Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Peter Gabriel masterpiece that divided critics and record labels

Peter Gabriel : Intruder

On May 30, 1980 Peter Gabriel released his third self-titled album. The NME's Nick Kent wrote of the album known as Melt by fans, "I don't expect to hear a better record all year". 

“I think that the third album was quite important for me in terms of really having a defining sound and the band coming through,"Gabriel says on his website. " It was the first record where I was clearly doing something different from what other people were doing."

Among the contributors: Peter Weller, Kate Bush, David Rhodes and drummers Jerry Marotta and Phil Collins who were prohibited from using cymbals. Listen to the huge reverb sound of the opening track "Intruder" that Collins and engineer Hugh Padgham worked out.

"I was certain it was a landmark drum sound," Gabriel told Mojo. "Now I get annoyed when people say I have copied Phil's sound."

He explains further on his website:

It was a very big and aggressive sound. So I then thought I’d build a track around it, which was the track Intruder. Phil Collins who I got in for that, then went on to take Hugh and work on his own record using a lot of those sounds, but there was a real sense of discovery when that first arrived.

The album wasn't released in America until months later on a new label Mercury Records. Gabriel tells writer Mark Blake Atlantic Records didn't believe the album was commercial.

"Ahmet Ertegun said, 'What do people in America care about this guy in South Africa?' and 'Has Peter been in a mental hospital?' because there was this very weird track called 'Lead a Normal Life'. They thought I'd had a breakdown and recorded a piece of crap ... I thought I'd really found myself on that record, and then someone just squashes it. I went through some primordial rejection issues. 

Robert Christgau gave the album a grade of B-, writing 

Either he doesn't know his own strengths or he underestimates his audience--or both.

And although he gave the album a 4 star review, Rolling Stone's Dave Marsh dismissed both "Games Without Frontiers" and "Biko"

His tribute to poet and black nationalist Steven Biko, who was apparently murdered by South African police, is a muddle. The melody and dynamics of “Biko” are irresistible, yet what Gabriel has to say is mainly sentimental.

UK critics were bigger fans. Ian Birch of Melody Maker called Melt " an album that will grow and resonate with every spin."

This review is from Smash Hits:

Here's Peter Gabriel on the anti-apartheid anthem ‘Biko’, which Gabriel hoped would have been a hit.

"Biko"became a very important song for me. I’d not written an overtly political song before and was wondering if it would be accepted… I had various doubts and Tom Robinson, who I’d got to know at the time, who was championing various causes, but the gay cause is what he was most identified with at the time, was really telling me that I should just steam ahead and do it anyway and put it out and that it didn’t matter really what people thought of my motives; if it got attention and money in the right direction. That, I think, put my mind at rest and later on I think it lead me towards some of the human rights stuff, which I’m still very much involved with today. So it was as much a thing that helped shape me as the other way round.

No comments:

Post a Comment