“I Have The Touch” - The Peter Gabriel Story Part Three by Alan Hewitt. Photographs: Mike Ellison/Ted Sayers. Memorabilia: TWR Archive.
Peter must have felt a certain quiet satisfaction after the success of his third album and his search for innovative music was to lead to a two year hiatus before the results of his search were finally heard.
Peter had started gathering tapes of music from around the world including Africa, Bali and Australia. He was convinced that this style of music was about to come into its own… “I feel that an important influence on music over the next few years will be ethnic in origin and I can hear it being combined with electronics and more expressive emotive use of the synthesiser…”
His fascination with rhythm was to lead him into a desire to produce and promote a festival which would bring this music to a wider audience and would eventually lead to the staging of the first World of Music Arts and Dance (WOMAD) festival in the summer of 1982. Thing were not that simple, however, the event was originally planned for the spring/summer of 1981 but financial realities and the lack of a major backer for the proposed festival delayed things immensely and Gabriel’s involvement also held back work on his next album.
The new record deal for Peter in the USA took him into the fold of the newly established Geffen Records who, unlike Atlantic and Mercury, left his artistic integrity intact, although there was concern about the lack of an album title. The album was filled with the new sounds that Peter had been acquiring: Ethiopian pipes formed the harmonies around which The Family & The Fishing Net was written, while the Surdo drum from Brazil was the rhythmic base for Kiss of Life.
The album received some scathing reviews. The first single taken from it; Shock The Monkey, was released at roughly the same time as the album and was too much for the reviewer in Sounds who had the following to say about it… “Forget heavy metal, punk, the Rolling Stones, forget the most horrendous musical niche you can think of - because the most horrendous of this lot is this: the Comfortably Middle Aged Set at which Genesis and associates sit at the head of the (leather bound) table…”
Not all of the reviews were as bad, indeed in many areas Peter was praised for breaking down further the barriers that segregate musical forms and he even received noteworthy reviews in black music papers.
As in 1979 when he had played a couple of festivals at which he had premiered pieces off the as yet unreleased third album, Peter did the same in July 1982 when the overdue WOMAD festival finally took place at Shepton Mallet over the weekend of 16th -18th July. Unfortunately the authorities restricted the performances by the named acts (Gabriel and Echo & The Bunnymen) to the 4000 seater Showering Pavilion which rather reduced the appeal of the festival to those who couldn’t get tickets for what for them were the acts they wanted to see. Gabriel’s performance that day was amazingly drawn almost exclusively from material from the unreleased album. The set was as follows: San Jactinto/The Family & The Fishing Net/I Have The Touch/Lay Your Hands On Me/Shock The Monkey/I Go Swimming/Rhythm Of The Heat/Shosholosa/Kiss Of Life/Biko.
Peter was joined on stage for the performance by one of the acts which had been part of the inspiration for the festival in the first place; The Drummers Of Burundi, whose frantic rhythms so energised Gabriel’s stage performance especially during Rhythm Of The Heat , where his lyrics really came into their own…
The rhythm is around me
The rhythm has control
The rhythm is inside me
The rhythm has my soul…
His performance came close to a real “possession” by the rhythm which was equally infectious among the audience!
Peter also played a second set on the Sunday evening at the festival in the company of Peter Hammill and Indian violinist, Shankar. Their set that night was, if anything, even more challenging than the one mentioned above, consisting as it did of several improvised pieces: A Ritual Mask/Dog One/Dog Two/Dog Three/Indian Melody/Across The River/Across The River (reprise).
The first show was recorded as part of a the ITV Southbank Show documentary on Peter which was broadcast on Sunday 31st October 1982 in which Peter was quick to reply to the critical detractors of his new album… “One of the real satisfactions for me with this record is that I am played on black radio stations in America, and even though in the white press I have had some fair slaggings this time, I had some very good reviews in black magazines… there are definitely elements of this hybrid between electronic non-European influences. I think a lot more musicians are now working in this area and there will be a style of music to emerge in the Eighties which I think will be very important and influential…”
A second single from the album was released later in the year and, like its predecessor, it failed to make much impression on the charts. The track was I Have The Touch which was coupled with a non-album B side: Across The River which was co-written by Gabriel with Shankar and Stwewart Copeland. The album in the meantime, had, despite the critics reached the Top Ten in the UK and elsewhere and so it was time for Peter to embark on his lengthiest tour to promote it.
The tour kicked off in Boston USA on 28th October and was soon to prove all of the things the fans had cherished about Peter. Once more “expect the unexpected” was the order of the day as Peter and the band played a set high on drama and adventure which usually comprised the following songs: Rhythm Of The Heat/I Have The Touch/Not One Of Us/The Family & The Fishing Net/Shock The Monkey/Family Snapshot/Intruder/I Go Swimming/Lay Your Hands On Me/Solsbury Hill/I Don’t Remember/San Jacinto/On The Air/Kiss Of Life/Biko.
There were a couple of unusual inclusions during the first part of the tour especially during the shows at Poughkeepsie New York on 1st November and Toronto 8th November 1982, where Peter aired a song which has yet to be recorded: John Has A Headache (see “Just So Stories” elsewhere in this issue). Peter sporting facial makeup for the first time since his days in Genesis, led the band through a marvellous set which was very well received.
The tour continued into 1983 and finally reached Europe for a few dates in June/July before going back to the US for shows as the guest of David Bowie on his highly successful Serious Moonlight tour. During the European shows in Italy, Peter won several prestigious awards including the Telegatto award and he was a guest at that year’s San Remo Festival where he performed one of the strangest things ever in his career. This involved him playing the part of an alien from another planet for the benefit of the TV cameras where he arrived at the festival and asked questions of the artists performing at it before being introduced himself. He performed Shock The Monkey, which he played on both nights and on the second night he nearly had a nasty accident when he swang out on a rope over the audience and fell off!
The set for the later legs of the US and European tour which eventually continued until the end of October 1983 contained several changes to the set from 1982 and included: Across the River/I Have The Touch/Not One Of Us/The Family & The Fishing Net/Shock The Monkey/Family Snapshot/Intruder/Games Without Frontiers/Lay Your Hands On Me/Solsbury Hill/I Don’t Remember/San Jacinto/On The Air/Biko/Here Comes The Flood.
Several other tracks were also played either in place of those above or in addition to them and these included Humdrum, Rhythm Of The Heat, Kiss Of Life, Milgrams’ 37 and DIY as well as No Self Control and Wallflower. In Europe there were also several tracks played in the language of the country the band were playing in, these included : Schock Den Affen (Shock The Monkey), Kontakt (I Have The Touch) as well as the old favourites such as Spiele Ohne Grenzen (Games Without Frontiers) and Jetzt Kommt Die Flut (Here Comes The Flood) all of which were also sung in Italian and French at different shows.
In late 1982 Peter also released the fourth album in German entitled Deutcsches Album - it contained several different mixes of the tracks from the album, some of which were substantially longer than their UK counterparts.
Responding to demands from fans for a live album, Peter finally released a double album titled originally enough - Plays Live which contained the highlights from Peter’s new show. There was also a single: I Don’t Remember which coupled Solsbury Hill and Kiss Of Life on the 12” - this initially came with a white label 12” with the studio versions of Games… and the German version of Family Snapshot on it.
On 9th July 1983, Peter played at the Crystal Palace Showground in London where he was joined by Phil Collins for the encore. The tour finally reached the UK in September and was mainly confined to theatres where Peter’s stage presence and the sheer musical prowess of the band were ecstatically received. After the final leg of the tour in Europe, Peter was to take time out to try and sort out some of his own family problems as well as to branch out into other areas apart from music and it was to be another two years before another album was released by him, but more of that next time…