Family Snapshot

“[The song originated in his reading of ‘An Assassin’s Diary’, the daily jottings of Arthur Bremmer, who shot and crippled the racist Governor Wallace of Alabama, but not for political reasons – Ed]: Bremmer was obsessed with the idea of fame. He was aware of news broadcasts all over the world and was trying to time the assassination to hit the early evening news in the States and late night in Europe to get maximum coverage.”Peter Gabriel (688)


“It’s a white, middle-class, ex-public schoolboy, domesticated, English person observing his own reactions from afar. It seemed impossible to me that the South Africans had let him [Biko, the young black activist murdered by the South African police – Ed] be killed when there had been so much international publicity about his imprisonment. He was very intelligent, well reasoned and not full of hate. His writings seemed very solid in a way that polarised politics often doesn’t.”Peter Gabriel (688)

Don’t Give Up

“In ‘Don’t Give Up’ the lyrics were inspired by two things: one was a TV program on how unemployment has affected family life, and the other was a photograph taken by Dorothea Lange during the Dust Bowl Depression. The basic idea is that handling failure is one of the hardest things we have to learn to do.”Peter Gabriel (689)

Shaking The Tree

“‘Shaking The Tree’ was initially a lyrical idea. Youssou [co-writer N’Dour – Ed] asked me to try and focus on women’s emancipation. And the tree, as well as being the national symbol of Senegal, is also seen in those old medieval alchemy sketches as masculine, the phallus. There’s a famous engraving that Jung used of his man lying down with an erect tree growing out of a strategic point. The idea of the song is for women to go out and take control of their own destiny, shake up the male establishment. We tried to work something out for an African and Western situation too.”Peter Gabriel (690)

San Jacinto

“We were in the Mid West somewhere on tour. We used to drive ourselves and we’d just checked into a motel after a gig. I got chatting to the porter who turned out to be Apache. He said, ‘I’m sorry, my mind isn’t really on the job tonight because someone phoned and told me that my apartment’s burning down. I don’t really care about it but my cat’s in there.’ I said, ‘Why aren’t you there?’ He said he was working and didn’t have any means of getting there, so I drove him. And true enough, when we got there he wasn’t bothered about any of his things, just his cat, which really impressed me. His neighbour had his pet, so that was OK. So then we sat up most of the night and he told me about the initiation into being an Apache brave. There was a warrant out for his arrest on a trumped up murder charge so he’d had to leave Arizona but back when he lived there, each of them at the age of 14 were taken up a mountain with the medicine man who had a Rattlesnake. Once they got to the top, he would take the rattlesnake out and get it to bite the boy, who would then be left to have his visions. If he made it back down to the village – as most of them did – he was a brave and if he didn’t he was dead. And so many cultures seem to have that custom where the young man, traditionally at least, is forced to face death in some way. And I actually think that in most cultures where death is ever present, they manage to live life more fully as a result. Later when we were driving through Palm Springs and Arizona we saw the way that the Native American country had been turned into discos and restaurants. There wasn’t a whole lot of respect for the real culture there just the commercial aspect of it. When I started climbing up San Jacinto, I saw these ribbons on the trees and I knew that this was part of an initiation process. This became my little vehicle. I didn’t have any visions myself but I had the fantasy of what it might be like and that became the focal point. San Jacinto is a snow capped mountain surrounded by desert and it was once all Native American land.”Peter Gabriel (691)


“[Ostensibly it’s about home invasion but there’s also some much darker stuff being hinted at as well – Ed]. Yeah, there’s a transvestite element, a clothes fetish. There’s part of me in that but there’s also a rape metaphor. It’s definitely dark but real. I always used to enjoy performing it.”Peter Gabriel (691)