This is a very straightforward song about being utterly infatuated with a girl and asking if she will always be by your side. The lyric was written by Mike Rutherford while the band was working it out in a studio jam. "When I wrote the lyric, out came this lovely little song, catchy without being soppy," he told Mojo. "It took ten minutes. I thought, 'F--k, it can't be that easy.'"
This was the first hit for Genesis in the US. In 1974, when Peter Gabriel was still their lead singer, their song "I know what I like (In Your Wardrobe)" made #21 in the UK, but until "Follow You," Genesis was very much a cult band. They would grow increasingly popular over the next ten years and had to deal with a certain resentment from fans of their '70s output.
Phil Collins explained during a 1983 press conference that he understood why these original fans would be upset, as he remembered watching Yes rise in popularity, which meant he could no longer just go see them every week along with the few hundred other fans who followed the band.
With lines like, "Every day is such a perfect day to spend alone with you," this song was written specifically to appeal to a female audience, as the band had determined that about 95% of their fanbase was male. It certainly redressed that balance and opened up a new chapter of more accessible songs for the band.
This was one of the first songs all three members of Genesis helped write. Tony Banks
and Mike Rutherford wrote most of the album, as Phil Collins was not yet a prolific writer.
In a Songfacts interview with Mike Rutherford
, he said, "At the time, it was meant to be part of a longer song but it just sort of worked. I wrote a very simple lyric, I guess about my wife really now. It was the first time I wrote a lyric that direct and that quick. I didn't analyze it, it just came out very quickly. And then I thought, 'Do you know what, it's so simple it works in an honest way.'"
The album title reflects the three members who were left after Peter Gabriel and guitarist Steve Hackett left the band. This was the first single released with the lineup of Collins, Rutherford, and Banks.
This marked the first "love" lyric on a Genesis song. When the band was writing longer, more complex songs, they felt the lyrics needed to be similarly complex, not just "boy likes girl." There was also another reason they hadn't written romantic lyrics - "I was a repressed person," said Tony Banks.
Peter Gabriel had left the band three years before this song was released. Their first two post-Gabriel albums, A Trick of the Tail and Wind & Wuthering, were well-received by their fans, which answered questions about whether or not the band could survive without him. "Follow You, Follow Me" was the first single from their next album And Then There Were Three, and it marked a departure from their previous sound. The most obvious difference was the length of the song - a tidy 3:19 that was perfect for radio play.
A version with just voice and guitar sung by Rina Mushonga was used in an Audi commercial
. Mike Rutherford told Mojo
magazine: "It sounds terribly simple and there's a charm I never quite realized at the time."