Friday, June 08, 2007


From Wikipedia:


Collins and Hackett made their studio debut on 1971s Nursery Cryme. The album features the epic "The Musical Box", as well as Collins's first lead vocal performance on "For Absent Friends". Foxtrot was released in October 1972, and contains what has been described as one of the group's most accomplished works—the 23-minute "Supper's Ready". Songs such as the Arthur C. Clarke inspired "Watcher of the Skies" solidified their reputation as songwriters and performers. Gabriel's flamboyant and theatrical stage presence, which involved numerous costume changes and surreal song introductions, made the band one of the most popular live acts on the early 1970s UK rock scene.

Selling England by the Pound followed in November 1973, and was well received by both critics and fans. According to one commentator, Gabriel was conscious of over-using lyrics or references which might suggest a bias towards an American audience. He was keen to avoid this, and insisted that the album was titled
Selling England by the Pound, a reference to a Labour Party slogan at the time. The album contains "Firth of Fifth", and "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)"; these songs remained part of Genesis's repertoire in future live performances. During this period, Hackett became one of the first guitarists to use the "tapping" technique—normally credited to Eddie Van Halen—as well as "sweep-picking", which was popularized in the 1980s by Yngwie Malmsteen. These techniques were incorporated on the song "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight".

More here.

And from another Wikipedia article:

"The Musical Box"

The climax to the song concerns itself with Henry's feelings towards Cynthia, representing his lustful view of her, shown no better than the words 'She's a lady, she is mine!' and then just after when Gabriel sings, 'Why don't you touch me? Touch me, NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW!' In live performances, Peter Gabriel would don an "old man" mask for the finale and creepy lighting would be used each time he shouted "NOW!" At the end of the song the old man would die.

More here.

Right. So Genesis was a major obsession for me when I was in high school and college years ago, and as every real fan knows, the best version of the band was the one fronted by Peter Gabriel. Indeed, the earlier albums featuring Gabriel on lead vocals are more artistically ambitious (some might even say pretentious, but whatever), with better lyrics, and, I would argue, better passion--I think it's even safe to say that Gabriel's voice, the physical instrument itself, is better than his successor's, with a deeper home pitch, and an almost earthy rasp. I'm fond of Genesis in all their incarnations, even the poppy dreck they were pumping out in the 80s, but it's their old stuff that has always stirred me the most.

That's why it's weird that I've never seen any film or video of their early live performances. Critics have always mentioned Gabriel's onstage theatrics, complete with costumes and odd makeup, as being a key part of what Genesis was in those days. I have no idea why, but earlier today I did a YouTube search for some of that stuff, and it paid off in spades. Gabriel is, of course, everything I've heard about him, even squeezed into the small YouTube video format.

The performance of "The Musical Box" (embedded below) is missing the ballyhooed costumes and masks, but it presents Gabriel without any gimmicks, and you get to see what a powerful and natural performer he was, even in his early twenties. I mean, the guy's like Jim Morrison and Robert Smith all rolled into one, expertly executing sensuous and desperate goth many years before the term was coined. And the way he moves is nothing short of incredible; his hand gestures alone are worth watching, but his full body movement verges on dance without actually being dance. It's impossible to look away from him. The "Dancing with the Moonlit Night" clip (also embedded below) is great too, but with a bit less performance emphasis on Gabriel's frenzied gyrations. He wears a costume for this one, relying much more on projection of stage presence and the like, but it's just as effective.

It's important to note how tight the rest of the band is. These songs are fairly complicated at certain points, but they whiz right through them without falling into Steely Dan's lifeless trap of perfection-done-live. These performances are fresh, happening right now. It's good to be reminded that Phil Collins isn't simply the Tin Pan Alley hack he started making of himself once Gabriel left the band: Collins is one of the greatest rock drummers of all time, as good as Keith Moon or John Bonham, maybe even better.

One thing's for sure, I thought I knew what Peter Gabriel was about, but I was wrong. He's definitely the god everybody's always said he is.

The Musical Box

Dancing with the Moonlit Night