This concept piece is 23 minutes long and divided into seven sections.
It tells the story of two lovers who travel to strange worlds, eventually returning to their world only to witness The Apocalypse. At Genesis concerts, pamphlets were distributed with notes detailing what was going on in each section.
This helped the crowd follow along. Peter Gabriel was the band's lead singer at the time, and the lyrics he wrote for this song were inspired by a night he spent with his first wife, Jill, at her parents' house.
Gabriel believes Jill became possessed by a spirit, which gave him the starting point for a song about the battle between good and evil.
Gabriel: "One of the first times that I felt as if I was really singing from my soul, almost like singing for my life."
Section 6 is titled "Apocalypse." Gabriel got the idea for it while reading the book of Revelations in The Bible. This section features a solo over an unusual 9/8 rhythm.
This was the first big production number Genesis came up with. Led by Gabriel, they started putting on extravagant stage performances to please the fans and generate publicity. In 1974, they took it to a new level by performing their entire double album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway on tour. In that show, Gabriel changed costumes a number of times.
A few years after Gabriel left, Genesis moved from anthems like this to short pop songs. Led by Phil Collins, they lost some fans but had a string of hits.
When Gabriel left the band in 1975, they continued to perform this in concert, with Phil Collins on vocals. It is included on their 1977 live album Seconds Out. Gabriel told Mojo magazine that it was a "weird thing" seeing Collins sing a song with personal elements in it. He added: "It was like watching someone in your old clothes and you're not sure how well they fit."
(1) Welcome to the annotated lyrics to the epic song that is the 23 minute long opus, "Supper's Ready"! Such a complex work as this can be befuddling to the average listener, and so these notes are provided for the complete lunatic who wishes to know more. The information here is from various sources, some of them cited and others not, as this is not meant to be an academic work. Most sources are as accurate as possible, however, and hopefully there is not too much of the editor's belief imposed onto the structure of the song, as it should be left up to the listener/reader. One of the main sources is The Genesis Discography by members of the online magazine Paperlate, from the section on song meanings, collecting various anecdotes from band members and other sources. Wkipedia and other internet resources were also used. Several books on the band and it's members were used as well. Finally, the story in red that accompanies the lyrics is from a programme handed out during one of the early tours.
Peter Gabriel is quoted as saying: "I really felt that I was writing about myself in a lot of ways…". One story Peter would tell to introduce the song at shows went like this:
"Old Michael, walked past the pet shop – which was never open – into the park – which was never closed. And in the park was a very smooth, clean green grass. So Michael, took off all his clothes, and began rubbing his flesh into the wet, clean green grass. He accompanies himself with a little tune… It went like this…
(Sometimes Phil Collins would pretend he wasn't listening by saying "I'm sorry everybody, I wasn't actually paying attention to what he was saying", then start playing a jazzy little riff on the hi-hat. Peter would then improvise some vocal sounds like "Bom tiddly BAM toodly doobim toodoo" or something like that.)
Beneath the ground, the dirty brown writhing things, called worms, interpreted the pitter patter from above as rainfall. Rainfall in worm-world means two things: Mating and Bathtime. Both of these experiences were found thoroughly enjoyable to the worm colony… simultaneously. And within seconds, the entire surface of the park was a mass of dirty, brown, soggy, writhing forms. He was still pleased – Old Michael, and he began whistling a tune this time, to accompany himself. It went like this:"
At this point Phil would again play the hi-hat and Peter would whistle a version of the hymn "Jerusalem" (37).
"Jerusalem Boogie to us perhaps, but to the birds it meant THE SUPPER IS READY!"
Who are these birds? And to what does Supper's Ready refer to? Fasten your seatbelt and read onwards…
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