“Hearing that incredible orchestration and hearing Peter Gabriel really belting out my lyrics… that was an ambition I didn’t know I had”: How ex Genesis singer helped Elbow frontman’s family through parents’ divorce

Guy Garvey and Peter Gabriel
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In 2013 Elbow leader Guy Garvey told Prog how long he’d been in love with Genesis’ music, and why former lead singer Peter Gabriel was his prog hero.

“My older sister Becky introduced me to Genesis. I don’t remember hearing them for the first time; they’ve always been there from my childhood onwards. As a very, very small kid, they were my nursery rhymes really, because of the magical quality and the storytelling nature of the lyrics.

The dark edge of it didn’t really shock me as a child. I didn’t consider the skewed look at middle England that Peter Gabriel was obsessed with. It was just stories to this beautiful music. It’s still magical when I listen to it – Selling England By The Pound is probably my favourite album in its entirety.

What Peter has done for music through his Real World label can’t be quantified

So is my favourite Peter Gabriel solo album. It’s such a significant one for me. My parents divorced when I was 12 and my mum really found some solace in that difficult time through listening to that record. I remember we’d drive to see my grandparents, which is about an hour’s drive through the hills to the north of Manchester. We became obsessed with the record – it was exactly the right length for the ride. 

My life has taken me all over the place and I’ve met many of my heroes, but the first time I met Peter was when our band did our first album, the first version of Asleep In The Back. It was recorded at Real World; what Peter has done for music through his Real World label can’t be quantified.

I met him there and struck up a bit of a friendship with him, which has led to us covering Mercy Street. And he covered Elbow’s Mirrorball as part of the Scratch My Back series. That was incredibly intense – hearing that incredible orchestration and hearing him really belting out my lyrics. That was an ambition I didn’t know I had.

I went to see him perform it live. Peter had hired one of the Thames ferries for a little boat party after the gig. He came off stage and, moments later, was walking toward the boat in a big towel and dressing gown. As soon as I introduced him to Becky [who funded Elbow’s debut album and offered moral support during his struggle to keep believing in the band], he knew exactly who she was.

He said: ‘So you’re the one responsible for all this!’ He put his arm around her and chatted to her and it was the thrill of her life.”