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Music / Peter Gabriel

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"Hi there!"

"Ladies and gentlemen, our first reading is from the early part of Genesis, which many scholars argue is the definitive part of Genesis, because that's when they still had Peter Gabriel."

Peter Brian Gabriel (born 13 February 1950) is an English singer-songwriter and musician who was the former frontman of the influential Progressive Rock band Genesis (for details on his time with them, visit their page) and currently a solo artist.

After leaving the band, he first gained a hit with "Solsbury Hill", which was, appropriately enough, about his breakup with them. He then went on to release four increasingly experimental solo albums from 1977-1982. These were all initially titled eponymously, but have since gained nicknames (based on their cover art) that have been embraced by the fandom (and Gabriel himself). Each were fairly successful, with the third and fourth producing multiple hits, such "Games Without Frontiers", "I Don't Remember", and "Shock the Monkey".

Then came 1986, and his album So along with it. It was a smash hit that gave Gabriel his greatest mainstream success, featuring some of his most famous songs (particularly "Sledgehammer" and "In Your Eyes"). Six years later came Us, followed almost ten years later by Up, which was then followed over 21 years later by i/o. He has also done work for various films, most famously singing Randy Newman's "That'll Do" for the film Babe: Pig in the City and for writing and performing "Down to Earth" for WallE, each earning Academy Award nominations but losing to songs for The Prince Of Egypt and Slumdog Millionaire, respectively.

Gabriel is a pioneer in many respects: he was one of the first popular artists to start including World music (particularly African) influences into his music, and was the first to use the "gated drum" sound as well (it was invented by producer Hugh Padgam and former bandmate Phil Collins for a track on Gabriel's third self-titled album, later becoming a signature sound of Collins' own hit singles). He was one of the founders of On Demand Distribution, which in the early '00s was one of the leading downloadable music platforms in Europe (it was later acquired by Nokia). In 1980, he founded WOMAD, an arts & music festival that helped to pioneer the world music movement. He also works for many varied charities, in particular Amnesty International with its human rights campaigns, which he has been involved with since the early '80s.


Studio albums:

  • Peter Gabriel (1977; a.k.a. Car; also retroactively known as Peter Gabriel I or Peter Gabriel 1: Car)
  • Peter Gabriel (1978; a.k.a. Scratch; released under the title Peter Gabriel II in the United States)
  • Peter Gabriel (1980; a.k.a. Melt; released under the title Peter Gabriel III in the United States)
  • Peter Gabriel (1982; released under the title Security in the United States)
  • So (1986)
  • Us (1992)
  • Up (2002)
  • Scratch My Back (2010; a Cover Album)
  • New Blood (2011; a collection of his songs rearranged and re-recorded for orchestra, done in the same vein as the cover songs on Scratch My Back)
  • i/o (2023)

Soundtrack albums:

  • Birdy (1985)
  • Passion (1989; the score for The Last Temptation of Christ)note 
  • OVO (2000; the soundtrack to the UK Millennium Dome show)
  • Long Walk Home: Music from the Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

Live albums:

  • Peter Gabriel Plays Live (1983; the first live album, recorded during the 1982 tour for Security)
  • Secret World Live (1994; the second live album, recorded in 1992-1994 during the tour for Us)
  • Live Blood (2012; Gabriel's third live album, recorded during the tour for New Blood)

Compilation albums:

  • Shaking the Tree: Sixteen Golden Greats (1990; Gabriel's first greatest hits collection) note 
  • Hit (2003; Gabriel's second best-of collection. The first disc, Hit, contains all his chart-toppers, while the second disc, Miss, is made up of critical tracks in his catalog, but are likely less well-known to casual fans.) note 
  • Peter Gabriel (2007; promotional compilation released exclusively as part of a bundle with copies of The Daily Mail)
  • Rated PG (2019; collection of songs previously written for movie soundtracks, plus a new mix of "In Your Eyes")
  • Flotsam and Jetsam (2019; digital-exclusive rarities collection)

Collaborative projects:

  • Big Blue Ball (2008; a collection of WOMAD collaborations recorded in the '90s and eventually mixed & released as a studio album in 2008)
  • And I'll Scratch Yours (2013; companion piece to Scratch My Back consisting of most of the artists Gabriel covered on that album plus three substitute acts covering his earlier songs in turn)

Oh, won't you trope for me?/I will trope for you:

  • '70s Hair: The bowl cut he wore on the covers of his first two albums.
  • Absurdly-Long Limousine: He pops out of one at the introduction to the video for "Steam".
  • Album Title Drop:
    • "Only Us", from Us.
    • And "Growing Up" from Up.
  • And I Must Scream: In the accompanying Full Moon Update, Gabriel stated that "Road to Joy" is about a person who undergoes a near-death experience and finds themselves afflicted with locked-in syndrome, a condition that results in paralysis of all voluntary muscle movements, resulting in the narrator being conscious but trapped in their own body, unable to communicate.
  • Animated Music Video:
    • To promote So, both "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time" received animated videos by Aardman Animations, mixing together various forms of Stop Motion.
    • In the leadup to the release of i/o, the Dark Side mixes of "Panopticom" & "The Court" and the Bright Side mix of "Love Can Heal" all received animated music videos. The former two were made with generative AI as part of Gabriel's "Diffuse Together" fan contest and revolve around continuously shifting surreal landscapes. The latter video, meanwhile, was made by Aardman Animations and is based on artwork by Antony Micallef.
  • Audience Participation Song: The wordless chanting in "Biko".
  • Award-Bait Song: While it doesn't exactly fit the typical stereotype, "Down to Earth" was actually nominated for an Oscar.
  • Black Cap of Death: "The Court" describes the narrator's trial in a Kangaroo Court as a commentary on the dichotomy between the necessity and abuse of law. Partway through the song, the narrator notes how "the black cat judge reaches for his silk;" combined with the reference to the "black cats are unlucky" myth, the line implies that the narrator will be sentenced to death. Appropriately, the rest of the song depicts the narrator lamenting the corruption of justice and hoping that the public will rise up to set things right.
  • Book Ends: The song Big Time starts and (in the music video) ends with an Gabriel saying "Hi there!" in an American accent.
  • B-Side: Many are special remixes of songs from their respective albums, but some tracks have come out as B-sides and have yet to appear in any collected form (aside from fan-made compilations). Notable ones include:
    • "Me And My Teddy Bear", released as a B-side to "D.I.Y" from Peter Gabriel II;
    • "Soft Dog", released as a B-side to "Shock The Monkey", from Security;
    • "Curtains", released as a B-side to "Big Time", from So;
    • "Courage" and "Sagrada", two songs from the So sessions that didn't see the light of day until that album's Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition;
    • He has also contributed single tracks to tribute & benefit records, and to many movie soundtracks, including Babe: Pig in the City, WALL•E, Gremlins, and The Wild Thornberrys Movie, which for many fans (especially due to the long gap between albums) take on the rarefied air of B-sides as well, and many become fan favorites.
      • A good example of this is "Across The River", a track with Stewart Copeland & Ravi Shankar which appeared initially on a WOMAD benefit record, then appeared multiple times as a B-side. It eventually became part of the setlist of his 1992-93 tour, documented on the CD Secret World Live. It was then re-released in 2014 on a benefit album to help provide humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
  • Chronological Album Title: While Gabriel's first four albums were all self-titled, various international releases appended numerals to them to help people tell them apart. The American and Japanese releases of the second and third albums respectively retitled them Peter Gabriel II and Peter Gabriel III, and the Japanese releases of the first and fourth albums called them Peter Gabriel I and Peter Gabriel IV. The Japanese release of So additionally added the subtitle Peter Gabriel V to keep up the pattern. This eventually carried over to the 2002 remasters, which respectively retitled each of the first four albums 1, 2, 3, and 4 (in North America, 4 kept its original retitle for that region, Security).
  • Cloudcuckoolander: He got a reputation for this in his Genesis days for dressing up in weird costumes. He comes across as much more down to earth offstage and in interviews.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The 2002 remasters each feature a distinct color for each album in Gabriel's discography, reflected on the inner tray artwork (as well as on the back of the front flap on the 2010 digipak reissues) and the disc labels:
    • Car is teal, reflecting the car on the cover photo.
    • Scratch is red, reflecting the Color Motif of Atlantic Records (who originally distributed the album in the US).
    • Melt is yellow, reflecting the logotype on the original release.
    • Security is green, reflecting the mix of blue and yellow tones on the album art.
    • Plays Live is gray, reflecting Gabriel's makeup in the cover photo.
    • Birdy is navy blue, reflecting the cover art.
    • So is white, reflecting the album art.
    • Passion is burgundy, reflecting both the macro photo on the back cover and the blood Jesus shed on the cross (as the album was primarily the soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ).
    • Us is blue, reflecting Gabriel's appearance on the album art.
  • Concept Album: While none of his albums are this in the sense that the songs all form a story or narrative (with the exception of OVO), they almost always have some kind of idea or theme behind them, whether conceptually or musically, particularly his post-So albums.
    • Melt was described by Gabriel in an interview as "the history of a decaying mind." While the description was meant to be joking, themes of insanity and amnesia feature heavily throughout the album.
    • Us is mostly about collapsing relationships, especially those between lovers and family, and exudes distinct feelings of hollowness and despair.
    • Up is concerned with birth and death (especially death).
    • There is actually a series of songs that appear on different albums ("Down the Dolce Vita", "Here Comes the Flood", "On the Air", "Exposure", "Red Rain", "Big Blue Ball") that form a song cycle concerning the character Mozo, though they don't really form a story/narrative either. The original plan was to create a movie about him, but it never panned out.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields had this to say about Gabriel's cover of "Book of Love":
    It’s a totally different interpretation. My arrangement and recording of it is emphatically skeletal and all about the insufficiency and helplessness [of love], whereas his sounds like he’s God singing to you about his creation.
    • Scratch My Back is all over this Trope. His cover of David Bowie takes "Heroes" from cynical to a bittersweet Tear Jerker.
    • Scratch My Back has a companion album, And I'll Scratch Yours, with the artists whose songs Gabriel covered covering some of his in turn, including Lou Reed, Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields, and Arcade Fire. Six of the songs were released initially in 2010 as singles on iTunes, coupled with the corresponding artist's track from Scratch My Back. Unfortunately, Radiohead, David Bowie, Neil Young and Ray Davies did not contribute in-kind, so Brian Eno and others stepped in. The entire collection was released, finally, in 2013.
  • Darker and Edgier: While his albums have always tended to be rather dark (with the exception of most of So), Melt and Security are noticeably more so.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Much of Gabriel's album artwork uses this motif.
  • Double-Meaning Title:
    • The movie soundtrack compilation Rated PG, where "PG" can either stand for "Peter Gabriel" or "Parental Guidance", as in the MPAA rating for films.
    • In a 2023 interview with Uncut magazine, Gabriel revealed that the title of i/o was derived not only from tech jargon meaning "input/output," but also Io, one of Jupiter's moons.
  • Downer Ending: "In Your Eyes" was written to win back a woman Gabriel had lost. It didn't work. That woman was Rosanna Arquette.
  • Epic Rocking: "Red Rain", "Signal to Noise", "Down the Dolce Vita". "Here Comes the Flood" was originally this, but Gabriel thought it was too over-the top and later reworked it into a piano-only acoustic version.
    • Up consists almost exclusively of this; there's only one song less than six minutes long. Other examples include "Waiting for the Big One" (7:16), "Biko" (7:26), and "The Family and the Fishing Net" (7:08).
  • Evolving Music: "Here Comes the Flood", see the Crowning Music entry on the YMMV page.
    • "I Have the Touch", which went through three different permutations: the original track on Security, a remixed version on the Greatest Hits Album Shaking The Tree (additional percussion track), and a completely remade version for the soundtrack to the John Travolta film Phenomenon (slower tempo, new lyrics, new instrumentation).
    • Three versions of the song "Burn You Up, Burn You Down" exist, one mix was prepared for Up but the song was removed from its tracklist before release, another mix appears on Hit, and a third appears on Big Blue Ball.
    • His album Passion started out being the soundtrack for The Last Temptation of Christ — but he kept tweaking and changing each of the songs after the film was released, to the point that he didn't feel right calling it "the soundtrack" any more.
  • Flipping the Bird: The single cover for "Road to Joy" depicts a cavalcade of arms and hands flipping each other off.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: In the '80s, he was particularly fascinated with African culture.
  • Freud Was Right:
    • "And the bulge of my big big big big big big big big big big big big big big BIG!" Made even more apparent with the last word of the previous line being "circumstance," and what appropriate (non-appearing) word rhymes with circumstance?note 
    • "Hans plays with Lotte/Lotte plays with Jane/Jane plays with Willi/Willi is happy again".
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: He had them on the innersleeve of his first solo album. Hipgnosis achieved the effect with a flashbulb and a pair of reflective contact lenses.
  • God-Is-Love Songs: "In Your Eyes" gets this a lot, and was actually covered by Christian artist Nichole Nordeman from that perspective. According to Word of God, whether it is a love song or a religious song is intentionally ambiguous.
  • Go-to-Sleep Ending: "Curtains" (a B-Side to both "Don't Give Up" and "Big Time", later included in the soundtrack to Myst) describes an anxious couple falling sleep, ending with one of them telling the other, "...close your eyes / go to sleep."
  • Gratuitous French: Kate Bush is actually singing "jeux sans frontières", the title of the song in French, on "Games Without Frontiers", though it is frequently misheard; native French speakers have reported difficulty understanding her pronunciation. The song's name was inspired by the Europe-wide game show also named Jeux sans frontières; the British spin-off is It's a Knockout, which Gabriel also sings several times in the song.
  • Gratuitous German: He rerecorded his third and fourth albums, plus a single B-Side, in German, and released them in Germany. Many Germans were bemused by his decision to do this, especially as some of the grammar is completely wrong. However some fans who don't speak German have said that not knowing what he's singing helps add to the mystique of the music as they are not focusing on the words.
  • Greatest Hits Album:
    • The title of Gabriel's 1990 collection, Shaking the Tree: Sixteen Golden Greats, lampshades the cash-grab nature of compilation albums. The compilation is notable for containing an alternate mix of "I Have the Touch" (first released as a B-Side to the "Walk Through the Fire" non-album single in 1984; the version included here is an edited down version included as the B-Side to the "Sledgehammer" 12" single in 1986), a re-recording of "Here Comes the Flood" based on the version from Robert Fripp's Exposure, and a remix of the Youssou N'Dour collaboration "Shaking the Tree".
    • In 1992, Gabriel's old North American label, Atlantic Records, released Peter Gabriel Revisited to capitalize on the release of Us that year. The compilation centers on songs from Gabriel's first two albums, Car and Scratch, both of which Atlantic owned the rights to in the US and Canada (Atlantic's parent company used to own Gabriel's second North American label, Geffen Records, but MCA bought the latter out in 1990).
    • 2003 saw the release of Hit, another career-spanning compilation that combined a standard hits collection with Miss, a second disc featuring fan-favorite deep cuts; the tracklist for Miss was altered for the US release. The first disc additionally included a remix of "Burn You Up, Burn You Down", a song that was included on promotional copies of Up but omitted from the final tracklist.
  • Green Aesop: In the accompanying Full Moon update, Gabriel described "i/o" as about realizing how interconnected humanity and nature are, and how failing to care for the environment will destroy us as well.
  • Grief Song: "I Grieve", natch.
  • Heroic BSoD: "Don't Give Up", a duet with Kate Bush about an unemployed man driven to the brink of suicide by depression. According to Gabriel's (now ex-)wife, he would sometimes get these and she would be the one reassuring him not to give up, which inspired the song.
  • Idiosyncratic Cover Art:
    • Most of Gabriel's studio album covers revolve around the theme of subverting his likeness. On Car, he's obscured behind a rain-soaked windshield. On Scratch, he's tearing his own portrait from within. On Melt, he's melting into ooze. On Security, he's unrecognizably distorted by mirrors, Fresnel lenses, and solarization. On Us, he's dancing so vigorously that his image is blurring. On Up, he's blurred in the background and has his face refracted in a series of water drops. So bucks the trend by using a conventional headshot. Additionally, Gabriel's first four albums all used the same logotype, tying in with his intention to treat them like issues of a magazine.
    • Scratch My Back, And I'll Scratch Yours, and New Blood were all put together as part of the same project regarding revisiting old material by himself and other artists. Accordingly, all three use macro photographs of blood cells. This theme also influenced the logo for i/o, which consists of stylized versions of the Scratch My Back and New Blood covers.
    • The 2002 remasters of Gabriel's back-catalog features spine art consisting of a cropped portion of the album cover against a color-coded background that takes after the cover art. Additionally, the disc trays feature artwork consisting of a number cut out of the appropriate color to reveal a shelf of tapes from the recording sessions. The exceptions to this are Plays Live - Highlights, which omits the cutout, and the soundtrack to Birdy, in which the cutout is a regular circle.
  • Important Haircut: In the first few years after leaving Genesis, already known for partially shaving his head while in the band, he often wore his hair close-cropped, sometimes shaving his head completely. The third album shows this the most clearly, with shorter hair on the cover after the first two showed him with '70s Hair. His third album was the one where he felt he'd found himself artistically.
  • Intercourse with You: "Sledgehammer".
  • "I Want" Song: "Big Time".
  • Large Ham: He's toned it down since the Genesis days, but he brought an unprecedented theatricality into rock music. Some of this naturally involved Chewing the Scenery when necessary. "GIANT HOGWEED IS AVENGED! HUMAN BODIES SOON WILL KNOW ANGER! KILL THEM WITH YOUR HOGWEED HAIRS! HERACLEUM MANTEGAZZIANI!"
  • Last Chorus Slow-Down: "Family Snapshot" does this to chilling effect.
  • Last Note Nightmare:
    • "I Don't Remember", "Signal to Noise".
    • "Biko" ends with two drumbeats, meant to evoke gunfire.
  • Limited Lyrics Song: "Lead a Normal Life", "We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)".
  • Live Album: Gabriel released live albums in 1984, 1994, and 2012. And while he hasn't released any new solo material since 2002, Gabriel continues to tour a great deal, and many of the shows from his 2003, 2004, 2007, and 2012 tours have been released for purchase online as legal "bootlegs."
  • Lonely Piano Piece: The remake of "Here Comes the Flood" and "The Drop".
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: During his time in Genesis, to the point where he ended up cross-dressing as the fox in the red dress on the Foxtrot album cover.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: "Out Out" from Gremlins, which appears briefly and never shows up again. Although released as a single, it has not been issued on any Peter Gabriel albums or compilations, although is on the soundtrack to Gremlins which is on CD.
  • Loudness War: Averted with the 2002 remasters of his 20th century albums, which clock in at DR11 for his first five albums and DR9 for Us. Played straight though with the 25th anniversary remaster of So, which comes in at DR8, which, while not glaringly compressed, offers much less headroom than previous releases.
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Big Time", a boisterous funk piece about the predatory nature of greed.
    • "Road to Joy" is an upbeat and anthemic soul song about a person trying to fight against the paralysis that leaves them unable to communicate with anyone around them.
  • Kangaroo Court: According to the accompanying Full Moon video, "The Court" is about the dichotomy between the necessity of a justice system in society and the reality of how often it's abused to persecute marginalized groups. The video even asks viewers to donate to Namati, a charity that seeks to give marginalized people the funds to legally seek proper justice.
  • Madness Mantra: The chorus of "No Self Control" can count, given the song's title, lyrics, and overall subject matter. Kate Bush's creepy background vocals also help.
  • Market-Based Title: His fourth self-titled album was titled Security in the U.S.
  • Metal Scream: Gabriel pulls of some fairly impressive ones in "I Don't Remember" and "Signal to Noise".
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: The theme of "Here Comes the Flood". The inspiration was from a dream Gabriel had where "the psychic barriers which normally prevent us from seeing into each others’ thoughts had been completely eroded producing a mental flood. Those that had been used to having their innermost thoughts exposed would handle this torrent and those inclined to concealment would drown in it."
  • Mistaken for Terrorist: Gabriel and his band were detained in Switzerland in 1977 after being mistaken for members of the Baader-Meinhof gang on their first tour on their way to a gig in France. They'd pulled off the road to make a phone call to the promoter to inform them they would be late, but ended up later than they planned after locals saw bassist Tony Levin's wife dressed in Army fatigues and Gabriel wearing a black scarf. The bag of cash the band had on the bus only aroused suspicion, and their gear traveled in a second truck. The Swiss police finally let them go hours later and they managed to still play the show.
  • Money Song: "Big Time" again.
  • New Sound Album: To its logical extreme— every one of his studio albums sound different from one another. Even his singing voice doesn't seem to be the same with each album that comes out. Compare his first album Car with Up and you can't believe that's the same guy.
    • Part of this has to do with how long his stretches between albums tend to be (of all the members of Genesis, Peter is probably the least prolific in output) and how he wanted major revolutions in audio recording to be the focus of his output in general. A lot of Security, for example, was designed around the new technology in sampling that the Fairlight system allowed and was one of the earliest albums to be recorded and produced entirely with digital technology (though some CD releases with a visible SPARS code incorrectly label it as an analog recording). Computers and new digital audio workstation technology also played a fundamental role for Up and the soundtrack works and songs he's been doing since then.
    • His solo output is also drastically different than his time with Genesis. His first couple of albums kinda tried to still ride that "weird" thing he had cultivated with Genesis, but you'd have no trouble picking out which of those songs were his and which songs were Genesis. This is likely the reason Gabriel dropped any Genesis material from his setlists after 1978, save for a one-off reunion with his former bandmates at WOMAD in 1982.
    • So from the four albums that came before it, and So from Us and Up.
    • Melt from the first two albums, introducing the worldbeat-inflected sound he would pursue for the rest of his career.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "The Drop", "Fourteen Black Paintings", "Family Snapshot", "The Tower That Ate People".
  • Numbered Sequels: Gabriel's second and third self-titled albums were respectively released in the United States as Peter Gabriel II and Peter Gabriel III; the fourth and final self-titled studio album dropped the trend, being released in the States as Security (though the Japanese release titles it Peter Gabriel IV), while the self-titled compilation album was released only in the United Kingdom. The 2002 remasters take this up a notch and refer to the four albums as 1, 2, 3, and 4 (at least outside of the US and Canada; in those regions, the Security title was retained for the fourth album until Geffen's rights to Gabriel's back-catalog expired in 2010).
  • Obsession Song: According to Gabriel, "Shock the Monkey" is about jealousy and the obsessive behavior/attitudes that can result from it.
  • One-Word Title: After his record company finally laid down the law and insisted on titles for his studio albums after his first four untitled ones, Gabriel complied in the most grudging manner possible, using the single two letter words So, Us and Up for them. His long-awaited tenth album I/O somehow averts this trope while containing the absolute fewest number of characters possible. (I/O, in computer lingo, stands for Input/Output.)
  • Pimp Duds: Gabriel wears a gaudy purple suit, complete with gold chain necklace, fedora and comically high platform shoes, at the beginning of the "Steam" video.
  • Pop-Star Composer: As noted above, composed the scores for Birdy, The Last Temptation Of Christ, and Rabbit-Proof Fence, and has contributed songs to Philadelphia, Phenomenon (a remixed version of "I Have the Touch"), Against All Odds, Hard to Hold (interesting in that he only contributed one song; the rest of the soundtrack was mostly Rick Springfield, who also starred in it), Uru, The Wild Thornberrys Movie, and WALL•E.
  • Protest Song:
    • "Biko" is a highly-regarded example.
    • "Not One of Us" can be thought of as a protest song, as it's a Take That! against people who exclude others to make themselves feel good (and thus can be applied to the group of your choice).
    • "Games Without Frontiers" could be considered one as well; it uses the background of a popular European game show to protest the absurdity and futility of war.
    • "Don't Give Up" was in part a protest against the economic policies of Margaret Thatcher, which had resulted in high unemployment at the time. Gabriel was inspired to write the song in part by Dorothea Lange's photographs from the Great Depression.
  • Pungeon Master: His lyrics with Genesis and much of his earlier solo work contain wordplay galore.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • "Solsbury Hill" documents him leaving Genesis for a solo career.
    • The song "Family Snapshot" was inspired by the assassination attempt on George Wallace.
    • His divorce from first wife Jill, breakup with girlfriend Rosanna Arquette, and at-the-time estrangement from his daughter Anna informed Us.
    • Much of the final tone of Up was influenced by the September 11 attacks, with Gabriel specifically singling out "I Grieve" as having been informed by his inability to contact his (unharmed) daughters in New York in the immediate aftermath.
  • Rearrange the Song:
    • Thanks to his dissatisfaction with the original version's bombastic production, Gabriel recorded a more stripped-back version of "Here Comes the Flood" for Robert Fripp's solo debut Exposure, featuring just himself at a piano and Fripp playing tape-delayed guitar. Gabriel would re-record the song again — this time with no instruments except a piano — for the Greatest Hits Album Shaking the Tree.
    • "Shaking the Tree", the Title Track to Gabriel's first Greatest Hits Album, is a re-recording of a song he did with So collaborator Youssou N'Dour one year prior. Among other things, Gabriel and N'Dour's roles are swapped: whereas the 1989 version had N'Dour sing lead and Gabriel sing backing vocals, the 1990 version has Gabriel on lead and N'Dour on backing vocals.
    • Every single for i/o was released in three versions: a "Bright Side" stereo mix engineered by Mark "Spike" Stent, a "Dark Side" stereo mix engineered by Tchad Blake, and a surround sound "Inside" mix.
  • Recursive Reality: The video to Steam begins with the view of space and stars with Earth closing in and ends with zooming in on somebody's skin, brief glimpse of cellular structure, DNA, individual atoms and interatomic space which becomes the interstellar space. Unfortunately, most broadcasts cut the first 10-20 seconds and the final makes little sense.
  • Re-release the Song: "In Your Eyes" was given a second wind from its inclusion in Say Anything..., narrowly missing the top 40 at #41.
  • Ridiculous Procrastinator: Gabriel is one by his own admission. During the recording of So producer Daniel Lanois resorted to locking him in the studio at one point to get him to finish the record.
  • Rock Me, Amadeus!: He uses the melody from the Ode to Joy in the New Blood version of "Solsbury Hill".
  • Sanity Slippage Song: Many; this is something of a specialty for Gabriel:
    • "No Self Control".
    • "The Family and the Fishing Net".
    • "Out Out".
    • "The Rhythm of the Heat".
    • "Lead A Normal Life," written from the point of view of someone in a mental institution. Atlantic Records thought Gabriel actually had lost his mind on hearing this song and dropped him.
  • Scatting: The end of "Solsbury Hill" and "Kiss That Frog", and throughout "I Don't Remember".
    • Also in the middle of "Signal to Noise".
  • Self-Titled Album: His first four albums were all named Peter Gabriel, the idea being that they would be treated like issues of a magazine (similar to Public Image Ltd.'s gimmick with their first album and reissues of their second), but have since earned nicknames based on their cover art. They were re-released as double-albums on audiophile-grade vinyl in 2015. No. 4 was released under the title Security in the US at the behest of Gabriel's label at the time, Geffen Records. The title is not on the cover itself, only as on a sticker on the album's packaging on vinyl copies but printed on the cassette edition. It was only printed on the spine and label of CD editions. The practice was briefly revived for a 2007 promotional compilation, but the relative obscurity of it has led to it not receiving any nicknames.
  • Shout-Out:
    • During his New Blood tour, which features a symphony orchestra, his performance of "Solsbury Hill" contains the melody from the Ode to Joy.
    • "I Don't Remember" opens with Peter Gabriel pulling a Metal Scream that is very clearly a nod to the Signature Roar of Tarzan.
    • "Mercy Street": to Anne Sexton.
    • "Fourteen Black Paintings" to Francisco de Goya's Black Paintings series.
    • His 2016 single "I'm Amazing", was inspired by the life of Muhammad Ali. Gabriel had written the song a few years earlier, but eventually released the song as a tribute after Ali's death.
  • Soprano and Gravel: "Don't Give Up", a duet on So with Kate Bush.
    • Kate Bush also appears on "No Self Control" and "Games Without Frontiers", on Gabriel's third eponymous album.
    • "Come Talk to Me" and "Blood of Eden", both featuring Sinéad O'Connor
    • Singer Paula Cole was a member of Gabriel's backing band during the Secret World tour, singing Bush's and O'Connor's vocal parts. Two years later, she would have her own breakout hit with "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone."
    • The baritone Gabriel often shared vocals with the tenor-ranged Phil Collins in Genesis.
  • Studio Chatter: At the beginning of "Not One of Us".
  • Surreal Music Video: Pretty much any video of his. As one YouTube commenter put it, "Who needs drugs when you have Peter Gabriel videos?" He seemed to have a bet with David Byrne in the '80s to see who could come up with the most surreal video.
  • Take That!: "The Barry Williams Show", against trashy, exploitative daytime TV-like shows (Barry Williams is basically the UK equivalent of Jerry Springer, and actually appears as himself in the music video, which was directed by Sean Penn).
    • "Solsbury Hill" is about Gabriel's departure from Genesis. Word of God has confirmed this.
      • The song later became unusual in the annals of Take Thats as Gabriel once performed the song with Genesis in 1982, as part of a reunion concert to benefit WOMAD.
    • While some fans may have thought his not being present at the induction of Genesis into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2010 was a snub, he couldn't attend because he was involved in rehearsals for his orchestral New Blood tour at the time.
      • Gabriel himself was later inducted into the Hall as a solo artist in 2014.
  • Textless Album Cover:
    • Passion, Us, OVO, Up, Scratch My Back, New Blood. So is an interesting case in that the LP release is textless, but features a small logotype sticker on the shrink wrap, and this logo is incorporated in a larger size on the CD cover, directly onto which it is printed. Us also features a logo sticker on the CD shrinkwrap, but this is generally not considered part of the album art on any other format or re-release.
    • Gabriel's four Self-Titled Albums would have their logotypes removed from the front cover in the 2002 remasters, their 2010 reissues, and the digital releases, turning them into examples of this trope.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Not One of Us", "Kiss That Frog"
  • Title Track: "i/o" is Gabriel's first true one, being the fourth single from the upcoming album of the same name.
  • Tragic Villain: "Family Snapshot," seen from the point of view of an assassin, ends with a flashback to his unhappy childhood.
  • Uncommon Time: In several songs. Most famously, "Solsbury Hill" is in 7/4 time. So are the verses of "And Through the Wire".
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Sledgehammer" is about Gabriel's "sledgehammer", If You Know What I Mean.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Many of Gabriel's songs are about or inspired by the work of various writers, philosophers, and psychologists:
    • "We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)" (about, well, Stanley Milgram's 37 subjects in his infamous shock experiments)note 
    • "Rhythm of the Heat" (whose working title was "Jung in Africa", and is about... well, you know),
    • "Kiss That Frog", inspired by Bruno Bettelheim's Uses of Enchantment (about the role of fairy tales in development; the song uses one of its exemplar stories, "The Princess and the Frog").
    • His song "Mercy Street" is about/inspired by the life and works of poet Anne Sexton, who wrote a book of poetry called 45 Mercy Street.
  • Vocal Evolution: As with most male singers, Gabriel's voice got huskier and more strained with age. The fact that So, Us, and Up all had lengthy hiatuses between teach other makes this particularly noticeable when one goes through his studio backlog in chronological order.
  • World Music: Together with Talking Heads' Remain in Light, Gabriel is credited with helping to introduce influence from world music into mainstream rock, particularly with Melt (released just months before Remain in Light). Some of his best-known examples of this include "Biko" (1980), "The Rhythm of the Heat" (1982), and "In Your Eyes" (1986).
  • You Cannot Kill An Idea: "Biko":
    You can blow out a candle
    But you can't blow out a fire
    Once the flames begin to catch
    The wind will blow it higher


Video Example(s):



With this song being an allegory to the Book of Revelations, the first thing to go wrong before everything starts to go to hell (literally), a man ironically wearing a crown of thorns, implied to be the Antichrist (as evidenced by the shadow he casts against the symbol he uses appearing to give him devil horns) and calling himself the "Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man", captivates a crowd with an apparent control over fire. But while the people see hope in him, he only wants them for his own ends, finishing the movement by leading the children into following him like the Pied Piper.

How well does it match the trope?

4.62 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / FalseProphet

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