The song started from a chord sequence by guitarist Mike Rutherford, who also claimed he wrote the lyrics in about five minutes. At the time, the band usually wrote songs individually. Keyboardist Tony Banks was quoted: "It was our only truly group-written number. Mike played the riff, then I started playing a chord sequence and melody line on it, which Phil then centralized around. It worked so well as a very simple thing; it was enough as it stood. I'd just written a simple love lyric for "Many Too Many," and I think Mike was keen to try the same thing. Maybe "Follow You Follow Me" was almost too banal, but I got used to it. I think we find it much easier to write long stories than simple love songs." Collins has described it as "a great rhythm track" but claimed it "was not intended to be a hit single."Sure, Phil, play it coy; we know what your real intentions were. While "Follow You Follow Me" might sound like a solid slice of romantic blandness (Stephen Thomas Erlewine writes, "Its calm, insistent melody, layered with harmonies, is a perfect soft rock hook, although there's a glassy, almost eerie quality to the production"), the true story of its origins is as lurid and shocking as any in the Genesis catalog. From In The Air Tonight:
We were in Long Beach, a couple of days early before a show. I saw a few fliers that looked intriguing. "The Motherlode: Discover your true purpose. Only $5.95." My true purpose? I mean, who could pass that up?
When I showed up to the seminar, though, I knew I'd gotten more than I'd bargained for. The lecture hall was covered in tin foil. Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto #1 was emanating from the speakers. Suddenly, the lights dimmed, and three men wearing bright green loincloths and balancing tortoises on their heads stepped into the room. "We are the Motherlode. Together we will show you the path to love and beauty. But first, you must prove that you are ready." The man in the middle pointed to a young college kid in the audience. "What is your name, sir?"
"Please step forward Joe." Joe haltingly made his way to the front. "Now, Joe, to prove that you are ready to experience your true nature, you must go into this closet and ... rape a tortoise."
Joe stood there mute.
"Are you afraid, Joe?"
"No, no, I just ... do I really need to ... you know?"
"It's all right, Joe. Please, all of the Motherlode, join in with me and say, 'It's all right, Joe.'"
"It's all right, Joe," we chanted in unison.
Five minutes later, Joe came out with a golden jewel around his neck. So, you know, that's where "It's Alright Joe" came from.
Then we were taken into another room where an elderly woman sat tied to a metal chair. A disembodied male voice filled the room. "We have now brought you deep into the Motherlode. As a member of the Motherlode, you must not be swayed by cheap sympathy. Obey your orders, not your instincts. To test your dedication, we will now perform a ritual with Lady Delphi. Please do not interrupt the ritual. Lady Delphi may make requests. Please ignore these requests. We shall begin."
Suddenly a spotlight shone on Lady Delphi. Just a few seconds later, the rope around her wrists and ankles burst into flame. She began shrieking and hollering, "Untie me please! Untie me please!" One of my fellow neophytes, horrified at the scene, stepped forward to assist her, but the disembodied voice shouted, "The lady lies! The lady lies!" The would-be rescuer stepped back for a moment, but his concern overcame him and he began reaching for the rope. A trap door opened beneath him and he let out a blood-curdling scream. "Will no one help me?," the lady continued to cry. Personally, after what happened to the first fellow, I wasn't going to chance it. Without the slightest warning, the flames died out, the rope fell from the lady's body, she stood up, took off what had apparently been a mask, and revealed herself to be a beautiful young female. "Those who remain have proven their faith," the disembodied voice said. "Others have revealed themselves unworthy of the truth and the light." So yeah, that was the inspiration for two songs, actually, "Burning Rope" and "The Lady Lies." You'd think some of our fans would've figured this crap out already.
Anywhoo, I looked around and there were five men dressed as Big Bird standing on the side of the room. "Many are the false icons of our age."
"Many too many," said the Big Birds.
"Join with me now."
"Many too many. Many too many." All my fellow attendees slowly began chanting. I didn't want to rock the boat. "Many too many. Many too many."
The five Big Birds walked into the center of the room and huddled together. Then five other men dressed as Cookie Monster proceeded to flog the Big Birds with massive whips.
"Be not like the many, be like the few."
The Big Birds scattered and the Cookie Monsters slowly took off their fur to reveal jumpsuits lined with rhinestones. Now they were all wearing Elvis masks.
"When you follow the Motherlode, you are following yourself. You are following yourself, and you are following us, for to do one is to do the other. I will follow you, will you follow me? Say with me now: follow you, follow me."
"Follow you, follow me."
"Follow you, follow me."
Strobe lights then came on and we were led into a hallway. I was getting a little bored of the whole thing, to be honest. I walked past what looked like a door, with a little slit of light showing through the side. I pushed against it and suddenly found myself out in broad daylight. My face recoiled at the sight of the mid-day L.A. sun. I caught a cab, went back to the hotel, and started telling the guys what happened.
"Pretty bizarre, huh?"
"Phil, do you know where you were?"
"You were in a cult."
"What are you talking about?"
"You were in a cult, man. You're lucky you got out of there alive. Didn't you hear about this Jonestown thing?"
"What Jonestown thing?"
They shook their heads in bemused dismay. "Oh, Phil, never mind."