"A Trick Of The Tail" as written by and Tony Banks....
Bored of the life on the city of gold
He'd left and let nobody know.
Gone were the towers he had known from a child,
Alone with the dream of a life
He traveled the wide open road,
The blinkered arcade,
In search of another to share in his life.
Nowhere.
Everyone looked so strange to him.

They've got no horns and they've got no tail
They don't even know of our existence.
Am I wrong to believe in a city of gold
That lies in the deep distance, he cried

And wept as they led him away to a cage
Beast that can talk, read the sign.
The creatures they pushed and they prodded his frame
And questioned his story again.
But soon they grew bored of their prey
Beast that can talk?
More like a freak or publicity stunt.
Oh
No.

They've got no horns and they've got no tail
They don't even know of our existence.
Am I wrong to believe in a city of gold
That lies in the deep distance, he cried

And broke down the door of the cage and marched on out.
He grabbed a creature by the scruff of his neck, pointing out:
There, beyond the bounds of you weak imagination
Lie the noble towers of my city, bright and gold.
Let me take you there, show you a living story
Let me show you others such as me
Why did I ever leave?

They've got no horns and they've got no tail
They don't even know of our existence
Am I wrong to believe in a city of gold
That lies in the deep distance, he cried
And wept.

And so we set out with the best and his horns
And his crazy description of home.
After many days journey we came to a peak
Where the beast gazed abroad and cried out.
We followed his gaze and we thought that maybe we saw
A spire of gold - no, a trick of the eye that's all,
But the beast was gone and a voice was heard:

They've got no horns and they've got no tail
They don't even know of our existence
Am I wrong to believe in a city of gold
That lies in the deep distance

Hello friend, welcome home.


Lyrics submitted by Demau Senae, edited by DuncanIdaho

"A Trick of the Tail" as written by Tony Banks

Lyrics © IMAGEM MUSIC INC

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A Trick Of The Tail song meanings
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12 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentI would like to hear what Tony Banks has to say about this song. My interpretation has always been a basic one. Boy had a loving family, left to see the world, jaded by the world, relies on the memories of the love once had, and finds it as an adult-welcome home. After all these years, it is still fresh and sincere to me. Wonderful!
    FedUpon December 18, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI see this as a story of a creature who leaves home in search of something new, but ends up getting captured by humans. He's put on display as a 'freak' but eventually ends up escaping. He then goes back home, promising the humans to show them his home: the city of gold. Howver he manages to escape them and return home without his city being discovered.
    K-nuxXxon March 29, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentHow extreme is this - about Peter Gabriel leaving? "He left & let nobody know". Leaving the cage. "Set out with the beast & his horns" Touring America with the Lamb & Gabriel being pissed off? I said it was extreme!!
    nagromnaion January 20, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOne of my favourite Genesis-songs, with great narrative and very descriptive lyrics.

    Everytime I listen to it, I immediately picture the beast and his city and his journey. For me, this song is made to remind us there is more between heaven and earth than we know or dare to imagine.

    I also see it as an homage to man's phantasy and imagination. I think even grown-ups in this modern, reason-based world, as we are, need phantasy and the pictures or stories that it creates. If we keep our mind open and our imagination alive, we may one day be rewarded by being shown "a living story". ; )

    PS: What do you think the beast looks like? I know it says "horns", but I can't help thinking of a beautiful unicorn. I think it's the melody, it sounds like a trot or canter.
    WhiteWolfDiefon June 19, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentDon't believe this song has anything to do with the departure of Gabriel and the lyrics can be taken literally - a fairy tale of a creature from some parallel civilisation. Although they almost certainly didn't realise it at the time, the multiple universe theory fits this song perfectly - somewhere there is a world like ours on which there is a city of gold that contains intelligent horned creatures.
    proggieon October 30, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song has nothing to do with Peter Gabriel.

    It is a story of alienation turned on it's head. Rutherford said the song is exactly what the lyrics say it is.
    thecrossboneon March 22, 2014   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationIt's a wonderful rendition of the oft-told story of alienation ... the misfit ... the outsider.
    Does the beast truly have a "home", or is it just the desparate fantasy of a place of belonging?
    A true poet, Banks tells this trajic tale in characteristic Genesis fashion. Beautiful.
    As a whole, the album could be seen a series of views of Peter leaving, but that would be pure speculation.
    steve11049on October 15, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTony had been working on this song since 1972, so it couldn't have been about Gabriel leaving.

    FWIW, I think this is the best "pop" song Genesis ever did.
    jhillston December 02, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think it's about the evolution of the human being since the beginings
    the city of gold i think it's the animal kingdom,
    and the road, it's different parts of world history
    enriquedelayeurreaon November 26, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI believe this song to be a snipe at peter gabriel , by those left in genesis after his 1975 departure.

    I believe, this being the first album after peter left, and with tensions between the remaining members and peter this was a song about him leaving for "bigger and better things".(city of gold)

    horns and tail - peters zany outfits worn that seemed tobe getting him the most attention of all during the final years of his tenure with the band.

    i believe - he is the "beast" - the tabloids and press are the pokers/jabbers and "publicity stunt" same.
    just4davidon December 07, 2011   Link

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