Conceptual Jiggling

Here I am cheating again, sort of, Peter Gabriel 1 /Car/1977 ? Let’s just call it Peter Gabriel 1, isn’t one of mine, it’s one of Mrs 1537’s.  As she’s far too busy doing real stuff I’ll just have to do my best*.  Up to a couple of years ago all the Gabriel knowledge I had came from the first four Genesis LPs and So, which I listened to a lot when it came out although I subsequently ditched it for being far too grown up – I was a bit worried So might be a bit of a gateway drug; you know the score, one minute you’re just doing a bit of So with your friends, the next you know you’re an emaciated friendless pre-corpse who’s mainlining Chris Rea on a Monday morning.  So all four of the Peter Gabriel solo LPs were new territory for me.

Peter Gabriel 1 02

There’s a lot to listen to on Peter Gabriel 1, an awful lot.  It is interesting though as he headed out on his own for the first time, like a learner not wanting to let go of the rail at the swimming pool, the first track ‘Moribund the Burgomeister’ which, with a little conceptual jiggling, could have been added to The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway without too much trouble.  The percussion is maybe a little more out there than Genesis would have permitted, but the big major chord crescendos are in place and Gabriel sings in a very Genesis-y way.  Funnily enough it’s my least favourite track on the LP.

Seconds up it’s the all-conquering, all mighty, all victorious ‘Solsbury Hill’ – just try not to like this, it’s impossible.  Saying anything unpleasant about this song would be the critical equivalent of seal clubbing, it just wouldn’t be right.  I learnt to play this on recorder when I was ten, a good fifteen years before I ever heard the original tune, so I have always thought of Peter Gabriel’s version as a bit of a cover version of mine really.  It is a stunning track, folky, poppy and yearning-y all in the right quotas, I had no idea until about a year ago it was about leaving Genesis – yup, I know colour me dense.  In fact as befits a man of my giant intellect and cultural acuity I just took it all at face value as a pretty song.**  And it is a pretty song too, having had a bloody awful day at work this was exactly the spiritual balm I needed tonight.

You want fries with that Mr Genesis?
You want fries with that Mr Genesis?

I’m trying not to do a full-on track by track but ‘Modern Love’ really does demand my attention here.  It’s a brilliant track and the closest I can think of PG getting to straight-ahead rock, you can really hear Bob Ezrin’s influence on this one.  In fact, the divine Robert Fripp excepted, the band that was assembled for Peter Gabriel 1 overlaps very interestingly with Alice Cooper’s one on, Ezrin-produced, Welcome To My Nightmare; Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner and Tony Levin – also linking this into Lou Reed and KISS too.  This is great, the lyrics are playful and surely no-one would contradict me when I state, confidently that ‘Modern Love’ is Mr Gabriel’s most cock-orientated track until he unleashed his ‘Sledgehammer’ on an unsuspecting public.

Again, not trying to do a track by track etc.  but who couldn’t love the barbershop genius of ‘No Excuses’? it sounds like a track that was cut from the Bugsy Malone soundtrack for having a bit too much existential angst, ‘let’s just chuck the track about being a boxer in, instead Mr Parker’, witness –

Excuse me
You’re wearing out my joie de vie
Grabbing those good years again
I want to be alone

Tell me about it, Peter!  Fits me perfectly tonight.  Without a word of exaggeration I reckon I must have listened to this track well in excess of 2.75 million times tonight.  True story.

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Just to prove I’m one of those hard-assed, take no prisoners music critic types I’m not at all fun of ‘Humdrum’ or ‘Slowburn’, the latter in particular is a waste of a damn good title and the former {tries to avoid empty goal, in vain} is just a bit to humdrum for me.  The lounge blues of ‘Waiting For the Big One’ is a welcome step back in the right direction, pitched just the right side of played-for-laughs.  But Peter Gabriel 1 really hits its’ stride again on the last two tracks, which segue into each other, ‘Down The Dolce Vita / Here Comes The Flood’.  Wow.

The former sets off like an disco-orchestral version of Survivor ‘Eye of The Tiger’, to the point where I found myself shadow-boxing fiercely, Bob Ezrin certainly knows his way around a symphony orchestra – in fact when I eventually get to go solo, I’ll get him in to produce on 1537 1.  Peter Gabriel ahs gone on record as saying that he feels ‘Here Comes the Flood’ is over-produced and I can understand that, Bob Ezrin paints in big anthemic primary colours, but I rather like it’s obviousness and epic scope – the sound of it very much foreshadows Bob Ezrin’s later involvement on The Wall, the guitar solo is almost Gilmour-esque.

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I came pretty late to this album and it is a damn fine one too, a few tunes shy of being a classic but well on the road.  There’s a school of thought that says Peter Gabriel 1 is a bit unfocused and scattershot, too many styles, too many ideas jiggling around in the mix.  I disagree, there really is something wonderfully old school these days about an artist putting out an LP where every track really is different, there’s ample scope for doo-wop barbershop prog lounge-blues disco-orchestral folk-pop on a single platter, as long as it’s all done as well as this.

Plus I just love the LP cover, those old Hipgnosis sleeves are the best and (smugly) best experienced in fabulous 12″ o’vision.  The pale ghost-like Peter peering out through that odd confluence of angles of the Lancia bejewelled by water droplets.  If it has been my album I’d probably have insisted on a Parental Advisory sticker in the corner and have replaced Mr Gabriel with a busty wench, but you know I guess not everyone is born with my level of rock acumen.

Peter Gabriel 1 01

326 Down.

*although Mrs 1537 has promised to review both her Dan Reed Network LP’s as a guest spot at some point – I can’t see his attraction personally but it’s something about the way he moved like a feral cat.

** Check out this awesome ‘pushbike version’ I found, I’ve never particularly had an urge to go and see him perform until now.  I used to any get thrilled by pyro, strippers, cannons and, umm, huge bells but watching an older fella riding around on a bike in little circles does it for me now.

16 thoughts on “Conceptual Jiggling

  1. One of CB’s all time faves. Good take. I can remember the anticipation of waiting for this record (similar to waiting for Born to Run and Darkness Edge of Town). Was not disappointed when I got my hands on it. The Fripp/Gabriel connection was a big bonus. Yeah you handled it well. Steve Hunter’s solo on ‘Big One’ gets me every time. Lots to like with this record.
    Gold star on this one. (Went for a walk today with your fave band on the discman ‘Ballbreaker’ and found a little Lego man lying in the mud. I rescued him. I had to drop in on you after that)

  2. “Solsbury Hill”? Is that how it’s spelled? I’d always been doing it wrong. Oddly, that song always sounded like a male imitation of Kate Bush. Oh that’s not a bad thing … just an odd thing.

  3. Not sure which I prefer, your write-up or the images. Great post, as always, on an artist I’ve liked since the early 80s, and I probably appreciate him more & more as the years pass by. Finally got to see him for the first time 2 years ago on his Back To Front tour (where he reunited with the So touring band to play that album in its entirety along with others from his catalog). I was supposed to see him in ’86 with my college girlfriend, who had bought me tickets for my birthday earlier in the year. Unfortunately, we split a few weeks before the show & she still had the tickets…so I didn’t see that tour or any others for 25 years. He’s still an amazing performer…just wish he was more prolific.

    Those early albums are really unique, as they don’t sound like anything else at the time, and there was no way to predict them based on his work with Genesis.

    1. Thank you Rich, I appreciate it. I have a similar story about not seeing the Rolling Stones …

      The closest I’ve come to seeing Peter Gabriel is seeing him walking around his WOMAD festival.

  4. This and So are the only PG albums I’ve spent any time with. I’ve got them all up until So but it always seems like listening to any of them is going to be an amazingly daunting task! I think you nailed the ups and downs of this one.

  5. Terrific album, marvellous review: a lovely combo of info and humour, insight and opinion. Other than liking ‘Humdrum’ more than you do, I agree with everything you say, so either we’re both deluded dunces, or you are a music lover of taste and discernment.

    By the way, there is a brilliant non-orchestral version of ‘Here Comes the Flood’ on Robert Fripp’s Exposure. Worth a listen.

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