Meaning of “Home by the Sea” by Genesis

Genesis’ “Home by the Sea / Second Home by the Sea” is a song split into two parts – or suites as they are called by the musically-inclined. Together “Home by the Sea” and “Second Home by the Sea” are over 11 minutes in duration. So it has been hypothesized the executives behind its release divided the song in order to make the length more-standardized.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Genesis's Home at

And the story line featured in this track is about as unique as they come in terms of pop music. It begins with an individual(s) entering into a house. And honestly, based on how the lyrics read, he appears to be a burglar.

However, upon entering (breaking in), he realizes that it is actually inhabited by ghosts. These apparitions begin to tell the thief the stories of their lives. And it would appear the primary reason they are doing so is because they are lonely, as in having been “living (t)here so long”.

Ultimately, while the specters entreat the thief to hear their stories, he is not really offered an option. In fact the ghosts basically tell him he is now burdened with hearing their tales “for the rest of (his) days”. And these narratives seems to be based on the lives the ghosts lived when they were actually alive.

Who are these Ghosts in the home by the sea?

The interesting thing about these ghosts is that they also once used to be ordinary humans (just like the intruder they have trapped). As ordinary humans, they happened to come across the house by the sea and being attracted to it, they made the grave mistake of entering into it. They were then instantly trapped in the house by older ghosts, just like they have trapped the burglar. It is obvious the burglar would also eventually become a ghost, join the ghosts and trap other trespassing humans.

But what do the lyrics really mean?

In trying to decipher the underlying meaning of the song, some fans have come to the conclusion that the actions of the ghosts may actually be a metaphor for being stuck in the past or perhaps even aging. However, for the most part, “Home by the Sea” is a story about an unsuspecting person(s) interacting with enslaving spirits. In fact one writer has compared this song to “a Twilight Zone episode”. And for all we know being trapped by ghosts for the rest of his life may even symbolize the burglar himself being dead.

Lyrics of "Home by the Sea"

Release date and album Appearances

This song was released on 3 October 1983 via the collaborative effort of Charisma Records and Virgin Records. It was released as part of Genesis’ self-titled (12th studio) album, which came out that same day.

The song was subsequently featured on other Genesis albums, including the following:

  • 1993’s The Way We Walk, Volume Two: The Longs
  • 2007’s Live Over Europe

Who wrote “Home by the Sea”?

The entire band is credited with writing this song, with Tony Banks handling the lyrical portion and Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford the music.

Genesis performing “Home by the Sea” live in 2007. This performance took place in Düsseldorf, Germany during the band’s Turn It On Again: The Tour.

Did Genesis release “Home by the Sea” as a single?

Yes. However, not in all countries did it come out as such.

26 Responses

  1. Paulus. says:

    Or….it could be about a retirement home where old folks “relive [their] lives by getting younger people to “sit down” and listen to them? Why would ghosts insist, so vehemently and repeatedly, that an intruder “sit down”?

    I dunno…..just a thought. It might be tongue in cheek or I could be a dozen miles off.

    • Stephen says:

      I think you’re right on the money!!!!.. My thoughts exactly. Mike Rutherford has broached this topic before .

    • Fred Quebec says:

      Nah. I heard Phil Collins mention “the outer world” before starting the song, live.

    • Donna says:

      This is what I thought… the shadows and voices they hear could be signs of dementia in some of the patients. Living here so long undisturbed could be no visitors. I always thought it was about an old folks’ home. It makes me sad.

      • Del says:

        That’s how I’ve read the song the whole time as well. Neglected, forgotten old folks. A home by the sea that’s a kind of prison, where they’ve become indivisible from the ghosts who inhabit it, where their very memories are fading. I too have always thought of it as a sad, sad song.

    • Ash says:

      Why would someone break into a retirement home though?

  2. Stephen says:

    My thoughts exactly!!!!.. and Mike Rutherford has broached this subject in other lyrics before.

  3. Azan Mann says:

    Life is a process of aging – or slowly but surely dying … so actually the term ‘living’ is a delusion as everyone and everything (planet – stars – universe) is ‘dying’. Are these ‘shadows’ … and the ‘Home By The Sea’ is our planet where everyone is trapped while living ( ‘dying’) … there being no escape for anyone EVER! And if true aren’t everyone’s ‘stories’ worth sitting down to hear instead of ignoring them in a state of unenlightenment where one still ‘thinks’ they’re ‘living’ and will continue to (or more deluded, believe they’ll be resurrected by their own imaginary invisible deity).

  4. Mary Emanuel says:

    Funny, I always thought it was a about a burglar entering into an assisted living facility!

  5. TaxiManSteve says:

    It’s your parents. They raised you well, a second home by the sea, and a university education. You are dismissive of their accomplishments. But you listen to them because they did better than you. And you can’t provide a sea horizon for your children like they did. You came up short. But it is humiliating so rather than being appreciative, you are dismissive. You will never forgiven them. Even as you listen to them. Trap you in the corner. Your hatred is pure.

  6. Spiral says:

    On a prima facie listen, it’s a burglar getting caught in a dionaea house and stuck with the inane ghosts until he becomes one himself.
    A deeper interpretation could be about a burglar being caught by the residents of an assisted living home, or a psychiatric care home – but given the propensity of Genesis back in the day to release tracks about imminent death, stalkers, or assassins, chances are it’s likely to be about ghosts after all.
    Welcome to the Twilight Zone by the Sea.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Every-time I listen to this song, it tells me the story of the girls that were never heard form the Epstein scandal, if you pay close attention it’s a call for help. I wonder if Phill Collins wrote it based of this.

  8. Paul Daniels says:

    As far as my feelings towards the lyrics are, Home by the Sea part one and two, tell the story about what happens when you keep things about yourself hidden. Examples are:
    – Regrets about what you should or could have done in the past, to prevent certain things from happening,
    – Never asked forgiveness to someone you harmed, but kept silence about,
    – Actions from the past that you swept under the carpet, hide away from the real world and try to forget,
    – Selfrighteousness turning into selfishness.
    All these things may seem to benefit you at first, yet will come to haunt you in later days and meanwhile enslave you, as the longer you wait in letting it out, the worse it will be to release.

  9. Jeff D. says:

    I have always viewed home by the sea as San Quentin Prison or Pelican Bay.

  10. Robosteve says:

    I’ve always thought the song was about a nursing home. Getting older myself and having put two of my relatives in such places, I could see in their faces “help me someone, let me out of here”.

  11. Roy says:

    I now believe this is where I was raised as a child. An 8 year accident behind my only older sibling. Dad provided every opportunity. I was pawned off on my mom and denied every opportunity. And I just got to watch. Whatcha think? My adult life has failed… 54 and still picking up the pieces

  12. Gary says:

    I always thought it was in reference to the fantasy series of Thomas Covenant the White gold welder, the home by the sea of the giants in the series

  13. mette morgan says:

    I always thought this song was about Alcatraz, a ‘home by the sea. Everything makes sense to my way of thinking.

  14. Tall Todd says:

    I think the breaking into the house is a metaphor for doing something wrong. Do you not hear voices of loved ones from that have gone on before us when we have made a bad choice in life? Those loved ones are the “photos in the frame”. I’m sure they are all around where you live. They are trying to get our attention and help direct and help us through our struggles. “Sit down” and take time to listen to their voices and make better choices in the future. ‘Cause you won’t get away…. No, with us you will stay. Their presence in your life is “For the rest of your days”.

  15. Mark Lester says:

    It just occurred to me today that this song might be about moving to Florida. :-O

  16. GK says:

    It’s an old folk’s home. They will never get me into a Home by the Sea.

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