[aside, before we get into it: After overdosing on the 1960s last week, and revisiting this Peter Gabriel interview, I’m thinking I might need to do a write-up or five of The Old Grey Whistle Test]
[extended aside: I’ll likely also revisit WOMAD in some later post]
“What sort of show was it, for the people that didn’t go? Was it a Genesis show, or a Peter Gabriel show…”
↑ Peter Gabriel interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Shb-bkr8oM4) on the Old Grey Whistle Test, 1982. ‘Last Saturday’ as referenced in the interview was 2 October 1982, a one-off Genesis reunion concert billed in some places as Six of the Best.
This is a pre-MTV-Sledgehammer Gabriel, but also a post-Genesis Gabriel. It is also an interview post-WOMAD, a 1982 experiment that might be called a failure. The interview above covers this—and partly glosses over it—but the really interesting bit is that Gabriel’s former band mates (burned? just 7 years prior when Gabriel left the group) set any animosity (real or imagined) aside, played a benefit-concert-to-pay-for-the-benefit-concert and basically, pulled Pete’s nuts out of the fire. This not only ensured the future of WOMAD as a travelling tour and institution, but also meant Gabriel could continue in his course as a solo artist without the albatross of crippling debt and the lingering miasma of failure.
— The Music Biz (such as it was) was amazing for its leaps-of-faith and constant innovation, supporting new acts, though of course the flipside of that is the near-instant revocation of trust and support as soon as you are old, busted, or done. (…until the near-inevitable comeback tour, of course, but that takes time.)
Here is a moment, in an 1982 interview, 5 whole minutes long, where we get a glimpse of a whole career arc.
Gabriel dodged a bullet, though of course that was likely helped by the fact that his 4th solo album had already been recorded and released (“Security”, Sept. 1982) and ‘Shock the Monkey’ — the closest thing to a hit single he’d have* — was Security’s solid B-side intro.
*Solsbury Hill, 1977 and Games without Frontiers, 1980 not withstanding.
WOMAD was and is an amazing contribution to collective culture – though anyone who’d been listening to Pete through his solo career would hardly be surprised. Here, have some more YouTube:
Peter Gabriel on The South Bank Show, The Making of Security (1983) (49min)
Sources, process, equipment, inspirations — and kindly note his use of both drum machines and looping way back in the early 80s. Listening to Gabriel cite Jung is a special bonus.
I’m a prog rock fan, so while I love solo Peter Gabriel, and can understand the enthusiasm for 80s Genesis (even if I don’t share it) I have to say that early Genesis is the shit, on a short list that also includes Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues.
Inside Genesis 1970 – 1975 (57min)
Pretentious? Yes. Over the top, theatrical? Yes.
More theatre than music? well, that’s a hard one… YouTube evidence (live performance, for the most part) differs from studio albums. Alice Cooper was doing the same thing at the same time (and doing it better). Genesis, for all their musical chops, lacked energy — the Punks in England could be seen as a direct challenge to progs like Genesis — but like the later Punk Rock, Genesis was also challenging the music establishment and their audience.
Genesis: A History (1991) (1hr29min)
Some see extended solos and baroque arrangements as useless musical excess; from the other side, these long ‘jam band’ sets are a response to decades of 3 minute pop singles, and a return to music — and this puts Genesis, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, ELP, and ELO all on the same team.
Pete, man, he’s done quite a bit.
He always seems to be on the fringes, but his impact is oversized for his output — WOMAD pre-dates Live Aid by 3 years Grammy-winning Graceland by 4. The drum machines and loops of ’82s Security seem years too early when compared to the rest of British New Wave – by 1986, So became not only an instant classic, it gave us the soundtrack to the defining GenX moment. And yet, in interviews, he always combines the bravura and bravado of the musical genius (that he is) with a healthy dose of self-deprecation and humor (often, humor at his own expense) as well as grounded context.
Peter Gabriel talks about WOMAD “A Bunch of Idealistic Amateurs” (7min)
DNA: The Evolution of the Songs from ‘So’ (8min)
Peter Gabriel: “Back to Front”, Talks at Google (43min)
1977: still and all, maybe his most accessible hit.
1982: and five years later, following the success of Sledgehammer (‘86), I remember this video in rotation on MTV
1989: Say Anything
** for those following along on twitter, a sub-set of these videos was initially shared on Sunday, 16 March 2014 as part of the usual weekly nonsense; it just took a while for me to actually get around to a write-up.