The Best of Peter Gabriel

Here are my dozen Peter Gabriel picks. This is some of the best rock music ever recorded.

1. Red Rain

The lead track on So made me fall in love with music in a new way. It was inspired by a nightmare about a sea parting and being filled with blood.

2. Wallflower

Songs like this aren’t written anymore. It’s my favorite when I’m feeling depressed. It was apparently inspired by an Amnesty International pamphlet about Argentina.

3. Sky Blue

Years of sweat — rewriting, practicing, and polishing — lie behind this one. It’s one of those rare songs I consider perfect in hitting the right notes in every place without fail.

4. The Rhythm of the Heat

In Africa, Carl Jung joined a group of ecstatic drummers and dancers, and became overwhelmed with fear that they would go mad. Gabriel was obsessed with Jung’s account, and he tries to capture the essence with the incredible drum sequence at the end.

5. Secret World

About the private world two people occupy, the overlap of dreams and desires, and mysteries. The music is impossible not to adore.

6. Shock the Monkey

This is the original (longer) album version, and the proper one. The crescendo of the last minute and a half is a rock-music miracle.

7. Mercy Street (Live)

An ode to Anne Sexton, who fought depression and suicidal tendencies. It’s about the bonds between father and daughter, the resulting turmoil — and the live version is simply pristine.

8. Growing Up

Gabriel’s most psychedelic song, and his best video.

9. San Jacinto (Live)

Gabriel’s live performances are always stellar, but this song especially. It’s about the culture clash between Native America and the present-day U.S., and “holding the line” of one’s cultural traditions.

10. The Tower That Ate People

I never saw Ovo, but I love this song Gabriel wrote for it. There’s a Tower of Babel vibe to it that I’m sure I’d understand if I saw the media show.

11. Washing of the Water

A broken heart and soul. And more grief than I knew a song could hold.

12. In Your Eyes

Everyone loves this one, and it’s usually the final act of Gabriel’s concerts. The Secret World version below is the best.


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