I didn’t know a lot about Peter Gabriel before working on his debut solo album, 1977’s Peter Gabriel, but it certainly didn’t take long to realize what a genius he was as a songwriter. Just listen to the lyrics on some of these tunes—like “Waiting for the Big One.” It is really amazing stuff.
We had an interesting way of working out the songs, which we learned the same day we recorded them. Bob Ezrin had an office at Nimbus 9 Studios, Toronto, with a slightly out of tune upright piano against one wall. We would all head to the office, sit down with our pencils and various forms of paper, and, as Peter played and sang the song, we would write out our own charts. Mine tended to be on a yellow legal pad, and consisted mostly of chords and a road map of the arrangement. I was horrible at writing charts.
Then, we would all go back to the studio. Sometimes, there would be a discussion about the direction Bob was aiming for, but, usually, that was only a general thing. I loved “Waiting for the Big One,” because it was so bluesy—always my favorite place to be. I decided to do some volume-pedal things as Robert Fripp was holding down the rhythm guitar. There was a guitar solo in the song, so Bob and I discussed trying to do the solo live on the basic track. I loved the idea, and, besides, there was always a chance to overdub if I didn’t get a solo we all liked. I was using a weird and ugly brown Telecaster that sounded way better than it looked through a Fender Bassman (which, if memory serves, was a blackface). I selected the neck pickup—which is almost always my favorite—and the solo you hear on the album was cut live. I did not overdub it.
“Waiting for the Big One” is at a very slow tempo, and Bob wanted some parts to even be slower at times, so he came out into the studio and directed us like an orchestra (that’s him you hear counting us in). There’s no way this track could have been done with a click track—which was fine, because all of us hated click tracks.
Bob liked the idea of having the whole band in on the intro, but then breaking it down to just piano and vocals for the first verse. Joey Chirowski played some really beautiful blues piano on this track. By the way, on the original release’s stereo mix, Robert Fripp is on the left channel, and I am on the right. This song, as were many others on this album, was a real joy to play in the studio, as well as onstage.