studio album from the English rock band Genesis, released in October 1972 on Charisma Records. The album was recorded following the tour in support of their previous album, Nursery Cryme. Side two features "Supper's Ready", a 23-minute track that is considered a key work in progressive rock and has been described by AllMusic as the band's "undisputed masterpiece".
Foxtrot was the band's greatest commercial and critical
success at the time of its release, reaching number 12 in the UK and
receiving largely positive reviews. As with their previous two albums, Foxtrot initially failed to chart in the United States. A single from the album, "Watcher of the Skies", was released as a single in October 1972. Foxtrot was reissued with a new stereo and 5.1 surround sound mix as part of their 2008 Genesis 1970–1975 box set.
By 1972, the seventh Genesis line-up of Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett and Phil Collins were touring in support their previous album, Nursery Cryme. They started to tour Belgium and Italy after having chart success there and played to new, enthusiastic crowds. Following the tour's conclusion in August 1972, the five proceeded to
work on their next studio album. Hackett had considered leaving the band
after feeling "fairly shattered" from touring, but the rest of the band
persuaded him to stay.
The band wrote and rehearsed enough material for the album in a space underneath the Una Billings School of Dance in Shepherd's Bush, London. Some of Hackett's material that was used for his first solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte, was in fact rehearsed by the band during the Foxtrot sessions but was not developed further. Material that became "Watcher of the Skies" and "Can-Utility and the Coastliners" were performed live in the time running up to the recording of Foxtrot, which took place from August to September 1972 at Island Studios. They had recorded a new song, "Happy The Man", with producer John Anthony around the same time, but escalating recording costs due to slow progress caused disagreements among Anthony and Charisma Records, the group's label, caused an end to their association with Anthony. Recording began with Bob Potter as engineer, who had worked with fellow Charisma group Lindisfarne, but Potter took a dislike to the band's music. Working with Tony Platt was unsuccessful after personality clashes before the band settled with Dave Hitchcock as co-producer with John Burns as engineer, who went on to produce the following three Genesis albums.
"Watcher of the Skies" takes its title from a line of the 1817 sonnet On First Looking into Chapman's Homer by John Keats. The song begins with a solo played on a Mellotron Mk II that the band had bought from King Crimson.
Banks was "searching for chords that actually sounded good ... because
of its tuning problems" and settled on the opening two chords "that
sounded great ... There was an atmosphere about them".
Banks and Rutherford wrote the lyrics during band rehearsals at an
airfield in April 1972 during their first Italian tour while supporting Nursery Cryme. They wondered what an empty Earth would look like if surveyed by an alien visitor. Banks described them as "a sort of sci-fi fantasy" loosely based on the novel Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. Rutherford thought they were "interesting words but they didn't sing very well". Collins felt the need to bring in "some tricky arrangements" into the song's rhythm from seeing Yes perform live.
"Time Table" features a romantic theme that yearns for tradition and decency.
"Get 'Em Out by Friday" is a song described as a "comic opera" that Gabriel described as "part social comment, part prophetic". Similar to "Harold the Barrel" and "The Fountain of Salmacis" from Nursery Cryme,
the song features characters with Gabriel adopting a different vocal
style for each one. The track features four characters: John Pebble, a
business man of Styx Enterprises; Mark Hall (aka The Winkler) an
employee of Styx who evicts tenants; Mrs. Barrow, a tenant of a house
owned by Pebble; and Joe Everybody, a customer in a pub.
The song starts with Hall informing Mrs. Barrow that her property has
been purchased and must be evicted, but she refuses to leave, leaving
Pebble to raise her rent. Hall then offers Mrs. Barrow £400 to move to a
new property in Harlow New Town,
which she does, before Pebble raises her rent again. After an
instrumental section, the date is 18 September 2012 and Genetic Control
announce on a Dial-A-Program television service its decision to shorten
the height of all humans to 4ft. Joe reasons this so housing blocks will
be able to accommodate twice as many people. Rutherford and Collins singled out "Get 'Em Out by Friday" as one of
the early Genesis songs that suffered from Gabriel writing too many
vocals, making the track busy and crowded.
Collins reasoned this as a downfall to the band's typical method of
song writing whereby a track recorded instrumentally with the vocals
written and recorded afterwards.
"Can-Utility and the Coastliners" is based on King Canute.
Side two begins with "Horizons", a short guitar instrumental
performed by Hackett that was recorded while Potter was the album's
producer. The track took inspiration from the Prelude of Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007 for cello by Bach.
After playing the track to the band in a rehearsal, Hackett remembered
Collins saying, "'It sounds like there ought to be applause at the end
of it'." Hackett wrote the piece with composers of the Tudor period in mind, including William Byrd.
a 22-minute track formed of seven parts, occupies most of the album's
second side and remains the band's longest recorded track. Gabriel
believed the band's growing support as a live act gave them the
confidence to start writing extended pieces. The song and its theme of good versus evil was inspired by an experience Gabriel and his then-wife Jill had with Anthony at Kensington Palace, where Anthony, interested in spiritualism,
was telling Jill about the subject when Jill reportedly entered a
trance state as the room's windows suddenly blew open. Gabriel compared
the ordeal to a scene from "a Hammer Horror film". Initially, the song took form as an acoustic track similar to "Stagnation" from Trespass or "The Musical Box" from Nursery Cryme,
something the band wished to avoid repeating. To develop the piece
further, Gabriel pitched his idea for what became the song's fifth
section, titled "Willow Farm", on the piano.
Banks noted the change from the song's more romantic introduction into
"Willow Farm", with its "ugly chord sequence", worked as it took the
song "into another dimension". The following section, "Apocalypse in 9/8", features an instrumental section performed in a 9/8 time signature. Banks assumed his organ solo would have no vocals, but after Gabriel proceeded to record lyrics over it, something that he disagreed with initially, he said, "it only took
about ten seconds to think 'This sounds fantastic, it's so strong'".
Banks picked "Apocalypse in 9/8" and "As Sure as Eggs Is Eggs" as "the
best piece of composition" Genesis recorded during Gabriel's tenure as
The album's cover was completed by Paul Whitehead, a former art director for the London-based magazine Time Out who also designed the covers of Trespass and Nursery Cryme. The original illustrations for the three albums were stolen from Charisma Records when the label was sold to Virgin Records in 1983. Whitehead claimed that the staff at Charisma got wind of the imminent sale and proceeded to loot its office. On the back, the front cover of Nursery Cryme can be seen depicted in the background.
The cover was not positively received by the band at the time.
Gabriel felt less pleased with the design than Whitehead's previous
Hackett felt "usure" about the cover when he saw it for the first time,
calling it a "strange" design that has made more sense to him over
time. Banks thought it was the weakest cover Whitehead designed for Genesis. Rutherford felt the design was a decline in quality following the "lovely atmosphere" of the Trespass and Nursery Cryme covers, to Foxtrot which was "a little bit weak". Collins thought it was not "particularly special" and lacked a professional look.
Foxtrot is where Genesis
began to pull all of its varied inspirations into a cohesive sound --
which doesn't necessarily mean that the album is streamlined, for this
is a group that always was grandiose even when they were cohesive, or
even when they rocked, which they truly do for the first time here.
Indeed, the startling thing about the opening "Watcher of the Skies" is
that it's the first time that Genesis
attacked like a rock band, playing with a visceral power. There's might
and majesty here, and it, along with "Get 'Em Out by Friday," is the
truest sign that Genesis
has grown muscle without abandoning the whimsy. Certainly, they've
rarely sounded as fantastical or odd as they do on the epic 22-minute
closer "Supper's Ready," a nearly side-long suite that remains one of
the group's signature moments. It ebbs, flows, teases, and taunts,
see-sawing between coiled instrumental attacks and delicate pastoral
fairy tales. If Peter Gabriel
remained a rather inscrutable lyricist, his gift for imagery is
abundant, as there are passages throughout the album that are hauntingly
evocative in their precious prose. But what impresses most about Foxtrot
is how that precociousness is delivered with pure musical force. This
is the rare art-rock album that excels at both the art and the rock, and
it's a pinnacle of the genre (and decade) because of it.
1. Watcher of the Skies (7:19)
2. Time Table (4:40)
3. Get 'em out by Friday (8:35)
4. Can-Utility and the Coastliners (5:43)
5. Horizons (1:38)
6. Supper's Ready (22:58)
- a. Lover's Leap
- b. The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man
- c. Ikhnaton and Itsacon and Their Band of Merry Men
- d. How Dare I Be So Beautiful?
- e. Willow Farm
- f. Apocalypse in 9/8 (featuring the delicious talents of Gabble Ratchet)
- g. As Sure as Eggs is Eggs (Aching Men's Feet)
Line-up / Musicians
- Peter Gabriel / lead vocals, flute, oboe, tambourine, bass drum
- Steve Hackett / guitars (electric, acoustic 6- & 12-string)
- Tony Banks / organ, Mellotron MkII, piano & electric piano, 12-string guitar, backing vocals
- Mike Rutherford / bass guitar, bass pedals, 12-string guitar, cello, backing vocals
- Phil Collins / drums, percussion, backing vocals