Genesis: Foxtrot Page 2

The group's sound was becoming increasingly powerful, with Hackett and Banks' guitars and keyboards often woven together in complex harmonic lines, with mellotron giving it pseudo-classical clout.

Strange Allure
By contrast were the delicate passages of 12-string guitars that had caught Hackett's ear when he first heard Trespass and which he would describe as having a 'slightly fey, feminine quality'. Finally, Paul Whitehead's macabre cover painting of a girl playing croquet with severed heads only added to the group's strange allure. Nursery Cryme sneaked into the UK Top 40, but Genesis really made their name with Foxtrot, which charted at No 12.


While his fellow band members looked like typical longhairs, Gabriel, who had initially been a diffident, reluctant frontman, went one stage further, unleashing his inner exhibitionist. He appears in a photograph on the inner gatefold sleeve, having shaved a good few inches into his centre parting. And with eyeliner and an ornately embroidered round-necked shirt he came across like some kind of ancient Egyptian cult leader.

The music on Foxtrot was tougher still, with 'Watcher Of The Skies' beginning with a stately solo mellotron overture before the entrance of the convulsive main riff, largely in 7/4. 'Get 'Em Out By Friday' is a darkly humorous and satirical swipe at property developers persuading elderly residents of Harlow to leave their houses to allow redevelopment 'in the interests of humanity'.


The track 'Can-Utility And The Coastliners' – its title being a tortuous pun on King Canute – is one of the most musically adventurous pieces on the album. 'You've got folk meets jazz drumming, meets classical influences,' said Hackett, 'the hybrid that the band was capable of is embodied in that fourth song'.

This was leading up to the musical main course, the 23-minute 'Supper's Ready'. With lyrics written entirely by Gabriel it takes the listener on a cinematic journey that starts with the 'Lover's Leap' section, with a couple undergoing a spiritual transformation (based on a paranormal event experienced by Gabriel's wife Jill) and goes through episodes full of references to the Book Of Revelations, the Egyptian pharaoh Ikhnaton, and the legend of Narcissus, who is turned into a flower. 'A flower?' enquires Gabriel rather camply in a pause, which leads into 'Willow Farm', a pastiche of sorts of 'Teddy Bears' Picnic'.


It also demonstrates Gabriel's love of The Goons, and Spike Milligan in particular. The singer describes a kind of halfway house to the afterlife, peopled by grotesques, with the unforgettable image of 'Winston Churchill dressed in drag'.

Foxy Flamboyance
Momentum gathers with the instrumental 'Apocalypse in 9/8 (Co-Starring The Delicious Talents Of Gabble Ratchet)' and an epic finale in which the couple reach some sort of salvation as Gabriel envisages the building of 'a new Jerusalem'. Where the concert venue would allow, Gabriel would hold a fluorescent tube and as the lights went down with the fadeout ending, he would be hoisted up on a wire – a true progressive rock ascension!


'Suppers Ready' was inspired, clever and funny, with memorable tunes and lyrically much to unravel. It could be taken as seriously or not as the listener desired. It also made Gabriel, who already had a name of biblical import, into a rock seer who knew more than you, albeit with his tongue in his cheek.

Paul Whitehead's striking cover painting for Foxtrot has a fox in a red dress on an ice floe in the sea, with four mutated huntsman as the four horsemen of the apocalypse, standing thwarted on the shore, and with other visual in-jokes.

Inspired by this image Gabriel made his onstage persona ever more flamboyant over the coming years, firstly appearing in a similar red dress and fox's head in Dublin in Sept '72, much to his bandmates' surprise. But that's another story.