Tuesday, March 04, 2014

On History: Get 'Em Out by Friday

In 1972, Genesis released their fourth album, Foxtrot. The band's direction was heavily influenced by lead singer Peter Gabriel (Phil Collins was the drummer at the time, and wouldn't step up to do lead vocals until Gabriel left in 1975) and the songs were very fantastical in many ways. I was always particularly liked the first song on the album, "Watcher of the Skies", because of some vague connection I made to Uatu, the Wacther. (The song has nothing to do with him, but in my barely adolescent brain when I first heard it, I couldn't not make a connection.) What I didn't know until recently was that it's actually the third song, "Get 'Em Out by Friday", that has a strong comic connection on that album.

(In 1978, the band -- without Gabriel or original guitarist Steve Hackett -- wrote a more directly comic related song about Little Nemo called "Scenes from a Night's Dream." I'll cover that in some other blog post.)

"Get 'Em Out by Friday" relays the story of a business man whose job it is to make his company's tenement flats more efficient sources of income. He pulls some shady stuff with the tenants, eventually coming up with a decree that all residents must be under four feet tall so "they can fit twice as many in the same building site." The character is then knighted for his great service. I won't get into all the details of the lyrics, but there's all manner of early 1970s British social commentary going on.

Now, during live performances, Peter Gabriel would don very elaborate costumes and essentially sing as the various characters. It was deliberately very theatrical. Here's Gabriel performing another song with Genesis...
Great stuff for prog rock fans like myself, but it's hardly any wonder why the band didn't gain broad popular appeal until Gabriel left.

OK, so in 1976, just after Gabriel left the group, French artist Jean Solé wrote and drew a comic book version of "Get 'Em Out by Friday" and published it in Fluide Glacial #8. The lyrics have been (badly, to my understanding) translated into French by Alain Dister, but what's particularly interesting, I think, is that Solé not only conveys the thrust of the story, but he also portrays Gabriel's performance as well, showing the costume changes which get increasingly out of control. Gabriel would often change costumes on stage mid-song, and several of his more famous get-ups are shown in the final panel.

I've long wondered about turning some great pieces of musical storytelling (particularly some of this Gabriel-era Genesis stuff) into comics, and it turns out that others have actually gone ahead and done exactly that.
Scans courtesy of Ed Pinsent.

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