Musician Peter Gabriel turns 70


Peter Gabriel MeltPeter Gabriel is one of my 25 “island” albums. Hmm, I suppose I should specify. There were three or four eponymous albums of his, depending on the country.

I’m talking about the THIRD Peter Gabriel album, the one originally released on Mercury Records in the US in May 1980. “The album is also often referred to as Melt owing to its cover photograph by Hipgnosis.”

At FantaCo, where I started working that very same month, many of the tracks were on heavy rotation on the radio station WQBK-FM, Q104, which was on in the store constantly.

I also heard songs from his first two albums. From Car, Solsbury Hill and Here Comes the Flood. Scratch featured On the Air. And from the last Genesis album featuring Gabriel, the title track of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.


Intruder uses the “gated drum” sound of Phil Collins, Gabriel’s former bandmate on Genesis.

No Self Control is well described on a blog about the music of Kate Bush by Christine Kelley.

Start is a snippet leading to I Don’t Remember. “Gabriel jokingly summarised the album’s themes as ‘The history of a decaying mind.'”

Family Snapshot was inspired in part by An Assassin’s Diary (1973). Gabriel said it was “a really nasty book” by Arthur Bremer, who had attempted to assassinate George Wallace in 1972.

And Through the Wire the closest to a straight-up rocker, but with a distorted vocal.

Side Two starts with Games Without Frontiers, also well described by Kelley. We knew the line was “jeux san frontières” but the FantaCo running joke was that it was really “she’s so funky, yeah.”

Not One of Us is another song of alienation.

Lead a Normal Life – “Atlantic Records (the label for the first two albums) didn’t want to put [Melt] out at all…” Atlantic head Ahmet Ertegun wondered “‘Has Peter been in a mental hospital?’ They thought I’d had a breakdown and recorded a piece of crap … I thought I’d really found myself on that record, and then someone just squashes it. I went through some primordial rejection issues.”

Biko – I was vaguely aware of the murder of South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko in 1977. But this haunting track gave the incident the worldwide attention it deserved.


For Christmas 1980, our boss Tom at FantaCo gave us each a foot-long cube, which turned out to be six LPs. One of mine was Ein deutsches Album, “released in July 1980… Gabriel sang German vocals on top of completely new recorded instrumental and backing vocal tracks.” I loved it.

After that, I became a big Peter Gabriel fan, buying the first two albums, then Security and ITS German counterpart (1982), with the hit Shock the Monkey. Plays Live came out in 1983. The massively successful So album was released in 1986.

In October 2001, my wife and I were in Cherry Valley, NY, trying to get away from the world. A store was playing Afro Celt Sound System’s Volume 3: Further in Time. I recognized vocals by Gabriel (When You’re Falling) and also Robert Plant. I bought it.

Peter Gabriel turns 70 today. Links to songs throughout.

If I had a ballot for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

What I hope will happen is that they’ll pick the great guitarist Link Wray as an early influence, as they have done in the past with people who have shown up on the ballot, deserve to be enshrined, but who most people never even heard of.

From CNN: “Grunge groundbreakers Nirvana, disco dynamos Chic and the costume-clad, Gene Simmons-led pop metal band KISS are among 16 nominees up for election in the museum’s Class of 2014. The deep selection also includes ’70s and ’80s hitmakers Hall and Oates; college radio heroes the Replacements; New Orleans funkmeisters the Meters; sweet-voiced Linda Ronstadt; and pioneering gangsta rappers N.W.A.

“Completing the list: the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Deep Purple, Peter Gabriel, LL Cool J, Cat Stevens, Link Wray, Yes and the Zombies.”

CBS News adds: “Nirvana, Linda Ronstadt, Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates and The Replacements are among first-time nominees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

All eligible nominees released their first single or album at least 25 years before the year of nomination.
Continue reading “If I had a ballot for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”

G is for Gabriel, Peter Gabriel

As it turns out, I have TWO copies of Peter Gabriel’s third album in German, on vinyl.

Somehow, I was largely unaware of the music of the “progressive rock” group Genesis, which was formed in the late 1960s, until its 1974 album. The title track to The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway [listen] got a bit of airplay in this area. Shortly after this album, lead singer Peter Gabriel left the group over personal and artistic differences, with Phil Collins taking over the lead vocals of Genesis. Gabriel would eventually initiate a solo career.

His first album (1977) was called Peter Gabriel and featured the song Solsbury Hill [listen], which was about his departure from Genesis, as well as the first version of Here Comes the Flood, which Gabriel claimed was overproduced Continue reading “G is for Gabriel, Peter Gabriel”