(1) Welcome to the annotated lyrics to the epic song that is the 23 minute long opus, "Supper's Ready"! Such a complex work as this can be befuddling to the average listener, and so these notes are provided for the complete lunatic who wishes to know more. The information here is from various sources, some of them cited and others not, as this is not meant to be an academic work. Most sources are as accurate as possible, however, and hopefully there is not too much of the editor's belief imposed onto the structure of the song, as it should be left up to the listener/reader. One of the main sources is The Genesis Discography by members of the online magazine Paperlate, from the section on song meanings, collecting various anecdotes from band members and other sources. Wkipedia and other internet resources were also used. Several books on the band and it's members were used as well. Finally, the story in red that accompanies the lyrics is from a programme handed out during one of the early tours.
Peter Gabriel is quoted as saying: "I really felt that I was writing about myself in a lot of ways…". One story Peter would tell to introduce the song at shows went like this:
"Old Michael, walked past the pet shop – which was never open – into the park – which was never closed. And in the park was a very smooth, clean green grass. So Michael, took off all his clothes, and began rubbing his flesh into the wet, clean green grass. He accompanies himself with a little tune… It went like this…
(Sometimes Phil Collins would pretend he wasn't listening by saying "I'm sorry everybody, I wasn't actually paying attention to what he was saying", then start playing a jazzy little riff on the hi-hat. Peter would then improvise some vocal sounds like "Bom tiddly BAM toodly doobim toodoo" or something like that.)
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 Bathtime. Both of these experiences were found thoroughly enjoyable to the worm colony… simultaneously. And 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. It went like this:"
At this point Phil would again play the hi-hat and Peter would whistle a version of the hymn "Jerusalem" (37).
(For the American leg of the Selling England by the Pound tour, Peter would sometimes explain for those in the audience that didn't recognize the tune, that it was "a traditional English hymn...or her...")
"Jerusalem Boogie to us perhaps, but to the birds it meant THE SUPPER IS READY!"
Who are these birds? And to what does Supper's Ready refer to? Fasten your seatbelt and read onwards…
I. Lovers' Leap (2)
In which two lovers are lost in each other's eyes, and found again transformed in the bodies of another male and female.
Sitting beside you, I look into your eyes.
As the sound of motor cars fades in the night time,
I swear I saw your face change, (4) it didn't seem quite right.
… And it's hello babe with your guardian eyes so blue
Hey my baby don't you know our love is true.
Coming closer with our eyes, a distance falls around our bodies.
Out in the garden, the moon seems very bright,
Six saintly shrouded men move across the lawn slowly.
The seventh walks in front with a cross held high in hand. (5)
… And it's hey babe your supper's waiting for you.
Hey my baby, don't you know our love is true.
I've been so far from here,
Far from your warm arms.
It's good to feel you again,
It's been a long long time. Hasn't it?
II. The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man
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. (6) The latter likes to be known as "The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man" (7) and claims to contain a secret new ingredient capable of fighting fire. (8) This is a falsehood, an untruth, a whopper and a taradiddle, (9) or to put it in clearer terms; a lie.
With water clear, he cares for all his harvest.
I know a fireman who looks after the fire. (11)
You, can't you see he's fooled you all.
Yes, he's here again, can't you see he's fooled you all.
Share his peace,
Sign the lease.
He's a supersonic scientist, (12)
He's the guaranteed eternal sanctuary man.
Look, look into my mouth he cries,
And all the children lost down many paths, (13)
I bet my life you'll walk inside
Hand in hand,
gland in gland
With a spoonful of miracle,
He's the guaranteed eternal sanctuary man.
We will rock you, rock you little snake,
We will keep you snug and warm (14)
III. Ikhnaton (15) and Itsacon (16) and their Band of Merry Men
Who the lovers see clad in grays and purples, awaiting to be summoned out of the ground. At the G.E.S.M.'s command they pour 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. (17)
We walked across the fields to see the children of the West,
But we saw a host of dark skinned warriors
standing still below the ground,
Waiting for battle.
The fight's begun, they've been released.
Killing foe for peace… bang, bang, bang. Bang, bang, bang…
And they're giving me a wonderful potion,
'Cos I cannot contain my emotion.
And even though I'm feeling good,
Something tells me I'd better activate my prayer capsule. (18)
Today's a day to celebrate, the foe have met their fate.
The order for rejoicing and dancing has come from our warlord.
IV. How Dare I Be so Beautiful? (19)
In which our intrepid heroes investigate 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.
We climb up the mountain of human flesh,
To a plateau of green grass, and green trees full of life.
A young figure sits still by a pool,
He's been stamped "Human Bacon" by some butchery tool.
(He is you)
Social Security took care of this lad. (20)
We watch in reverence, as Narcissus is turned to a flower.
A flower? (21)
V. Willow Farm
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. (22)
to look for butterflies, flutterbyes, gutterflies (23)
Open your eyes, it's full of surprise, everyone lies,
like the focks on the rocks,
and the musical box.
Oh, there's good and bad, there's Mum & Dad
and everyone's happy to be here.
There's Winston Churchill dressed in drag,
he used to be a British flag, plastic bag, what a drag.
The frog was a prince, the prince was a brick, the brick was an egg, the egg was a bird.
(Fly away you sweet little thing, they're hard on your tail)
Hadn't you heard?
(They're going to change you into a human being!) (24)
Yes, we're happy as fish and gorgeous as geese,
and wonderfully clean in the morning.
We've got everything, we're growing everything,
We've got some in
We've got some out
We've got some wild things floating about
Everyone, we're changing everyone,
you name them all,
We've had them here,
And the real stars are still to appear.
ALL CHANGE! (25)
Feel your body melt;
Mum to mud to mad to dad
Dad diddley office, Dad diddley office,
You're all full of ball.
Dad to dam to dum to mum
Mum diddley washing, Mum diddley washing,
You're all full of ball.
Let me hear you lies, we're living this up to the eyes.
Momma I want you now.
And as you listen to my voice
To look for hidden doors, tidy floors, more applause.
You've been here all the time, (26)
Like it or not, like what you got,
You're under the soil (the soil, the soil),
Yes, deep in the soil (the soil, the soil, the soil!).
So we'll end with a whistle and end with a bang
and all of us fit in our places.
VI. Apocalypse in 9/8 (Co-starring the Delicious Talents of Gabble Ratchet) (27)
At one whistle the lovers become seeds in the soil, where they recognize 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 the Apocalypse of St. John in full progress. The seven trumpeters cause a sensation, the fox keeps throwing sixes, (28) 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.
The Pied Piper takes his children underground. (30)
Dragons coming out of the sea,
Shimmering silver head of wisdom looking at me.
He brings down the fire from the skies,
You can tell he's doing well by the look in human eyes.
Better not compromise.
It won't be easy. (31)
666 is no longer alone,
He's getting out the marrow in your back bone, (33)
And the seven trumpets blowing sweet rock and roll,
Gonna blow right down inside your soul. (34)
Pythagoras with the looking glass reflects the full moon,
In blood, he's writing the lyrics of a brand new tune. (35)
And it's hey babe, with your guardian eyes so blue,
Hey my baby, don't you know our love is true,
I've been so far from here,
Far from your loving arms,
Now I'm back again, and babe it's gonna work out fine.
VII. As Sure as Eggs is Eggs (36) (Aching Men's Feet)
Above all else an egg is an egg. "And did those feet…" (37) making ends meet.
Shedding ever changing colours, in the darkness of the fading night, (38)
Like the river joins the ocean, as the germ in a seed grows (39)
We have finally been freed to get back home. (40)
There's an angel standing in the sun, and he's crying with a loud voice,
"This is the supper of the mighty one",
Lord of Lords,
King of Kings, (41)
Has returned to lead his children home,
To take them to the new Jerusalem.
Jerusalem = A place of peace. (42)
(2) Lover's Leap (sometimes spelled as Lovers Leap or Lovers' Leap), is a toponym given to a number of locations of varying height, usually isolated, with the risk of a fall and the possibility of a deliberate jump. Legends of romantic tragedy are often associated with a Lovers' Leap. Symbolically, it can mean any endeavour of uncertain ending taken upon a pair of lovers – a leap together into the unknown, with all the possible turbulence that could force two lovers apart. It is from this place that our lovers embark on this tale, in as ordinary a setting as a sitting room.
(3) The turning off of the television is important, as it illustrates that the events of this apocalyptic tale are taking place in the here-and-now, and not some time in the distant past or far future.
(4) Peter Gabriel: "The first sequence was about a scene that happened with me and Jill [Gabriel's then wife]… "
John Anthony, the Charisma records house producer, befriended Peter and Jill more than the rest of the band. One night, Anthony went with Jill and Peter to her parent's flat at the Old Barracks in Kensington Palace.
PG: "It was one night at Jill's parents' house in Kensington, when everyone had gone to bed… we'd just been talking to John… there's this strange room in the house in Kensington… I can never sleep there. It was decorated in turquoise and purple which are colours that are both quite high in the frequency range, and I think it was like an echo chamber for what was going on. It was late at night, and we were tired and all the rest, so it was quite easy for us to hallucinate or whatever… we hadn't been drinking or drugging, but… there was this girl who was an old girlfriend of John's and was trying to get back at him or something, and she was into magic and that sort of thing… "
Anthony: "Jill and I were having a conversation about power and strength and will. Suddenly I was aware that the whole room's atmosphere had changed, Jill had gone into some sort of trance. Suddenly the windows blew in, followed by extreme cold, followed by this psychic phenomenon."
PG: "… [Jill and I] saw other faces in each other, and I was very frightened, in fact. It was almost as if something else had come into us, and was using us as a meeting point. The curtain flew wide open, though there was no wind, and the room became ice cold… "
JA: "Neither Peter, Jill, or I were doing drugs or drinking. I realized it was a basic manifestation. I have seen it before, the room was full of cold astral smoke, psychic ether. The thing that scared me was that it started moving in the form of a tourbillion – the great wheel that projects spirits into the astrosphere. It is nothing to do with death. It is a phenomenon that can occur with people with strong psyches. If you go through one there is a good chance that if you come back you will never be the same."
(5) PG: "And I did feel that I saw figures outside, figures in white cloaks, and the lawn I saw them on wasn't the lawn that was outside. It was just like a Hammer horror film, except it was for real… I was shaking like a leaf, and in a cold sweat. ..Jill suddenly became a medium, and started spouting in a different voice… and it is very strange when someone you live with suddenly starts talking with another voice, and eventually I made a cross with a candlestick and something and held it up to Jill when she was talking in this voice… she sort of reacted like a wild animal. John and I had to hold her down. And the rest of the night we eventually quietened her down, and made her a cup of tea, and tried to talk her through. Then she slept downstairs in the sitting room, but neither I nor John slept a wink that night. Fortunately it hasn't happened since because it terrified her. At the same time, some weird things happened at the place where she worked, and at her house. These notes arrived with dates on them… her birth-date, and another date that was coming up in a month's time. We could only assume it was this girl who was trying to get back at her. We were very frightened when the date came up, and I stayed with Jill all day, checking that she wouldn't be… nothing could happen to her… no one could come and kill her, or something like this. Fortunately, we went past that date, and when twelve'o'clock came, and the day was over, I was very happy. Anyway, that's how I got into thinking about good and evil, and forces working against each other. That's the sort of thing that Supper's Ready was… fed on. This was the thing, you see. This is why I was put into this sate of mind really, only because the cross had worked. The cross, as a thing, meant nothing to me. I did it because I had seen horror films, and… just anything really that might have worked. I had experienced a sense of evil at that point – I don't know how much of this was going on inside my head and how much was actually happening, but it was an experience I could not forget and was the starting point for a song about the struggle between good and evil."
Gabriel has also been quoted by some as saying he felt he was "led" to the various sources he used in putting together the lyrics for the song.
(6) A highly disciplined scientific religion brings to mind an entity like L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology, or Aleister Crowley's Scientific Illuminism, the latter of which was a huge influence on the cult-like theories combining science and magic in the writings of Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, and Antero Ali.
(7) The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man is an interesting character. In the programme we are told that the two lovers come across a town with two characers – the other is a Farmer. Since the Farmer is mentioned in the lyrics, it is assumed that the Fireman is the G.E.S.M. who looks after the "Fire". Although we are not told specifically what the Fire is, we can also make the assumption that it is probably not good, as fire has a habit of burning and destroying things. So, in broad terms, the Farm is the force of nuturing and caring and helping things to grow, and the Fire is the opposite force. This Farm can be connected to the idea of Willow Farm, later in the song. The G.E.S.M. claims that he has found a new ingredient to fight the Fire. The lyrics speak of a "spoonful of miracle." We are told we can share the peace he offers, but have to sign a lease to obtain it. We are told that his claims are actually a lie, and that he is fooling everyone. This makes him a False Prophet of Peace. The very fact that he is claiming to offer a sanctuary that will last forever guaranteed in an uncertain world where nothing can really be guaranteed is, in itself impossible for any man. (This doesn't stop a lot of businesses from having a similar approach… ) The children though, hand-in-hand and gland-in-gland (denoting sexual conjoining?) want to believe and are more easily swayed, and so will go where his words direct them ("look into my mouth he cried… I'll bet my life you'll walk inside") This is the kind of behaviour expected of the Anti-Christ in biblical literature.
(8) What could this new ingredient be, that can fight the Fires of destruction?
(9) 1. A petty falsehood; a fib. 2. Silly pretentious speech or writing; twaddle. [Origin unknown.]
(10) The Farmer seems to tend his farm with clear water. Is this the true way of fighting fire? Compare with the character in the song Stagnation who kneels down to drink some water that has hopefully not been contaminated by nuclear destruction. Also, compare with the lyrics of Gabriel's later solo song "San Jacinto", where the indian pledges to continue to drink from the stream. The farmer tends his garden with water that is clear, while the G.E.S.M. tends his flock with lies - words with meanings that that are not clear
(11) The G.E.S.M. is apparently stoking the fires of destruction whilst offering a cure for it's ills. Compare with modern business practices.
(12) An interesting interpretation of a super-sonic scientist would be a musician…
(13) Who are these children? Could they be your average every-day generation of children exposed to advertising and music, who want to believe in something?
(14) These lines are apparently sung by those children "lost down many paths". The symbol of the snake is usually connected to the serpent in the Garden of Eden who tempted Eve to eat the Apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This snake is apparently being rocked – which could mean as in a gently swaying motion to aid in sleep or as in a rock band pacifying it's listeners. (Cobras are supposed to be charmed by the flute music that "soothes the savage beast".) Also, compare Jim Morrison of the Doors' "ride the snake" motif. Is it the children of every generation that continues to keep the snake snug and warm?
(15) Ikhnaton is a rare usage of the name of an Egyptian Pharoah intitially named Amenhotep IV, (meaning "the spirit of Amon is satisfied") but changed to Akhenaten, or Ikhnaton (meaning "servant of the Aten") to emphasize his allegiance to the newer cult of Aten which he attempted to make the sole religion of Egypt. Akhenaten's chief wife was Nefertiti, made world-famous by the discovery of her exquisitely moulded and painted bust, now displayed in the Altes Museum of Berlin.
Ikhnaton has been called by historian "the first individual in history", as well as the first monotheist, first scientist, and first romantic.
On the contrary, Nicholas Reeves in his book Akhenaten: Egypt's False Prophet portrays a totally different image of Pharaoh, seeing his religious reformations as mere attempts for centralizing power and solidify his role as "divine monarch".
Akhenaten is known to have initiated at least one campaign into Nubia Ikhnaton's fanaticism was his undoing. He defaced every monument carved with the name of Amon, previously the greatest god of Egypt. The Aten cult died with Ikhnaton because the sentiments of the priesthood and the people were outraged by his destruction of their traditions and by his terror-filled reign.
Compare Ikhnaton's reign to the actions of the Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man, and ask why he would call forth Ikhnaton and his "merry" band of warriors to attack all those who aren't under the sway of his religion.?
(16) The programme has Itsacon spelled Its-a-Con.
(17) Once again we have the G.E.S.M. offering eternal life, but only if they are a part of his religion. Compare with modern Church practices.
(18) To activate one's prayer capsule is an interesting science-fiction type of phrase. It also implies that the followers of the G.E.S.M.'s religion no longer rely on personal initiative to send thoughts and well wishes to those around them in prayer – all they have to do is pop a pill, and their prayers are sent. Compare this to the current practice in medicine, where instead of costing a fortune in insurance to have regular visits to a psycho-analyst, the chemical companies make it cheaper to simply hand out prozac or similar antidepressants.
(19) This was a phrase that the bandmembers of Genesis heard their first producer Jonathan King utter on more than one occasion.
(20) An interesting phrase, which seems to imply that Social Security, usually the public insurance that helps people in their waning years, is actually the thing that has "taken care" of this lad, as in a phrase often used in movies, to "take care" of a character, or to get rid of them. Compare with modern theories of Social Security, which competely opposite of the thing which it claims to do, predict a rather dire future for upcoming generations.
(21) The Myth of Narcissus:
This is a moral tale in which the proud and unfeeling Narcissus is punished by the gods for having spurned all his female pursuers. It is thought to have been intended as a cautionary tale addressed to young men. Until recently, the only source for this version was a segment in Pausanias (9.31.7), about 150 years after Ovid. A very similar account was discovered among the Oxyrhynchus papyri in 2004, an account that predates Ovid's version by at least fifty years. In this story, Ameinias, a young man, loved Narcissus but was scorned. As a way of rebuffing Ameinias, Narcissus gave him a sword, which Ameinias used to kill himself on Narcissus' doorstep; he prayed to Nemesis that Narcissus would one day know the pain of unrequited love. This curse was fulfilled when Narcissus became entranced by his own reflection in a pool. He only realized that it was his reflection after trying to kiss it. As he leaned forward to look at himself in the pool of water, he fell in and drowned.
In the tale told by Ovid, Echo, a nymph, falls in love with a vain youth named Narcissus, who was the son of the blue Nymph Leirope of Thespia. The river god Cephisus had once encircled Leirope with the windings of his streams, and thus trapping her, had seduced the nymph. Concerned about the baby's welfare, Leirope went to consult the prophet Teiresias regarding her son's future. Teiresias told the nymph that Narcissus "would live to a ripe old age, as long as he never knew himself." One day when Narcissus was out hunting stags, Echo stealthily followed the handsome youth through the woods, longing to address him but unable to speak first. When Narcissus finally heard footsteps and shouted "Who's there?", Echo answered "Who's there?" And so it went, until finally Echo showed herself and rushed to embrace the lovely youth. He pulled away from the nymph and vainly told her to leave him alone. Narcissus left Echo heartbroken and she spent the rest of her life in lonely glens, pining away for the love she never knew, until only her voice remained. Eventually he became thirsty and went to drink from a stream. As he saw his reflection, he fell in love with it, not knowing that it was him. As he bent down to kiss it, it seemed to "run away" and he was heart broken. He grew thirstier but he wouldn't touch the water for fear of damaging his reflection, so he eventually died of thirst and self love, staring at his own reflection. In pity the gods changed Narcissus into a lovely flower bending its head over…The narcissus flower grew where he died.
This is the point during the live shows of Supper's Ready when Peter Gabriel would don the famous "flower mask", by Gabriel's own admission, partly inspired by the BBC children's programme The Flower Pot Men.
(22) This is one of the first instances of Peter Gabriel's explorations into the transformation and transmutaion of things, which The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway would be his pinnacle statement with Genesis. Everyone lies here. Why? Is it because false things transmute into true things and back again? The fox on the rocks is here, with a rather obscure german spelling to have it match the spelling of rocks – another transformation. The Musical Box is mentioned, and in the lyrics of that song "… the Nurse will tell you lies, of a Kingdom beyond the Skies"
(23) From an interview in 1980: G: "The land [on the farm where I lived as a child] used to belong to my grandfather, and there is a big house, Coxhill, which is lived in by a guru now. It's the house where I imagined the story of 'Musical Box' taking place, a big Victorian manor with wood paneling, a billiard room, and croquet lawn. I used to look at the dragonflies – butterflies, flutterbies, gutterflies! They used to fly around the river on the farm and now, fifteen years later, they have all dissapeared, which is sad."
(24) Is this, then, the goal of all this transformation? Humanism? The line "happy as geese" seems to be connected with note (27)
(25) The "All Change!" whistle is what they used to do (and occasionally still do) at train stations when you disembarked for a connection from a different platform.
(26) Compare with the line "nobody needs to discover me – I'm back again.." from Trespass. Having been in this place all along, and being a seed under the soil waiting for Spring to germinate, it would appear that the soil is some kind of purgatory.
(27) Apocalypse (Greek: Ἀποκάλυψις Apokálypsis; "lifting of the veil") is a term applied to the disclosure to certain privileged persons of something hidden from the majority of humankind. Today the term is often used to refer to the end of the world, which may be a shortening of the phrase apokalupsis eschaton which literally means "revelation at the end of the æon, or age". We are told in the programme that it is specifically the apocalypse of St. John which is happening in full progress that the lovers return to, seeing the process anew, perhaps, after going through the transformational changes in Willow Farm, and becoming seeds. What is the nature of these seeds? Into what will they grow?
9/8 refers to the musical time signature of this part of the song. That's nine eighth notes every measure.
Note that "the delicious talents of Gabble Rachet" is replaced on the programme by "the delicious talents of wild geese". In Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, under the entry for Gabble Rachet it says: See Gabriel's Hounds! Under the entry for Gabriel's Hounds it says:
"Gabriel's Hounds, also called Gabble rachet. Wild geese. The noise of geese in flight is like that of a pack of hounds in full cry. The legend is that they are the sould of unbaptized children wandering through the air till the Day of Judgement."
The early backing vocals in the band were jokingly refered to as "The Hounds."
(28) In the reissue interviews, Gabriel tells us that one of the explorations in making this piece was numerology, and that if you equate a numerical value for each letter of the western alphabet you get 1-26. Therefore the value of the letter F would be 6. The letter O would be 15 (1+5 =6) and the letter X would be 24 (2+4=6). He said this was part of trying to illustrate the mixing of the pagan and christian worlds.
(29) See the Magog link in the text.
(30) The legend of the Pied Piper:
The Pied Piper of Hamelin' is a legend about the abduction of many children from the town of Hamelin (Hameln), Germany. Famous versions of the legend are given by the Brothers Grimm and, in English, by Robert Browning.
In 1284, while the town of Hamelin was suffering from a rat infestation, a man dressed in pied garments appeared, claiming to be a rat-catcher. He promised the townsmen a solution for their problem with the rats. The townsmen in turn promised to pay him for the removal of the rats. The man accepted, and thus played a musical pipe to lure the rats with a song into the Weser River, where all of them drowned. Despite his success, the people reneged on their promise and refused to pay the rat-catcher. The man left the town angrily, but returned some time later, seeking revenge.
On St. John's Day while the inhabitants were in church, he played his pipe again, this time attracting the children of Hamelin. One hundred and thirty boys and girls followed him out of the town, where they were lured into a cave and never seen again. Depending on the version, at most two children remained behind (one of whom was lame and could not follow quickly enough, the other one was deaf and followed the other children out of curiosity) who informed the villagers of what had happened when they came out of the church.
Other versions (but not the traditional ones) claim that the Piper lured the children into the river and let them drown like the rats or led the children to a cave on Köppen Hill or Koppelberg Hill (outside of Hamelin) or a place called Koppenberg Mountain and returned them after payment or that he returned the children after the villagers paid several times the original amount of gold. Some researchers believe that the tale has inspired the common English phrase "pay the piper", although others disagree. To "pay the piper" means to face the inevitable consequences of one's actions, possibly alluding to the story where the villagers broke their promise to pay the Piper for his assistance in ridding the town of the rats. The phrase sometimes refers to a financial transaction but often does not.
Compare this to the music industry attempting to sell records to the youth, and the differences between "underground" music and mainstream music. A further mention could be the fact that Pink Floyd's first release was entitled "Piper at the Gates of Dawn", and that they are often though of as one of the pioneers of underground psychedelic music.
(31) Compare these lines from the Book of Revelations –
13:1 And, I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.
13:4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who [is] like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?
13:18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a Human(s); and the number [is] Six hundred threescore [and] six – – 666.
(32) See the 666 link in the text. This note is 3X2=6.
(33) To have a backbone is commonly understood as having characteristics whcih make one tough, and able to survive difficult times. To be getting the marrow out of someone's backbone would be to make them weaker.
(34) The seven trumpets is a reference to the Book of Revelations –
8:2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.
The seven seals is a concept of Christian eschatology, which comes from the Book of Revelation in the Christian Bible, where a book with seven seals is described in Revelation 5:1. The seven seals are opened by The Lamb (presumably Jesus), one by one. Each opening of a seal is followed by some event or series of events. When each of the first four seals are opened, a horse and its rider appear and are described. These are commonly referred to as the four horsemen / four horses of the Apocalypse.
The opening of the fifth seal is followed by a vision of those that were "slain for the word of God" (Revelation 6:9)
When the sixth seal is opened, there is a "great earthquake," and signs appear in heaven. (Revelation 6:12-6:14) Also, 144,000 servants of God are "sealed … in their foreheads" in Revelation 7.
When the seventh seal seal is opened, seven angels with trumpets begin to sound, one by one. The events of the seventh seal are further subdivided by the events following each angel sounding their trumpet. This seal is opened in Revelation 8, and the seventh angel does not sound until Revelation 11.
The seven trumpets in Supper's Ready appear to be playing rock-and-roll and causing quite a sensation…
(35) Pythagoras and his students believed that everything was related to mathematics and that numbers were the ultimate reality and, through mathematics, everything could be predicted and measured in rhythmic patterns or cycles. According to Iamblichus, Pythagoras once said that "number is the ruler of forms and ideas and the cause of gods and demons." Compare this with Peter's programme where Pythagoras – a greek extra in this drama – is deliriously happy that he has measured out just enough milk and honey on his cornflakes – a measurement of taste? Is there really no accounting for taste? Scientifically speaking – yes. Also, if number is the cause of gods and demons, then compare this with note (32).
Pythagoras was very interested in music, and so were his followers. The Pythagoreans were musicians as well as mathematicians. Pythagorean tuning is the basis of modern western musical scales.
The Pythagoreans elaborated on a theory of numbers, the exact meaning of which is still debated among scholars. Pythagoras believed in something called the "harmony of the spheres." He believed that the planets and stars moved according to mathematical equations, which corresponded to musical notes and thus produced a symphony
Religiously, Pythagoras was a believer of metempsychosis. He believed in transmigration, or the reincarnation of the soul again and again into the bodies of humans, animals, or vegetables until it became moral. Compare this belief with the events occurring during "Willow Farm"
A legend, taken from Brewer's Dictionary, describes his writing on the moon: Pythagoras asserted he could write on the moon. His plan of operation was to write on a looking-glass in blood, and place it opposite the moon, when the inscription would appear photographed or reflected on the moon's disc.
(36) Some think that "As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs" is a folklore variation of the logical tautology that "X = X" and that in this context is a reference to certainty and faith--being absolutely convinced of the ultimate victory of good over evil and that a God and Heaven do indeed exist. The Egg symbolism continues in other Genesis lyrics and indeed into all of Peter Gabriel's solo work, and will be discussed in detail later.
(37) "And did those feet…" is, of course, the first part of name of the poem "And did those feet in ancient time", by William Blake. Today it is best known as the hymn "Jerusalem", with music written by C. Hubert H. Parry in 1916, and popularized during World War I. That music is performed in part as "Jerusalem Boogie" by the band during the live show of Supper's Ready, and a version of it performed by Emerson Lake and Palmer on their album "Brain Salad Surgery".
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.
The poem was inspired by the apocryphal story that a young Jesus, accompanied by his uncle Joseph of Arimathea, travelled to England and visited Glastonbury. This legend is linked to an idea in the Book of Revelation ( 3:12 and 21:2) describing a Second Coming wherein Jesus establishes a new Jerusalem. The Christian Church in general, and the English Church in particular, used Jerusalem as a metaphor for Heaven, a place of universal love and peace. The poem therefore implies that the visit of Jesus briefly created heaven in England and this is contrasted with the 'dark Satanic mills'. The term "dark Satanic mills", which entered the English language from this poem, is sometimes interpreted as referring to the early industrial revolution and its destruction of nature.
"Aching Men's Feet" refers to this poem. The aching feet of all those still working hard to build a New Jerusalem. It is also a play on words of "Making Ends Meet", which could refer to making one's bills balance, or indeed, making two ends of something meet to form a circle.
(38) Souls igniting and shedding ever changing colours brings to mind the interior jacket drawing by Paul Whitehead. It is this act of igniting souls that will make the darkness fade away.
(39) Here we are brought back to the Watcher's statement in "Watcher of the Skies" – "Will you survive the Ocean of Being?". The mentioning of a river in Genesis lyrics usually refers to an allegory or metaphor for "The River of Life", or the paths we lead from birth to death. Rivers commonly lead to oceans, and so the River of Life leads to the Ocean of Being. This is a common vision in much poetry and lyrics. King Crimson's "Islands", for instance, addresses the John Donne quote "No man is an island.". Think about such phrases as "two ships passing in the night", refering not to vessels of the sea, but to two people who might have had a great chemistry together, but instead for whatever reason missed each other, or had only a brief time spent together. Or phrases such as "Big fish or Little fish" when talking about business entities with a lot of influence or only a little influence.
Also compared here is a germ in a seed that grows. This brings to mind the phrase "germ of an idea". Also it is connected with note (26) and (27).
(40) Who is free to get back home? All the souls of children lost down many paths? All the seeds growing underground, growing up to reach the Sun? Compare with Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill:
"Son," he said, "You can pack your things I've come to take you home."
(41) This is a reference to the Book of 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.
This passage of Scripture refers to the bodies of the wicked dead left-over after the forces of the AntiChrist are supernaturally destroyed – the birds are called to feast on the flesh of the wicked. Hence, the song's title: Supper's Ready. Birds also have a great amount of symbolism in poetry and progressive rock lyrics.
(42) So in the end, Peter Gabriel seems to hope, or perhaps believe, that we will all find a place of peace in the massive changes that are occurring to the human race right now in this part of history. This is opposed to the false peace of the GESM. Biblically, the New Jerusalem is mentioned in Revelation 21, where it describes Mankind reuniting with God. 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 make-up. Gabriel considered this effect to be a theatrical way of symbolizing the victory of good/light over evil/darkness. Some believe this "glowing" also reflects a spiritual transformation, changing from a fleshly body to a spiritual one as is depicted in the Biblical Rapture, also referenced in the preceding lyrics, "Can't you feel our souls ignite..". A last word:
PG: Often I felt that I could talk to the audience through the band's material, and the audience would understand what I was trying to say, and I would have a release, and a conversation with the audience through that. I was singing my heart out there when I used to sing the 'New Jerusalem'… I was singing for my life. I was saying this is good over evil, and… you know, it was an old fashioned gesture, but I meant it and I was fighting.