"The First Supper" - a fans' recollection of the first time he saw Genesis perform "Supper's ready". Written by Andy Wilkinson.

We revisit one of TWR's old favourites; "Take a little trip back..." with the first of a series of articles written by longstanding Genesis fan Andy Wilkinson. This time his we share with you his memories of Genesis' classic "Supper's Ready".

There have been a number of recent postings on the Internet concerning the "Best Version" of "Supper's ready" and a wide variety of comment based on concert memories "bootlegs" and the meagre "Official" group releases. Bearing in mind that "Supper's Ready" was a concert favourite and played extensively through many tours with a variety of musical personnel - not surprisingly there is a diverse view on which was the "Best Version". Now, squaring my own memories of witnessing it performed live through the years 1972 to 1977 (not including the Milton Keynes Reunion debacle), it is a tough one to call.

What did intrigue me, was the presentation of the song during each of those early tours; the first Rainbow Theatre show (February 1973) saw the "Crown of Thorns"; the "Flower Mask" and the stunning triangular box "Apocalypse" surprise. The Drury Lane five night stint saw Peter "flying" in the sliver lurex suit. 1976 and 1977 saw Phil singing initially with Bill Bruford and later Chester Thompson on drums, and of course, all the pomp and majesty of those 747 landing lights. After Peter left; "Supper's Ready" changed quite noticeably musically with the former's flute parts taken over by mainly keyboard and the "Apocalypse" section was now augmented by two drummers.

But my mind went further back than the brief instances just mentioned, to the very first times that the band played "Supper's Ready" back in 1972. "Foxtrot" was released in October 1972, and the band were still playing the College and Club circuit during the winter months of that period. Less than a month after "Foxtrot" was available in the shops, saw the band play a gig at Imperial College Kensington London. For a College gig, the concert was quite heavily attended. Maybe it was a Central London venue and the band's live performance had at last attracted worthwhile attention that saw 5-600 people crammed into the College venue. It was a case of finding space to sit on the floor of a surprisingly large College Hall. The stage was barely three feet high but wide compared to other Colleges the band had previously played.
Click to see full-size picture
Genesis on stage in 1973

The stage set up was similar to previous Genesis gigs of the time but one noticeable addition was a partial set of tubular bells behind Phil's drum kit. As was standard at these early gigs, the band provided their own lighting comprised of a few sets of those simple mast-like structures placed on either side of the stage; each having two or three branches of coloured lighting. Pink Floyd it wasn't! But good enough to provide sympathetic colours and shades that best accompanied the light and shade of the different music of the band. Peter was, as ever, in complete control. Slim, dressed all in black with the now familiar partly shaven head and totally unique stage demeanour. He teased and taunted and provided lengthy pithy surreal stories mixed with references from Monty Python and vague references to sexual innuendo and the characters the songs portrayed.

It was much the usual set for this time: "Twilight Alehouse", "Musical Box", "The Fountain of Salmacis", "Watcher of the Skies" (I can't remember if "Stagnation" was played this evening?), "The Return of the Giant Hogweed", and "The Knife" as encore. But what was different was the new "Supper's Ready". What a treat! Although only released a month before, the audience seemed to be very familiar with this piece and just sat and witnessed it in awe. The song was played straight, pretty much as it sounded on "Foxtrot". Peter and the rest of the band were in top form and gave us a performance of unnerving power, subtlety, precision and sheer dynamism. There were no costume changes; no props and no zany theatrics; it was played honestly with a minimum of fuss but very intense. Now I learned why the partial set of tubular bells was present behind Phil!!

Thinking back on the Imperial College gig, it was almost a "Supper's Ready" "Unplugged" for what was to come theatrically speaking over the following years. Being the first of many times I was privileged to see and hear the number played live, it does have a special place in my memory as one of the "Best" versions although nostalgia can cloud judgement!

Our thanks to Andy for sharing his reminiscences with us and we shall have more of his memories in future issues of The Waiting Room.