Top 10 Peter Gabriel Songs

Leaving Genesis, the band he had fronted for nearly a decade, proved to be a genesis in itself for Peter Gabriel. Known for his prog-rock, world-pop song stylings, his solo career made him a household name in the realm of the avant-garde.

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He is equipped with an often off-kilter, but always out-of-this-world artistry with which he explores uncharted territory, never afraid to go someplace deep, dark, and psychological. However, his music is not so much highbrow as he is inventive. Below are 10 Peter Gabriel songs that offer a glimpse inside the mind behind the music.

10. “Here Comes the Flood”

From his 1977 self-titled solo debut comes the stellar B-side, “Here Comes the Flood.” The song burns slowly before exploding into a goosebumps-inducing chorus. A powerful mix of thundering drum hits, bright keys, and treacherous strings, “Here Comes the Flood”—while reminiscent of his Genesis days —is a tune entirely his own.

9. “Biko”

Gabriel’s 1980 protest song, “Biko,” was inspired by the death of South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko in 1977. The artist heard of his death on the news and penned the tune in his memory, writing lyrics that detail the activist’s death while in police custody during the rising violence under the apartheid regime.

8. “Big Time”

(Big time) I’m on my way, I’m making it (Big time) / (Big time) I’ve got to make it show, yeah (Big time) / (Big time) So much larger than life / (Big time) I’m going to watch it growing (Big time), Gabriel sings in the funk-rock classic “Big Time.”

From his 1986 album, So, the off-kilter hit is a product of the decade, full of exaggerated sounds and excessive arrangements. While the bass-driven tune is at times a bit much, it shows off the artist and his skills as a hitmaker on full display.

7. “Games Without Frontiers”

Appearing on his 1980 self-titled solo album, “Games Without Frontiers” is another song of social commentary. Its underlying anti-war themes are masked by the hypnotizing new-wave composition.

Art pop siren Kate Bush can be heard in the background, providing her vocals and whispering the chilling Jeux sans frontières throughout the song.

6. “Don’t Give Up” feat. Kate Bush

Gabriel recruited Bush for another of his tracks, the 1986 release “Don’t Give Up.” Their duet was featured on his album So. The heartfelt pop performance is touching and inspiring, but it could have taken a very different direction.

The song’s female vocal had originally been intended for Dolly Parton, but she reportedly turned down the collaboration. “And I’m glad she did,” Gabriel shared, “‘because what Kate did on it is brilliant. It’s an odd song, a number of people have written to me and said they didn’t commit suicide because they had that song on repeat and obviously you don’t think about things like that when you’re writing them. But obviously, a lot of the power of the song came from the way that Kate sings it.”

5. “Red Rain”

The pitter-pattering prog-pop hit “Red Rain” was another featured on Gabriel’s album So. Apparently born from a recurring dream, the song is certainly washed in a dreamy haze of keys that howl with a faraway wind, and drum hits that rumble like distant thunder.

4. “Shock the Monkey”

Monkey, monkey, monkey / Don’t you know you’re going to shock the monkey, sings Gabriel on the synth-dominated track, “Shock the Monkey.”

The 1892 synth-pop song is an irresistible hit, but it’s also one big oddity full of off-the-wall references that have been interpreted as animal rights activism or simply a love song. You decide.

3. “In Your Eyes”

Another song from the hit-riddled So era, “In Your Eyes” has been synonymous with Gabriel and also with decades worth of romantic comedies. The slow-building song is layered with bright synths and complex world beats, courtesy of acclaimed percussionist Manu Katché.

2. “Sledgehammer”

I wanna be your sledgehammer / Why don’t you call my name? / Oh let me be your sledgehammer / This will be my testimony, Gabriel sings in the funk-rock classic “Sledgehammer.”

“Sometimes sex can break through barriers when other forms of communication are not working too well,” he once said in defense of the 1986 hit. The innuendo-riddled tune offers up no apologies for its tongue-in-cheekiness, and why should it? It rocks.

1. “Solsbury Hill”

I did not believe the information / Just had to trust imagination / My heart going boom boom boom / “Son,” he said / “Grab your things, I’ve come to take you home,” sings Gabriel in the chorus of “Solsbury Hill.”

Released on his 1977 solo debut, the jangling folk-pop song detailed a spiritual experience he had at the titular landmark in Somerset, England, a moment which was sparked in part by his recent departure from the band Genesis.

Daryl Easlea’s book Without Frontiers: The Life & Music of Peter Gabriel shares a quote from the artist about the song in which he explains, “It’s about being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get, or what you are for what you might be. It’s about letting go.”

Photo by Alain BENAINOUS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

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