, published in children's editions influenced by the Victorian and Disney versions. The entire genre came to be viewed as simple, silly, sexist stories in which passive, dutiful, beautiful girls grew up to marry rich Prince Charmings. It was largely forgotten that in centuries past fairy tales had not been so simple and saccharine, happy endings had not been guaranteed, and heroines had not sat passively awaiting rescue by a passing prince. Fairy tales in the past had looked unflinchingly at the darkest parts of life: at poverty, hunger, abuse of power, domestic violence, incest, rape, the sale of young women to the highest bidder in the form of arranged marriages, the effects of remarriage on family dynamics, the loss of inheritance or identity, the survival of treachery or calamity.

    The origins of the Nursery Rhyme lyrics of Old King Cole are based in history dating back to 3rd century. There is considerable confusion regarding the origins of Old King Cole as there are three possible contenders who were Celtic Kings of Britain, all who share the name Coel. It is interesting here, because this is an already existing Nursery Rhyme inside the song The Musical Box, which purports to be a Victorian Fairy Tale in itself, though a darker fairy tale exposing the underbelly of society that resulted from the nature of a repressed culture.

    The term Victorian has acquired a range of connotations, including that of a particularly strict set of moral standards, which are often applied hypocritically. This stems from the image of Queen Victoria—and her husband, Prince Albert, perhaps even more so—as innocents, unaware of the private habits of many of her respectable subjects; this particularly relates to their sex lives. This image is mistaken: Victoria’s attitude toward sexual morality was a consequence of her knowledge of the corrosive effect of the loose morals of the aristocracy in earlier reigns upon the public’s respect for the nobility and the Crown.

    Victorian prudery sometimes went so far as to deem it improper to say "leg" in mixed company; instead, the preferred euphemism “limb” was used. Those going for a swim in the sea at the beach would use a bathing machine. However, historians Peter Gay and Michael Mason both point out that we often confuse Victorian etiquette for a lack of knowledge. For example, despite the use of the bathing machine, it was also possible to see people bathing nude. Another example of the gap between our preconceptions of Victorian sexuality and the facts is that contrary to what we might expect, Queen Victoria liked to draw and collect male nude figure drawings and even gave her husband one as a present

    Steven Marcus, an author dealing with Victorian erotic novels notes:

    Pornography is, after all, nothing more than a representation of the fantasies of infantile sexual life, as these fantasies are edited and reorganized in the masturbatory daydreams of adolescence....

    Now this conclusion may be true of the novels Marcus studies, or indeed, even of most Victorian erotica; but the distinction that must be made is that Victorian erotic writing is anomalous in the history of the genre. Neither before the nineteenth century nor after it is erotic literature so deadening and so unrealistic, so reduced to mechanical fantasies. When the Dionysian element in literature is accorded its rightful place by a society, it is a complex mixture of reality and fantasy; only when it is forced underground does it fit Marcus' description. He is misleading when he judges pornography at its worst. Repression was the basis of Victorian civilization; it is not the psychology likely to produce a healthy erotic literature.It has become an axiom of popular psychology that the repression of pleasure equals the expression of cruelty to the same intensity. In Victorian times rigid repression twisted sexuality into a small and private violence which manifested itself in the rod. But the rod would come to seem an amusement next to the violence of the twentieth century. In the nineteenth century people became replaceable parts in the factories of progress. Victorian erotica mirrors this condition, and we can see in its scenes of whippings, for instance, a hint of worse violence to come, as people reacted to the suppression of their erotic natures.

    Into this scene we are told this story:

    While Henry Hamilton-Smythe minor (8) was playing croquet with
    Cynthia Jane De Blaise-William (9), sweet-smiling Cynthia raised her
    mallet high and gracefully removed Henry's head.

    (Peter's live intro would describe how Henry's spirit went all the way upwards, and then all the way back down again, because he'd been rejected up there and told to come back at the opening of his old Musical Box.)

    Two weeks later, in Henry's nursery, she discovered his treasured musical box. Eagerly
    she opened it and as "Old King Cole" began to play, a small spirit-
    figure appeared. Henry had returned - but not for long, for as he
    stood in the room his body began ageing rapidly, leaving a child's
    mind inside. A lifetime's desires surged through him.

    Play me Old King Cole
    That I may join with you,
    All your hearts now seem so far from me
    It hardly seems to matter now.

    And the nurse will tell you lies
    Of a kingdom beyond the skies.
    But I am lost within this half-world,
    It hardly seems to matter now.

    Play me my song.
    Here it comes again.
    Play me my song.
    Here it comes again.

    Just a little bit,
    Just a little bit more time,
    Time left to live out my life.

    Play me my song.
    Here it comes again.
    Play me my song.
    Here it comes again.

    Old King Cole was a merry old soul,
    And a merry old soul was he.
    So he called for his pipe,
    And he called for his bowl,
    And he called for his fiddlers three.

    But the clock, tick-tock,
    On the mantlepiece -
    And I want, and I feel, and I know, and I touch,
    Her warmth...

    She's a lady, she's got time,
    Brush back your hair, and let me get to know your face.
    She's a lady, she is mine.
    Brush back your hair, and let me get to know your flesh.

    I've been waiting here for so long
    And all this time has passed me by
    It doesn't seem to matter now
    You stand there with your fixed expression
    Casting doubt on all I have to say.
    Why don't you touch me, touch me,
    Why don't you touch me, touch me,
    Touch me now, now, now, now, now...

    Unfortunately
    the attempt to persuade Cynthia Jane to fulfill his romantic desire
    led his nurse to the nursery to investigate the noise. Instinctively
    Nanny hurled the musical box at the bearded child, destroying both.

    At the end of the live version, Peter Gabriel would always slide down his mike stand in an incredibly phallic kind of way, denoting the demise of Spirit-Henry.
    Madpropheton December 03, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti cant believe nobody has commented on this. altho' the story behind it is explained in the text which preceeds it, its hard to deny that the musical box is one of the most monumental pieces of music ever written. as much so as bohemian rhapsody in my opinion. the story is largely pandora's box with the old english old king cole rhyme slipped into it.. im not sure whether the whole pretext is from a real story, be interesting to find out tho'. never has a song about a mans lust been so profoundly excecuted...
    parberooon April 15, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI wish more people could appreciate long songs, old songs, boring old fart bands, lose pre-conceptions & view all music afresh. That goes for me also, I think this track is fab, the last part used many times in the latter part of Genesis' live act. Wished I could have seen it in full
    nagromnaion December 27, 2005   Link
  • +1
    My OpinionI have always loved Genesis. I love Peter Gabriel AND Phil Collins, both as solo artists and also with Genesis - I know I'm a rare bird, but I love it all.

    This song is amazingly complex, musically epic and very disturbing at the same time. The composition is pure genius, but it's not a song I can play over and over and feel free to sing along to like "I Know What I Like". It insinuates a rape, as the soul of Henry's rage and lust enrages him. It's difficult, who to sympathize with, because the little girl was pretty evil for killing the boy and the boy who was rejected by heaven and sent back to the music box (for retribution? for revenge?) becomes a tool of evil himself as he attacks the little girl.

    I really miss epic and complex music like this that we saw more of in the 70s, when bands were more about the music rather than looking like a model as well as having a good singing voice. Genesis was a group of amazingly talented musicians. I can't imagine a world without Genesis, Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins. One of my favorite bands of all time.
    IceVampon October 15, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNice song.

    The "Old King Cole was a merry old soul..." part gives me the goosebumps everytime.
    FlashCEon September 15, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentVery good.
    inpraiseoffollyon September 15, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOne of the few song so this topic that I like.
    inpraiseoffollyon September 15, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe very first song that got me into Genesis.
    floreon October 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYet another reason why I love progressive rock, along with the rest of Peter Gabriel era Genesis, Pink Floyd, Van Der Graaf Generator, and Jethro Tull.
    inpraiseoffollyon November 03, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentPossibly the greatest song ever written...
    BitterBoshon December 12, 2006   Link

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