“The Story Of… Peter Gabriel One” – Narrated from Moribund the Burgermeister’s padded cell by Alan Hewitt. Photos by Guido Truffer and Ted Sayers.
1977 was to be a busy year if you were a Genesis fan. The band brought us what many fans have since come to regard as the last “classic” Genesis album in the shape of Wind And Wuthering, which also proved to be Steve Hackett’s swansong with the band. The year also saw two of the original members returning to the musical fold with their first solo offerings. Anthony Phillips’ The Geese And The Ghost album is covered in an extensive feature in a forthcoming issue of TWR. Peter Gabriel also returned to the ‘machinery’ of the music business with his first solo album which is now celebrating its 30th anniversary and whose story is to be told in this feature.
Even though he had disavowed music in favour of a life of ‘growing babies and cabbages’ as he so charmingly put it, Peter could not long resist the lure of songwriting again. He had experimented with lyricist Martin Hall on some demo material in 1974. None of that material apart from the putative single by comedian Charlie Drake, You Never Know, which was released by Charisma to public indifference in 1975. The other tracks from that session remain unheard. The collaboration with Hall continued into 1976 by which time Peter was determined to re-establish himself on the music front. Fortunately for fans, a recently released bootleg of some of this material gives a glimpse into these early efforts. At least two of the tracks; Excuse Me and Here Comes The Flood were eventually destined to find a place on Peter’s first effort.
Peter also worked on some of his early demos for the new album with Phil Collins and Anthony Phillips before wisely ditching this material and any associated Genesis connections in favour of a new sound which, although not completely divorced from that of his old band mates, was sufficiently different to take both fans and critics by surprise.
The album, Peter Gabriel, was released in the UK on 25th February 1977. Unusually, it was not preceded by a single. By the time the album emerged, Peter’s former band mates were riding high on the crest of the wave of success generated by the success of their two Gabriel-less albums A Trick Of The Tail and Wind And Wuthering!
The new album lived up to the advertising which advised the public to “expect the unexpected” and as Peter himself stated in an interview he gave at the time… “with this album I’ve tried to get away from Genesis and establish a separate identity. I think I hope I succeeded”!
With no opening single to give the game away, PG1 as it soon became known by fans, certainly was a million miles away from Genesis in some aspects and yet strangely close to them in others.
Opening with the story of urban paranoia and Big Brother styled societal control as purveyed by Moribund The Burgermeister it was not difficult to see the change in direction that Peter was striving towards. Solsbury Hill owes itself to not only the place of that name but also the stories of Carlos Castaneda while Modern Love takes a wry dig at the modern day obsession with objects rather than people!
Musically perhaps, the album is certainly at its furthest away from Genesis. Peter has taken his desire to innovate with new sounds and recording techniques, so big a part of his last album with Genesis, and continued to explore this avenue in search of new and exciting sounds. Vocally and lyrically however, the change is not quite so pronounced.
With an album to promote, it was obvious that Peter would soon be on the road. What kind of show he would offer the fans after the Genesis extravaganzas was anyone’s guess. The fans did not have long to wait as a string of US dates were announced for March 1977 and European and UK shows soon followed.
From the outset, the shows were different. Peter emerged onstage in a grey flannel tracksuit, not a slipperman in sight, and the rest of his new look band including the now familiar bass of Tony Levin and Steve Hunter on guitar were not prepared to take any prisoners.
Every track from the new album featured in the set which was high on drama and not devoid of humour either. The barbershop ‘harmonies’ on Excuse Me, anyone? With no stage ‘mask’ to hide behind, the emphasis was firmly on the music and its presentation. Peter took some musical chances. Opening with Here Comes The Flood was not guaranteed to get the audience going but in a perverse way, it worked!
Peter even managed to pay homage to his original inspiration, Motown, with a stonking rendering of All Day And All Of The Night and Heard It Through The Grapevine as well as trying songs which were still very much works in progress on a crowd eager for whatever he chose to deliver.
During the course of the year two singles were issued from the album. Solsbury Hill, in March which gave Peter his first single chart success at number 13 in the UK chart. Ironically enough, the second single, Modern Love which was released in June was also a great success, attaining a top ten position in the UK charts.
Peter continued to tour throughout the remainder of 1977 bringing his very own “Animal Magic” to enthusiastic crowds everywhere. Although it has to be said that the Swiss Police were not quite so enthusiastic at one border inspection when they found the band and their promoter and a bag full of cash (the receipts from the previous nights’ gig) and arrested them as suspected Bader Meinhof terrorists! Even an acapella version of Excuse Me failed to impress – oh well, that’s showbusiness I guess…!
By the end of 1977 Peter must have been well pleased with his efforts. He had re-established his credentials both to the critics and, more importantly, to the the fans who attended his shows in droves and ensured the success of the album. He was now free to concentrate on the all-important follow up but that, dear readers, is another story!
Peter Gabriel UK Discography 1977
Peter Gabriel – Charisma Records 25/2/77 PG1
Solsbury Hill/Moribund The Burgermeister – Charisma Records 7” single (PS) CB301 ?/3/77
Modern Love/Slowburn – Charisma Records 7” single CB302 ?/6/77
(Also released as a “nude” label edition subsequently withdrawn)
1977 Peter Gabriel Live set variations
Here Comes The Flood/On The Air/Moribund The Burgermeister/Waiting For The Big One/Why Don’t We?/Excuse Me/Humdrum/Solsbury Hill/Ain’t That Peculiar/Indigo/All Day And All Of The Night/Here Comes The Flood/Modern Love/Down The Dolce Vita/Back In NYC
Here Comes The Flood/Slowburn/Moribund The Burgermeister/Modern Love/Indigo/Humdrum/White Shadow/Heard It Through The Grapevine/Excuse Me/Waiting For The Big One/Solsbury Hill/Down The Dolce Vita/On The Air/All Day And All Of The Night/Here Comes The Flood/The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
At several early gigs on the September tour Peter also included an unfinished version of DIY in the set.
Cleveland Music Hall 15/3/77
Roxy Club Los Angeles 9/4/77
Apollo Theatre Manchester 23/4/77
Palais Des Sports Courtrai 2/9/77
Empire Theatre Liverpool 23/9/77
Free Trade Hall Manchester 29/9/77