Jakko Jakszyk Reviews Peter Gabriel's Scratch

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“I remember at the time I was in a band called 64 Spoons.”

“We were playing at University London Union (ULU), and were supported by a punk band. This spikey haired guy came right up to me, and said to one of his bandmates, ‘Get this bloke. He can play guitar. What a wanker!’ At that point, my whole world crumbled. But when I heard this album, suddenly everything made sense to me. Because Peter Gabriel appeared to be telling everyone that it was still okay to be musical, but you can do it with shorter songs.

“For me, this album was something of a surprise. Peter was still getting away from the machinery of Genesis and finding his path through to a brave new musical world. Obviously here, the songs are sharper than perhaps we had come to expect from him in the past. I suppose, Peter was definitely stripping back a lot of the extravagance that had been a part of how he’d built his reputation. I guess you could say that he was acknowledging the way in which times had moved on.

“However, while this album certainly has songs which were kept within a shorter framework than might have been the case in the past, there was still room for interesting time signatures and you can hear the way musicianship was encouraged. It was a bridge between the way Peter had done things before with Genesis, and the way he wanted to go.

“Like the previous album, there’s a sense here that Peter was in transition. You can appreciate he’s reaching out for ideas that weren’t quite in focus as yet, but were getting there. I was a big fan of Robert Fripp, and so was very keen to hear how he produced the album. I already knew about his work with Frippertronics, but had never really understood how this could be applied to a song. But as soon as I heard Exposure, which used this tape looping technique brilliantly, I completely got how this was adaptable to being part of a track, rather than merely an intriguing effect. In this way, I believe Robert helped to take the Gabriel artistry forward.

“There are some quite wonderful songs on the album. I was very impressed with On The Air and D.I.Y., the opening two tracks on the record. And White Shadow is just beautiful. There are some moments which are just too American for my tastes, but overall that never really spoilt my enjoyment of the record.

“I’d say this really a stepping stone to what Peter would do on his third. That’s when everything fell cohesively into place and worked spectacularly well. But to dismiss this one as the means to get that moment is unfair. This is an artist in the throes of creating his niche, but in doing so he also came up with some fascinating musical ideas. Maybe it has to be partially acknowledged in the context of what was to come, but it certainly deserves respect.”