Genesis - Supper's Ready | Adam's AnalysisAdam's Analysis is a series where I take a song/album from the great world of prog, break down its lyrics and instrumentals, and determine its greater meaning. Today, I want to take a different step and focus on one of the biggest songs in prog. Supper's Ready. There's a lot to be said about it, so let's not beat around the bushes here. We're going straight in.
Okay, let's start off simple. What is the significance of this song's title? This tune is incredibly adventurous and has many distinct parts to it, and the title of the song should give some sort of idea to what your piece is covering, so why "Supper's Ready"?
In the first section of the song, we hear the lyric "Hey babe, your supper's waiting for you." And again in the ending, "There's an angel standing in the sun, and he's crying with a loud voice 'This is the supper of the mighty one'". These are the lyrics to go off of in this case, but how exactly does this connect to becoming the title of the song?
Here's my take: this song's story is a tale for suppertime. By that, I mean at a gathering at the dinner table, with a large portion of food to be distributed, one would maybe bring up a large tale with many explored ideas and themes accompanying it. Maybe for you it seems like most dinners wouldn't end up like this. But I'd suppose it's a different story for the people that live where the song and its ideas originated.
I explained in my analysis of The Sleepwalkers that a Lover's Leap describes an isolated area with the hazard of fatal fall, and that legends of romantic tragedy are commonly associated with a Lover's Leap. According to Peter Gabriel, this section is based off an interaction between him and his wife. I'm assuming that interaction wasn't the greatest if it's being considered a Lovers' Leap.
I'm assuming the events in this opening segment come after the rest of the song, and the remainder of it is a retelling. That would add on to the significance of the title "Supper's Ready", because of this lyric: "Hey babe, your supper's waiting for you". My best guess is that the two lovers are recalling their adventure while finishing their supper.
"Six saintly shrouded men move across the lawn slowly; The seventh walks in front with a cross held high in hand"
Once again based off Gabriel's real life experience, he witnesses outside seven holy men walking across the lawn.
The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man
The song transitions slowly to its next section, which as I mentioned, is a retelling of the adventures the two lovers shared. The guitars' slow transition is likely to showcase the reflecting back on the adventures of the past.
In this section the lovers come across a town dominated by two figures:
"I know a farmer who looks after the farm; With water clear, he cares for all his harvest"
The first figure is a farmer. Pretty straight forward. However he isn't the focus of this section as is the second figure...
"I know a fireman who looks after the fire"
...whom can only be described as the Devil himself.
The reason he is considered the "Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man" (GESM for further reference) is because he has convinced people he knows the secret to eternity. Despite this being a ridiculous idea, the people believe him. Well...besides the lovers of course.
"We will rock you, rock you little snake; We will keep you snug and warm"
An interesting addition to this section, a line sung by children. Supposedly this symbolizes demonic possession.
Ikhnaton and Itsacon and Their Band of Merry Men
Despite the sudden stop to give us the calming flute in the previous section, the song picks itself up very quickly afterwards.
Our buddy the GESM is leading men into battle against people not fit for his place. I'm not sure about "Ikhnaton" but "Itsacon" is an obvious one to decipher. It literally just means "it's a con," referring to the GESM's theory that his "Merry Men" are banding with him to fight for.
"And even though I'm feeling good; Something tells me I'd better activate my prayer capsule"
A prayer capsule is Genesis's marriage of technology and religion. What is specifically does, I'm not too sure. Grenade, perhaps?
This section's instrumentals are a perfect blend of intense and cheery, which works well with the battle theme. I love the keyboard/guitar combination in this section especially.
How Dare I Be So Beautiful?
This section features a very special figure in mythology: Narcissus. In the story told here, the two lovers come across Narcissus, who's staring at his reflection (as the ancient myth foretold). The title is very obviously describing Narcissus's thinking as he slowly dies.
"We watch in reverence, as Narcissus is turned to a flower"
Also part of the ancient myth, when Narcissus died, his body turned into a flower. To this day, this branch of flowers is conveniently called Narcissus.
Obviously with the darker tone of the lyrics, the instrumentals become a lot more morbid. The only instrument used in this section is an echoing keyboard.
Not much else to say about this section because of how simple it is compared to the rest. Moving on.
Arguably the best section of the song, Willow Farm sees the lovers transported to a strange land where everything is always changing into everything else with the blow of a whistle (which can be heard in the middle of the song, alongside someone yelling "ALL CHANGE!"). As with the strange setting, we find ourselves with a more eclectic feeling in the instrumentals.
There are a number of odd lyrics in this section which I'll do my best to decipher.
"There's Winston Churchill dressed in drag; He used to be a British flag, plastic bag, what a drag"
Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. He is undoubtedly a prominent figure in British history. The allusion towards him here is that he was the essential "figurehead" of the U.K. in his time. "What a drag" is a clever play on Churchill questionably wearing women's drag in this scene.
"Mum to mud to mad to dad; Dad diddley office, Dad diddley office...Dad to dam to dum to mum; Mum diddley washing, Mum diddley washing" Before this part, it's said that "There's mum and dad," so I'm guessing both changed to the other and took up the other's stereotypical "role" (if we're going by the time period this song was released).
One thing I like about this song's overall tone/mood is that even if this section has an oddly happy feeling to it, towards the end, despite the instrumentals not changing, you'd likely feel more of a negative mood to it. I think that's mostly due to how in the story, the couple gets changed at the blow of a whistle to seeds in the soil. This could also be due to the quick turn from major chords to minor chords.
Apocalypse in 9/8
The transition from Willow Farm to Apocalypse is slow and surprisingly calm. Here a flute can be heard playing a slow melody a few times over, likely to give you the feeling of the couple waiting to emerge from the soil.
Another thing: if you listen closely, you can hear a trumpet playing the same melody as "I know a fireman who looks after the fire" Given that this trumpet comes directly before the vocals come in, it's safe to assume that the bringer of the apocalypse was in fact: the GESM.
So unlike all the other sections which are in 4/4 time, Apocalpyse is in...well, 9/8 as its title suggests. Maybe it was just a creative choice, but what I think Genesis wanted to go for by doing this was to showcase a more intense mood, and what better way than to utilize an odd time signature?
So yes, the couple is now in the midst of an apocalypse, and there is a lot more going on that before. Such things as:
"With the guards of Magog, swarming around; The Pied Piper takes his children underground; Dragons coming out of the sea..."
I did some research and found Genesis utilized a number of ideas and moments from Revelation. "The guards of Magog" would be one of many references in their library.
With the ending of the first verse, we enter what is arguably the best instrumental section of the song. It feels like a continuous chase scene where the lovers constantly run into several beings in this apocalyptic world. The keyboard solo in this especially has a suspenseful feel to it. This is also a good setup to introduce the one and only: 666
"And the seven trumpets blowing sweet rock and roll; Gonna blow right down inside your soul"
I'm guessing this is another nod towards Revelation, but I sometimes think to myself that the 7 trumpeters were the same people as the shrouded men brought up in the beginning.
"Pythagoras with the looking glass reflects the full moon; In blood, he's writing the lyrics of a brand new tune"
To this day, I'm still somewhat unsure what the group was going for with the inclusion of Pythagoras. The best (yet weirdest) guess I can come up with is that he's telling the future within the chaos.
More on this theory: Something I find interesting is that right after the vocals stop here the song goes from minor to major before slowing down after some time. After this the vocals come back in:
"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"
Recognize those lyrics? Well they are indeed near identical to the ones uttered at the beginning. I guess in the end, love can bring light to your life in any situation.
So what's this got to do with the theory Pythagoras was telling the future? Well directly after mentioning his "new tune", the "apocalypse" just...stops. We gradually transition to the final section, where everything is good again.
As Sure As Eggs is Eggs (Aching Men's Feet)
Of all the titles to each section, this is the one that confuses me the most. The phrase "As Sure As Eggs is Eggs" means "no matter how hard it may be to find something, it is always the same thing."
So with that in mind, let's look at the lyrics. Here we see that the lovers are now able to return home from their adventure, and are greeted to a new world of peace. Let's apply that to the lyrics: As Sure As Eggs is Eggs refers to something always being that thing, so maybe it's saying "Your home will always your home", or maybe even "Our world will always be the same world".
So yes, I mentioned that the ending of this song sees the lovers return home to be greeted to a new world of peace. Something I find interesting about this segment is that the melody is the same as "The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man". I think the reason they do this is to illustrate the moods in each song are similar; something along the lines of "This is a miracle!"
"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; Has returned to lead his children home; To take them to the new Jerusalem"
The final lyrics of this song; both of which come from Revelation. The "new Jerusalem" is the new world of peace I mentioned. I'm guessing this is supposed to be the outcome of the apocalypse: a newer, more different world to live in.
Theme (and Maybe Some Other Final Notes)
So now that we've broken down the lyrics and instrumentals, I want to take a stab at analyzing theme. We've seen a lot go on throughout this entire song, but I think there can be a common theme to be found throughout most of the song.
The GESM is a liar and people believe him. The people attack those that don't agree with their rules. Narcissus loves himself so much he never leaves his reflection. Willow Farm is a land where everything constantly changes. The apocalypse is brought upon, and everything is out of control. Common theme? Well, I would say the common theme here is "The truth will set you free". The lovers remained truthful to themselves, and they were quite literally set free from the chaos.
The GESM? Well the people that believe the GESM cannot find themselves to be truly free since they were being fed by a fib. They're essentially forced into battle with others that oppose them.
Narcissus? The truth for him was: He loved nothing more than himself. He denied anything more than his own desire, and he would never leave his reflection.
Willow Farm? The lyrics "Open your eyes; It's full of surprise, everyone lies" should tell you something. Everything's changing; there is no truth to be found.
The apocalypse? If my evidence that the GESM brought upon it is correct, then it'd be his lies that tricked people and spread havoc.
And yes, the two lovers overcame all of it because they were true to themselves. The truth set them
Well, that was my analysis. And I have to say, that was one heck of an analysis compared to my previous ones! I hope you enjoyed this one, and if you have any feedback, let me know. And with that said, I must be getting to suppertime.
Pretty great analysis all around, a massive one too - kempokid
Very nice - iliekpiez