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Today, the bulk of Peter Gabriel‘s discography, including all his studio albums, is on Spotify for the first time (although Apple has had it for a while, and Tidal still doesn’t). Other than the original Solsbury Hill as it appeared on the soundtrack to the semi-forgotten 2002 film In Good Company, which has racked up 33 million plays on Spotify, most of Peter Gabriel’s most famous songs have only been available on streaming services in later re-recordings and live versions, if at all.

For years, Gabriel had been one of the more high profile holdouts from Spotify, which had motivated me to start buying his albums on CD, since I grew up on So and his hits but didn’t really know the earlier albums. In fact, I’d just finally finished buying all of the first 4 albums when I heard last week that they were coming to Spotify, which made me feel a little silly, but now I have them to listen to in the car.


I previously made playlists in this series for Prince, The Beatles, AC/DC, and Def Leppard when they finally joined streaming services, and Gabriel was one of the last big ones I was really waiting on (Bob Seger also started streaming his music in the past year but I haven’t finished his playlist yet).

A little confusingly, Peter Gabriel’s first 4 albums were all self-titled, but the way people tell them apart, either by numbering them 1 to 4 or using words that describe their cover art, have emerged over time as more or less official titles that you even see now on Spotify. As usual, I avoided singles big and small, although several of these non-singles were picked by Gabriel to appear on his first and highest selling best-of compilation Shaking The Tree: 16 Golden Greats (Mercy Street, San Jacinto, Family Snapshot, and a re-recording of Here Comes The Flood). Mostly, though, I just went with my gut on the stuff that leapt out to me the most, particularly Kiss Of Life and Slowburn. I’ve always loved That Voice Again, which got a moderate amount of radio airplay at the time but wasn’t one of So’s five big smash singles.

Gabriel’s second album is kind of the odd man out in that it’s the only one of the early albums that doesn’t have a big radio song everybody knows. It doesn’t even get a track on Shaking The Tree. The single that was released from the album, D.I.Y., is great, but I can understand why it wasn’t as big as Solsbury Hill or Shock The Monkey, and I don’t necessarily know if there is a song that I can see having been a hit if it was released. But I love the album and it’s unusual clash of sounds, particularly with Sid McGinnis evokes country music with the steel guitar on Flotsam And Jetsam and A Wonderful Day In A One-Way World.

Peter Gabriel reminds me a bit of David Bowie, or for that matter a lot of contemporary pop singers, in that they’re usually seen onstage just singing, and maybe don’t get enough credit for how much they play and write the instrumentation on their records. It’s cool to hear occasional stuff like The Drop that’s just Gabriel singing and playing piano, but usually he’s surrounded himself with great musicians like longtime sidemen Tony Levin and David Rhodes, and an incredible variety of guests. Some of the people playing on these songs include Stewart Copeland (Mercy Street), Paul Weller (And Through The Wire), Robert Fripp (Slowburn and Here Comes The Flood), John Paul Jones (Fourteen Black Paintings), Phil Collins (Intruder and Family Snapshot), Daniel Lanois, Nile Rodgers and Bil Laswell ( all three of whom are on This Is The Picture).

One of the things that I find interesting is that while Peter Gabriel made a pretty clean break from Genesis and never looked back, the one former bandmate who played on his records was Phil Collins, who drummed on 4 tracks on Gabriel’s 3rd album in 1980. By that point, Genesis with Collins singing lead was well on its way to far greater success than it’d had with Gabriel, so the fact that they were working together is pretty cool. And Intruder became legendary for being the first track where Collins and producer Hugh Padgham first developed the distinctive gated snare drum sound later used most famously on In The Air Tonight that totally changed how drums sounded in ’80s pop music. But for years, I mainly knew Intruder via Primus’s cover of it.

One thing that really strikes me about Peter Gabriel’s albums is what I once praised Prince for: every album is extremely varied, and he never picked a particular mood or sound and stuck with it for a whole record. You get the hard rockers, the slow contemplative tracks, the adventurous genre experiments, and the big gutsy pop singles all side by side on pretty much every album, with odd things you don’t quite expect like Excuse Me often popping up. My dad who passed away about a year ago loved Peter Gabriel, so he’s one of those artists who always reminds me of him, especially Mercy Street.