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40 Years Ago: Peter Gabriel Leaves Genesis

Peter Gabriel live on stage in New York, March 1977 Peter Gabriel live on stage in New York, March 1977 Graham Wood

On August 15, 1975, it was officially announced that Peter Gabriel had left Genesis.

The announcement followed weeks of speculation that a split was about to occur. At the time, a record company spokesman issued a statement that Gabriel was leaving the band to concentrate on "other literary and experimental interests outside of music."

One such possibility was working with film director William Friedkin of The Exorcist fame, who had liked the short story Gabriel had written on the sleeve of the band’s Live album and thought Gabriel might be someone to work with on a film project. Though this never materialized, it made Gabriel think about more than just being in Genesis.

In the documentary, Genesis: A History, Gabriel explained his feelings at the time, "There was all this big time stuff happening with long tours being planned way in the future, and I just felt I was getting to be part of a machine. I felt I was becoming a sort of stereotype, sort of ‘rock star,’ or falling into wanting that ego gratification. I didn’t like myself, I didn’t like the situation, and I didn’t feel free." Add to that, the fact that Gabriel and his wife had recently had their first child, and it was obvious something was going to come to a head.

"For me there was no question about priorities, that I think pissed off the band too. I was the first to have a baby, and they didn’t have any understanding how it changes the way you feel." Tony Banks conceded, "He grew up perhaps quicker than the rest of us, really, at that time, and he wanted a bit more time than we felt we could give. So he felt he had to leave."

After one final performance of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in Besancon, France, Gabriel was gone. At the time, the music papers more or less rang the death bell for Genesis, assuming Gabriel was the band. Time would prove that theory wrong. The band’s spokesman at the time was quoted in Rock Scene as saying, "The boys are at present looking for a new singer to replace Gabriel and, in fact, they already have one idea very much in mind. And if that doesn’t work out, they have alternatives up their sleeve. I can tell you quite definitely that Genesis, together with a new singer, will be going on the road in the New Year."

© Ultimate Classic Rock, by Dave Swanson

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