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Biggest 2020 NBA free-agency, draft and trade decisions for the San Antonio Spurs:
- The $27.7 million player option of DeMar DeRozan: What is Plan A if DeRozan doesn't return? What is the comfort level in an extension or new contract? Explore the sign-and-trade market?
- The expiring contracts of LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay
- The rookie extension of Derrick White
- Retool, return the same roster or tear down? Eleven players under contract (including DeRozan) with a young foundation in Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Luka Samanic, Lonnie Walker IV and a lottery pick
- First: No. 11
- Second: No. 41
- Future: The Spurs own all of their future first-round picks
- Cash: $5.6 million (to receive) | $5.6 million (to send)
- The DeRozan player option and $11.3 million free-agent hold for Jakob Poeltl has San Antonio over the salary cap. For San Antonio to have financial flexibility, DeRozan would need to opt out and Poeltl would need to be not brought back. The Spurs would have $15 million in room but lose a 20-point scorer in DeRozan and backup center in Poeltl for nothing. The Spurs would have $10 million in room if DeRozan opts out, Poeltl returns and Trey Lyles and Chimezie Metu are both waived.
- The $5.5 million Lyles contract becomes guaranteed if he is on the roster past October 18. Lyles currently has $1 million guaranteed. Metu's $1.7 million contract is non-guaranteed. It has $500K in salary protection if he is not waived by one month after free agency starts. The full amount becomes guaranteed if he is not waived by the first day of the regular season.
- Staying over the salary cap would leave the Spurs with the $9.3 million midlevel and $3.6 million bi-annual exceptions. They would have the $5.0 million room midlevel if they go under.
- Starting small forward if no DeRozan
- Backup small forward and center
- DeMar DeRozan | Player | Bird
- Bryn Forbes | Bird
- Jakob Poeltl | Restricted | Bird
- Marco Belinelli | Early-Bird
- Drew Eubanks | Restricted | Non-Bird
- Quinndary Weatherspoon | Restricted | Non-Bird
The future of DeMar DeRozanIn normal circumstances, a four-time All-Star coming off another strong season in the prime of his career would opt out of his contract, looking for that one last big bite of the free agency apple.
However, in the case of DeRozan, the unknown of the salary cap in 2020-21 -- along with a shallow pool of teams that have cap space -- makes his future uncertain.
Factor in that the Spurs are at a crossroads, heading to the lottery for the first time since 1997, when Tim Duncan was selected.
If DeRozan does opt into his $27.7 million contract (a decision that has to come by Oct. 13, five days before the start of free agency), both sides will need to weigh what the future holds and the below options:
- The Chris Paul option On June 28, 2017, Paul opted into his $24.3 million contract with the LA Clippers -- but with the intention of getting traded to the Houston Rockets. The players the Clippers received in the trade (Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell) would jump start the retooling of their roster. Paul played out the season on an expiring contract, eventually signing a $160 million contract the following summer with the Rockets. This option would see DeRozan opt into his contract on Oct. 13 and eventually be traded either before the start of the moratorium on Oct. 19 or on Oct. 23. A team not below the cap would need to send back $22 million in salary. Because San Antonio has not been a free-agent destination (outside of Aldridge), the goal for the Spurs would be to target players that have at least two years left on their contracts -- for example, Denver Nuggets shooting guard Gary Harris.
- The contract extension Is DeRozan part of the future? If so, an extension can add up to an additional four seasons (through 2023-24) and $149 million of new money. There are no restrictions on what percentage an extension can decrease.
- Sign and trade This would see DeRozan opt out of his contract and become a free agent, then be signed and moved to another team. It would also see San Antonio receive compensation back in the form of a player. In this situation, because the free-agent market of teams is limited, DeRozan would follow the path of Jimmy Butler to the Miami Heat and D'Angelo Russell to the Golden State Warriors last offseason. However, as we saw with both the Heat and Warriors, a team acquiring a player in a sign-and-trade becomes hard capped, putting further financial restrictions on their roster. One way to work around the hard cap would be for DeRozan to opt into his contract (see above) and then work out a trade. However, DeRozan would have to wait six months from the time of the trade to sign an extension for the maximum amount allowed: four years, $149 million.
- Opt in and play out the season We probably should move this up to the top of the list. This is the smart play, allowing DeRozan to have the financial security ($27.7 million) for the 2020-21 season and then work out either an extension or a trade.
- Opt out and become a free agent This is not the best summer to become a free agent. Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat and New York Knicks are the five teams projected to have cap space north of $20 million this year. Other than the Heat, these are considered rebuilding teams. Would DeRozan sign with Miami on a one-year, $25 million contract and enter free agency in 2021? Does a team like New York see him as the face of the franchise moving forward? How about a young team like Atlanta? Of course, DeRozan could choose to opt out without the assurance that a new contract is waiting from him either with San Antonio or a new team.
The direction with the rosterThe optics would initially suggest that San Antonio will put a for-sale sign on their roster this offseason.
• The Spurs are making their first lottery appearance since 1997. • In the three previous seasons, they were bounced out of the first round twice.
But the reality is that the eight seeding games in Florida should serve as a blueprint moving forward.
Playing without three starters -- Aldridge, Bryn Forbes and Trey Lyles -- the Spurs won five games with a starting lineup featuring one veteran: DeRozan.
The Spurs have made a conscientious effort to draft and develop well, with 60% of their roster projected to be under the age of 26 next season. In addition to their lottery pick and second-rounder in Oct., the Spurs will have five players under 25: Murray, Keldon Johnson, Luka Samanic, Lonnie Walker IV and Lyles. Restricted free agent center Jakob Poeltl is 24 and guard Derrick White turned 26 in July.
The big decisions now will come down to their veterans. San Antonio has four players with an average age of 33: DeRozan, Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills. They are on expiring contracts worth $80 million -- 66% of the Spurs' total payroll in 2020-21.
While expiring contracts don't have the same value as they once did because the acquiring team views them as a short-term rental, all four players would help a contending team. But first San Antonio needs to make a decision on what direction they take: whether to rebuild, retool or remain the same.
The Spurs are currently projected to have close to $75 million in flexibility during the summer of 2021 if they let the contracts of their veterans expire.
The DeRozan player option and $11.3 million free-agent hold for Poeltl has San Antonio over the salary cap. San Antonio does not have room if DeRozan opts out, Poeltl returns and Lyles and Chimezie Metu are both waived.
Staying over the salary cap would leave the Spurs with the $9.3 million midlevel and $3.6 million biannual exceptions.
If they go under, San Antonio would have the $4.8 million room midlevel.
The resources available to build the roster
- The draft: lottery pick and second-round selection
- DeMar DeRozan: Cap flexibility if he opts out or can execute a sign-and-trade
- Expiring contracts: LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay
- Young players: Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson and Luka Samanic
- Own free agents: Jakob Poeltl and Bryn Forbes
- Exceptions: $9.3 million midlevel and $3.6 million biannual
Dates to watch• While San Antonio cannot control the Oct. player option deadline for DeRozan, they do for two players: Lyles and Metu. Lyles started 53 games at power forward, averaging a career high in minutes (20.2) while averaging 6.4 points. He did not play in the eight seeding games because of an appendectomy. Lyles has $1 million protected of his $5.5 million contract with the balance guaranteed if he is not waived by Oct. 18.
Drafted in the second round in 2018, Metu has played 47 games, averaging 5.3 minutes and 2.3 points. His $1,663,861 contract is non-guaranteed but does have $500K in protection if he is not waived by early November (the date is not finalized).
• The Spurs will (or they should) tender Poeltl a $4.6 million one-year qualifying offer by Oct. 17. The former lottery pick acquired by San Antonio in the Kawhi Leonard trade played 17.7 minutes per game and averaged a career high 5.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. With Poeltl on the court, the Spurs allowed 108.9 points per 100 possessions; overall, San Antonio allowed 112.6 points per 100 possessions.
Restrictions• The amount of protection Lyles ($1 million), Metu ($0) and Tyler Zeller ($0) to be used as outgoing salary in a trade. • Murray has a poison pill restriction in his contract that expires on Oct. 19. • For trade purposes, Murray counts as $13.2 million incoming salary for a team acquiring him and $2.3 million outgoing salary.
Extension candidatesThe Spurs showed last year with the Murray rookie extension that they are willing to commit to a young player. Murray is the first player that the Spurs have signed to a rookie extension since R.C. Buford took over.
Now entering the offseason, will that continue with White? He's become a key player for San Antonio. In the first reseeding game against the Sacramento Kings, White showed how valuable he is to the Spurs. The box score shows 26 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and a plus-19 when he was on the court -- and doesn't show the five charges that White took in the 34 minutes on the court.
An extension for White should project in the four-year, $52 million range, allowing San Antonio to still have north of $70 million in cap space in 2021.
DeRozan, Aldridge, Mills and Metu are also extension eligible.
The draft assetsHere is how Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz have San Antonio selecting in Oct.:
• No. 11 (own): Devin Vassell | SG/SF | Florida State
• No. 41 (own): Desmond Bane | SG | TCU
The Spurs own all their first-round picks in future seasons.
Hindsight is 2020: #1 - Firth of Fifth
Listen to it here!
Here at the end, it’s only appropriate to go back to the beginning. Well, a beginning, at any rate. You see, streaming internet radio was a relatively new service during my college years. I’m not talking about simply pulling up a local radio station’s website and streaming its actual live radio feed, mind you, but the idea of subscription-based, curated music; radio stations made especially for an individual. We tend to take that sort of thing for granted now, and there are a number of options, but for a student in the mid-2000s, it was a novelty. I don’t recall exactly how I heard about the particular service I used, but I made a free account and decided to try it out.
I don’t know exactly what I expected. I imagine that I didn’t expect much at all, frankly. The idea of “you say you like this one song so we’ll give you other songs you like” felt a little like “yeah, right” to me. But modern live radio wasn’t proving interesting to me anymore, and I liked the idea of being exposed to new things, so I figured, why not? The first thing I was asked after confirming my new account was to “create a station,” and to do that I had to select a song or artist I enjoyed so it could find more things like that. That was a really interesting question I hadn’t quite been prepared to answer. What do I want to hear more of? I like Journey, but do I want a radio station dedicated to arena anthems? I like The Beatles, but will a 60s rock station have any staying power for me? I like a bit of 80s and 90s pop, but will that actually expose me to much of anything new?
In the end, I made what in hindsight was one of the most important musical decisions of my life. I told the service to build me a station around the song “Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding” by Elton John. My parents both liked Elton John and I’d heard a fair bit of his music, liking almost all of it. Great piano rock stuff. Yet this song had captured me in a different, deeper way. For one thing, it's eleven minutes long, and the first half of it is entirely instrumental. It runs through multiple moods with an arrangement covering a lot of different sounds...it is, in a word, “progressive,” though that wasn’t really a word in my musical vocabulary at the time. And then the second half was this exquisitely-arranged jam of a song; thumping piano rock, melodic guitar solos, intricate bass work, outstanding vocal harmonies, and again a range of sounds and moods. In my mind, this was a totally unique thing in the world of music, utterly captivating start to finish. “Give me more songs like that. Do any even exist?”
It took a bit of time. Through selectively “liking” or “disliking” tracks, I was refining the station’s perception of my musical taste and driving it towards discovery of other music in this vein, though I got a wide variety of other great stuff along the way as well. My routine at the time was that I’d boot up World of Warcraft, mute the game, turn on this station, and do some mindless in-game tasks so I could just enjoy the music. At one point, a song came on that I didn’t recognize, though I knew Phil Collins’ voice instantly. The station listed it as “Old Medley (Live)” from Genesis. I wasn’t too keen on hearing live versions of things, since I traditionally preferred studio versions unless I was physically at the concert myself, but this was new, and I’d always liked Genesis growing up. Knew all their hits and could recognize a few album cuts as well here or there, so eh, I’ll leave it on. At nearly 20 minutes long, this was bound to have something interesting.
The opening bit was pretty good even though it didn’t leave a tremendous impression on me right away, but then came “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”, and hey, I know that one! Then another bit I didn’t recognize, though it sounded pretty strong, with a big “Wow” moment at the end. Then off into a keyboard solo...that’s pretty good I guess, cool drumming too. And that’s when my musical life really changed. Because after that keyboard solo wound down, I heard a guitar solo that made me stop everything else I was doing and just kind of go, “Whoa….” for a while. The medley went on into something else and touched lightly on a number of other songs I half-recognized, but I was still in that guitar solo in my head. I had to know what in the world I’d just heard. So I pulled up a browser and searched for this “Old Medley” to find its component parts, eventually learning that this section was from something called “Firth of Fifth”.
“Well that’s a ridiculous name.”
Tony: There's a river in Scotland called the Forth, and the word for a delta or inlet in Scotland is a “firth.” So, it's known as the Firth of Forth. It's sort of north of Edinburgh. So, I thought, forth, fifth, you know, “Firth of Fifth.” We're talking about the early '70s here, so it was a little bit pretentious, in a way. But it's quite a fun title. It's totally untranslatable, of course, so I'm always getting these questions from Germans and French people asking, "What does it mean?" It sounds more profound than it is because it was supposed to be just a slight joke, really, as a title. 1So I hunted for the song. Back then YouTube wasn’t replete with music and I didn’t really have any ability to pull it up on-demand anywhere, but somehow I managed to locate this track somewhere and play it in its entirety. And man, it was something else.
Check out this monstrosity of time signatures. 2/4 into 4/4 that’s actually more like 16/16 back to 2/4 into 13/16 into some 15/16 stuff as well? I’d heard this stuff in the synth solo in the medley, but with the full band playing it didn’t really register. Now, hearing this stuff on only grand piano in the song's intro, it was just this overwhelming feeling of “WHAT?!”
Tony: I just played it on a piano. It was kind of difficult at the time. I remember in the studio we were in, it was very difficult to get the noise of the pedal out of the way, so I tried to play it without the pedal, which was a bit difficult to do because it's not the easiest thing to play. But it was something I'd written and developed. I had this sort of arpeggio idea that I was working with. I'd written another piece which used a similar feel, which we never ended up using, and I just had this section of it, which I then developed and made this piece of. I thought it worked really well as a piano piece on its own, and then it worked well with an arrangement, as well. So, it's just one of those things. With Genesis, we just did what appealed to us, really. We didn't worry too much how other people were going to respond to it. It was a fun thing to do. It's a difficult thing to play live because, at the time, I didn't have a real piano. I tried to play it on the electric piano and that was quite difficult. I don't think it ever really sounded very good, but it was fun to try. 1It’s a shame that a mix of sound quality concerns with logistic issues prevented this intro from being played live until it was too late in their careers to do the song in full anyway, because that piano intro carries a LOT of water for setting the stage for everything to come. At this point I knew that I’d likely hear this absurdly complex melody again in synth form, and I knew that guitar bit was going to show up later, but I had no idea how I’d get there. Yet I had a sense from hearing this piano intro that the rest of the song was going to measure up just fine.
The piano intro concluded, but by “concluded” I really mean “the band exploded in on a huge chord” as Peter began singing the opening lines. “Oh, that’s right, Peter Gabriel was in this band, wasn’t he?” The lyrics he was singing didn’t seem to mean much to me. Some decent turns of phrase like “And so with gods and men // the sheep remain inside their pen // though many times they’ve seen the way to leave.” That’s a good bit! What it means I couldn’t really tell you, but it certainly sounded profound at the time! And these words were being well-delivered by a voice with an unusual quality to it that made the whole thing somehow more mysterious. Even so, there didn’t seem to be much tying these various phrases together. And…did he just say “cancer?”
Tony: We were a bit stuck for an idea for a lyric. We started off writing very simply about a river, then the river became a bit more...a river of life. You know, it’s quite allegorical and I don’t think it’s our most successful lyric. I’ve always been a bit disappointed with the lyric on that. It’s a great piece of music but it’s a pity we didn’t get a better lyric. I don’t think it says very much. We tried a bit too hard. It just didn’t come, whereas the other one we wrote on the album, “Cinema Show”, we were much more pleased with. There we had a specific idea to aim for. 2Nevertheless, it’s all pretty compelling, and oooh, “undinal” is a fun word. Sirens’ cry? So is this song actually nautically themed then? I think I can dig that. Oh hey, a flute! That was unexpected. This is really good, really haunting. Pretty and understated but totally entrancing. Oh like a siren! I get it now!
Tony: With “Firth of Fifth” I was pretty pleased with that at the time, I have to say. Because you had lots of bits in it… My favorite bit really is what was a flute solo. And I’d really just seen it done like that, just flute and piano. 3Then this piano bit again picking up tempo - man, this is really getting going now! And then, ahhhhh I know this! It’s that synth solo from the medley! But man, I hadn’t heard just how crazy that drumming is before, or those oscillating guitar sounds. This is really something else!
Steve: As the melody starts to move and it starts to weave upwards and duck downwards...it’s got lots of bendy notes in it. Slightly oriental sounding, slightly sort of French-impressionist-Erik-Satie-type melody stuff. Originally Tony played it on piano and I thought, “It’s a very interesting sketch, but we need to flesh this out.” When you first hear that melody, Peter Gabriel plays it on flute along with the piano… I think there’s something very poignant about the melody. I don’t know...it seems to touch people. In fact my mother, whenever she comes to a gig, she says, “It always makes me cry, that thing.” 4
Steve: And then you get a recapitulation of the solo piano thing that starts the thing out; it becomes a synth solo. Fast and furious drum and bass happening from Mike and Phil. 4But oooh, hearing all this crazy synth solo stuff means that guitar solo has got to be coming up next, right? Right???
Tony: [This album was] the first time I ever used a synthesizer as well. So it was quite a big move for me to have this instrument, this ARP Pro Soloist thing, which was quite a simple monophonic synthesizer, but it had quite a nice little range of tones on it. And it was one you didn’t have to do any programming; just preset sounds, which was nice for me. Obviously “The Cinema Show” is very much based on that, but I used it throughout the album on little bits and pieces and it was a really interesting addition to the armory. In these days it was organ, piano, and Mellotron. To have something alternative to play lead on like this opened up possibilities for me… When the synthesizers came in it just opened up the keyboard world so much. 5
Tony: I think it’s the most successful all-round song on Selling England by the Pound. It’s a very romantic song. It builds to a climax with the guitar solo - which recalls an earlier flute theme - with masses of Mellotron. 2To my great surprise, the guitar sounded...different somehow. It wasn’t just the fact that there were twenty or so years between the recordings, either. No, the version I’d heard in that medley was a dazzling technical display, wowing me with a great melody but also the pyrotechnics of the player. This? This wasn’t that.
Peter: Steve definitely I think gained in confidence and “Firth of Fifth” is very much a Tony piece, in terms of how it started and how it built. But Steve did let loose in I think probably the best way up to that point, at the end. 5
Steve: I tend to come alive when I think of Selling England... I think I was able to infuse that album with the enthusiasm of a player and as an interpreter on, for instance "Firth Of Fifth". Basically the whole song was Tony's baby from beginning to end, apart from the lyric which he co-wrote with Mike. [Yet] the thing that people mentioned about that song was the guitar solo, which is my most well known solo really, and really that interpretation of that melody played legato with all that anguish. 6
Steve: I play it at a deathly slow speed. Funereal speed. As a colonial guitarist it's different for Daryl. Seriously, to play someone else's part is almost impossible. I understand his need to play it differently. It is very difficult to play exactly the same notes as someone else... I think these things for musicians are not sacred. Somebody has always to give something of themselves. 7And yet I wasn’t disappointed either. I may have missed a couple small embellishments, but I still got those same goosebumps. I was still completely enthralled by what I was hearing. A little confused, I suppose, but enthralled nonetheless. I did a bit more digging on it later; ah, this was a fellow named Steve Hackett who used to play with the band but had left. That does explain things a little.
The excitement didn’t abate there though; I still had a whole minute of song left! It’s another verse, eh? That works. Sounds good, sort of repeats that line about gods and men and sheep I liked. “The sands of time were eroded by the river of constant change.” Oh now that is good. Maybe all this meant something more and I just need to listen better, or maybe have the lyrics beside me.
And then a grand piano outro, fading out gently. What a pleasant little bow to put on the package.
Phil: It came to life on the [Trick of the Tail] tour. It really got a great audience reaction whereas before…‘Cause the ending is quiet and people would sit around waiting for somebody else to clap. Maybe it was because everybody knew it by the time of the last tour...And with two drummers it just seemed to happen. 2Man...that guitar solo though. This song was nice, but that guitar solo.
...I’ma play it again.
Man, still impressed by how intricate this piano work is. OK, do these verses make more sense now? Who is “he” who’s riding majestic? What scene of death are they talking about? Oh they really did say “cancer growth.” Gross.
Tony: Mike and I wrote the lyric together, although it was mainly me - I won't put too much of the blame on Mike. I don't know really. It was just following the idea of a river and then I got a bit caught up in the cosmos and I don't quite know where I ended up, actually. But, it just about stands up, I think, for the song. For me, musically, it's got two or three really strong moments in it and fortunately they really carried us along. It's become one of the Genesis classics and I'm very happy for that. 1OK, heading into the instrumental middle again...oh! That’s a guitar or something doing an actual siren wail! I didn’t even catch that before, that’s really cool!
Tony: Steve I think was really starting to find his feet a bit more as a player, and live and everything. And also he always contributed…A lot of Genesis music obviously required a sort of guitar, acoustic guitar picking and stuff, but people notice it less, I think. People tend to notice lead playing a little bit more. 5Hey, wait a second! That flute melody is the same as that guitar solo melody! That’s fantastic! This song is like three distinct sections but they all get done in different ways! What a brilliant approach to the music! How did they even figure out to combine them all like this?
Steve: With the show I am doing at the moment [my solo band] decided to do a full-length version...of “Firth of Fifth” rather than just the guitar solo. It is arguably Genesis' best-known guitar tune, and it is a damn good song there that isn't heard. I don't think even Genesis do that anymore, and maybe they never will. I do enjoy a lot of these songs in their entirety. The fact that I left the band doesn't mean to say that I am not, in spirit at least, one with many of those tunes. I still love them, for what it’s worth. 7
Tony: I had these three bits I’d written, which I originally assumed would go into three different songs. But I think, probably because the others wanted my stuff sort of [shoved into] a kind of Banks ghetto, they all ended up in the same song, which ended up being “Firth of Fifth”. I really just strung the three bits together; well, made sense of them in a way to make them good. 5This thing works really, really well as a flute melody too. They must have had this wicked guitar solo and some genius figured out “it could probably work scaled down on flute, too,” and then they actually did that! So cool.
Phil: “Firth of Fifth” was one of those things where Tony just sort of, you know...we’d all get together to play each other our bits, of which he had hundreds. Mike had quite a few and Peter had a few. And we’d be steamrollered into playing “Firth of Fifth”. 5
Tony: It was pieced together with the whole group around so it was one of those things where the group arrangement is quite important. There were three separate sections and it was Mike’s idea to put them together. I was thinking of keeping them separate, but they worked very nicely together. I’d offered some of it at the time of Foxtrot and Phil found it very difficult to play on it - this one part of it - so we dropped the idea. I’m glad we did ‘cause I developed it a lot better. I think it was great to be told “no” at that point and produce something a lot better as a result of it. 2
Tony: The way the guitar solo evolved was quite interesting really. Because I’d written the three bits, and the second bit I’d written was just really a flute and piano melody. I’d just seen it as that. We played it a few times and it sounded really nice. And then one time Steve started playing it, you know. Started playing it [big] like this. I thought, “Well, great! Let’s put the Mellotron in, big chords!” It was almost like a joke. We were kinda doing this sort of “a la King Crimson” is how we saw it. Just this overblown thing. And I thought, “That actually sounds really good, this!” So for the reprise of that melody when it came in the second half of the song, we said, “Well, let’s do it this big way. See how it works.” And it worked really well. It gave a chance for Steve to actually do a sort of proper guitar solo. 5Well hello again, guitar solo. You’re looking lovely this evening. You know, it’s OK if you’re not as technical as that live rendition. This is actually way more artistic I think. Sounds a lot more like it’s “supposed” to sound, if that makes sense. And good grief, he’s holding that note out forever!
Tony: And so we used that as the sort of peak for the song, and stuck all the other bits in with it. It’s just an example of how...If I’d written the song on my own and it had just been credited to me, it would never have done that probably. It needed the whole band there to do the other thing with it. And that’s the sort of thing you get out of a group. I think it just leads you places you weren’t perhaps otherwise gonna go. 3
Steve: I was bending all the notes… I remember one or two people said, “It sounds a little bit Indian, almost like a sitar.” There was a note that I was able to sustain that would work nine times out of ten. At the top I’d do a high F#, and just with proximity to the speaker cabinets, it fed back. So it sounded like I had perfect sustain on every note; I didn’t. But I was able to fade in the notes on the beginning of it and sort of wait for it, wait for it, wait for it. Coast over, sort of atmospheric section. 5Ooooof those big chords on the guitar’s second run through the main melody. That deep bass. It’s a guitar solo, but the guitar isn’t even what makes it so strong! It’s everything else. That guitar is just riding on top of it. Perfectly.
Steve: So you have that idea of the song, the whole sort of idea of water; the sea and rivers and all of that. Very Genesis kind of tone poem type stuff. And I was trying to create the idea of a bird in flight. So I held it and made it sustain, and I thought, “Well, this could be a little bit like a seagull over a calm sea.” And then it becomes more turbulent... It’s just one of those gorgeous melodies. 4So daggone good. Did they play it live in full? I bet they played it live. Probably no fade-out ending there either. I’ma find it live. Oh, here it is.
Tony: We’re doing “Firth of Fifth”...and musically it stands up very well... It’s a sort of period piece… We’re not trying to change the old songs. It’s nice in some ways to recreate the era. Because you’re playing in a way you don’t play now but did play then. It also means that the songs stand up for themselves, the old and the new. But we’ve always done that you know. 8Aww, no piano intro here. No flute either! Phil’s singing too, but that’s fine, I love Phil. But this still sounds really good. That bass comes through really well during the guitar solo. And hey, my embellishments! They’re back, but still done really tastefully! I guess this is actually the best of both worlds! THOSE BIG CHORDS. And man, I didn’t notice before, but this thing just rolls on longer than guitar solos typically ever have a right to, doesn’t it?
Mike: Once again it’s a nice section. You know, it’s about more space. We’re taking the main theme from the song and just letting it run for about four minutes, with a lovely guitar solo playing the melody and some lines in between. So we’re starting to give sections more space, and more time to sit in one mood rather than move on too fast. 5Ooh, the outro! Is it gonna fade out? Whoa hey! It didn’t! In fact it ended exquisitely!
Steve: It’s kind of become Genesis’ most well-known guitar solo. So yeah, I was allowed to play - forever, it seems - this great long guitar solo in the middle of something written by Tony. 5
...I’ma listen to it again.
Come back to me, oh marvelous solo. I shall earn your company by listening to the rest of this music as well, but then with me you shall stay, forever and ever.
Tony: I suppose on this it was more of a genuine guitar solo. Some of the others were a bit tricksy; he was kind of thinking very hard about every note he played, and so it didn’t sort of soar in quite the way that this does. Where I think he allowed himself to have a bit more freedom with it, particularly before the main melody starts; just some really nice little phrases and stuff. So he sounds more like a real guitarist. 5...Guys, I never did stop hitting that replay button. “Firth of Fifth” is not only my favorite Genesis song, and not only one of my favorite songs period, but it’s the song that broadened my musical horizons. It’s the song that taught me what “progressive” means. It’s the song that sent me spiraling down into what then felt like a dark, bottomless pit of Genesis material to explore. Well, I’ve explored that shadowy pit now. I’ve mustered enough light to identify one hundred ninety-seven individual works of art down here, and I’ve assembled them into a big pile so I can climb back out. And here, at the peak, is the song that got me into this mess in the first place. I always liked Genesis, but “Firth of Fifth” made me a Genesis fan in earnest.
Steve: Iconic instrumental stuff... It aspires to symphonic rock at its best. I think without the Mellotron, that wouldn’t have happened. This is three guitar takes all played back together for the last time around that favorite melody. John Burns, who was engineering at the time, said, “Why don’t we just play them all back together?” So I was able to get away with something that’s nearly a three minute guitar solo. Unheard of for Genesis back in those days, but I think the whole song is absolutely beautiful. Of course, it’s also I think memorable for keyboard players as well. But being a guitarist of course, I have favored the famous guitar moment! 9
Steve: When I play guitar on "Firth of Fifth" to this day it still feels like flying over a beautiful ocean. 10I’m soaring right beside you, Steve. Every time.
Let’s hear it from the band!
Steve: The song had an aspect of blues, an aspect of gospel about it. It had something of English church music, but it also had an aspect of something Oriental or Indian, almost. So, it was a fusion of influences. But at the time, we weren’t using the word fusion - and we weren’t using the word progressive. It would eventually be described as progressive, which was a catch-all phase covering an awful lot of bases. I think it can support [its length] because it’s thematic. Basically, it’s the same melody played three times with minimal variation. It’s done like jazz, with the statement of the theme then you go off and improvise, and then return to the theme. On “Firth of Fifth”, when it comes back it’s a larger arrangement. It’s the tune as written, then “let’s take this to the mountains,” to a certain extent. 11The sands of time may erode, but “Firth of Fifth” is a constant in my life. Thank you all for taking this journey with me. And thank you Genesis for making it possible.
Phil: “Firth of Fifth” was a big tour-de-force. 5
Tony: This album I think we came together much more as players. We sound convincing as players to a greater extent… There’s a bit more technique in there. I always like to think that technique is just another sort of paintbrush, in a way. It’s something you can use, and it can be very effective at times. It should never take over. I think with some groups it takes over; it becomes “the technique’s the thing.” You know, you’ve got a guitarist who can play so fast that he can’t stop doing it. And we’re very happy...I’m very happy to just sort of sit down and hold down chords, which I do a lot of the time. And other times, you’d go mad. The contrast works and you just use it [to] illustrate something you want to try to illustrate with a piece of music you’re writing. That’s the thing. And I think Steve’s playing on this was really good. Obviously the “Firth” solo was a standout moment for his time with us. 5
Peter: Most of our stuff took time, took a few plays to sort of open up to a listener. But if they got it, it would stick around for quite a long time. 5
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2. NME, 1977
3. Genesis - The Songbook
4. Steve Hackett, 2020
5. 2008 Box Set
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9. Steve Hackett, 2020
10. HackettSongs, 2018
11. Something Else, 2014