Foxtrot 1972 - Genesis Remember...
MIKE: 'Foxtrot' is one of my favourite Genesis albums, mainly because of 'Supper's Ready'. We wrote some of it at a doctor's house near Chessington, but most of it was written at Una Billing's School of Dancing in Shepherd's Bush. We were in a rehearsal room downstairs, which meant that we could hear the banging of feet all day long.
'Watcher of the Skies' was already written, 'Can-Utility And The Coastliners' was written in the rehearsal room and 'Get 'Em Out by Friday' was pretty much a group effort. It wasn't until we had recorded the album that we realized that we had something really strong. It marked the beginning of another era, I think, the time when Tony, Phil and I took over on the instrumental sections.
There was an element of luck involved. I mean the writing was good, but as we recorded 'Supper's Ready' it started to dawn on us that this was one of our strongest pieces.
TONY: 'Supper's Ready' was a combination of a lot of different ideas. 'Willow Farm' was a song that Peter had written that started off with a guitar piece of mine, which we turned into something that sounded a bit like 'Musical Box'. Then I thought it would be good to stop the song suddenly and go straight into 'Willow Farm' because it had a great introduction.
On the 'Apocalypse in 9/8' section, Mike, Phil and I were just jamming and I said to Mike, 'If you can keep to just these three notes, E, F sharp and B, it will allow me to play an awful lot more chords on top'. And that is how it came together.
The original idea was to leave some of the sections as chord sequences and then record some vocal harmony parts on top. I came in one day to find that Peter had put all these vocals on it. At first I thought, 'This is really annoying. He's singing over the keyboard' but it didn't really take me very long to realize that it was actually very good.
The vocals added drama and I felt that as a result, the song reached an incredible peak. I think 'Supper's Ready' is far and away the best thing we've written - not least because of the combination of ideas.
PETER: There was one particular incident which gave me the inspiration for 'Supper's Ready'. There was this room at the top of Jill's (his wife) parents' house. This room was the coldest part of the house. I always used to get the shivers when I went in there. It was covered in strong purple and turquoise wallpaper. Everything was bright purple and turquoise. Anyway, we had this strange evening up there, which ended with Jill feeling like she'd been possessed. It was extremely frightening.
I don't know how to explain it - it was as if she had had a fit, or something. I experienced a sense of evil at that point - I saw another face in her face. I don't know how much of this was going in inside my head and how much was actually happening, but it was an experience I could not forget and was the starting point for a song about the struggle between good and evil.
At times I really felt that I was being led, for there were a number of odd coincidences. Unlikely facts would suddenly come to light, or names would suddenly lead me to other things. I ended up reading Revelation in the Bible. This explains the apocalyptic bit at the end of 'Supper's Ready'. I think it was one of the first times that I felt I got a good performance out of my voice because I felt as if I was really singing from my soul - almost like singing for my life.
I made sure there was no one else around when I recorded my part, because I knew that (a) I couldn't do some of the vocals very well and also I would be rather self-conscious and (b) I was trying stuff that I knew some of the others wouldn't like. I knew that the keyboard solo was too long for the number. It was detracting. There was a great solo in there, but it needed editing. I thought that the only way that I could keep this number working was to get a vocal in. I worked for a long time to get it right.
When the band came in, they came in together. Thank God, I made sure of that! I played them the tape. Sure enough, Tony was outraged that I'd gone over his sacred solo. However the rest of the band were really excited by what I'd done and popular vote was always the deciding factor. These were the absurd manipulating tactics, which we were all guilty of, but probably me, more than any other!
PHIL: Peter used to try and get everybody out of the studio when he recorded the vocals. Tony and Mike were always thrown out. Peter preferred to do it this way as he didn't particularly want an audience when he was singing and because some of the time he didn't know what he was going to sing. Obviously, if you've got people there, they are all going to make suggestions and the whole thing tends to fall apart. I used to stay because I was doing some of the singing with him and I suppose he thought I wouldn't put a spanner in the works.
Bob Potter was our first producer on 'Foxtrot' and he'd just worked with Dylan and Bob Johnson. However he didn't really like our music and made no bones about it. A week later, he'd gone. Then we had another bloke, Tony Platt, who was an Island engineer and we didn't get on too well with him either. John Burns and Dave Hitchcock were the next two, Dave Hitchcock being a Charisma suggestion and John Burns another Island engineer. John actually really liked the band. He liked us as individuals and was also keen to put a bit of funk into the album.
PETER: 'Supper's Ready' was a gamble. There was some resistance in the band over the length of it, people were very nervous about it. We were taking risks with stuff that we knew was likely to be uncommercial, which wasn't guaranteed to get radio-play and which was probably going to get knocked in reviews.
TONY: I feel very close to 'Foxtrot' as I had a lot to do with the music on it. 'Watcher Of The Skies' is a good example. There was just something about the first two chords of that song which gave it instant atmosphere. We used it to open the show, this was in the days of the ultra-violet lights and the dry ice - before all that became a cliche - and it didn't matter what you played for the next four numbers, the atmosphere it created could not be destroyed.
TONY: Mike and I wrote the lines to 'Watcher Of The Skies' in Naples at the back of a hotel, staring out over this landscape. It was totally deserted. It was incredible. We had the idea of an alien coming down to the planet and seeing this world where obviously there had once been life and yet there was not one human being to be seen.
PHIL: Our songs were based on fantasies or mythology or whatever, yet the words to 'Get 'Em Out By Friday' are as relevant today as they were then. I think that this song was the only piece of social comment that we ever did.
STEVE: On 'Foxtrot', I still had a slight inferiority complex as I felt that I wasn't contributing enough to the band. I remember saying, 'Don't you really feel that I ought to leave because I am not writing as much as the rest of you'. Anyway they reassured me by complimenting my guitar playing - which was the first time I really got any feedback from them. I had an unaccompanied piece on the album called 'Horizons'. It wasn't just a concession to me, it was something that they all liked. I did get more material onto that album than on the previous one, but I was always unhappy with myself as a fledgling songwriter. I felt that I could do more. I think it wasn't until 'Selling England By The Pound' that I felt that I'd fully developed as an electric guitarist.
TONY: After we'd finished our previous albums, I thought, 'This is not as good as it should be' and yet I was very happy with 'Foxtrot'. I really didn't think there was a weak song on it.
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