Music / Supper's Ready
As Peter Gabriel
has said, it's "a personal journey which ends up walking through scenes from Revelations in The Bible
"Supper's Ready" is a seven-part songnote
by the seminal Progressive Rock
, appearing on their 1972 album Foxtrot
. At around 23 minutes long, it takes up almost an entire side of the original vinyl release (apart from a brief, unrelated instrumental entitled "Horizons") and is Genesis' first real Rock Opera
(if "The Musical Box" doesn't count, anyway). Alongside The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
, it's one of the major contributors to Genesis' lasting reputation and influence on progressive rock, and it's exactly how a surrealist prog-rock opera should be done.
Note that, while this is the only twenty-plus-minute suite Genesis released, it's not the only one they wrote. From Selling England by the Pound
, "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight", "The Cinema Show", and "Aisle of Plenty" were originally conceived as a single composition, but the band split "Dancing" and "The Cinema Show" up after deciding it was too similar to "Supper's Ready"; the songs ultimately bookended
the album. Also, from Duke
, "Behind the Lines", "Duchess", "Guide Vocal", "Turn It On Again", "Duke's Travels", and "Duke's End" were originally a side-length suite as well, sometimes called "The Story of Albert", but the band split it up for a number of reasons, similarities to "Supper's Ready" being one of them.note
"The Story of Albert" was still performed in its entirety live during almost every show the band played in 1980, though.
The song is divided into:note
- "Lover's Leap" - 3:48
- "The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man" - 1:57
- "Ikhnaton and Itsacon and Their Band of Merry Men" - 3:55
- "How Dare I Be So Beautiful?" - 1:26
- "Willow Farm" - 4:33note
- "Apocalypse in 9/8 (Co-Starring the Delicious Talents of Gabble Ratchet)" - 4:22
- "As Sure as Eggs Is Eggs (Aching Men's Feet)" - 2:55
The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Tropes:
- As the Good Book Says...: The supper in the title is the "great supper of God" during the Second Coming in Revelation 19. The song later paraphrases that passage.
- Book-Ends: "Lover's Leap" and "As Sure as Eggs Is Eggs" both open with the same melody (though the bulk of the latter actually uses the main melody of "Ikhnaton and Itsacon").
- Cover Drop: "like the fox on the rocks..."
- Cross Dresser: Winston Churchill, as mentioned during "Willow Farm". Yes, really.
- Epic Rocking: Teases throughout, until "Apocalypse in 9/8", when they never look back. The song as a whole is 23 minutes long, so it definitely counts.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Apocalypse in 9/8" describes an apocalypse, and as for its meter signature... well, guess. (Though it's perhaps better described as 9/4, and parts of the organ solo irregularly throw in 4/4.)
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!/Unusual Euphemism: "You're all full of ball", as heard twice in "Willow Farm".
- Gratuitous Panning: All throughout the song, but especially in "Willow Farm", in which the vocals very obviously pan from left to right during one line, and back to the left in the next.
- Ironic Nursery Tune: "The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man" ends with a child's voice singing, "We will rock you, rock you little snake/We will keep you snug and warm" like a nursery rhyme.
- Lyrical Cold Open: The song opens with Gabriel singing the line "Walking across the sitting room" over acoustic instrumentation.
- Meaningful Echo: Twice in "As Sure as Eggs Is Eggs":
- The lyric "And it's hello babe, with your guardian eyes so blue... hey, my baby, don't you know our love is true?" recalls "Lover's Leap".
- The melody of the section is the same as that for "The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man".
- Mind Screw: Some of the lyrics are fairly easily comprehensible, but the meaning of the piece as a whole is not. It does not help that much of the song's concept is based on a supernatural experience Gabriel claimed to have had, and it relies heavily on religious symbolism that may not be easily accessible to general audiences.
- Mind Screwdriver: The story of the song (as featured in the concert programme) gives a clearer idea of what's going on, but it still doesn't answer everything.
- Mood Whiplash: So we've just gotten through a quiet, melancholy, droning section of the song, and Gabriel is singing about Narcissus turning into a flower...suddenly, the instruments all drop out, Gabriel asks, "A flower?", and the hilariously zany (and rather loud) "Willow Farm" section begins.
- Narcissist: "How Dare I Be So Beautiful?", which directly alludes to the myth of Narcissus staring at his reflection in the pond and getting turned into a flower.
- Non-Appearing Title: While there are a couple of allusions to supper, the title "Supper's Ready" never appears in the lyrics. Also, "The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man" and "Willow Farm" are the only sections whose titles appear in the lyrics.
- Number of the Beast: Alluded to during "Apocalypse in 9/8": "666 is no longer alone/He's getting out the marrow in your backbone..."
- Real Life Writes the Plot: The whole song was heavily inspired by Gabriel's thoughts about good vs. evil after he, his then-wife Jill, and the record producer had a supernatural experience at Jill's parents' house; in fact, the lyrics to "Lover's Leap" are a recounting of what happened that night.
- Subdued Section:
- Between "Apocalypse in 9/8" and "As Sure as Eggs Is Eggs". All of the instruments drop out, the flute comes in, then church bells, then a drum roll, then quieting under Peter's vocals, followed by full instrumentation returning via a drum break.
- There's also a gentle flute-and-guitar segment between "Willow Farm" and "Apocalypse in 9/8" that lasts for about two minutes; it doesn't clearly belong to either movement, as its melody and chord progression aren't found in either of them (or, indeed, anywhere else in the song). Because it isn't given a title, it could almost be considered an unusual early example of a Hidden Track. It's possible it was left untitled because the band wanted the song to have seven movements.
- Triumphant Reprise:
- The initial singing of "Lover's Leap" isn't necessarily dark, per se, but since it's at the beginning, it's clear that problems are about to occur very soon for the protagonists. When the lyrics are reprised after "Apocalypse in 9/8", the tone is much more positive, especially since it leads directly into the triumphant finale.
- The melody from "The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man" is reused in "As Sure as Eggs Is Eggs", but while the former is about a false prophet fooling everyone, the latter is about Jesus returning for real.
- Uncommon Time: "Apocalypse in 9/8"note . The Hammond L-122 tonewheel organ solo is an exception as parts of it are in Common Time.
- The Walrus Was Paul: Gabriel's descriptions of the song do little to increase its comprehensibility. His way of announcing it at concerts was telling a tangentially-related story (involving earthworms) ending on the punchline Supper's Ready. note
- "Gabble Ratchet" apparently refers to the Hounds of Hell. Either that, or squawking geese.
- Winston Churchill: In "Willow Farm", he's dressed in drag and used to be a British flag.note
- Word Salad Lyrics: "Willow Farm"