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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Celebrate Your Neanderthal DNA: A Trick of the Tail/Genesis

Neanderthals made the news last week.  Genetic researchers announced their discovery that Neanderthals, who died out about 30,000 years ago, mated with modern humans, settling once and for all the most salacious unanswered question in modern science.  For people alive today who are descended from ancestors in Europe or Asia, this means that up to 4% of their genes are Neanderthal in origin.  This got us thinking about William Golding's 1955 novel The Inheritors, which depicts the final encounter between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens and the end of the Neanderthal line.  (It was reportedly Golding's favorite of all his books, and that includes the classic Lord of the Flies.)  It also got us humming the Genesis song A Trick Of The Tail, from their 1976 album of the same name, which was inspired by Golding's novel.  Genesis Forum Italia quotes band member Tony Banks: "I got the idea for the lyric after reading William Golding's The Inheritors. It's about a race who were on earth before man and it's the story of the last survivor of this race. The very last chapter deals with our reaction to him whereas the rest of the story is his reaction to us."  The song's connection to the book is more thematic than literal.  It isn't about cavemen; as Banks says, "It's about an alien with horns and a tail who appears in a modern city and how people react to him."  We wonder if Banks might have been influenced as much by the book's cover art as by the book itself--when The Inheritors was first published, the jacket bore the image of a famous prehistoric cave painting known as The Sorcerer, which depicts a mysterious shamanistic figure with antlers and a tail.  It's comforting to know that Neanderthals have a future, and not just because their genetic descendants are walking around today.  Rumors abound that the new Iron Maiden album The Final Frontier, due later this summer, includes a track called "The Inheritors (William Golding)."  This hasn't been officially confirmed, but consider this:  The album is being produced and mixed by Kevin Shirley--aka The Caveman--and his Caveman Productions.


  1. Thank you, Book Flack / Classics Rock! Guy. Though I have enjoyed "Trick of the Tail" for many years, I never could quite figure out exactly what it was about. I even had trouble with "Robbery, Assault and Battery," and had to spend three years in law school to get to the bottom of it. Peter H.