Composition And Experimentation In British Rock 1967-1976
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“The organ solo started off as a very tongue-in-cheek thing, I thought I’d play like Keith Emerson to see what it sounds like. There were little phrases in there that were supposed to be almost humorous in a way. The other idea on that was to just keep the notes simple, and I said [to Mike Rutherford], “If you can keep just to the three notes E, F sharp and B then I can do any chord I want on top of it.” I could go major, minor, all sorts of things. It was great fun actually as I could go for the real dramatic stuff like a C major chord on top of that, which sounds very tense and that was how it was developed. I was very satisfied with the result of that.” (22)
Though originally intended then to be just “tongue-in-cheek,” Banks creates in this section what must surely rank as one of the finest keyboard solos in all of progressive rock. As in Sanctuary Man, the tonal center is achieved by virtue of the constant repetition of E as a tonic pedal point in the bass/guitar ostinato. As Banks informs us, the limited pitch material of the ostinato accompaniment allowed him to take great liberties in the harmonic structure of his solo above (“I could go major, minor, all sorts of things”). This harmonic freedom can be heard from the very onset of the solo: he begins squarely in E major, then quickly introduces A-sharp (^#4), invoking a Lydian quality; the modality continues to fluctuate two bars later with the introduction of G-natural (^b3), and D-natural (^b6), effecting a brief excursion into the Dorian mode.
The organ solo continues for over two and a half minutes, culminating in a melodic sequence that rises to a spectacular climax on a high C-natural. At this point the vocal makes an impassioned return (“666 is no longer alone”), and here — for the first time in Supper’s Ready— we are bathed in the massive orchestral timbre of a Mellotron chordal accompaniment, an effect that seems to have been consciously saved for this climactic moment, shown in Example 6b. Following this passage, the tonality quickly modulates from E major to B-flat major, signaling a brief yet triumphant reprise of the music from the refrain of the first tableau (20:11 ff.). This Lover’s Leap refrain is densely orchestrated, complete with tubular bells, snare-drum rolls, and electric-guitar tremolos.
An immediate segue (20:47) takes us into the seventh and final tableau, where we are presented with nothing less than a full-fledged recapitulation — what Nors Josephson describes as a “Lisztian, symphonic apotheosis” — of the A major Sanctuary Man theme from the second tableau. (Josephson, 1992: 84) In live performances, Peter Gabriel would typically sing this final section of Supper’s Ready suspended like an angel above the stage, expressing visually the idea that the ordeal is over and that good has ultimately prevailed over evil. It is no accident that Gabriel’s lyrics for As Sure as Eggs is Eggs (Aching Men’s Feet) contain the most explicit strategic intertextual reference of the entire piece: a recasting of William Blake’s famous poem about building a “new Jerusalem” on English soil, as immortalized in C. Hubert H. Parry’s rousing World War I hymn Jerusalem (1916). (23) One can hardly imagine a more fitting conclusion for this decidedly British retelling of the story of the apocalypse.
would take a book-length study to do justice to this remarkable album in all its
richness and complexity. Accordingly, there are many wonderful moments on Foxtrot
that I have not considered in this article, but I do hope that my analysis will
inspire others to tackle Genesis’s music with a similar degree of rigor. I have
said before that writing about Genesis is especially significant for me. As I
was growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s — and playing in as many
pop and rock bands as I did classical music ensembles — this group, and the Foxtrot
album in particular, was one of the main reasons why I came to love music and
to love thinking about music. The international symposium that has spawned this
collection of articles is proof enough that there are many others who also care
a great deal about this music, those whose formative years were similarly shaped
by both a classical and a rock aesthetic. And as if we need further proof, there
are now dozens of Genesis tribute bands scattered around the globe (including,
by my count, fourteen groups based in Italy alone), all dedicated to performing
these epic songs, note-for-note from the original studio recordings, as perfectly
as they can. (24)
It seems then that John Covach’s
prediction has in fact already come true: that classic British progressive rock
is music which will be listened to — and studied — for many years to come.