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Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (1977)

June 2, 2014

[Album 317/1001]220px-Peter_Gabriel_(self-titled_album,_1977_-_cover_art)

New Business Idea: Form a travel company, offering tours of famous hills referenced in song.

On the travel itinerary:
– U2’s One Tree Hill in Auckland, New Zealand
Fats Domino‘s Blueberry Hill, supposedly in New Mexico (“there’s a New Mexico?“)
– Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill in Somerset, England.

Three songs, three continents, if one were so inclined, this reeks of potential!

Sticking with grouping items in threes, Peter Gabriel’s solo debut excels in three areas:

1) Its Personnel

– Robert Fripp is quickly climbing my list of underrated guitarists.  With his work here and on Heroes, he had quite the year in ’77.

– Add another winning production to Bob Ezrin’s already impressive resume.

– Then there’s also the matter of the terrific lead singer.

2) Its “Normal” songs

– Solsbury Hill is a timeless tune, with an equally evergreen acoustic intro.

– The cowbell in Modern Love propels the song forward.  On par with the Bowie tune of the same name (though each artist has written stronger songs, both Modern Loves are never less than agreeable).

– Humdrum starts with subtlety before growing into a majestic midsection.  Great lyric about not needing a stethoscope as well.

3) Its “Weird” songs

A few months ago, when I was raving to my friend Mark about Kate Bush, he started singing Kate’s part from Don’t Give Up (her 1986 duet with Peter Gabriel).  He didn’t disagree with my praising; I also didn’t disagree when he mentioned “she’s a bit of an odd duck.”

She’s not alone; one listen to the opener here, Moribund the Burgermeister (heck, even a glance at the song name itself), and Peter could easily join the eccentric waterfowl club.   Speaking of business ideas, there may be band name potential there…

The album reaches peak oddness on track four.  Excuse Me is somewhere between The Ragtime Gals and the Family Guy clip of Randy Newman singing about what he sees.

Which is where I’m thankful for the Maya Angelou quote, “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

Mercifully, neither Kate nor Peter wasted much energy trying to be normal and created plenty of amazing music instead.

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From → 1970s

7 Comments
  1. Great write-up on a fantastic album, Geoff. I’m glad you’ve been slowly uncovering the greatness that is Robert Fripp. Not sure how underrated he is since he’s been considered a guitar god among prog fans for decades, but he should be more highly regarded by all music fans.

    As for your proposed travel itinerary, be sure to take photos at each site & you can write a post about it called “The Fool On The Hills” (not a knock on you, of course, but it’s never a bad time for a Beatles reference).

    • With your permission, I will be borrowing that as a potential travel blog name!

      I know we’ve discussed the brilliance of the Hard Days Night opening chord – Fool on the hill might have my favourite Beatles opening chord, that beautiful D6 chord in quarter notes.

      It would be nice to see Fripp in the top-of-the-mind awareness for more fans: ask any of my music fan students, most will gravitate instantly to Hendrix, Page, and Slash as the guitarists of choice. Not that there’s anything wrong with those picks of course, just variety’s never a bad thing!

      His work on Peter Gabriel I is typically nice & understated, another case of him playing exactly the right parts at exactly the right time.

      Thanks Rich!

      • “Fool On The Hills” is officially yours. If you ever write a book by that title and sell millions, send a few bucks my way.

        I think Fripp purposely stays in the background (literally, as he often performs facing sideways or backwards at the back of the stage) so it’s not surprising that the average music fan doesn’t immediately think of him when discussing guitar greats. But he’s a groundbreaking player who’s every bit as brilliant and influential as most frequently cited guitarists/

  2. jprobichaud permalink

    I’m completely up for that ‘hill’ tour. Do you think we could locate the hill the Beatles sing of? Or even Gorillaz’s Melancholy hill?

    Solsbury hill is a classic. If it came out in the 80s, it would’ve been in the top ten of my 80s list for sure. Damn self-imposed rules…

  3. Nice post. I’m actually only familiar with a handful of Peter Gabriel songs (Solsbury Hill being one of them). Reading this I’m starting to get that feeling that I need to listen to a little bit more.

  4. Tony Levin played bass and Chapman stick on this, didn’t he?

    Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden swears by this, and Gabriel’s first three, records.

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