March 19, 2017
Genesis – Foxtrot
‘Walking across the sitting room I turned the television off’… These words from Supper’s Ready on Genesis’ fourth album Foxtrot came into the hire car as I drove through Cleveland, Ohio with Dave Truscott besides me. Woa! early Genesis on US daytime radio, what a find, I thought. Sadly Dave, a buyer for B & Q who I’d brought across the pond to see some American kitchen cabinetry wasn’t listening but continued to talk over it and so I turned it down and, like a good salesman, listened to his pearls of wisdom.
My trip with Dave was sometime in the early Noughties but this album came my way in 1972 and thereafter I was devoted to Genesis until Peter Gabriel left. I heard them perform this live at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London on January 18th 1974 (I’d first seen the band, second on the bill, in Bradford on October 11th 1972) and it was so epic that I can even remember the location of my seat in this theatre and who I went with. I’ve seen a lot of live music and so for this to stand out is quite something.
At this stage Genesis were a quintessentially English Progressive rock band with that ponderous, multi instrument, textured and thoughtful brand of music delivering songs that talked about science fiction scenarios (“Get ‘Em Out By Friday”), medieval kings and queens (Time Table) and the usual mixed gibberish of images and heroes (“Watcher Of The Skies”). However it was the seven part Side 2 of “Supper’s Ready” that I’d be begging Kirsty to let me take to my Desert Island and not least the one record I would retrieve from the waves.
Within this sublime 23 minutes we experience the driving and varied percussion of the master sticks man Phil Collins, long before he went on to become a balding latter day Cliff Richards. The prominent and occasionally stabbing bass of Mike Rutherford, the near classical keyboard fills and themes created by Tony Banks with a selection of weapons including the mighty Melloton and the epic swooping and melodic guitar of Steve Hackett that created a whole sound rather than just a riff or a fluent lick or two. And then the incomparable Peter Gabriel with a large selection of vocal styles on one album. I’ve read the band resented that Gabriel became the media’s favourite given the fact they all composed the music and he just sang it but how many blokes were wearing fox’s heads and red evening dresses on stage or then shaving his head down the middle at this time as well as dominating the stage? Within this track we have lyrics that were brilliantly evocative of battles, the devil, God, supersonic scientists, Winston Churchill – all nonsense but each song evoked a picture, a story and even euphoria as we climax with:
‘Lord of Lord’s,
King of Kings,
Has returned to lead his children home,
To take them to the new Jerusalem.’
Progressive rock got a bad name from trendy music journalists as the decade elapsed and the ability to play your instrument became a badge of shame but frankly some of this stuff is amongst the best of British popular music. The technical proficiency of the musicians as well as the creative talents to compose meant that it was as varied as a piece of classical music but with a willingness to fuse acoustic, pop, rock, classical and folk. Joyous.
A masterpiece. A Tony Ives Top 25 album.