Supper's Ready: Wikis


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"Supper's Ready"
"Supper's Ready" cover
Song by Genesis

from the album Foxtrot

Released 6 October 1972
Recorded August 1972
Genre Progressive rock
Length 22:54
Label Charisma/Virgin(UK)
Writer Peter Gabriel
Composer Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford
Producer David Hitchcock of Gruggy Woof
Foxtrot track listing
"Supper's Ready"

Supper's Ready is a song by the band Genesis. A recorded version appeared on their 1972 album Foxtrot, and the band performed the song regularly on stage for several years following this. Live versions appear on the albums Seconds Out (recorded in 1977), the compilation Genesis Archive 1967-75, and the box set Genesis Live 1973-2007.

In an interview, Peter Gabriel summed up Supper's Ready as "a personal journey which ends up walking through scenes from Revelations in the Bible....I'll leave it at that."[1]


Structure of "Supper's Ready"

Nearly 23 minutes in length, the song is divided into seven sections. A number of musical and lyrical themes do re-appear throughout. The melody of the verse in section 1 ("Lover's Leap") reappears as a flute melody between sections 2 and 3. The melody of the chorus in section 1 reappears with new lyrics in the coda to section 6. And the song that comprises the majority of the section 2 ("The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man") reappears briefly in instrumental form at the beginning of section 6, and then returns to form the body of section 7 ("As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs (Aching Men's Feet)"), with new lyrics.

One commentator regarded the structure of "Supper's Ready" as a variation of sonata form—a musicological analysis by Nors Josephson proposes that "section 7 may be viewed as a Lisztian, symphonic apotheosis" of the "cyclical fanfares that originated in section 2."[2]

On the other hand, the individual components of "Supper's Ready" are much closer to traditional rock songs than they are to classical pieces, even if they contain elements of both.

As with many progressive rock pieces, the song undergoes multiple changes in time signature, key signature, Leitmotif, instrumentation, and mood. [3]


The song's writing is credited jointly to the whole band (Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford). In various interviews, Banks mentioned that he composed several of the musical progressions whilst still a university student; Gabriel authored most or all of the lyrical content; Collins apparently contributed much to the arrangements and segues from one section to another.

Reception by fans

The song has been highly regarded by fans for its epic nature and cathartic climax, with Gabriel in particular delivering an emotionally charged vocal performance at the close of the song. Referring in part to the song's lyrical depiction of a struggle between good and evil, Gabriel has been quoted as saying he felt he was "literally singing for his life" in the recording studio. In contrast, Hackett is said to have responded to a fan who enthused "Steve, I actually saw God at the end!" with the rather more down-to-earth "Well, I was just trying to get the notes right".

The seven sections of "Supper's Ready"

The various sections of the song are detailed below:


"Lover's Leap"

This section harks backs to the band's folky roots, featuring a gentle arpeggiated guitar backing (with Hackett, Banks and Rutherford all playing 12-string guitars), soft electric piano (Hohner pianet), bass pedals, cello and flute, and a section with folky three part vocal harmonies (which omit the third note of the chord). The only percussion used is triangle, cymbals & bells.

Lyrically it mingles imagery of a man returning home after a long time to be greeted by his lover, and mention of supernatural imagery ("six saintly shrouded men"), which Gabriel claims relate to a genuine supernatural experience which occurred with himself, his wife Jill and producer John Anthony. According to Gabriel, during a late-night conversation, his wife began speaking with a completely different voice. Gabriel held up a makeshift cross out of a candlestick and another household item, and Jill reacted violently. Jill was eventually calmed down and taken to bed, but neither Peter nor John Anthony slept that night. On another occasion, also late at night, Gabriel looked out of the window of his wife's parents' house to see what he perceived to be an entirely different lawn, across which seven shrouded men were walking. Gabriel recounted that these experiences led him to contemplate notions of good, evil, and the supernatural, and eventually inspired the lyrics to "Supper's Ready."

In the program given out at Genesis concerts at the time, "Lover's Leap" was explained as:

In which two lovers are lost in each other's eyes, and found again transformed in the bodies of another male and female.[4]

This segment was performed as a standalone as part of an acoustic set on the group's 1998 Calling All Stations tour with Ray Wilson on vocals.

"The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man"

This section sees Banks (who composed the chord progression whilst still at University) switching to Hammond organ, Hackett playing electric guitar and Collins entering on drums. When performing the song live, Gabriel would don a "crown of thorns" costume at this point. The piece segués into the next with a Lover's Leap reprise.

The program describes this section as follows:

The lovers come across a town dominated by two characters; one a benevolent farmer and the other the head of a highly disciplined scientific religion. The latter likes to be known as "The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man" and claims to contain a secret new ingredient capable of fighting fire. This is a falsehood, an untruth, a whopper and a taradiddle, or to put it in clearer terms; a lie.

"Ikhnaton and Itsacon and Their Band of Merry Men"

This section is much more dynamic than the previous two, with lively drums, a strong elegiac lead electric guitar solo from Hackett, and a lot of interplay between this guitar and the organ (including a section with fast organ and guitar arpeggios, Hackett employing the "tapping" style of playing). The lyrics refer to a battle of some sort, presumably involving Ikhnaton.

The program spells "Itsacon" as "Its-a-con". It describes this section as follows:

Who the lovers see clad in greys and purples, awaiting to be summoned out of the ground. At the G.E.S.M's command they put forth from the bowels of the earth, to attack all those without an up-to-date "Eternal Life Licence", which were obtainable at the head office of the G.E.S.M.'s religion.

"How Dare I Be So Beautiful?"

This is a slow and gentle section, the only instrumentation being treated acoustic piano chords, each chord being faded-in on the recording, thus losing the piano's characteristic attack and sounding more like an organ (it was done on Hammond organ live). The title is a catchphrase used by the band's early music-business contact, Jonathan King. The lyrics deal with the aftermath of the preceding battle, and referring to the Greek myth of Narcissus, who turned into a flower.

The program describes this section as follows:

In which our intrepid heroes invesitigate the aftermath of the battle and discover a solitary figure, obsessed by his own image. They witness an unusual transmutation, and are pulled into their own reflections in the water.

"Willow Farm"

Live in concert, this section provided what is perhaps one of Gabriel's most iconic moments - the lyrics commence with the question "A Flower?", which would see Gabriel appear in his "flower mask" (by Gabriel's own admission, partly inspired by the BBC children's programme The Flower Pot Men.) Musically, this section is somewhat bizarre, featuring amongst other things: vaudeville-style sections, the Mellotron Mark II's "combined brass" tape set, sped-up vocals, and musique concrete noises of trains and explosions. Lyrically, it has a Python-esque quality, dealing with elements of the absurd in the English psyche, "there's Winston Churchill, dressed in drag, he used to be a British flag, plastic bag, what a drag!" and numerous elements of word play, boarding schools, agricultural depravity and social conformity.

At this point there is a reflective interlude, not definitely belonging to either "Willow Farm" or the following "Apocalypse In 9/8", with bass pedal, electric guitar, organ and mellotron drones, followed by another melody on acoustic guitars, flute and Hammond organ.

The program describes this section as follows:

Climbing out of the pool, they are once again in a different existence. They're right in the middle of a myriad of bright colours, filled with all manner of objects, plants, animals and humans. Life flows freely and everything is mindlessly busy. At random, a whistle blows and every single thing is instantly changed into another.

"Willow Farm" was originally a stand-alone song, with music and lyrics by Gabriel. At one point, while "Supper's Ready" was being written and assembled, Banks or Gabriel had the idea of including "Willow Farm" in the middle of it. Banks commented that this jarring, fast-paced piece prevented "Supper's Ready" from seeming too much like a repeat of their earlier epic "Stagnation".[5]

"Apocalypse in 9/8 (Co-Starring the Delicious Talents of Gabble Ratchet)"

At this point, the drums enter, with the rhythm section of Collins, Hackett and Rutherford striking out a pattern using the unusual metre of 9 beats to the bar (expressed as 3+2+4).[6] Over this, Gabriel sings lyrics filled with apocalyptic imagery akin to the Book of Revelation, alternating with a complex organ solo from Banks (played in various time signatures against the 9/8 rhythm section), then switching to a climactic vocal from Gabriel, and the mellotron "three violins" tape set. Banks has said that for this section his approach to writing the solo was to almost parody the style that Keith Emerson had developed with Emerson, Lake & Palmer. In live performances, during the organ solo, Gabriel would don a bizarre "Magog" outfit of geometrical head-dress (which can be seen on the cover of the band's Genesis Live album). Gabble Ratchet is a reference to the Hounds of Hell;[7] they are usually portrayed as geese, which explains the sound effect heard during this section (18:48–18:53 on Foxtrot). They are also known as Gabriel's Hounds, a punning reference to Peter Gabriel himself. Indeed, the programme for the 1972/3 tour refers to this section as "co-starring the delicious talents of wild geese"[8]

The program describes this section as follows:

At one whistle the lovers become seeds in the soil, where they recognise other seeds to be people from the world in which they had originated. While they wait for Spring, they are returned to their old world to see Apocalypse of St John in full progress. The seven trumpeteers cause a sensation, the fox keeps throwing sixes, and Pythagoras (a Greek extra) is deliriously happy as he manages to put exactly the right amount of milk and honey on his corn flakes.[4]

This segment was performed as a standalone once in 1978 and on the first leg of the 1986 Invisible Touch Tour as part of the "In the Cage"/"...In That Quiet Earth"/"Supper's Ready" medley.

"As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs (Aching Men's Feet)"

"As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs" is a folklore variation of the logical tautology that "X = X"[9] and in this context is a reference to certainty and faith—being absolutely convinced of the ultimate victory of good over evil and that God and Heaven do indeed exist. "Aching Men's Feet" is a play on "making ends meet". "Apocalypse" segues into this part via a slower section which reprises the lyrics from "Lover's Leap" in combination with the chord progression from "The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man", backed by a pressed snare drum roll and tubular bells. As this reaches a peak, during live shows, a flash charge would be fired and Gabriel would discard his Magog costume to reveal himself in shining white apparel which glowed when exposed to black light. During one gig, he infamously attempted flying on a kirby wire, and was nearly strangled. From this point to the end, drums, deep bass pedals and mellotron brass are present, Gabriel singing Blakean lyrics which reference The New Jerusalem (The Crystal City of God that is established after the death of the AntiChrist) and the Second Coming of Christ with reference to the biblical Revelation 19:17:

I saw an angel standing in the sun. He cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the sky, Come! Be gathered together to the great supper of God.

(According to some interpretations, this passage of Scripture refers to the bodies of the wicked dead left-over after the forces of the AntiChrist are supernaturally destroyed, after which the birds are called to feast on the flesh of the wicked. Hence, the song's bizarre title: Supper's Ready.)

After completing the lyrics in this section, Gabriel would then pick up and raise an active blacklight tube, holding it near himself, upraised with both hands, as though it were a sword. Gabriel would be the only one lit onstage at this point and would actually appear to be glowing from the combination of blacklight, his reflective white costume and fluorescent makeup. Gabriel considered this effect to be a theatrical way of symbolizing the victory of good/light over evil/darkness. (This "glowing" also reflects a spiritual transformation, changing from a fleshly body to a spiritual one, also referenced in the preceding lyrics, "Can't you feel our souls ignite..").

Then, the piece fades out on overdubbing cascading lead electric guitar parts from Hackett. On the original recording this section is in the key of A, but because of Gabriel's inability to properly re-create the same vocal performance onstage from either hoarseness or tiredness, the band regularly had to change the key to G.

The program describes this section as follows:

Above all else an egg is an egg
'And did those feet ............' making ends meet.
Jerusalem = place of peace. [4]

This segment was performed as a standalone once in 1978 and on the first leg of the 1986 Invisible Touch Tour as part of the "In the Cage"/"...In That Quiet Earth"/"Supper's Ready" medley.

Live Introduction

One essential part of the Genesis concerts during the Gabriel-led era was the short stories that Gabriel told between the songs; "Supper's Ready" also had its own story. This is the story told at the Rainbow Theatre on 20 October 1973 (as released on the Genesis Archive 1967-75 album):

"Old Henry went past the pet shop, which was never open, into the park, which was never closed, and the park was full of a very smooth, clean, green grass. So Henry took off all his clothes and began rubbing his flesh into the wet, clean, green grass. He accompanied himself with a little tune - it went like this." [Gabriel then briefly performs scat singing over Collins's drum accompaniment.]

"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 bath time. Both of these experiences were thoroughly enjoyable to the worm colony. 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." [Gabriel then briefly whistles the beginning of the hymn Jerusalem.] " 'Jerusalem Boogie' to us, perhaps. But to the birds it meant that supper was ready."

During the 1982 Genesis reunion, billed as Six of the Best, Gabriel told a story about a woman on a subway train (which he had told during the Foxtrot tour, and which was transcribed on the Genesis Live album cover), slightly altered it to segue into Supper's Ready.

On the 1976 tour for A Trick of the Tail, Mike Rutherford would tell a story to introduce the song.

The 1977 performances on the Wind & Wuthering tour (as documented on many ROIOs from this tour), Phil Collins would tell Peter Gabriel's "Romeo and Juliet" story from "The Cinema Show" to introduce the song. In these stories, Juliet wore "a "I Love Gary Gilmore" T-shirt and instead of saying "time for "The Cinema Show", Juliet said "I want to go because I'm hungry and "Supper's Ready"". This story was used once more in August, 1982 at the band's performance in Saratoga Springs, NY.

The 1982 live performances without Peter (the last time the song would be played in full apart from one-off reunion with Gabriel), Phil would normally announce the song as "a very, very, very old song. For the populus of whichever city they were in, the band figured they'd break out the old 12-string guitars. This has lots of LOUD BITS and lots of QUIET BITS. LOUD BITS. QUIET BITS (repeated three times). This for all historians is called "Supper's Ready"".

Also of note on the 1982 versions performed, Tony Banks used the Yamaha CS-70 Electric Grand Piano to replace the RMI Electric Piano he used in the 1970s and Sequential Circuits Prophet 10 synthesizers which were used to replace his Hammon Organ and Mellotron. He also played 12-string acoustic guitar on first section. Also, Mike Rutherford played six string Fender Stratocaster electric guitars and bass pedals for most of track except for the first two sections which he used an Ovation 12-string acoustic guitar and than an Alembic bass guitar for "Willow Farm". Daryl Stuermer played a Martin 12-string for first section then switched over to his Suntec Stratocaster for rest of song. Chester Thompson (like on the 1977 version) played drums and Phil Collins did lead vocals and then drums on "Apocalypse in 9/8".


  • "Guy and Paul" – roadies who were credited in the album's liner notes


  1. ^ Peter Gabriel in radio interview on the programme "Rockline", 92.3FM KROCK, NYC, 6/16/86.
  2. ^ Nors S. Josephson, "Bach Meets Liszt: Traditional Formal Structures and Performance Practices in Progressive Rock", The Musical Quarterly, vol. 76 no. 1 (Spring 1992), pages 84-85.
  3. ^ Smith, Bradley (1997). Billboard Guide to Progressive Music (First printing ed.). Billboard Books. p. 81. ISBN 0-8230-7665-2.  
  4. ^ a b c
  5. ^ Armando Gallo (1980). Genesis: I Know What I Like. DIY Books. ISBN 0283 987030.  
  6. ^ Seconds Out Songbook 1978 Wise Publications
  7. ^ Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, 1898
  8. ^ Genesis Programmes - Gabriel Years
  9. ^ Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable

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