Wake up now, this is the time you've waited for.

Far below, where shadows fester as they grow,
An army thousands strong, obsessed by right and wrong,
They sense their time is coming near.
So they turn towards the light from their region of the night,
Marching on and on,
They near the air, it won't be long.

You know you're on the way out,
It's just a matter of time.
You thought you'd rule the world forever,
Long live the king, and don't spare the loser.

After all, you're not what you thought you were at all.
You're just a natural fact, another cul-de-sac
On nature's hard unfeeling trail.
Now all those dreams of old will be stories left untold,
Cut off in your prime, extinct until the end of time.

You know you're on the way out,
It's just a matter of time.
You thought you'd rule the world forever,
Long live the king, but don't spare the loser now...

Now the host emerges, and a shadow starts to fall.
Not one knows what hit them, none can see at all.
Even as the end approaches still they're not aware,
How can you fight a foe so deadly
When you don't even know it's there?
And now that the job is almost done
Maybe some escape, no, not even one.

You know they're on the way out,
It's just a matter of time.
You thought you'd rule the world forever,
Long live the king, and don't spare the loser.

Lyrics submitted by Demau Senae

Cul-de-Sac song meanings
Add Your Thoughts


sort form View by:
  • +2
    General Comment

    This song is about the death of prog, a very veiled attempt at metaphor, much more so than the song "Down and Out" on the previous album. Yes and other prog acts in general were being seen as outdated more and more with the rise of New Wave punk and NWOBHM and this is a very veiled commentary on that in my opinion. About the excesses and the glory years of prog coming to a standstill. Cmon people, think about it!

    The album is full of songs about loss and the "fall from grace", even without the Duke suite it has songs regarding this. However, I believe this song to be about the "Dinosaur" prog rock bands not facing the "changing trends" of prog becoming "obsolete". I could be wrong, but think about it. I used to think it was an ironic song, coming after some of the more "pop" songs off the album. This is not a bash as Duke is one of my favorite Genesis albums..

    Mattowarrioron February 05, 2008   Link
  • +2
    Song Meaning

    This song isn't about death (in general) or about the death of progressive rock or death by pollution, and certainly not about God and the devil.

    Maybe people are too young to remember, but the album was recorded October—December 1979 at Polar Studios in Stockholm, Sweden. Nuclear Winter as a general topic didn't appear in the public lexicon until 1982-1983. As such, the Cold War powers were not being deterred by the idea that a nuclear war might have terminal effects for boths sides. After many years of detente, relations between East and West had begun to slip into much more aggressive posturing on both sides, and tensions really began to rise. See Wikipedia Cold War (1979—1985).

    This song isn't nearly as metaphorical as you might want it to be. See Tony Banks album (A Curious Feeling) which was produced and released just prior to "Duke", and you'll find a fairly straightword dipiction of a man losing his sanity.

    Cul-de-Sac is just as straightword. It was a warning song just like "Land of Confusion" five years later.

    Thinking in terms of the times, all of the imaging is related to the buildup and use of nuclear and other arms,

    Para 1 - The time has arrived, all of the world's dreads are going to come true.

    Para 2 - Fleets of weapons ( and God we were building them by the thousands and putting them in silos and on submarines) begin to warm up. Defcon One anybody. And of course nobody would think of launching those weapons against anything less than pure evil. Read some of what passes for politcal thought of the time and you'll realize just how us/them good/evil the atmosphere of the times was. Sort of like Iran/Israel or Bush/Hussein, except that both sides were willing and capable of destroying the other.

    Para Three (Chorus) - Nothing lasts forever, even if in the end is suicide

    Para Four - Reflections on what is was to be Mankind. Not especial of God, but a natural outcome of evolution. A self-aware species with great hopes and ambitions, whose only impediment is itself. But once gone, never to be seen again.

    Para Five - A nuclear war, so awesome and complate that everything is lost, including shepards in South America and Maiori in New Zealand. Between radiation, biological and chemical weapons and the like, even people on the other side of the world and completely cutoff from "Civilization" would all die.


    Sometimes, a cigar is a cigar....

    awluckon September 04, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    I'm sure I saw an interview where Tony claimed it was about the extinction of the dinosaurs but reading the lyrics it does appear to be more to do with the extiction of the human race through an impending nuclear conflict.

    Fun times back in the 70/80s!

    proggieon November 03, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    this songs apparently about how pollution will ultimately destroy us all without us seein it coming... masked protest song...

    parberooon April 15, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    This song represents the idea of falling from prominence or fame, and the stubbornness/reluctance in the aftermath to change with the times and otherwise risk become a marginalized, alienated cul-de-sac on the highway of life. I'm not sure I completely agree with it being a commentary on the nature of the music industry at the time, but there is certainly a good deal of validity to it.

    The subject matter of all the songs on the album in some way points to failed relationships due to pride, arrogance, naivete, scorn, regret and doubt. Phil was going through a rough divorce at the time, and while there was much chagrin about genesis' transformation from prog giants to MTV icons, I don't know if the band members were too conscious of how proggy or anti-proggy they were, or if they even really made a great deal about it. I could be wrong. The term "progressive" rock was an idea or state of mind about music continually seeking newer plateaus, and to those who considered themselves originators of the movement, it makes sense to think of Duke as just another part of a progression, a maturation phase. It only later on became a style with defining characteristics (song length, instruments, time signatures, sci-fi lyrics, etc.) This of course is just my interpretation.

    Groups in the late 70s and early 80s benefited from affordable technology that allowed them to more easily realize and test out newer/crazier sounds that would inspire songs, with istruments such as synthesizers and/or drum machines being prime examples. Prior to that one had to be a mad scientist to create sounds comparable, or resort to things like using medieval instruments or bizarre orchestras of theremins and sitars. These sorts of explorations were (while elaborate and unique) costly and cumbersome, forcing record execs to look elsewhere and fans/critics to label them pompous. The audience determined the content, and Genesis would accept this fact and progress accordingly and did not see the development negatively at the time.

    It all depends on how you choose to define progressive rock; groups like Rush and King Crimson changed their sound, and yet I would argue much of what they did during the 1980s achieved more success than anything they did during the 70s, all while maintaining a great deal of their proggy roots. Also, IMHO British heavy metal continued to carry the attitude and virtuosity of what originally belonged to 70s progressive rockers; dragons and wizards became demons and sorcerers, dueling keyboard and guitar became dueling guitars, and all the lead singers in those groups were one way or another channeling their inner Mercury, Gabriel, Lee and Plant.

    The death of prog hypothesis does have a lot of merit Mattowarrior. I would definitely cite this album as one of the last successful hurrahs of progressive rock, at least from a mainstream perspective. I just don't think this song or the album was consciously trying to express that sentiment. MTV changed the game, and many groups had difficulty adjusting their sound, wanting to be accessible and significant and yet remain unique. My guess is Genesis struggled with this as much as any group at the time, and made decisions they thought were artistically tasteful and that would hold up to intense scrutiny from prog purists and and new fans alike.

    elcapitan1017on June 19, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    When I first listened to this song, and read the lyrics, I always thought it was about death, and how nobody will escape it.

    lukescotton December 16, 2011   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaning

    ...i'm sorry, but this song's real meaning has nothing to do with progressive rock... to me this song describes the soon-coming violent end of the devil's rebellion against God, or at least this is what this song fits very precisely and exactly. The devil's army of fallen angels is "a thousand strong" army, actually millions, but this is figurative speech. "The call" is God's call to the devil to wake up and finally face the final battle where the devil and his gand will be annihilated. The devil is indeed obsessed with "right and wrong", but of course, only according to his own deceptive thinking, and he had managed to persuade one-third of perfect angels to turn against their loving Creator even before this planet was made... consequently they were given 6 thousand years on this planet to prove their point, that they are "indeed" good and right, and that God is "so wrong", but the end result of their rebellion is obvious -- it consists of this planet's total and complete misery-upon-misery of every description... YOU may be feeling okay at the moment, and that is goodand great, but please realize that non-stop and every single second some horrible event is taking place in the different parts of this planet: right now, at this very second, someone's neck is being cut... someone is being beheaded... someone is being beaten severely... someone's head or body is being pierced by bullets... someone is dying of starvation... someone is being raped violently... someone is being strangled... someone just got stabbed... someone is drowning right now... someone is boarding a doomed aircraft, a ship, a bus, etc. ... someone is being torn by a wild beast, or being bitten by a deadly snake... someone is hopelessly lost in the wilderness and is slowly being killed by the elements... and the list goes on and on and on... and the Maker of this Universe sees it all... and He will in no way allow this to continue forever, and this is why the devil is in a self-created "cul-de-sac", or the dead-end. In fact, i think that Tony got inspired by God to write this song, even if he did not know this exact meaning himself... on the other hand, Tony appears to be a decent human being, and probably a Christian, and he probably has read the Bible... I heard that he is still with the same girl he married in his youth, which is very Biblical and admirable, let alone his absolute and undisputed musical genius... So, where was i?... "Region of the night" means the forces/army of the prince of darkness (the devil)... and they for sure know that their time is near, and this is why the devil is like a roaring lion (as the Bible describes him), going everywhere with his demons, looking whom he can devour, because he knows his time is very short... And the devil definitely so wanted to rule this world forever, as he had promised to those angels who stupidly followed him in his rebellion against the Most High God Almighty (I'm absolutely on God's side of this battle... whose side are you on?) And the devil will be cut off forever, burned and destroyed, together with his followers, and the only physical evidence that will remain forever is a long trail of smoke going through the universe, as the Bible says, in memorial of this rebellion, and of the necessary eternal sacrifice of the only begotten Son of God, Jesus, that He made for you and me, and all who will accept Him, and live forever with Him on the newly created Earth, in the sinless universe... Please read the Bible, and keep His 10 Commandments, including the Sabbath (Saturday actually). Now back to the song, God is indeed the devil's foe, He is Alpowerful, Invisible when He wants to be, and the exclamation "long live the king!" is actually a well-desrved mockery of the arch-villain, whose guts i personally hate with a passion. ..."And all those dreams of old will be stories left untold..." is describing satan the devil's ambitions which ultimately would not materialize... and indeed not even one of them shall escape God's wrath - "no, not even one." Praise God for the coming destruction of the devil and his gang!... So, there you have it... and thank you for reading. God bless you.

    gerarothon October 08, 2011   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretation

    This song reminds me of Us & Them by Pink Floyd.

    It is about the futility of ambition, especially the futility of war.

    "How can you fight a foe so deadly When you don't even know it's there?"

    (That question reminds me of the war against bed bugs.)

    "Maybe some escape -- no, not even one"

    vitaminfon March 05, 2014   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

More Featured Meanings

Album art
Silent Planet
I think much like another song “Anti-Matter” (that's also on the same album as this song), this one is also is inspired by a horrifying van crash the band experienced on Nov 3, 2022. This, much like the other track, sounds like it's an extension what they shared while huddled in the wreckage, as they helped frontman Garrett Russell stem the bleeding from his head wound while he was under the temporary effects of a concussion. The track speaks of where the mind goes at the most desperate & desolate of times, when it just about slips away to all but disconnect itself, and the aftermath.
Album art
Gentle Hour
Yo La Tengo
This song was originally written by a guy called Peter Gutteridge. He was one of the founders of the "Dunedin Sound" a musical scene in the south of New Zealand in the early 80s. From there it was covered by "The Clean" one of the early bands of that scene (he had originally been a member of in it's early days, writing a couple of their best early songs). The Dunedin sound, and the Clean became popular on american college radio in the mid to late 80s. I guess Yo La Tengo heard that version. Great version of a great song,
Album art
When We Were Young
This is a sequel to 2001's "Reckless Abandon", and features the band looking back on their clumsy youth fondly.
Album art
Ed Sheeran
There aren’t many things that’ll hurt more than giving love a chance against your better judgement only to have your heart crushed yet again. Ed Sheeran tells such a story on “Page.” On this track, he is devastated to have lost his lover and even more saddened by the feeling that he may never move on from this.
Album art
Plastic Bag
Ed Sheeran
“Plastic Bag” is a song about searching for an escape from personal problems and hoping to find it in the lively atmosphere of a Saturday night party. Ed Sheeran tells the story of his friend and the myriad of troubles he is going through. Unable to find any solutions, this friend seeks a last resort in a party and the vanity that comes with it. “I overthink and have trouble sleepin’ / All purpose gone and don’t have a reason / And there’s no doctor to stop this bleedin’ / So I left home and jumped in the deep end,” Ed Sheeran sings in verse one. He continues by adding that this person is feeling the weight of having disappointed his father and doesn’t have any friends to rely on in this difficult moment. In the second verse, Ed sings about the role of grief in his friend’s plight and his dwindling faith in prayer. “Saturday night is givin’ me a reason to rely on the strobe lights / The lifeline of a promise in a shot glass, and I’ll take that / If you’re givin’ out love from a plastic bag,” Ed sings on the chorus, as his friend turns to new vices in hopes of feeling better.