Peter Gabriel: Narrative Poems

Lately, I've been exploring music from my younger years, specifically artists of the 80s and 90s. Not all of them have an enduring sound. One that has, surprisingly enough, is Peter Gabriel.

I was doubly surprised to realize that the still-contemporary artist he reminded me of most is Meatloaf!

Although their sounds are quite different (Meatloaf has a more joyful rock sound), both Meatloaf' and Gabriel are narrative lyricists. I didn't remember that about Gabriel from my youth (despite the fact, that I remembered many of his songs and those I forgot, I forgot in exactly the same way as before!). Yet every song on So and Us has a story and a theme. Like Meatloaf, Gabriel isn't afraid of stating emphatically what a song is, in fact, about.

Unsurprisingly, Gabriel has contributed to/created soundtracks, including for The Last Temptation of Christ. In this sense, he is also remarkably similar to Meatloaf who moves without self-consciousness between movies, television, and rock (Bowie did too, but he always seemed so much more self-conscious).

Also, like Meatloaf, Gabriel readily employs choruses and female soloists on his albums. Both musicians are romantics (see above video of "Don't Give Up").

Of Gabriel's 80s/90s albums, I greatly prefer Us. "Washing of the Water" (what I call "River") is one of my all-time favorites, but the song with the best "story" is the satiric "Kiss That Frog"--it's also a great retelling of a fairy tale (like the massively misread "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen, "Kiss That Frog" is full of sexual innuendo; Gabriel's "tribute" is more in line with the original tale than later cleaned-up versions):
Sweet little princess, let me introduce his frogness
You alone can get him singing,
He's all puffed up, want to be your king

Oh you can do it, c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon
Lady kiss that frog

Splash, dash, heard your call,
Bring you back your golden ball
He's gonna dive down in the deep end
He's gonna be just like your best friend

So what's one little kiss, one tiny little touch?
Aah, he's wanting it so much

I swear that this is royal blood, running through my skin
Oh, can you see the state I'm in

Kiss it better, kiss it better

Get it into your head
He's living with you he sleeps in your bed
Can't you hear beyond the croaking
Don't you know that I'm not joking

Aah, you think you won't, I think you will
Don't you know that this tongue can kill

C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon
Lady kiss that frog

Let him sit beside you, eat right off your plate
You don't have to be afraid, there's nothing here to hate
Princess, you might like it, if you lowered your defense
Kiss that frog, and you will get your prince...

Jump in the water, c'mon baby jump in with me
Jump in the water, c'mon baby get wet, get wet, get wet
Kiss that frog, lady kiss that frog
Get wet, get wet

Songwriters: GABRIEL, PETER
Kiss That Frog lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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