"Watcher Of The Skies" as written by Peter Gabriel, Anthony Banks, Phil Collins, Steven Hackett and Michael Rutherford....
Watcher of the skies watcher of all
His is a world alone no world is his own,
He whom life can no longer surprise,
Raising his eyes beholds a planet unknown.

Creatures shaped this planet's soil,
Now their reign has come to an end,
Has life again destroyed life,
Do they play elsewhere, do they know
More than their childhood games?
Maybe the lizard's shed its tail,
This is the end of man's long union with Earth.

Judge not this race by empty remains
Do you judge God by his creatures when they are dead?
For now, the lizard's shed it's tail
This is the end of man's long union with Earth.

From life alone to life as one,
Think not your journey's done
For though your ship be sturdy, no
Mercy has the sea,
Will you survive on the ocean of being?
Come ancient children hear what I say
This is my parting council for you on your way.

Sadly now your thoughts turn to the stars
Where we have gone you know you never can go.
Watcher of the skies watcher of all
This is your fate alone, this fate is your own.

Lyrics submitted by Demau Senae, edited by madmonk42, Progger2113

"Watcher of the Skies" as written by Michael Rutherford Anthony Banks

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Watcher Of The Skies song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentWatcher Of The Skies, was in essence written by Rutherford and Banks during a tour in Italy. The two had been staring out over the landscape at the back of a hotel in Naples. Banks talked about it in an interview: "Early one morning, it was totally deserted. It was incredible. We had the idea of an alien coming down to the planet and seeing this world where obviously there had once been life and yet there was not one human being to be seen."

    Watcher of the Skies is the first track on Genesis' 1972 album Foxtrot. The title is borrowed from John Keats' 1817 poem "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer":

    Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken.

    "...it's more likely to be about Clarke's "Childhood's End", which is about mankind evolving to leave Earth and their bodies behind and to join a cosmic consciousness called the Overmind "

    ("do they know more than their childhood games"). A highly influencial book, Pink Floyd also had a song entitles "Childhood's End".

    You are exactly right, 6th! An alien (played live by Peter Gabriel in his Batwing headgear and inverse mohawk) comes to Earth, only to find it deserted. It begs the question - is it deserted because the creatures here destroyed themselves ("has life again destroyed life") or because they have left Mother Earth behind to go elsewhere (do they play elsewhere). Whatever the cause, like a primitive lizard leaving it's tail behind it, humanity as a whole has gone beyond it's union with the mother planet.

    This alien is old, and has travelled a vast amount of space. Perhaps it is huge, or is organically grown into a massive ship, for we are told that the alien is a world unto itself, and that no world he passes is his.

    After observing conditions on the planet, the alien imparts a bit of it's age-old wisdom to the vanished inhabitants, saying:

    "From life alone to life as one,
    Think not your journey's done
    For though your ship be sturdy, no
    Mercy has the sea,
    Will you survive on the ocean of being?"

    (Mention of the Ocean of Being here is important symbolism.)

    Then, sad because it is still alone, the Watcher turns and heads back to the stars.

    Madpropheton November 25, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDoes anybody know who came up with the time signature for this song? Hackett? Rutherford?
    olem77on April 06, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentamazing is a good word to describe the drum solos in this song and overall its a masterpiece if you ask me.
    genesis=one of a kind band
    floydian18on July 23, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe Lyrics are about an ET that comes to earth and finds only lizards, because the human being has arruined itself.

    And the tima signature is not remarkable, but the way the bass makes it have 6 beats is very, very original and strange, because you wouldn´t expect it to have the last 2 beats, it would be more natural in 4/4.
    This is very similar to Appocalypse in 9/8, where a riff that would be quite normal in 8/8 becomes the most absurd thing, with the extra beat.
    Camel fanon September 07, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBased on the story Rescue Party by Arthur C. Clarke.

    In the story, aliens come to earth, a planet they didn't know had intelligent life, a few hours before the sun is about to explode to try to save as many humans as possible.

    They find no humans but the empty cities they created. (Creatures shaped this planet's soil, Now their reign has come to an end,)

    They eventually find that humanity escaped on rockets, amazed that a race they didn't know about dared to attempt space travel. (For though your ship be sturdy, no Mercy has the sea)

    T.G. Rebon November 22, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentClose, but no, it's more likely to be about Clarke's "Childhood's End", which is about mankind evolving to leave Earth and their bodies behind and to join a cosmic consciousness called the Overmind.

    "From life alone to life as one,
    Think not your journey's done"
    6th_sadistic_sniperon June 08, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFirst a word on the album cover of Foxtrot:

    In the words of artist Paul Whitehead:

    ...recommended that I go and see Stratton-Smith, and he introduced me and we got on. And Peter Gabriel and I got on great. Gabriel had already seen my work, and he kind of knew of me because I was editing a magazine called Time Out. I was the art director, and I was one of the people that started that. There were four of us who started it. That kept me very much in touch with what was going on in London. I had a show and it was mentioned in the magazine and (Gabriel) saw some of the work. With Genesis, I became a sort of 'art director' for them. I got to know them and as time went on I would introduce them to different artists and styles and books. Whenever I went to meet them I'd have an armful of books with me and say, "look at this, isn't this neat?

    "Having worked with the band on the previous two record covers (and, it turns out, also providing the titles for all three albums), we'd developed a very sound approach to creating the imagery. I would stay with the band for three or four days while they were developing things musically and lyrically. We'd then have a number of brain-storming sessions where I'd show them books and other reference materials. I'd do pencil sketches of the design ideas I'd have on tissue and then we'd come to an agreement as to what the basic approach would be and which images would be included in the final painting. Peter would give me the libretto and I'd then go away for a couple of weeks and we'd then hold an unveiling of the painting - done in oils - in Tony Stratton-Smith's office (often accompanied by champagne, as would be served at any art opening).

    My favourite cover is probably Nursery Crime. It was one where I was just given free reign to do whatever I wanted to do and everybody loved it. It was like "Let's focus on 'The Musical Box'" because it was the strongest song so I said it's got to be a Victorian look, and let's deal with the nastiness and violence in the nursery.

    Foxtrot was the follow-up to Nursery Cryme, and it was our goal to continue to use the cover imagery to poke fun at British High Society (where Peter, Mike and Tony had all come from). The cover of Nursery Cryme painted a scary portrait of the game of croquet, a staple of aristocratic entertainment, and so we chose another activity associated with the priviledged class - fox hunting - as the main theme for the new record. Cover is originally a put-down on fox-hunting as a aristocratic sport. You'll note, though, that I included a scene from the previous record - the croquet tournament - in the background of this new image to provide the continuity we were looking for."

    It took on a stronger meaning when he heard "Supper's Ready". The ice floating on water is like the soul floating in the human body. (..."like the Fox on-the-rocks...") The fox, is a passion, a violent aspect, but it has used its cunning and adopted a disguise and the ice to escape its pursuers.

    "Adding a new dimension to the fox-hunting theme, I based the four principal images on the left-hand side on a loose interpretation of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. "Death rides a pale horse" - you'll see that the character on the white horse is weeping - and he also has a huge chip on his shoulder (perhaps as he's the only one actually named in the Bible)! These characters have come to the water's edge in their chase after the Fox, but as foxes are known for their cunning, this one has chosen to disguise himself in a red dress and escape the huntsmen and their dogs by escaping on the water on top of an ice floe. At the time, in America, pretty girls were known as 'foxes', which is another reason I chose to add a more feminine touch to the crafty fox's escape. It was inspired by hearing somebody (an American, I think it was) say, "Ah, she's a real fox, man." And Jimi Hendrix did Foxy Lady. And the whole theme of the album got into the fox outwitting the people hunting it ......

    Here's an interesting aside - as we were always trying to get away with something for a laugh and sneak something past the censors, I was particularly proud of how we accomplished this feat in this painting. Now, you may have looked at this cover hundreds of times, but I'll bet that you have never noticed just how "excited" the 4th horse (the one farthest to the right, ridden by the rider with the green head) is to be this close to the Fox.. ;-)
    To this day, I still win bets with people who 'know this painting backwards and forwards' but who've never seen that particular 'naughty bit' before!

    I also included some imagery from the lyrics of 'Supper's Ready' - the 'six saintly shrouded men, move across the lawn slowly, the seventh walks in front, with a cross held high in hand', as well as some additional imagery from other songs and albums, such as the Hogweed and the croquet mallet floating in the water.

    The cover is adopted into half land and half sea, and it shows that there is as much life in the sea as there is on the land. There is also death in the sea, as signified by Cynthia's mallet, the shark, the Hogweed and the nuclear submarine.

    The band and I also felt it important to include images that reflected the state of the world and the planet at the time. In the water in the upper right-hand corner, you'll see a U.S. nuclear submarine, which represents the presense of the U.S. Naval Fleet off the coast of Scotland. Many people in Britain, including members of Parliament, were unhappy with the fact that the U.S. maintained a fleet of nuclear subs 'only 30 minutes by missle' away from the Soviet Union. The 2 dolphins and fish rising up from the ocean were representing the marked increases in water pollution (caused by the nuclear subs?) and its effects on all living things, while the man with his head buried in the sand (to the left of the Saints)represented 'the music business' who had yet to treat the band and its music with much respect
    To the far left in the painting, you'll see a person riding a bicycle - rather wobbily and, if you've ever tried it, impossible to do on the sand. The cyclist is Peter! Peter would ride a bike to meetings and such, but he was not that steady on his bike...

    The hotel is representative of all the hotels that the band were about to spend time in. They were about to hit the big time, and years on the road loomed ahead of them. "The Holiday Inn-style hotel in the background was my way of illustrating to the boys that they had better get used to staying in places like that - another night, another city, another hotel - as they were going to start "going places" very soon, which turned out to be quite right!"
    Madpropheton November 25, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI had heard somewhere that WOTS was based on Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. But just because a song was inspired by something, it does not mean that it has to adhere to it exactly.

    There is also a song by Marillion called Childhood's End? It has no relation to the book, but I assume their lyricist, Fish, knew where the name came from.

    In the Seconds Out songbook, the lyrics were "folks on the rock", not "fox on the rocks". Unfortunately, my Foxtrot CD is not at hand.
    Anglagard1on August 22, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt is inspired mainly by passages in the Bible. Particularly in Genesis 6:1-8
    The term "Nephilim" occurs just twice in the Hebrew Bible, both in the Torah. The first is Genesis 6:1–4 NAS, immediately before the story of Noah's ark:

    Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

    The second is Numbers 13:32–33 NAS, where the Twelve Spies report that they have seen fearsome giants in Canaan:

    So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we had gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.

    The nature of the nephilim is complicated by the ambiguity of Genesis 6:4, which leaves it unclear whether they are the "sons of God" or their offspring who are the "mighty men of old, men of renown". Richard Hess in The Anchor Bible Dictionary takes it to mean that the nephilim are the offspring,[11] as does P. W. Coxon in Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible.[12]
    AcousticBzZzon April 06, 2014   Link
  • -1
    General CommentIt's only 6/4, not that remarkable, so does it really matter who came up with it? Anyway this is one of my favorite songs.
    Frances-The-Toolon April 12, 2006   Link

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