A few days ago when writing about Fairport Convention I told you that Prog Rock would never be part of my musical landscape. Now any Prog fan out there could quite reasonably ask “if that’s so what are you doing with a Peter Gabriel album ?” and it would be more than fair of them to ask that. Apart from the obvious fact that it’s an album by the former singer of Uber-Proggers Genesis this album also features Phil Collins (Genesis), Robert Fripp and Tony Levin (King Crimson) and Kate Bush (carrying all her Pink Floyd connections) it’s almost a who’s who of Prog. But I have a mitigating circumstance…
Legend has it (and this may or may not be true but whatever, it’s a good story) Peter Gabriel wanted a particular guitar sound on one track and that guitar sound was that of The Who’s Pete Townshend. When approached Townshend was unavailable but is said to have responded “ask that fella from The Jam, he sounds just like me anyway” (meeeeooooow). Which is why, on the song “And Through The Wire”, we have the conspicuous and unmistakable sound of Paul Weller playing guitar on a Peter Gabriel album. This was May 1980, The Jam had not long gone straight in at number 1 with “Going Underground”, they were halfway between “Setting Sons” in November 1979 and the release of “Sound Affects” in November 1980, just 2 months later they went straight in at number 1 again with “Start!”, they were at the height of their powers, I was obsessed with them, of course I was buying the Peter Gabriel album. Prog be damned, this was Weller !
As a song by itself “And Through The Wire” is really like nothing else on this album. It’s a stomping rock song and Weller knocks out a riff that would have graced and been welcome on any Jam song. But of course I had to listen to the rest of the album, and d’you know what ? I liked it…I already knew the single “Games Without Frontiers” and had liked that too but then there was “Intruder” to start with, Phil Collins banging out a tub-thumping rhythm over which Gabriel eerily intones the thoughts of a burglar about his line of “work”…”Family Snapshot” is the assassination of JFK seen from the shooters point of view…and the album ends on the anthemic “Biko” about South African anti apartheid activist Bantu Steven Biko.
The Paul Weller connection is what drew me in to this album but I must have been starting on an interest in electronic music (Bowie’s Berlin period, the Human League, The Normal we’re all on my record deck around this time) and this album happened for me at a time when it had a chance of making an impression, and it did. It still gets spun regularly around these parts. I’ll still never succumb to Prog Rock tho’.
And Through The Wire - https://youtu.be/k0UJtixnii8