Back in the mid-Seventies, when I was purchasing and reading rock magazines such as Creem, Circus and Hit Parade, I would quickly read the articles about Kiss or some other band that I loved at the time. But, being the voracious reader I was, I quickly moved on to the other articles about the bands I had never heard, many of whom I would not hear until I was in college. Which brings me to the great English prog band, Genesis, and their eccentric lead singer about to go solo Peter Gabriel. For some reason, in 1976 or 1977, had I never heard that band’s music, that is until after Gabriel split. But, I was always very intrigued by the photos of the band, both with and without Gabriel. Though, I have to admit, that the photos of Genesis with Gabriel always seemed way more interesting than without, but that’s not the point. But, I had store information about all involved in my brain.
Fast-forward a bit to the summer of 1978, when I was going out to Colorado for that National Explorer Olympics. While out in Fort Collins, I was listening to a radio station that seemed fairly cool at the time when the DJ announced that the upcoming song was a new one by Genesis, without Gabriel as the lead singer. The DJ explained that the band’s drummer, Phil Collins, was taking over the lead singer role. The song was “Follow You, Follow Me,” and it was a nice song, a little dreamy, and a slice of late-Seventies pop/rock.
Now, I knew what Genesis was all about, so I was now curious about Peter Gabriel. During some off-time from the track workouts and racing, a couple of buddies and me went to a record store in town to listen to some Peter Gabriel. Well, the guys at the store enthusiastically put on Gabriel’s second eponymous titled album (his first four albums would all be entitled Peter Gabriel. What I heard was different than anything I had heard up to that point. I wasn’t sure what I thought of it. When Side One ended, one of the guys asked me what I thought. My reaction: I was more confused than before I had hear. It was enchanting and disturbing all at the same time. Unfortunately, I passed on buying it, but once again, filed the initial musings in my brain.
When I was a senior in high school, our school radio station had received Peter Gabriel’s third self-titled album and Genesis’ Duke album. Immediately, I grabbed them, went into the production room, and listened to both. And, I was blown away, especially by Gabriel’s album. The Genesis album was good, but Gabriel’s album was haunting and moving. And, when I heard Gabriel’s first single from the album, “Games Without Frontiers.” Genesis also contributed a great single in “Turn It On Again.” So, both songs became important songs during my show. Every show began with “Turn It On Again,” while my set’s nest-to-last song was always “Games Without Frontiers.”
Well, long story short, I became a Peter Gabriel fan. His albums were always built around an artist’s mentality, with intellectual flourishes thrown in for good measure. I was hooked on his music. While I enjoyed Genesis and Phil Collins for their pop leanings and songwriting, it was Gabriel’s towering persona that had captured my imagination.
So, today, I am going to rank Peter Gabriel’s studio albums, in honor of a man who was once willing to dress as a flower as part of his visual accents to Genesis’ music.
11. Up (2002). Tired, boring and behind the times. Everything Peter Gabriel once never was.
10. Us (1992). Gabriel tried to repeat the magic of his highly successful So. The whole thing just sounded forced.
9. And I’ll Scratch Yours (2013). This album is the companion album of Scratch My Back, in which the artists Gabriel covered on that album return the favor my covering Gabriel songs. Interesting to hear how other artists interpret some of Gabriel’s most important songs.
8. Scratch My Back (2010). Gabriel decides to make cover versions of the music of some of his favorite artists’ music. Makes for an interesting listen, especially after And I’ll Scratch Yours was released.
7. New Blood (2011). By all means, I should HATE this album. But, I don’t. This is an album of re-imaginations of some of Gabriel’s most-loved songs. It’s a whole album of The Police re-recording “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”. Unnecessary, yet interesting for a brief moment.
6. Passion (1989). Remember the controversial book, The Last Temptation of Christ, which got author Salman Rushdie a death warrant put out on him by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini? This album was supposed to the the movie’s soundtrack. But with so much controversy surrounding the movie version, that this music was dropped in favor of a traditional soundtrack. Still, this album’s not too bad.
5. Peter Gabriel [2 or Scratch] (1978). The second of four consecutive self-titled albums. This one is remembered for the song that praised the “Do It Yourself” mentality of the whole punk movement. That song is “D.I.Y.”
4. Peter Gabriel [Security] (1982). How can any album with “Shock the Monkey” be that bad? Apparently, none.
3. Peter Gabriel [1 or Rain or Car] (1977). This is the sound of prog rock becoming minimalist in sound. A real foreshadowing of the music of the Eighties.
2. So (1986). The album that broke Peter Gabriel commercially throughout the universe, with his first Top 10 singles, “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time,” both of which had ground-breaking videos. This was the fruition of Gabriel’s total vision. This is really the sound of the world catching up with Gabriel.
1. Peter Gabriel [3 or Melting] (1980). This haunting album remains my favorite almost 40 years later, with great songs like “Games Without Frontiers,” “Intruder” and the anti-apartheid song “Biko.”
Peter Gabriel introduced me to Stephen Biko and the whole South African problem of apartheid. Additionally, I learned of Amnesty International through Peter Gabriel. His work for human rights is world renown. So, yes, his music drew me in, but his message was my life lesson. And, for that, I salute you Mr. Peter Gabriel!