The Gandhi of Rock

December 5, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Modern Music | 4 Comments |

(Pete in Toronto, 1974 - photo by Jean-Luc Ourlin)

Peter Gabriel (b. 13 February 1950)

Gabes grew up in public.  Precocious and vulnerable, his relatively privileged upbringing (he schooled at Charterhouse) inured him from fear of failure. This gave him, for a time, freedom to make Genesis a really innovative group, who came up with several interesting albums before they morphed into a somewhat blander supergroup.

UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 01: Photo of Peter GABRIEL (Photo by Peter Noble/Redferns)

UNITED KINGDOM – AUGUST 01: Photo of Peter GABRIEL (Photo by Peter Noble/Redferns)

He left Genesis just as it began to take-off, with a gnostic note to the world that said “I had a dream, eye’s dream. Then I had another dream with body and soul of a rock star. When it didn’t feel good I packed it in…”

And that could have been it, going the way of Peter Green, Stu Sutcliffe, Bill Wyman, or the kid from One Direction.  However, Peter Gabriel has outgunned and outlasted his erstwhile band, and become a global brand in himself, a kind of Gandalf with ubuntu and without the hobbits, his mellifluous voice, Wagnerian length and idiosyncratic song-craft complimenting his burgeoning reputation as a saint.


Marcus Berkmann has sagely observed, “As a rule, decades pass and civilisations rise and fall between Peter Gabriel albums”.  Artists fret and tinker in order to get the right sound, watching that expensive studio time chew-up their profit margins, but we imagine Pete not fretting at all – just going over it again and again, until the sun blows up or the crew suicide en masse.


The Varnished Culture spent considerable time in the crepuscular light once, finding and circling Real World studios, just out of Bath.  Box is a small, bleak nothing town perched on a ridge alongside a wet, green valley.  Somewhere here, in an old barn, was the WOMAD headquarters. Turn from the wet, deserted main road onto Mill Lane and under a bridge, there ‘Real World’ is.  L too bashful after all that to barge in!  So we went to the local pub, ‘The Northey’ instead.


Some of our favourite Peter Gabriel songs:

Après Moi


Digging in the Dirt

Games Without Frontiers

Here Comes the Flood

I Grieve

In Your Eyes

Kiss That Frog

Lead a Normal Life

Moribund the Burgermeister

No Self-Control

Not One of Us

Red Rain

The Rhythm of the Heat

San Jacinto

Shock the Monkey

Sky Blue


Solsbury Hill



White Shadow

Pete and Mike (Rann) in WOMADelaide mode - TVC prize for guessing the name of the man on the right

Pete and Mike (Rann) in WOMADelaide mode



  1. Reply

    Smug of Glebe

    December 7, 2015

    Totally agree and now Peter is trying to talk to the monkeys, giving them a studio with keyboards, internet access and film making equipment. Perhaps he is outsourcing his next record, Ovo-like! Sing, bitch!!

  2. Reply

    Janelle McCulloch

    December 17, 2015

    Love how you went all the way to Real World and then hid behind the bushes!
    Pete's actually working on a new album at the moment. He posted pix on his Instagram. (Or could be Twitter?)

  3. Reply

    Joseph Herrera

    February 26, 2017

    13 February...Happy Birthday

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