Session File: Peter Gabriel's "Here Comes the Flood"

This brilliantly written song from 1977’s Peter Gabriel is what might be called an “epic power ballad.
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This brilliantly written song from 1977’s Peter Gabrielis what might be called an “epic power ballad.” It is majestic and powerful, but, at the same time, subtle and sublime. (OMG, I sound like a music reviewer!) I loved the way producer Bob Ezrin orchestrated this piece with all of us musicians as the “orchestra.” While you can find lots of examples of the use of fifths in Wagnerian orchestral and symphonic works that can be easily applied to rock music, I still learned a lot from watching Bob sort that out.

I played acoustic guitar all through the basic track. That’s me in the right channel. Robert Fripp played the big power chords in the choruses. I later overdubbed some of those Wagnerian power lines I was talking about, and they certainly made the choruses powerful and helped create the dynamics that are so important in a song like this. I learned the importance of dynamics early in my career, as well as the fact that they are sometimes difficult to translate in the recording studio. For my ears, if you don’t mind my saying so, a lot of dynamic power is missing in today’s music. In the ’70s, dynamics were very important.

The beautiful guitar solo was played by my old compadre Dick Wagner. He was in the studio for most of the day doing background vocals—another thing Dick was particularly good at. Bob asked him if he wanted to do a solo on this tune, but Dick realized that none of his gear was there. Bob mentioned that I had a good-sounding Telecaster (the same guitar I had played on Peter’s “Waiting for the Big One”), and, if memory serves, a Marshall half-stack. So, Dick went out into the studio, plugged in my Tele, and, on the first take, played that awesome solo. It was pretty damned cool!

To me, the really interesting thing about this story is how one guitar played by two people can sound so different. Dick and I did a lot of work together, and one of the reasons I think it worked so well was because we played enough alike that we could do lines and parts together. But, when it came to soloing, we were very unique. We used contrasting sounds and distinctive techniques, like our different vibratos and picking styles. Although, at times, we could sound similar, I think anyone could really hear the difference between us after a few listens.