The Back Catalogue: Get to Know Peter Gabriel
It’s Millar here with another selection from music’s back catalogue. This time we are going to take things in a different direction in both time and style of music. Let’s jump to the year 1982 to take a look at a great solo album from the genius the world calls Peter Gabriel.
Gabriel started out his career in the late 60’s fronting the English prog-rock band Genesis (not to be confused with the hedgehog-friendly Sega video game system of the 90’s). The vocalist was known for performing in various memorable costumes and make-up. After several albums, Gabriel left the band in 1975 to venture forth on his own solo journey. I guess you could say his decision has paid off. He’s already been inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame with Genesis and he just recently entered the hall in recognition of his brilliant solo career.
He’s created some awesome solo albums over the years and picking just one to talk about wasn’t easy, but I’m going to go with my personal favourite, his fourth solo album, called Peter Gabriel (or maybe Security if you let David Geffen tell you what to do).
Funny story: When I first decided to check out some Peter Gabriel stuff in HMV years back, I was disappointed when all they seemed to have in stock was this ‘one’ self-titled album called “Peter Gabriel” in different covers. The joke was on me when I discovered that Gabriel had called his first four solo albums all “Peter Gabriel”. The fourth album was released in September, 1982. It was given the title “Security” in the US because Geffen records always has to have its own way.
I would describe the sound of the album as innovative 80’s prog-pop meets world music. Sometimes it’s light and poppy, sometimes it’s dark and creepy with a plodding heaviness. There is a nice dose of heavy African-style percussion on various tracks as well as numerous electronic sounds and samples. The song you may have heard before off this one is the single Shock The Monkey. The video received tons of airplay on MTV at the time. The rest of the album is pretty deadly as well.
Peter Gabriel – Shock The Monkey
The album starts with The Rhythm Of The Heat. You know you are entering “head-y” territory when the liner notes describe this song as being inspired by psychologist Carl Jung’s 1925 visit to Eastern Africa and the Sudan. My guess is that Mr. Jung found some folks who could play the hell out of the drums, because the ones on this tune (including large bass surdo drums and a company of Ghanian drummers) give me goosebumps every time. This is especially true of the thundering climax at the song’s end which sounds like it could easily be the soundtrack of that scene in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom when that voodoo cult-leader guy is ripping peoples’ hearts out.
Peter Gabriel – The Rhythm Of The Heat
The heaviness of those drums immediately turns into the light, chimes-y, woodwinds-y, eastern sound of San Jacinto (yes, the ‘J’ is silent Ricky!). It’s a song about a Native American man watching his culture slowly disappear. He observes things like “Geronimo’s dicso” and “Sit’n’Bull steakhouse” as he tries to “hold the line”.
I Have The Touch is a catchy little electronic-pop number about someone who is in constant, desperate need of physical human contact. My guess is those types of people probably don’t stay out of jail long.
My fav tune on the whole album is The Family And The Fishing Net. As Gabriel has said on his live album from that time, the song is about “the ritual of the wedding, the ring, and the finger”. Drums, guitars, electronic samples, stick and moog bass, all combine with “traditional Ethiopian pipes” and “treated saxophone” to make one sweet auditory experience.
Peter Gabriel – The Family And The Fishing Net
You can find more thundering group percussion and vocals at the end of Lay Your Hands On Me. Let me just say from personal experience, “I am ready, lay your hands on me” does not work very well as a pickup line.
Kiss Of Life has a very danceable Caribbean beat to it. This song could accompany a Caribana parade float down the street easily. Whether or not that float will be followed by a drunken/high Rob Ford is up to Toronto voters to decide.
The cover of the album is apparently taken from security camera footage. If it is, that person has made some troubling life-decisions regarding botox and collagen injections. I like to think someone traveled back in time from 2018 to give them a picture of what Joan River’s face looks like then.
There you have the fourth solo record from the great Peter Gabriel (who’s still making great music today). If you enjoy the songs you hear on this page, definitely go and find the rest of the tracks from the album and check them out. If you like them, heck, go check out other Peter Gabriel solo stuff as well as early-period Genesis. Good stuff for the ears.