A Trick Of The Tail

Album: A Trick Of The Tail (1976)


  • This was the first song Genesis released after Peter Gabriel left. It was not, however, the first Genesis song on which Phil Collins sang lead. That was "For Absent Friends" from the album Nursery Cryme in 1971.
  • This song was written by keyboard player Tony Banks. His lyrics were based on William Golding's 1955 novel, The Inheritors. He recalled: "It's about a race who were on earth before man and it's the story of the last survivor of this race. The very last chapter deals with our reaction to him whereas the rest of the story is his reaction to us. It's about an alien with horns and a tail who appears in a modern city and how people react to him."
  • English writer Sir William Golding (1911 – 1993) is best known for his debut published novel Lord of the Flies about a group of school boys stranded on a tropical island, who revert back to savagery. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. Other songs inspired by Golding's works include:

    "Shadows And Tall Trees" by U2 ("Shadows And Tall Trees" is the name of the seventh chapter of Lord of the Flies).

    "White as Snow" by U2 (Bono came up with the idea of focusing on the soldier's last thoughts as he dies from his wounds in this song after reading Golding's 1956 novel Pincher Martin).

    "You're Gonna Go Far, Kid" by The Offspring (It is possible to read many aspects of Lord of the Flies in this song about the abuse of power. In particular, the line near the end: "Clever alibis. Lord of the Flies," seems to relate to the murder of Simon).

    "Lord Of The Flies" by Iron Maiden (This was written from the perspective of Jack Merridew, the character in Lord of the Flies who epitomised the worst aspects of human nature when unimpaired by society).
  • This was the first Genesis song to be accompanied by a video. It featured the band gathered around a piano performing the tune. The clip was directed by Bruce Gowers who is best known for his landmark promo for Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Comments: 11

  • William from Bardstown, KyFor Absent Friends" is a short and understated folk-based song about two widows going to church and praying for their deceased husbands. It is also the first song by the band to feature drummer Phil Collins as the lead vocalist and was the first song written by the new members Collins and Steve Hackett within the band context.
  • Bruce from San Antonio, TxCollins has done Beautiful "harmonies". it was so well done,On early live shows (1970's),it was hard
    to separate Gabriel's voicing to Collins. very well done.
  • Bruce from San Antonio, TxI am sorry Michael,if your speaking about
    Collins's first solo song,it was "More fool me"
    (selling England by the pound) . He never sang lead
    in for "Absent Friend" Just want to be clear.
  • Angus from Monteal, QcHarlequin, also from Nursery Cryme, has Phil's distinct voice
  • Mike from Nashville, TnMichael from Hatboro is correct about Phils first lead vocal.
  • Steve from Struthers, OhWhat about'Harold the Barrel' from nursery cryme. That is one of the first songs in which phil sang lead(although he shares the vocals with Peter).
  • Joshua from Twin Cities, MnThe lyrics include the phrase "a trick of the eye" but NOT "a trick of the tail."
  • Joshua from Twin Cities, MnThe cover of the "Trick of the Tail" album features caricature drawings of various characters from the album's eight songs, including the beast from the title track.
  • Robb from Hamburg, NyUntil you said that, I didn't even realize that was Phil, but now I can clearly tell it is him.
  • Kent Lyle from Palo Alto, CaA song about a devil-like creature who leaves his city of gold and is captured by humans and kept in a cage as a freak-show creature. Genesis already had a penchant for storytelling and character sketches in their songs, and it persisted even after Gabriel's departure.
  • Michael from Hatboro, PaThis is incorrect. The first song he sang lead on was "For Absent Friends" off of "Nursery Cryme" in 1971.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Emilio Castillo from Tower of Power

Emilio Castillo from Tower of PowerSongwriter Interviews

Emilio talks about what it's like to write and perform with the Tower of Power horns, and why every struggling band should have a friend like Huey Lewis.

Movie Stars In Music Videos

Movie Stars In Music VideosSong Writing

Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Mila Kunis and John Malkovich are just a few of the film stars who have moonlighted in music videos.

Dick Wagner (Alice Cooper/Lou Reed)

Dick Wagner (Alice Cooper/Lou Reed)Songwriter Interviews

The co-writer/guitarist on many Alice Cooper hits, Dick was also Lou Reed's axeman on the Rock n' Roll Animal album.

Eagles Lyrics Quiz

Eagles Lyrics QuizMusic Quiz

Lots of life lessons in these Eagles lyrics - can you match them to the correct song?

Tim Butler of The Psychedelic Furs

Tim Butler of The Psychedelic FursSongwriter Interviews

Tim and his brother Richard are the Furs' foundation; Tim explains how they write and tells the story of "Pretty In Pink."

Roger McGuinn of The Byrds

Roger McGuinn of The ByrdsSongwriter Interviews

Roger reveals the songwriting formula Clive Davis told him, and if "Eight Miles High" is really about drugs.