It looked like professional suicide. After co-founding the progressive rock band Genesis back in 1967 with best friend and classmate Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel shocked the European music scene by announcing that he was through with the music business and Genesis. Gabriel would say in a 1996 interview that fans and band members reacted as if he told them that he had murdered a child. He issued a press release that he had personally written. It was full of his bizarre humor and quirkiness to the point where fans and the music press thought Genesis was pulling a publicity stunt.
But Gabriel was serious.
Except for a one-night reunion concert in 1982 and contributing vocals for a 1999 re-recording of the classic 1974 single Carpet Crawlers, Gabriel never went back to Genesis. Drummer Phil Collins would replace Gabriel as a vocalist.
What Was Gabriel Doing?
At the time, people assumed he had quit to go solo (as he would eventually decide to do.) Decades later, Gabriel would explain that he’d had enough of the music business. It was a grind that after nearly ten years left Gabriel exhausted, discouraged and burnt out. He spent nearly two years in his new home just outside of Bath, England growing cabbages and playing with his first-born child, Anna Marie.
Peter kept his future plans mainly to himself. His first wife, Jill Moore Gabriel, feared that Peter was insane. She would tell Peter’s official biographer, Spencer Bright that she nagged him to get back to work for the sake of his mental health. Speculation among fans was that if Gabriel wouldn’t go back into music, he would go into the theatre or into movies. In his letter to the press, Gabriel also noted that he had heard a rumor that he was in a mental institution.
The Crucial Moment
Tensions had been building in the band since 1971 when Gabriel decided to begin wearing masks and costumes for each song. The press would insist on interviewing Gabriel and ignoring the other band members. All of the members wrote material which would then be voted on by the whole band. Gabriel chafed under this system. He argued that “few great novels are written by a committee.” The band allowed him to write most of the lyrics for The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) a concept double-album.
During this time, Jill was pregnant. Traveling between Jill and the band required a five-hour drive. When Anna Marie was born, she was not expected to live. (She did.) Peter decided that family came first and stopped working on the album. This did not go down well with the other band members (none of which had children.)
The Last Post
Gabriel decided to leave the band when Anna Marie was born. The band persuaded him to finish the album and go on tour. Gabriel wanted to quit many times during the tour, but kept his mouth shut until months after the ambitious but disastrous “Lamb” tour.
Even during the last gig, the band decided not to announce that this was its last gig. The only way Peter acknowledged the event was to begin the concert by playing The Last Post on his oboe.
Bright, Spencer. Peter Gabriel: An Authorized Biography. Sidgick & Jackson, Ltd; 1988.
St. Michael, Mark. Peter Gabriel: In His Own Words. Omnibus Press; 1994.
Fielder, Hugh. The Book of Genesis. St. Martin's Press; 1984.
Gallo, Armando. Peter Gabriel. Omnibus Press; 1986.
“Behind the Music: Genesis.” VH1. Originally aired 1996.