Song Musings

What you always wanted to know about that tune

It’s Wednesday, folks, and I hope this week has been kind to you. This also means it’s that time again when I take a closer look at a song I’ve only mentioned in passing or haven’t covered at all to date. My pick for this installment of Song Musings is In Your Eyes, one of my longtime favorite tunes by Peter Gabriel.

I first heard Gabriel unknowingly on the radio back in Germany after Genesis had released their single The Carpet Crawlers. Had you asked me whether that song was a hit, I would have said ‘yes’ without any doubt. But according to Wikipedia, it didn’t even chart – I’m still in disbelief! It was on the radio pretty frequently.

The first Peter Gabriel solo tune I recall hearing back in Germany was the live version of Solsbury Hill, which appeared as a single in August 1983, off his first live album Plays Live. While I liked the song from the get-go, it wasn’t until Gabriel’s fifth solo album So from May 1986 that I started to explore his music.

With Solsbury Hill and the tracks on So being pretty pop-oriented, much of Gabriel’s earlier music was an acquired taste. But I came around fairly quickly and still dig a good number of his songs that are on albums that preceded So. That said, So still remains my favorite.

This brings me to In Your Eyes. Written by Gabriel, the tune also appeared separately as So’s second single in September 1986. I still get chills when listening to this song and Gabriel’s vocals. Speaking of vocals, In Your Eyes also features Senegalese singer-songwriter Youssou N’Dour who sings a part at the end translated into his native Wolof – quite appropriate for a tune with lyrics that per Wikipedia were “inspired by an African tradition of ambiguity in song between romantic love and love of God.”

In Your Eyes didn’t match the chart success of the album’s lead single Sledgehammer, which hit, well, like a sledgehammer, topping the pop charts in the U.S. and Canada, and climbing to no. 3 in each Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. By comparison, In Your Eyes reached no. 26 and no. 29 on the U.S. and Canadian mainstream charts, respectively. That said, thanks to strong radio play and MTV rotation, it ended up topping Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Elsewhere, the single got to no. 50 in New Zealand and no. 97 in Australia.

Here’s a cool extended live version from Gabriel’s concert film Secret World Live, which was released simultaneously with a companion live album of the same name in August 1994. The footage was captured during two concerts in Modena, Italy in November 1993, conducted as part of Gabriel’s tour that supported his sixth solo album Us, released in September 1992. I had not watched this clip until I did some research for this post – wow!

Songfacts provides a ton of additional insights about In Your Eyes, including the tune’s prominent use in the 1989 U.S. teen romantic comedy-drama motion picture Say Anything… directed by Cameron Crowe, and starring John Cusack, Ione Skye and John Mahoney. Full disclosure: I knew nothing about the film until the late ’90s after I had gotten married to my dear wife who is a huge John Cusack fan.

While some of the other Songfacts content gets into territory that could be characterized as inside baseball, especially if you’re not a musician, I didn’t want to cut anything. So here it is in its full beauty. The clip from the movie was my brilliant addition! ūüôā

According to Gabriel, the lyrics could refer to either the love between a man and woman or the relationship between a person and God.

The West African musician Youssou N’Dour sang backup on this track, giving it a distinctive vocal texture. Gabriel learned about him in 1984 when N’Dour was performing in England. They became friends and collaborators, with a mutual respect for each others’ music. N’Dour joined Gabriel on the So tour and was very well received – he was part of an extended version of “In Your Eyes” and also sang on “Biko.” In 1991 Gabriel performed the song in N’Dour’s native country of Senegal before a crowd of 70,000.

This was featured in the 1989 movie Say Anything in a scene where John Cusack plays this from a Boom Box he holds over his head to win the heart of Ione Skye. Cameron Crowe, who directed the film, was going to use Billy Idol’s “Got To Be A Lover,” but it didn’t work with the scene. Crowe got the idea to use this when he played a tape from his wedding which had the song on it. Because it was a deeply personal song, Gabriel did not want to let him use it, but when Crowe called and sent him a tape of the movie, Gabriel loved it and gave his approval.

The producers of Say Anything were charged about $200,000 to use the song, but it was worth the price as it became one of the most famous scenes in movie history. The scene became a cultural touchstone, which was a little strange for Gabriel. He told Rolling Stone in 2012: “I’ve talked to John Cusack about that. We’re sort of trapped together in a minuscule moment of contemporary culture.”

Gabriel combined various real and electronic instruments to create the song. He worked the Fairlight CMI synthesizer and the Linn drum machine, and also played piano. Other musicians on the track, along with N’Dour, were:

David Rhodes – guitar, backing vocals
Jerry Marotta – drums
Richard Tee – piano
Larry Klein, Tony Levin – bass
Manu Katche – drums, talking drum, percussion
Ronnie Bright – bass vocals
Jim Kerr (from Simple Minds), Michael Been – backing vocals

A special 7:14 mix of this song was released to radio stations by Geffen Records. It features extended singing by Youssou N’Dour. This promotional copy also included a 6:15 version of the song, and an 8:36 of Gabriel’s “Biko.”

Peter Gabriel produced the So album with Daniel Lanois, who had worked on U2’s 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire and after finishing up with Gabriel, started work on The Joshua Tree. Lanois will develop an understanding of a song on an emotional level and craft the production accordingly, which lyricists like Bono and Gabriel appreciate. In a Songfacts interview, he explained what this song means to him: “‘In Your Eyes,’ Peter had this idea that by looking into someone’s eyes, you would see, quite specifically in the lyric, the doorway to a thousand churches. I think it’s as simple as that – the power of commitment and care and love will be stronger.”

This is one of the few slow songs that gets consistent airplay on rock radio. It was not very popular when it came out, but continues to get constant airplay on a variety of formats, as listeners never seem to tire of it.

Peter Gabriel’s elaborate concerts are highly choreographed, but with “In Your Eyes,” he made sure there was lots of room for improvisation. His keyboard player on the So tour, David Sancious, told Songfacts how it came together. “We were rehearsing the song and Peter said he wanted to extend the ending,” said Sancious. “There was going to be a break where I’d just play something, make up something for like eight bars. It’s just a drumbeat and piano. Manu Katch√© is playing the drums and would give me a signal to come back in.

So that was different every night and he very much enjoyed it when I would come up with different things. It was a gospel-y kind of break and then it went back to the chorus of ‘In Your Eyes.’ And there were other points where I got to do little different things that weren’t the same every night, and he enjoyed that.”

In 1994, Gabriel did a version of “In Your Eyes” live, which appears on Disc 2 of the double CD set of Secret World Live, and lasts 11:34. On this version, he improvises a lot in the song with the backup singers.

According to Daniel Lanois, the drums on this song add a lot of flavor and power the song along. “Everything on that record was cut to a beatbox initially, as was the case with ‘In Your Eyes,'” he told Songfacts. “Manu Katche from Paris – a great drummer – played that beautiful drum part. So that ‘down push,’ it’s an old carnival beat – it keeps it motoring along. Even though it’s quite a contemplative song, it has a little bit of carnival in its engine that keeps the zip in the step going and keeps you interested in the lyrics.”

When Guitar Player magazine questioned whether David Rhodes was upset over his 12-string being buried beneath synthesizers, the guitarist replied: “I think that’s fine. Often, I prefer that. I think sometimes it can be unnecessary to have a lot of definition between instruments. All the instruments should blend to make the song work, to build the atmosphere. The fact that you can’t hear your part, a particular sound, shouldn’t worry you at all. A lot of guitarists enjoy playing very loud and doing big solos. I’m not into that.”

He added: “The idea of making things work appeals to me a lot more. I approach things texturally and build them up, giving the music space to develop. With Peter, we use a lot of effects, so that it sounds as little like a guitar as possible.”

In addition to Say Anything, this was also used in these TV shows:

The Righteous Gemstones (“Better Is The End Of A Thing Than Its Beginning” – 2019)
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (“The Gang Gets Romantic” – 2019)
The Last Man On Earth (“Not Appropriate For Miners” – 2017)
The Flash (“Gorilla Warfare” – 2015)
Lilyhammer (“Out Of Africa” – 2013)
The Goldbergs (“The Ring” – 2013)
Glee (“Girls (And Boys) On Film” – 2013)
Cold Case (“Family” – 2005)
American Dad! (“It’s Good To Be The Queen” – 2006)
Felicity (“Pilot” – 1998)

And in these movies:

Yes, God, Yes (2019)
Deadpool 2 (2018)
The Rocker (2008)

Co-producer Daniel Lanois explained to Sound On Sound how a small musical toolbox created a dynamic album. “It’s a mysterious album,” he said. “What’s interesting about that record, is that if you listen closely there aren’t that many unusual instruments on it but it sounds sonically innovative.

It was created with a fairly limited supply of tools, if you like. Most of the keyboards are acoustic piano, Yamaha electric piano and Prophet 5 – an old Prophet 5 polysynth, one of the very first ones to come out. Also an old Fairlight Series II with some good sampled sounds. Yet So has a variety of sounds and you don’t get the feeling that it’s the same things over and over again. It’s another lesson in the theory of the small toolbox and learning to love your tools. Learning the difference between that setting and this setting and not necessarily using wildly different instruments or components to come up with variety but using a concentrated small area and drawing a lot from them.”

The singer/guitarist Jeffrey Gaines recorded a popular version of this song that got a lot of airplay on Adult Contemporary radio and appears on his 2001 album Always Be. Gaines writes most of his own material, but his cover of “In Your Eyes” has become his best-known work. When we asked him about performing a song written by someone else, he replied: “The conviction I have within that material is my joy of singing.”

The rock band SR-71 did a cover of this song that appears on their 2004 album Here We Go Again. They performed it live at the Gravity Games that year.

Peter Gabriel wanted to use “In Your Eyes” as So’s final track, but its prominent bassline meant it had to be placed earlier on the vinyl edition to give the phonograph stylus more room to vibrate. This restriction was no longer an issue for later CD releases, so the track was placed at the end.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube

What I’ve Been Listening to: Genesis/The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

I never got much into progressive rock. One of the few exceptions I’ve further explored are Genesis. If I recall it correctly, it all started in my late teens through my best friend who knew a fan of Peter Gabriel and the English band. He borrowed all kinds of CDs from the guy and after he had taped them passed them on to me to do the same. We’re talking music cassettes here – remember MCs? I still have hundreds of them. While I can’t even remember when I last listened to one of them, I never throw them away!

Anyway, this is how I was introduced to most Genesis albums, including The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Released as a double LP in November 1974, their sixth studio album was the last with Peter Gabriel, who left after the supporting tour to launch a solo career. I randomly remembered all of the above earlier today – I suppose this is what happens when you spend a lot of time at home, as we all hopefully do during these unreal times of social distancing!

Genesis 1975
Genesis in the mid-70s (from left to right): Front: Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel; Back: Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is a concept album. According to Songfacts, it tells the story of Rael, a poor Puerto Rican boy from The Bronx. As “The Lamb,” Rael goes on an adventure in New York City. Peter Gabriel explained to¬†The Daily Telegraph¬†September 30, 2014 that the album “was intended to be an intense story of a young rebellious Puerto Rican in New York who would face challenges with family, authority, sex, love and self-sacrifice to learn a little more about himself. I wanted to mix his dreams with his reality, in a kind of urban rebel¬†Pilgrim’s Progress.”

All tracks were credited to the band’s five members at the time: Peter Gabriel (lead vocals, flute, “varied instruments”, “experiments with foreign sounds”), Steve Hackett (acoustic and electric guitars), Mike Rutherford (bass, 12-string guitar), Tony Banks (Hammond T-102 organ, RMI 368x Electra Piano and Harpsichord, Mellotron M-400, ARP Pro Soloist synthesizer, Elka Rhapsody string synthesizer, piano) and Phil Collins (drums, percussion, vibraphone, backing vocals, second lead vocal on The Colony of Slippermen and Counting out Time). Most of the lyrics were written by Gabriel. The full story of Rael is in the liner notes of the album. Wikipedia provides a plot summary, which I’m using as I’m looking at each of the double LP’s four sides.

Genesis_The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway Sleeves

Side One

One morning in New York City, Rael is holding a can of spray paint, hating everyone around him. He witnesses a lamb lying down on Broadway which has a profound effect on him. (“The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”) As he walks along the street, he sees a dark cloud take the shape of a movie screen and slowly move towards him, finally absorbing him (“Fly on a Windshield”), seeing an explosion of images of the current day (“Broadway Melody of 1974”) before he wakes up in a cave and falls asleep once again (“Cuckoo Cocoon”).

Rael wakes up and finds himself trapped in a cage of stalactites and stalagmites which slowly close in towards him. As he tries to escape, he sees his brother John and calls for him, but John walks away and the cage suddenly disappears (“In the Cage”). Rael now finds himself on the floor of a factory and is given a tour of the area by a woman, where he watches people being processed like packages. He spots old members of his New York City gang and John with the number “9” stamped on his forehead. Fearing for his life, Rael escapes into a corridor (“The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging”). Here’s the album’s opener and title track.

Side Two

Rael has an extended flashback of returning from a gang raid in New York City, (“Back in N.Y.C.”) a dream where his hairy heart is removed and shaved with a razor, (“Hairless Heart”) and his first sexual encounter (“Counting Out Time”). Rael’s flashback ends, and he finds himself in a long, red carpeted corridor of people crawling towards its exit via a spiral staircase (“Carpet Crawlers”). At the top, he enters a chamber with 32 doors, surrounded by people and unable to concentrate (“The Chamber of 32 Doors”).

The Carpet Crawlers was the album’s second single. According to Wikipedia, it charted nowhere, which I find hard to believe. At least in Germany, you could hear it many times on the radio. If I recall it correctly, it was around the same time when I’m Not in Love by 10cc was all the rage. Both of these tunes got plenty of air time. Anyway, here it is.

Side Three

Rael finds a blind woman who leads him out of the chamber and into another cave (“Lilywhite Lilith”), where he becomes trapped by falling rocks (“The Waiting Room”, “Anyway”). Rael encounters¬†Death (“Here Comes the Supernatural Anaesthetist”) and escapes the cave. Rael ends up in a pool with three¬†Lamia, beautiful snake-like creatures, and has sex with them, but they die after drinking some of his blood (“The Lamia”). He leaves the pool in a boat (“Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats”). Here’s Lilywhite Lilith.

Side Four

Rael finds himself in a group of Slippermen, distorted, grotesque men who have all had the same experience with the Lamias, and finds that he has become one of them (“The Arrival”). Rael finds John among the Slippermen, who reveals that the only way to become human again is to visit Doktor Dyper and be castrated (“A Visit to the Doktor”). Both are castrated and keep their removed penises in containers around their necks. Rael’s container is taken by a raven and he chases after it, leaving John behind (“The Raven”). The raven drops the container in a ravine and into a rushing underground river (“Ravine”). Jeez, this is some crazy shit!

As Rael walks alongside it, he sees a window in the bank above his head which reveals his home amidst the streets (“The Light Dies Down on Broadway”). Faced with the option of returning home, he sees John in a river below him, struggling to stay afloat. Despite being deserted twice by John, Rael dives in to save him and the gateway to New York vanishes (“Riding the Scree”). Rael rescues John and drags his body to the bank of the river and turns him over to look at his face, only to see his own face instead (“In the Rapids”). His consciousness then drifts between both bodies, and he sees the surrounding scenery melting away into a haze. Both bodies dissolve, and Rael’s spirit becomes one with everything around him (“it.”). Here’s The Light Dies Down on Broadway.

While Genesis weren’t sure how the concept and extended format of the album would be received, it was met with critical acclaim from the time it came out. In 2015, NME included the album in its 23 Maddest and Most Memorable Concept Albums list for “taking in themes of split personalities, heaven and hell and truth and fantasy. The album also ended up at no. 9 in Rolling Stone’s 2015 list of 50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time, calling it “one of rock’ more elaborate, beguiling and strangely rewarding concept albums”. “Strangely rewarding” – that characterization kind of nicely sums up how I feel about this album!

In the U.S., The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway marked the first Genesis album to crack the top 50 on the Billboard 200, peaking at no. 41. On the other hand, in the UK, it climbed to no. 10, falling short of the chart success of the predecessor Selling England by the Pound, which had reached no. 3. In both countries, it ended up being certified gold.

About three weeks ago, Rolling Stone and other media outlets reported that Genesis are reuniting for a tour of England and Ireland in November 2020, their first since 2007. The line-up features Collins, Banks and Rutherford, along with touring guitarist/bassist Daryl Stuermer and Nic Collins, Phil’s 19-year-old son on drums. Nic also handled drums during his dad’s successful 2017-2019 solo tour, since Phil hasn’t been able to play drums due to extensive nerve damage to his hands. He performed the entire shows seated in a chair.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; Rolling Stone; YouTube