“The Peter Gabriel Story: Part Seven ” - Scratch My Back and other stories. Narrated by Alan Hewitt. Photographs by: Ted Sayers and Veronique Pelletier. Memorabilia: TWR archive.
And here we are once more folks, this time I bring Peter's fascinating story right up to date with this final (so far) chapter of the Peter Gabriel Story…
At the end of the 2093-04 touring round, Peter continued to be high profile but for reasons not always associated with music.His interest in technology had led to the creation of the OD2 streaming service which was soon to be overtaken by Apple's iTunes world dominating platform. MUDDA (Magnificent Union of Digitally Downloading Artists) was another dip into the constantly evolving sea of digital media, something which has always fascinated Peter.
The slew of releases that came in the wake of UP and the shows included no less than two filmed concert performances and, to the fans' delight, every show from the 2002-04 tours was made available as "official bootlegs" whilst the "Hit" album, released in November 2003, gave us a rarity - a new track: Burn You Up, Burn You Down which has since become a live favourite. Peter also tantalised his audiences with further new offerings during the course of the tours with new songs Baby Man, Animal Nation and White Ashes being performed but as yet, there is no sign of their official release.
Peter was also a vociferous opponent of the war which followed the 9/11 attrocity which isn't surprising given his involvement in so many peaceable activities.
By late 2004 the rumour mill had begun to churn again about a reunion with his former bandmates in Genesis. Over the preceding couple of years, since the release of the second Genesis Archive set, various comments from one band member or another had given indications that just such an event was being considered. In the event, the five of them did in fact get together prior to one of Phil's shows in Glasgow on the final leg of his "First Final Farewell" tour. By all accounts the initial brief was to discuss the likelihood of the band performing some shows based around The Lamb ...but as usual, everybody fell back into their old default positions and that idea remains in abeyance. Genesis themselves however, reformed as the three man lineup and went on the road on the Turn It On Again tour (or as Phil put it at the press conference announcing the gigs: A Selection of Shows!) to great acclaim.
2005 saw the revival of the "Global Jukebox" that was "Live 8" with the various events channelling funds into the"Make Poverty History" campaign. Once again, Genesis were overlooked for the event which was dominated by the long anticipated reunion of Pink Floyd. Peter however, did contribute by helping to organise an event at the Eden Project which, much like the original WOMAD Festival focussed on musicians and artists from Africa and elsewhere - ironically the Eden Project is located not far from the site of the original WOMAD!
On 17th November 2006, Peter was awarded the Man Of Peace award during the seventh World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, a well deserved award it was too! This award was also to spark another cause in which Peter was to invest much time and effort - The Elders, a private alliance of figures who were well known although no longer in the public domain, whose profiles could enable them to move freely within domains and advise on solutions to ongoing problems. The initial "Elders" included Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, and the ubiquitous Nelson Mandela.
2007 saw the "Warm Up" tour of various locations across Europe with a handful of shows in the UK. What exactly it was a warm up for however, remains a mystery but it delighted fans by bringing many older songs back into the set.
The early 21st Century saw Peter receiving and being nominated for several humanitarian awards - deserved and in the opinion of many; long overdue.
Something else that was long overdue was a new album and in 2008 we were given that...of sorts. The Big Blue Ball project which took its name from an astronaut's description of Earth as seen from space, included some of Peter's most convincing work in ages not least Burn You Up, Burn You Down which had already been released alongside five other tracks the most impressive of which to my ears at least, was The Whole Thing which featured Peter and Tim Finn. The album was the result of the compilation of the results of the Real World Recording Weeks which, spanning some EIGHTEEN years' worth of music, make this the Gabriel album with the longest gestation period to date!
Peter also contributed to yet another film soundtrack with Down To Earth being recorded for the Pixar Animations film, Wall-E, and to complete another remarkable year, he also became a father again as his new wife Meabh gave birth to their second child, Luc on 5th July 2008.
Still toying with the idea of the IO project, which had originally been intended to follow on from UP, Peter eventually opted to go in a completely different direction taking him away from the rock environment he was used to working in and the idea of doing a covers album emerged. Of course, being Peter Gabriel this was to be a covers album with a difference as he explained in the sleeve notes to the album…
I thought it would be much more fun to create a new type of project in which artists communicated with each other and swapped a song for a song; you do one of mine and I will do one of yours, hence the title: Scratch My Back…
The whittling down process of over 100 songs originally under consideration began in 2008. Knowing how slowly Peter normally works, the project was assembled in a surprisingly short period of time and, when you throw in the added fact that it was taken away from the usual rock ambit and put into the hands of orchestral players, the end result was all the more remarkable.
The album was released in February 2010 an astonishingly short gestation period for a Gabriel-led project and opinion on it was divided. You were either totally immersed in the end result or, like me, you were not convinced. I am firmly of the opinion that Peter took his perverse liking for the obscure to levels we had not seen since the days of The Lamb...with this one.
That didn't stop Peter from embarking on an extended series of shows with his New Blood Orchestra taking in most of the large scale arenas in Europe and the USA but reserving his UK appearances to several London shows. The end result was captured for posterity when two of those London shows were recorded and released as the New Blood Live In London DVD and Live Blood album.
Peter's touring regime was a convenient excuse for not being reunited with the rest of Genesis when they were finally inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame which, as usual started yet another set of reunion rumours!
The tour got under way in late March 2010 and was a great success. Musically it worked best when the orchestra and band combined to produce something truly remarkable and was particularly impressive on tracks such as Wallflower and Signal To Noise. The result was a recapitulation and re-evaluation of Peter's music which had been long overdue.
At the end of the tours Peter announced that he was taking a year off. Some might have asked haven't you had enough time off but even during the periods when Peter had not been visible, he had been far from idle! His Sabbatical also coincided with the 25th anniversary of the seminal So album and work had been ongoing on a box set reappraisal of that album which, in typical Gabriel fashion, was finally released five months AFTER the anniversary had passed!
When Peter did return from his "Year of Interesting Things" as he called it, there was the small matter of another tour to look forward to. Punningly titled, Back To Front, this one saw Peter doing what he had hitherto eschewed, embracing nostalgia and looking backwards instead of forwards. The shows which ran through the autumn of 2012, 2013 and 2014 saw Peter perform the So album in its entirety alongside several other classics from his impressive repertoire and a couple of as yet unreleased songs.
The autumn of 2014 saw the spectre of Genesis reappear as a new compilation album - R Kive had been put together which not only included all the usual suspects from Genesis's back catalogue but also for the first time included representative tracks from each of the solo careers. In addition to this, there was also a long overdue retrospective documentary on the band's career which had been commissioned by the BBC. Titled Together & Apart, it was premiered at the Haymarket Cinema London on 2nd October 2014 in front of an invited audience and in the presence of the five members of the band who, it has to be said, from my viewpoint as one of the attendees, appeared distinctly uncomfortable.
The film itself also showed up the ongoing antagonisms between certain band members and the almost complete lack of reference to Steve Hackett led to him subsequently publicly disowning the project after its premiere. What Peter thought on the subject he has never stated publicly and remains unlikely to do so.
That publicity obligation aside, Peter returned to touring to round off the Back To Front shows with a handful on home turf in the UK. Once again, the show in London was selected for the obligatory DVD which showed Peter at his most relaxed and comfortable in ages, and displaying a fine line in self deprecating humour.
Yet another award also came to Peter when he was nominated for and received the dubious honour of Prog God from Prog Magazine which followed on from his belated induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in his own right earlier that year.
Peter's profile was lower in 2015 although he did appear at that year's Prog Awards to hand the "Rock God" award title on to his former band mate, Tony Banks. To the evident amusement of them both!
2016 saw Peter releasing new music but little of it, and what there was, was only via digital domain to the consternation of many of his fans - me included! The autumn also saw the unlikely pairing of Peter with Sting for the 16 date Rock, Scissors, Paper tour of the USA. Effectively bringing the greatest hits of both artists to the show, this was a marvellous celebration which fans in the UK and Europe were eagerly anticipating.
Sadly, since 2016 Peter has all but disappeared off the radar once again with only occasional digital releases and the "PG" soundtrack compilation irritatingly released this time on vinyl only!
However, in Peter's defence, the last few years have been very trying for him. His wife Meabh developed a rare form of cancer and Peter has, quite rightly dedicated himself to her care and that of his young family. Reports indicate that Meabh has made a complete recovery after treatment in the USA which is great news.
With Peter himself now being seventy and in that category classed as vulnerable during the current Pandemic, whether we shall see anything new from him remains to be seen. What is not in doubt is the legacy that his recorded career in and out of Genesis has left behind.