From Genesis to Peter Gabriel

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Peter Gabriel was a pupil of Charterhouse in the late sixties. During his stay there he met Antony Philips, Tony Banks and Michael Rutherford. Together they started a band by joining 'The Garden Wall' and 'The Anon', both duos at the time. Because ex-student and celebrity Jonathan King came to visit in '69, they wrote several 'BeeGees-like' songs, J. King being an avid fan of the boys from down under. Mr. King was at least impressed enough to get them a record-contract and come up with a name for the band : Genesis.

The first L.P. (From Genesis to Revelation) was not very successful and the band decided to alter their musical course to more suit their own preferences. The musicians started working towards refining their own musical style, often by rehearsing for 18 hours or more a day. In combination with the musical talent present, this resulted in the second L.P. (Tresspass).

Tresspass contained the first Genesis-songs in the style that was to become their trademark, most notably 'The Knife' with it's complex musical changes and almost classical structure.

On the road Genesis was still not very successful.They tended to get gigs in ballrooms filled with audiences expecting a pop-band. The complex structure of the songs required somewhat more attention that the average 'hit-song' and a long span of attention was usually not one of the qualities of the audience.

In the years that followed Genesis steadily won over a lot of people. This was, among other things, due to the outrageous costumes that Peter Gabriel used to wear on stage. No one knew at the time(and it is still an obscure fact today) that these costumes were in fact made by Peter himself from all kinds of left-over materials. Anything else was out of the question because it would have involved money and there was none around.

As the band's popularity grew, Gabriel started to feel uncomfortable about the way the band was run. All through the history of Genesis the band has been a musicians collective. This means that only the keyboardplayer is allowed to play keyboards, the drummer is the only one playing drums and percussion, etcetera. On top of that the songs were all written collectively.

After recording several increasingly complex studio-L.P.'s (Foxtrot, Nursery Crimes, Selling England by the Pound) Peter gave the band an ultimatum : either he would be allowed to write a whole new Genesis-album or he would leave the band. The other members agreed to give him his chance and they collectively chose Peter's line 'The lamb lies down on Broadway' as the subject of the new L.P. In the end it turned out that PG was not able to complete the double-album he intended to write on his own so keyboard-player Tony Banks assisted him throughout side four.

The band performed 'The lamb lies down on Broadway' live and were met by both great critical acclaim as well as by dissatisfied fans who just didn't quite understand the album, and especially it's almost surreal lyrics. Nowadays the album is considered to be the most progressive and complex album Genesis ever recorded with Peter Gabriel and it is usually placed in the hall of fame next to such other great classics as 'Dark side of the moon' by Pink Floyd and 'Tales from Topographic oceans' by Yes.

Peter Gabriel left Genesis in 1974 when the band returned from the 'The Lamb lies down on Broadway'-tour. The popular media used this occasion to declare both Genesis and PG musically dead-and-good-riddance. However in 1975 PG surprised the world with his first solo-LP, tentatively named 'Peter Gabriel'. On it such immortal songs as 'Here comes the Flood', 'Slowburn' and ofcourse 'Solsbury Hill' which went straight into the charts. The multi-faceted album surprised many people who had expected a logical progression from the music of Genesis to that of Gabriel. PG however, seemed to enjoy musical side-tracking, as can be heard in for instance 'Waiting for the Big one' :

"The wine's all drunk, and so am I"

PG's second album, again called 'Peter Gabriel' had a more obscure and introspective ring to it. Among the people who contributed to the album were Kate Bush and Robert Fripp. The album contained no real hits although 'DIY' did make it into the charts.

The next album, which first indicated a major shift to experimental world-music, was again called 'Peter Gabriel'. According to Peter, the reason for giving all his albums the same name was very simple ; he considered them all editions of the same 'newspaper'. As he stated himself : "The Times is called The Times but it's contents change daily". The album contained the hitsong 'Games without frontiers' but the most famous song in the long run turned out to be 'Biko'. In itself 'Biko' is a song about the death of the anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, but it soon became an exemplary song about the problems with apartheid in South-Africa. It also started Peter's involvement with world-music on a larger scale. Because of the depth of the lyrics the album was considered to be Peter Gabriel's finest album so far. How little did the world know about what would become it's successor.

PG's fourth album, again called 'Peter Gabriel' but this time nicknamed 'Security' turned out to be the perfect combination of modern rock-influences and world-music. Contributing musicians were among others Manu Katche and Tony Levin. The album starts with the mesmerizing track 'Rhythm of the heat', followed by the mysterious 'San Jacinto' before blasting off in the electronic 'I have the touch'.

The album contained 'Shock the monkey', still one of the all-time live-audience favourites because of it's fantastic electronic dance-beat.

Next came the double live-album 'Peter Gabriel plays live'. As the name indicates a live-album containing a good cross-section of PG's work and very good as an introduction to his work.

Throughout the eighties Peter Gabriel worked on several soundtracks including those for the movies 'Birdy' and 'The last temptation of Christ'. These productions were based on previously released material which was edited and re-recorded where and when necessary.

Peter Gabriel's biggest commercial success came with the release of the album 'So'. Contributing musicians include Kate Bush, Tony Levin and Youssou N'dour. The album contained the superhit 'Sledgehammer'. The accompanying videoclip redefined the making of videoclips in general. The album also contained the ominous 'We do as we're told' and the very cynical 'Big Time' :

"My belly's getting bigger, and my bank-account"

'So' was followed by a similar album called 'Us'. Although it is much more an album 'to listen to', it does contain the hit 'Steam'. This song is of the same ilk as 'Sledgehammer'.

After 'Us' Peter released his second live-album 'Secret World live'. Another fine example of how to go about on stage. The album perfectly captures the atmosphere of a PG-concert. It also contains several previously unreleased songs.

Gabriel's most recent music can be found on 'OVO' and 'OVO the millenniumshow'. OVO tells the story of three stages of our evolution, through the lives of three generations of a family. It is the story of a family in transition, divided by internal conflict and by the great changes going on around them. It is also a story of forbidden love.

Ever since he began PG has made changing-style an artform, what Bowie did for visuals PG did for music. He has since then become very popular because he started the WOMAD-festival, produced some dazzling video-clips that could be called art(no insult to PG ofcourse, art is relative) and because through him several artists became famous(for example Youssou N'dour).

He is also credited by Kate Bush for 'opening the windows' for her.

May Rael Rule for a long time...

Discography :

  • Peter Gabriel
  • Peter Gabriel (PG 2)
  • Peter Gabriel (PG 3)
  • Peter Gabriel plays live
  • Peter Gabriel (Security)
  • Birdy (original soundtrack to 'Birdy')
  • Passion (original soundtrack to 'The last temptation of Christ
  • Shaking the tree
  • Us
  • Secret World live
  • OVO - The Millennium show
  • OVO

The official Peter Gabriel website.


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