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Music / A Trick of the Tail

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"Let the dance begin!"

"'They got no horns and they got no tail.
They don't even know of our existence.
Am I wrong to believe in the City of Gold
That lies in the deep distance?' he cried and wept."

A Trick of the Tail is the seventh studio album by Genesis, released on January 1976 by Charisma Records in the United Kingdom and Atco Records in the United States. It was their first album released after the departure of frontman Peter Gabriel, and the remaining members were faced with the daunting task of replacing a strong vocalist and moving on as a band. After initially unsuccessfully auditioning for a replacement lead vocalist, they were so impressed with drummer Phil Collins' performance that they gave him the role. To compensate for his double-duty as both drummer and the band's new vocalist, former Yes and King Crimson percussionist Bill Bruford was hired to play drums in Collins' stead during the album's supporting tour.

The album was their first to be produced by Elton John collaborator David Hentschel, who would produce their albums through Abacab.

A Trick of the Tail was supported by two singles: the Title Track and "Entangled". The former song, "Ripples", and "Robbery, Assault, and Battery" would also be the first three in Genesis' career to receive music videos, all directed by Bruce Gowers (who had previously directed videos for Mike Oldfield, 10cc, and especially Queen, particularly the latter's "Bohemian Rhapsody").


Side One
  1. "Dance on a Volcano" (5:55)
  2. "Entangled" (6:27)
  3. "Squonk" (6:29)
  4. "Mad Man Moon" (7:36)

Side Two

  1. "Robbery, Assault and Battery" (6:16)
  2. "Ripples" (8:06)
  3. "A Trick of the Tail" (4:35)
  4. "Los Endos" (5:46)

Principal Members:

You better start troping it riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight:

  • Age-Progression Song: "Ripples" is a variation; it's about the narrator pondering a woman's aging process and the fleeting nature of beauty, solemnly noting how "ripples never come back."
    The face that launched a thousand ships
    Is sinking fast, that happens you know
    The water gets below
    Seems not very long ago
    Lovelier she was than any that I know
  • The Band Minus the Face: With Peter Gabriel gone, this album had to prove that Genesis could continue without him. Unlike other groups that have run afoul of this trope, they succeeded, with Phil Collins establishing himself as the new frontman.
  • Book Ends: The album starts and ends with similar riffs, though "Los Endos" also incorporates chords from "Squonk" and "Supper's Ready".
  • City of Gold: Where the Beast in "A Trick of the Tail" comes from. He was initially bored of it, so he ventures out into the human world, where he is captured and paraded around as a freak. The Beast then vanishes back there, tricking the humans into thinking he'll take them there.
    Bored of the life in the city of gold,
    He left and let nobody know.
    Gone were the spires he had known from a child,
    Along with the dream of a life.
  • Cliffhanger: The music video for "Robbery, Assault and Battery" ends with the thief running into the cops again while wandering the street, instigating another chase that is left unresolved.
  • Color Wash: The music video for "Ripples" shifts through a variety of vivid color tints during the instrumental break, with the footage returning to normal during the final chorus.
  • Concept Video: The music video for "Robbery, Assault and Battery" directly adapts the song's lyrics, interspersing this with clips of the band performing.
  • Defector from Paradise: In the Title Track, the Beast decides the utopian city of gold is boring and leaves to explore the human world. His subsequent capture and imprisonment help him appreciate his home a little more.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover is a detailed drawing in the vein of a Victorian engraving print, depicting various characters relevant to the songs on the record. Among other things, one can spot the horse's kick from "Mad Man Moon", the old woman and her younger self from "Ripples", the burglar from "Robbery, Assault and Battery", and the Beast from the Title Track.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In "A Trick of the Tail", the Beast escapes from his cage, but still offers to lead a group of people to his city of gold, despite his mistreatment at The Freakshow (although it's probably just a trick). When the group reaches their destination, the humans catch only a glimpse of the city, but they hear the Beast (who has suddenly vanished) being welcomed home.
  • Epic Rocking: As usual with Genesis. Almost every song breaks the six-minute mark or comes close, with the Title Track the only exception.
  • Fauns and Satyrs: The Beast in "A Trick of the Tail" is portrayed in this manner on the album cover, which was designed by Hipgnosis and drawn by illustrator Colin Elgie. Said beast bemoans that the humans he meets don't have horns or a tail, or even acknowledge his kind exists.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: In the Title Track, the humans instinctively capture the Beast and place him in a freak show exhibit.
    But soon they grew bored of their prey.
    "'The beast that can talk'?
    More like a freak or publicity stunt!"
  • Inconsistent Spelling:
    • On most releases prior to the 1994 Definitive Edition remaster, "Robbery, Assault and Battery" is billed with an ampersand on the disc label (i.e. "Robbery, Assault & Battery"), but with the word "and" in the liner notes; the original Virgin Records CD release uses "and" on the back cover as well. All releases since 1994, meanwhile, stick with "and" across the board.
    • Depending on the release, "Ripples" is billed with or without an ellipsis at the end of the title (i.e. "Ripples..."). Most releases don't feature it, while the 1994 Definitive Edition remaster and physical releases of the 2007 remix incorporate it (digital download and streaming editions of the remix, however, keep the ellipsis out).
  • Ironic Echo: The words "'You've done me wrong,' it's the same old song forever, forever" appears three times in "Robbery, Assault and Battery". The first two times, it refers to the dying words of people that the thief shoots dead. The third time, it refers to the thief's testimony for appealing his imagined conviction.
  • Karma Houdini: Played With in "Robbery, Assault and Battery", where the robber evades capture and kills a policeman in both crimes he commits in the song. He then states that he'll be back someday, but there's always the possibility he'll be arrested and put on trial.
    "He's leaving via roof, the bastard's got away!
    God always fights on the side of the bad man!"
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Squonk" and "A Trick of the Tail".
  • One-Word Title: "Entangled", "Squonk" and "Ripples".
  • Our Monsters Are Different: The Beast considers the humans to be strange and cruel — and considering how he's treated, who can blame him?
  • Performance Video: The music video for the Title Track and "Ripples" are straightforward recordings of Genesis performing the song in a studio room and on a soundstage, respectively. The former video uses video effects to miniaturize Collins and have him dance around his bandmates' instruments, while the latter uses video effects to provide vivid Color Washes during the song's climax and outro.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: To the titular creature in the final verse of "Squonk":
    All in all you are a very dying race
    Placing trust upon a cruel world.
    You never had the things you thought you should have had
    And you'll not get them now,
    And all the while in perfect time
    Your tears are falling on the ground.
  • Re-Cut: 8-track releases reshuffle the tracklist to conform to a four-program format. The altered running order depends on the region:
    • In Europe, the 8-track running order goes "Entangled", "Squonk", "Dance on a Volcano", "Ripples", "Mad Mad Moon", "Robbery, Assault and Battery", "A Trick of the Tail", and "Los Endos". Additionally, "Ripples" and "Robbery, Assault and Battery" are split into two parts due to them overlapping with the changeovers between programs.
    • In North America, the tracklist is "Dance on a Volcano", "Robbery, Assault and Battery", "Mad Mad Moon", "Los Endos", "Ripples", "A Trick of the Tail", "Entangled", and "Squonk". Additionally, "Mad Mad Moon" is split into two parts due to it overlapping with the changeover between programs one and two.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The narrator of "Squonk" spends most of the song attempting to capture the titular creature; while he succeeds in bagging one, it dissolves into a pool of tears while being transported away, true to the Squonk's mythology.