Session File: Peter Gabriel's first Solo Album

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Over the next few columns, I’d like to talk about Peter Gabriel’s first solo album, which is sometimes called the “Car Album” because of the cover artwork. It was a fabulous experience working on that record, and I learned a great deal.

When producer Bob Ezrin called me about this record, I was excited about the work, but I didn’t know much about Peter Gabriel. I knew he had been the lead singer with Genesis, but I hadn’t really heard any of their music—even though I loved the title of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. I did know that if Bob was into doing it, it would be a great project.

I had been living in Toronto because we were doing a lot of work there, so all I had to do was take the tube to the studio. Bloody cold up there in the winter, though. Bob filled me in on how the record was going to be recorded, and I really liked the idea. There would be eight musicians on the basic track, including Jozef Chirowski on keys, Larry Fast on synth, Allan Schwartzberg on drums, Jimmy Maelen on percussion, Tony Levin on bass, Robert Fripp on guitar, Peter on keys or piano, and me on various guitars. Needless to say, it was a pretty crowded studio, but it’s quite satisfying to play with that many musicians on a basic track—very much like recording a live album. Peter would almost always do a scratch vocal while we recorded, so we had a good strong sense of the song. It was pretty damn cool.

Many of the songs were quite complex, and I sometimes felt a bit intimidated. But then I would remember working on Jack Bruce’s Out of the Storm album, and how I was able to figure something out. And, truth be told, I loved the challenge. I guess, at some point, you need to learn to just trust yourself.

Next month, I’ll start discussing some of the album’s songs, which, I hope, will give you a sense of the challenges, but also the fun I had, as well as what it was like playing with these incredible players.