My older brother had started buying New Musical Express and we’d both started listening to the Alan Freeman Rock Show on the radio on Saturday afternoons. All afternoon we’d sit with the cassette recorder wired up (some Heath Robinson style of contraption my dad rigged up!) ready to tape anything we’d read about. We’d tape the best bits of the show and I would go away and try to learn some of the guitar solos.
It was on one of these afternoons that I first heard Genesis, somewhere in amongst the Soft Machines and the Van Der Graaf Generators and a whole host of other rock bands. Certain songs, sounds or instruments have always leapt out at me from the radio and this was one such occasion. And, for a change, it wasn’t the guitar that struck me. The mellotron on “Watcher of The Skies” is immediately as other-worldly as the title suggests, helping to make a really powerful sound behind Peter Gabriel’s gritty voice. I knew then that I had to search out and buy the album.
That’s when I discovered the masterpiece that is “Supper’s Ready”. For someone who had always been smitten by song words, this took it to a whole new level. Whimsical word-play, death and destruction, Magog and 666 – it has it all and David Pickles and I spent hours dissecting the lyrics, trying to find where the references might have come from. We were so excited when we recognised something from the bible or from a nursery rhyme or when we thought there was something to do with a Dali painting. And then we’d go back and look at the cover to see if there were any clues we could pick up there. We were the lyric detectives!
They went from, “shimmering silver head of wisdom looking at me,” to “sweet rock and roll,” from “all the children lost down many paths,” to “Momma I want you now,” all in the same piece of music.
To cap it all, the cover, as with “Ride A White Swan”, felt like canvas. Genius.