Deciphering Culture

Rock ‘n’ Roll & Ritual (’80s Peter Gabriel)

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“I need contact” (from Performance and Popular Music) — a nice piece I wrote in 2006 for Performance and Popular Music: History, Place and Time, (Ian Inglis, ed. – London: Ashgate Publishing). It’s going to be reprinted in Peter Gabriel: From Genesis to Growing Up (Michael Drewet, Sarah Hill & Kimi Kari, eds. – London: Ashgate Publishing) in 2010. The chapter analyzes Gabriel’s use of ritual in his live performances of material from the influential Security album and discusses the musical sources (and inspirations) Gabriel drew upon.

Album cover from Peter Gabriel Plays Live

Gabriel has continued create innovative music (and hits) but, for me, none of it has the creative spark of his ’80s work after leaving Genesis.  The latest effort, the forthcoming Scratch My Back, is interesting in theory, featuring Gabriel covering a dozen songs written by other songwriters. The set list if intriguing but the instrumentation (an orchestra) plays into Gabriel’s worst musical instincts that haven’t had such free rein since his over-dramatic and sometimes treacly performances with Genesis on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Selling England by the Pound. At least that’s my impression from hearing clips of the first three tracks — AND I hope I’m wrong. Check it out yourself at


Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 17, 2009 at 4:32 pm

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