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supper's ready!

supper's ready!


You've probably seen the Viking kitties by now. Cute little flash kittens in Viking horns acting out Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song. The words pop up in bubbles in the song goes on.

Wow. Seeing those words in print again brought on a flood of memories and a fit of giggles.

There was a time when I considered Led Zeppelin to be gods. Most people my age went through that phase. We quoted lyrics left and right and debated the meaning behind each song. Plant and Page were geniuses, deep thinkers, philosophers.

Yea, right. What is deep thinking to a 14 year old mesmerized by heavy guitars and pounding rythms and Robert Plant's hair turns into foolishness and pretension when you take away the haze of few joints and flights of teenage fancy.

The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying: Valhalla, I am coming!

Did we really sing these lyrics out loud? Valhalla, I am coming? How did we not break into fits of laughter when we said those words?

On we sweep with threshing oar

We must have been really stoned.

Sure, they had plenty of tunes that were about love and sex and things other than faeries and Norse gods. But those weren't the lyrics that were endlessly debated. Those were not the lyrics quoted as if they were the mantra of your life.

We sang The Battle of Nevermore as if we were story tellers. We felt the pain, the despair, the anguish. Oh, we were so deep, so in tune with our lyrical heroes.

Queen of Light took her bow, And then she turned to go,
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom, And walked the night alone

You know, we had no idea what they were going on about. It just sounded good. It sounded like poetry. It sounded deep. In turn, we thought it made us sound scholarly and deep when we sat around ruminating about the Prince of Peace and his Queen.

Our favorite song at one point was No Quarter:

The winds of Thor are blowing cold.
They're wearing steel that's bright and true

Maybe our Tolkien-drenched minds kept us from finding the lyrics to be amusing and pretentious, like I do now. We were living in this outer realm, where hobbits existed and wars were fought between inhuman creatures. Plant knew that, he knew the mindset of the kids those days. And he played on it. Either that or he did a lot of acid.

Now, forgive me for this next part. I know that some of you consider Stairway to Heaven the Greatest Song Ever. I sure did back in the day. But please, look at these lyrics.

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now,
It's just a spring clean for the May queen.

One summer night, five of sat on the open tailgate of a someone's mom's station wagon, parked in the last row of a drive-in theater (double feature: Kentucky Fried Movie and Groove Tube). For two hours, we discussed the meaning behind the lyrics to that song, spending an awful lot of time on the "bustle in your hedgerow" line. We each had a different interpreation of the song. We each took our own meaning from it. And that was deep, man. I mean, wow...they spoke to each one of us in a different way. How fucking cool!

It was only years later that I realized the words probably mean nothing except that Robert Plant read a lot of books. He strung some thoughts and words from his favorite novels together, mixed them in a blender and called it Stairway to Heaven.

When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.

Anyone care to explain that line? To be a rock and not to roll. They revisited that theme again in The Rover with the line You got me rockin' when I ought to be a-rollin', which took on a decidedly different tone than the rock and the roll from Stairway. Maybe he was just running out of words at this point, a consideration to be taken seriously when you realize that the next Zep album was Presence.

Led Zeppelin did not own the rights to bizarre lyrics passing as genius writing abilities. We enshrined Genesis (the Gabriel years) in the same manner.

From Supper's Ready:
Wandering through the chaos the battle has left,
We climb up a mountain of human flesh,
To a plateau of green grass, and green trees full of life.
A young figure sits still by the pool,
He's been stamped human bacon by some butchery tool.
(He is you.)
Social Security took care of this lad.
We watch in reverence, as Narcissus is turned to a flower
.

Any old school Genesis fan worth his salt knows what comes next.

A flower?

Want more? From I Know What I Like in Your Wardrobe:

When the sun beats down and I lie on the bench,
I can always hear them talk.
Me, I'm just a lawnmower - you can tell me by the way I walk

We used to recite that line over and over! Some days it was all we said. Genius! Brilliance! We each claimed to know exactly what they meant by that but none of us had a damn clue as to what the hell they were talking about. But saying that you knew, that you understood the depth and layers of Genesis made you look smart and brilliant in your own right.

And who could forget Squonk? There isn't a long-time Genesis fan alive who can't recite the end of the song:

The is of a very retiring disposition and due to its ugliness, weeps constantly. It is easy prey for hunters who simply follow a tear-stained trail. When cornered it will dissolve itself into tears. True or False?

What the hell? How did I ever think those were inspiring, thoughtful words?

Better yet, tell me why I feel so melancholy when I hear these songs. Is it just the memories of those youthful days? Or was there really something to the music and lyrics that my old age just can't see anymore? Have I gotten too old to appreciate underlying themes and visions? Should I start smoking pot again? Do I need to take Lamb Lies Down on Broadway or Physical Graffiti and listen for the subtext and meanings that I swear are not there?

Stay tuned for the next installment, when I explain why Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden is a blowhard.

Comments

how could you?! trashing the vague but immortal memories of thousands, millions! and before my first cuppa, mind you...

actually, i've probably never seen those words in print, even though i remember the songs... and they think lyrics these days are strange... too funny :)

btw, GOOD MORNING! ...ugh...

Or you could always take a look at the lyrics for some songs by "The Band". Those guys should have stayed behind Dylan.

"Crazy Chester followed me,
and he caught me in the barn.
He said I will fix you right
If you take Jack, my dog
I said, Wait a minute, Chester
You know I'm a peaceful man
He said, That's okay, boy, won't you feed him when you can."
The Weight

Because you are a peaceful man, that prevents you from caring for a dog? What? And why would Chester be giving away his dog in the first place? Nonsense lyrics always bother me...

Ahh, Supper's Ready. Quick history on the tune: Gabriel had a separate song called "Willow Farm" that they'd been trying to fit into an album for a while, but it never worked out.

While they were writing the mammoth (24 minutes plus, for non-Genesis fans) "Supper's Ready," they needed something light to break it up. Peter suggested "Willow Farm" and the rest is history.

Does it make sense?

"There's Winston Churchill dressed in drag
He used to be a British flag
Plastic bag, what a drag."

Of course not. Who cares? :)

I could go into how the song ("Supper's Ready") is about Revelations from the Bible, but that's too much for me, pre-caffeine.

Drugs did help, I will admit. Now I listen to it for the music, more. As an aside, you should hear the new Gabriel CD, UP. Brilliant stuff.

Oh, and I feel melancholy, too, when I hear the songs. I do think there's a magic to those songs (including the Zeppelin ones) that continues to have a hold on me, 25 years later.

Pull out Yes's "Close to the Edge" for a similar experience.

uh oh ... i'm imagining a musical-revival show for all these songs now.

except it's not your average musical-revival show, it's more along the lines of RHPS. or "Sing Along To 'The Sound Of Music'!"

what a way to wake up.

i started listening to led zeppelin when i was about 17, and never had any idea that those were the lyrics til i saw the kitties last night. so, um, i think it's kinda neat. but i dig norse mythology. i promise to roll my eyes at it in a week or so, tho.

but from my childhood, i give you:

well, i'm gonna ride a sabertooth horse
through the hollywood hills
just don't tell me anything
'cause that's the way I feel
ridin' wild on a paisley dragon
through the hollywood hills, yeah...

rhcp, circa 1984-ish

melancholy. happens to me all the time. nostalgia for the lost innocence/stonedness that allowed us to sit and debate the deeper meanings of songs written by people on way better drugs than we were (well, mostly).

Too funny... I had NEVER known all the words to "The Immigrant Song". I just sang along with the "Aaaaaah" part.

However, I have since come to deeply regret ever thinking that ZoFo was the be-all and end-all of all rock'n'roll creation, and whenever the first chords of "Stairway to Heaven" come on the radio, I switch the station, generally swearing.

I think the melancholy is basically a tinge of sadness for that naive child you used to be. Hey, we might have been dumb, stoned, and naive, but we sure were having fun declaring "Stairway" the World's Deepest Song.

But "Immigrant" can now go into my "Dumb song lyrics" folder, right along with Carole King's lyric "Snow is cold, rain is wet."

This made my day! ROLF

Hey! I have to take a contrarian position on this one! I started listening to Zep at age 14 and never tried to read deeper messages into the lyrics, I just liked that robert was singing some cool shit about vikings, faeries and gollum. Of course they never sang anything deep, which is one reason why the songs are timeless! In college I got into Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel and stuff like that. But somehow, 17 years later, I feel more embarassed listening to "The Times They Are A-changing" and "Sound of Silence" ("Hello darkness my old friend, I've come to talk with you again" -- that's pretentious!) than I am listening to "Black Dog" or "Dazed and Confused". don't get me wrong, I like Dylan and love S&G and lots of that stuff, but Zep was just about dreamy images and themes set to some of the most rocking riffs ever. I too tend to flip the station when "Stairway" comes on, but it's a simple function of being overplayed, not because the song sucks. One of these times, give it a listen from start to finish and really listen. It is a remarkable song, the way it gradually builds. And what what is wrong with the album "Presence"?!?! "Nobody's Fault But Mine" is a great modern take on an old blues classic, and "Tea For One" is one of the most underrated Zep songs ever, to name just a couple tunes. Give it another go!

I think one thing that's true about song lyrics is that they have a tendency to look dumb when you write them out. That's just a property of lyrics. They're not meant to be read, they're meant to be heard.

Half the time, especially in some of the more blues- y song, I'll be damned if I can even make out what the hell Robert Plant is saying. I don't think I've ever made a point of Led Zeppelin lyrics. They're not Dylan or something, I just think the music is good.

And, besides, I know Tolkien became kinda big with the counterculture around that time, so what's the problem in assuming they just liked it, rather than making it some huge money-grabbing conspiracy?

Hmm, interesting. I can't wait to look back in 20 years at the music that I quote and ponder and try to mimmic in my writing just to see if I still think it's great. Maybe Gord Downie (the Tragically Hip) will stop being crytpic and mystical and turn into being full of shit... I'll post again in 20 years to let you know :)

Well, you gotta admit that the Peter Gabriel version of Genesis was better than Phil Collins Genesis (though Paper Late wasn't too bad a song, back in my taste-impaired youth).

Recall these words of wisdom:

You may have a ready guide in some celestial voice,
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice...

"Free Will," by Rush, another of the World's Deepest Songs.

By the way, my wife and I discussed this post over lunch yesterday, and the reason she says that many of these lyrics make little sense to us in retrospect is because the groups are BRITISH. So if you wonder what "if there's a bustle in your hedgerow" means, for example, it's "some British thing...

And who could forget Squonk? There isn't a long-time Genesis fan alive who can't recite the end of the song:

The is of a very retiring disposition and due to its ugliness, weeps constantly. It is easy prey for hunters who simply follow a tear-stained trail. When cornered it will dissolve itself into tears. True or False?

What the hell? How did I ever think those were inspiring, thoughtful words?

Your argument would hold more weight if they were actually in the lyrics. Those are just a footnote in the liner notes, not part of the song. Do you actually remember the song, or did you just decide Genesis would be a good example to cite, and look it up on the Web? Rock lyrics generally look stupid when not in the context of the song.

"Got mashed potato
Got mashed potato
Got mashed potato
Ain't got no T-bone."

--Neil Young

To answer your snarky comment, yes I remember the song. And we never let the song end without reciting those words so to me, they were part of the song. Anyone who swore by that album knew those words and said them out loud.

Thanks for asking, though.

Sorry if I came across as snarky. Not what I intended. The rest of what you wrote was quite on the mark. I still like Supper's Ready, though I probably haven't listened to it for a few years.

only a few guys ever married great words with great music...

Dylan of course, was the greatest

With my Mum as a biggish Genesis fan (I don't mean she's big, I mean she is a big fan) and me hearing quite a bit of prog rock, It's all pretty weird stuff. Either they were geniuses/genii/whatever the plural of genius is, or they had read too much Tolkien and played too much D&D. What about The Knife and One for the Vine? They contain fairly Tolkienesque lyrics.
For even weirder lyrics than any prog rock, try Erik Satie, a very strange french composer:

I am very fond of cabbage soup,
but I love my darling Mummy even better.
We must keep our voices down for my doll has a headache.
She fell from the third(? could be first) floor.
The doctor says it is nothing to worry about.

Hmmm....

ps
I am only 15

if you listened to Zep for lyrical reasons, you were a moron. Zep was about J Bonham being the greatest rock drummer- EVER, Page writing incredible shit and turning into a drooling sloppy sot when on stage live, JPJ tying it all together via bass and/or keys and Plant doing his scratchy high range bluesy front man stuff. Yeah, some of the norse stuff and the black magic b.s. was fun, but who really cared anyway? And yes, to ponder the meanings of British lyrics without living there for any extended period of time is absurd when you think of all differences between US and UK English phrases and expressions. Zep was about digging the opening to Out on the Tiles, Good Times Bad Times and shit like that. When I want deep meaning and other assorted lyrical profundity in my life, I open the sports page.